Marketed as Actemra in India by Cipla, Roche pharma’s Tocilizumab costs Rs 60,000 per dose
The cost of a “life-saving” drug used to treat complications from COVID-19 is making doctors in private hospitals think twice before administering it, as they consider the financial capabilities of the patient.
Marketed as Actemra in India by Cipla, Roche pharma’s Tocilizumab costs Rs 60,000 per dose. Approved for use in treatment of autoimmune diseases – six months of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis costs patients Rs 2.5 lakh.
Healthcare professionals are thus being cautious while administering the drug, despite the fact that it is life-saving for patients who develop complication called cytokine storm – an extreme immune system response to the coronavirus, as per a report by The Economic Times.
The drug modulates IL6 protein to slow down cytokine response and has saved many gravely ill COVID-19 patients.
On May 12, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said 30 out of 40 patients it had used this drug on had “encouraging results”, the report added.
The predicament is severe in private hospitals, while public hospitals are completely dependent on corporate donations for provision of the drug. An official at a private hospital said as per the report that they are using the drug “only on those patients who can afford it, there is also a shortage of this drug.”
Shivkumar Utture, Head of Indian Medical Association – Mumbai chapter, said corporates have donated 40 doses of the drug to be given to public hospitals.
“This is an expensive drug and patients of public hospitals definitely cannot afford this, so we are depending on donations,” Utture said.
Leena Menghaney, a lawyer with Doctors without Borders pointed out the issue of “equal access” adding that the high price leads to questions of a “discriminatory system”. “This seems to be a classic case of profiteering by pharma companies and inequitable access of this drug,” she said.
Roche, later said in a statement as per the report, that the drug is currently not approved by an health authority in India.
"We are constantly monitoring the evolving situation and coordinating with our global supply chain teams to ensure that the demand requests for Tocilizumab are met and adequate quantities are made available for India. In these unprecedented times, Roche remains committed to providing unrelenting support to patients in India,” said a spokesperson.