A Mumbai drug store owner and his aide were arrested on July 10 for selling anti-viral drug remdesivir, which is being used to treat COVID-19 patients, at four times the price.
The owner of the medicine shop, located in Mira Road, was identified as Sonu Darshi, aged 25 years, and his aide Rodriques Raul, aged 31 years. They were caught red-handed by Mumbai Police personnel who had posed as customers. According to an India Today report, Darshi had quoted Rs 20,000 for one vial of remdisivir, which carries a retail price of Rs 5,400.
The police team recovered four vials of remdisivir – which are currently in high demand — from the medicine shop, which the accused had reportedly sourced from a hospital.
Both Darshi and Raul have been booked under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code and the Essential Commodities Act and Drugs and Cosmetic Act.
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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Police are now probing a possible broader nexus that may be black-marketing the coveted coronavirus treatment drug.
Commenting on the development, Senior Inspector Sandip Kadam said: “We are investigating if more people were involved in this illegal sale. These accused were selling the drug costing Rs 5,400 at a rate of Rs 20,000-25,000.”
Notably, several media reports have already hinted at massive black marketing of remdesivir in Maharashtra, which accounts for a major chunk of India’s coronavirus cases.