Remdesivir, the antiviral drug has been flying off the shelves amid an unprecedented rise in fresh COVID-19 cases. The result? Many states are facing its acute shortage.
There are reports of the drug being sold at exorbitant prices in the black market. In an attempt to increase its availability, the Centre had banned the export of the drug on April 11, and beginning April 22, will administer allocation of Remdesivir to the states.
Moneycontrol explains the demand for the drug, the issues surrounding it in India and the government's intervention to administer its usage.
What is Remdesivir and how is it useful in tackling COVID-19?
Remdesivir is an injectable antiviral drug produced by Gilead Sciences Inc. It is the first drug to have received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October 2020, making it the first medicine for treating COVID-19 infections. It is said to shorten the recovery of the patients by controlling the multiplication of the virus within.
Who needs the Remdesivir drug?
Not all COVID-19 patients require it. The Centre has said that Remdesivir should be given only to serious COVID-19 patients. It has also said the drug should be administered in hospitals and is not to be used in home settings.
Which companies are producing Remdesivir in India, the country’s capacity and the price band?
Seven Indian companies - Mylan, Hetero, Jubiliant Life Sciences, Cipla, Dr Reddy's, Zydus Cadila and Sun Pharma - are producing Remdesivir injections under licensing agreement with Gilead Sciences.The current total installed capacity of the seven manufacturers of Remdesivir is 38.80 lakh vials per month. However, in view of the increased demand amid the surge in daily infections, the government announced setting up of seven additional sites with a production capacity of 10 lakh vials per month, allotting them to six manufacturers. With this, the government aims to scale up Remdesivir's monthly production to 78 lakh vials per month.Additionally, in view of the increased demand, Remdesivir manufacturing companies in India have voluntarily slashed the prices of the drug, post the government intervention.According to a government order, the prices have been slashed in the range of Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,700. After the cuts, Remdac by Cadila Healthcare is the cheapest Remdesivir injection costing Rs 899. It was earlier sold at Rs 2,800.
Why is there a sudden demand for Remdesivir?
The recent steep hike in COVID-19 cases and subsequent increase in hospitalizations, have led to an increase in demand for Remdesivir. Furthermore, as there was a drop in daily infections between December 2020 and February 2021, pharmaceutical companies in India producing the antiviral drug had scaled down its production, according to some reports.
What is the government doing about the shortage?
After repeated requests for government intervention over the shortage of the drug from several state governments like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, among others, the Centre on April 11 banned the export of the Remdesivir injection and Remdesivir Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients till the pandemic situation improved in India.The Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers, Mansukh Mandaviya, held meetings with drug manufacturers in which decisions were taken to reduce prices of Remdesivir and increase production to up to 78 lakh vials per month.Thereafter, the central government on April 21 made an interim allocation of the drug to 19 states and Union Territories for the period up to April 30, 2021, as complaints of black marketing and hoarding of the essential item poured in.As per the allocation list issued by the government, Maharashtra is set to receive 2, 69,200 vials, being the worst affected state, followed by Gujarat, which will get 1, 63,500 vials.The central government has directed the manufacturers to dispatch the supplies as per the agreed allocations to state governments. It has also advised the manufacturers to consider supplying orders, pre-book them and give inputs for mapping manufacturers to states for the allocated volumes.