Mumbai : The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has directed all state and Union territory drugs controllers to provide daily update on enforcement activities to stop hoarding, black marketing and overcharging of Covid management drugs— remdesivir, tocilizumab, favipiravir and oxygen cylinder.
In light of present pandemic situation in the country it has been considered necessary to collect the daily information on enforcement activities to prevent black marketing, overpricing with respect to remdesivir, tocilizumab, favipiravir and oxygen cylinder, said DCGI Dr VG Somani.
Dr Somani in a letter to all state and UT drugs controllers recently requested to send the above information as per format on daily basis (by 5 pm) on email—email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
He asked all zonal, sub zonal offices of CDSCO to coordinate with state and UT drugs control authorities in the matter.
With a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases in the country, the demand for drugs like tocilizumab, favipiravir, antiviral medication remdesivir and oxygen cylinder has also increased. This, in turn, has led to a shortage of these drugs as well as oxygen cylinder and led to black marketing and overcharging.
Tocilizumab, an immunosuppressive drug which was earlier used for treating rheumatoid arthritis, is now being used for treating severe Covid patients. The drug is said to reduce Covid deaths.
The one vial of the drug which is manufactured by Roche, a Switzerland-based company and marketed by Cipla in India, is priced above Rs. 40,000. There is an acute shortage of the drug across the country as Cipla has run out of the stock. It is learnt that the pharma major will get its next consignment of tocilizumab in a week.
Besides this, remdesivir, a drug that is being used in emergency to treat critical Covid-19 patients who are hospitalized is also in short supply across the country.
Though, the production capacity is being ramped up from current level of 38 lakh vials per month to 74 lakh vials per month, and 20 additional manufacturing sites have been approved, pharmacies across the country have reported shortage of remdesivir due to the sudden rise in demand.
Export of remdesivir has also been prohibited on April 11, 2021 to shore up domestic supplies. Now the government has also waived custom duty on import of the drug and its raw material.
Antiviral favipiravir is also in short supply in the country. Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd, which manufactures the favipiravir brand, FabiFlu, said it has ramped up production capacity to ensure continuous supply of the drug across the country.
Several states have reported shortages of medical oxygen for Covid-19 patients who are in need of oxygen support. When the families of Covid patients are not able to find a hospital bed, doctors advise them to arrange oxygen cylinder at home. Due to rise in demand, the prices of oxygen cylinder have gone up to Rs. 20,000-Rs. 25,000 a cylinder in parts of the country.
India plans to import 50,000 metric tonnes of medical oxygen to cater to the rising demand. The Union ministry of health and family welfare has been directed to float a tender for the import.