Ahmedabad : The Gujarat high court on Monday pulled up the state government for the shortage of the antiviral drug remdesivir and the control on its supply, and ordered it to make the medication available for all, like paracetamol, during this surge in Covid-19 cases.
The judges asserted that they want results instead of getting into the unnecessary blame game over the behaviour of people, production and medicine stocks.
While taking up the issue of Covid-19 in a suo motu PIL, the bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhargav Karia said that the government should come up with policy on what is needed and when it is needed and to cut hoarders out. “The state can always find those hoarding and people selling medicines at higher prices and see that the strongest possible measures are taken against them,” the court said, to which the government said that this has been done.
The chief justice further ordered the government, “And make sure that remdesivir is made available everywhere. Nobody has to run to form a queue.” Justice Karia added to this, “The medicine should be made available like paracetamol.” Advocate general Kamal Trivedi replied, “I wish that this becomes a reality.”
The judges rejected the state government’s claims that doctors prescribe remdesivir indiscriminately, though it is a drug that is to be used in emergencies.
Trivedi blamed doctors for unnecessarily prescribing remdesivir to Covid patients. The drug is 10-year-old invention and contains cyclodextrin which is dangerous for the kidney and liver and hence needs to be prescribed in critical condition and only in cases of hospitalization. The judges countered the argument, “Doctors will not prescribe remdesivir for nothing. They are not doing it for ordinary ailments. Only when RT-PCR test is positive, and lungs of a patient are infected, doctors prescribe remdesivir.” They said that doctors can take care of the situation and the government may not make policy on such a premise that remdesivir should be administered under observation only.
The high court also refused to buy the state government’s argument that only seven companies manufacture the medicine in the country and 1.75 lakh vials are produced every day. The judges said that manufacturers have stocks of medicines produced in the months of January and February. The court was concerned about the control over remdesivir supply and said that control should be removed.
“Controlling the supply of this injection from one sourcing centre is not in public interest at all. Why should this medicine be made available to a nursing home which is not a designated Covid centre?” the court asked and cited the 1.5km long queue outside Zydus Hospital. The court also disapproved of the system by which the government intended to supply remdesivir on demand from its stock. The judges said that private hospitals are exploiting patients and their attendants.
The judges talked tough to the advocate general who tried to assert that the situation is under control. They said, “Don’t believe everything you are instructed Mr Trivedi.” The judges asked the law officer to be honest in submissions and reminded him that he is a court officer as well and people look to him to see what the state government is doing. “You know, and we also know that there is sufficient medicine available,” the judges commented and questioned why it is not made available at private hospitals and pharmaceutical stores.
“If somebody wants to buy buy remdesivir, why can’t he go and buy it? Nobody is buying it for fun. Nobody has extra money to pay Rs 1,000 to stock medicine,” the chief justice said.
The judges also commented that when injections are available at the recommendation of VIPs, it cannot be believed that there is a shortage. They also cited the government’s argument that Gujarat gets the lion’s share of the remdesivir production in the country, and asked it to keep proper account of the stock.