Maharashtra has adequate Remdesivir stock, shortage as patients want cheapest drug, say FDA officials

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Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | October 10, 2020 1:16:56 am

Maharashtra coronavirus cases, Maharashtra covid cases, Maharashtra covid deaths, Maharashtra covid death toll, India news, Indian ExpressA health worker takes a swab sample for Covid-19 testing in Mumbai on September 29, 2020. (Express Photo: Amit Chakravarty)

MAHARASHTRA HAS adequate stock of Remdesivir, a total of 51,491 vials until Wednesday, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials said. Pune, officials added, has a maximum stock with 9,170 vials, followed by Thane and Palghar with 6,551, Mumbai 5,589, and Nashik 5,127.

A purported shortage of the antiviral medication, now commonly used for coronavirus treatment, has recently forced patients, especially in Thane, to scramble from one distributor to another as most pharmacies at small nursing homes and hospitals do not stock the medication.

Pune and Thane have the maximum burden of active Covid-19 infections, together accounting for 23.6 per cent of the state’s active virus load of 2.41 lakh patients.

“The problem is not of shortage”, J B Mantri, Joint Commissioner (Drug), FDA, said. “The problem is of patients wanting the cheapest available drug. Different companies have different rates and patients want to purchase the one that has is not manufacturing it in large quantities.”

Hetero Healthcare supplies Remdesivir, branded as Covifor, for Rs 5,400 per vial, Cipla sells it under the brand name Cipremi for Rs 4,800 and Zydus Cadila markets it under Remdac for Rs 2,800.

While Remdac is the cheapest available option in India, its production is lower than Hetero. FDA officials said as patients prefer to buy Remdac, the shortfall in supply has created an “artificial” shortage of the drug.

“We have created district helplines and drug inspectors have been asked to direct patients to distributors if hospitals don’t stock Remdesivir,” Mantri said.

Social worker, Sandhya Fernandes, who has been helping coronavirus patients access treatment, said the shortage surfaces once in a few weeks. Earlier this week, she came across a patient in Vedant hospital, Thane, who required five injections of Remdesivir. The hospital did not have stock and asked the patient to procure from outside.

SK Trader, a registered distributor of Remdesivir in Ghatkopar, said they do not have Remdesivir stock for a month. “The supply has stopped from manufacturers to us. We are referring patients to Jupiter hospital since their pharmacy has stock,” a manager said.

Meanwhile, FDA officials said, Satara has just 224 vials of the antiviral medication left. The district records 400 to 600 new virus cases every day.

Other districts such as Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, Bhandara, Gondia, and Osmanabad have fewer than 300 vials. FDA officials said the requirement for Remdesivir is low in these districts due to a lower Covid-19 burden. The stock has been diverted to other districts that have a rising case trend. Nagpur, which has a growing number of Covid-19 cases, has 4,781 vials in stock, while Kolhapur has 2,959 vials, and Aurangabad 2,870 vials, they added.

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