Remdesivir was sold in Black Market as high as Rs. 70,000 i.e. 10 times the M.R.P.
DCGI (Drug Controller General of India) has been informed that many chemist shops have been painting a picture to the customers about the short supply of the medicine that happens to treat Covid-19.
Subsequently, an investigation done by BBC suggests that Remdesivir and Tocilizumab – the two life-saving drugs used to treat COVID -19 patients in the country were being sold at Black Market.
What is Remdesivir?
The biopharmaceutical company, Gilead Sciences had developed the drug under the brand name, Veklury. The drug has been authorized in the U.S.A., Singapore, and India to be used as a Life-Saving drug. Countries like Japan and the European Union have given a green flag to the drug to be used under ‘severe conditions’.
The drug was primarily developed to cure Hepatitis C, but failed. The drug has been examined as of April 2020, as the most hopeful cure for COVID-19. The drug is speculated to shorten the time from recovery i.e. from 15 days to 11 days [approx.] but no sign of viral shedding has been observed yet.
Why is it a stringent job to develop the drug?
The development of the drug is a sophisticated process and demands skill. Some of the issues faced are as follows:
- Once the virus enters the cell, it is subject to the cell’s machinery to replicate it and this is why the drug once injected can have damaging effects on the host cells.
- The other big cause is the frequent and continuous exposure of the drug to the virus has the potential to make it drug-resistant and therefore the new strains of the same virus may not be affected making the drug ineffective.
- The third main reason is that the genetic material of the viruses either has RNA or DNA, Coronaviruses are RNA viruses that have a higher mutation rate.
Remedesivir comes under the category of pro-drug, i.e. it is inactive during the injection phase. Upon entering the cell it does some structural modifications, which either stops or creates resistance for the virus to multiply and infect the cells further in the body.
How did the COVID-19 drug reach the black market?
Cipla’s supply is yet to hit the market in a day or two while Hetero’s 20,000 vials supply has been close to exhaustion. The drug was manufactured by a few Bangladeshi Companies with a license from Gilead Inc. and was found in the black market of the commercial capital of the country.
One speculated theory is that the direct supply by the Company to the patients gave way to a lot of people to forge prescriptions which might have led to the “leakage” of the drug in the market.
Although the Company has called on the hospitals to send details of the patients to whom the drug has been injected so that the leak can be reviewed upon.
According to the norms of distribution, the authorized companies are allowed to supply the drug to hospitals only and not chemists. The general secretary of All India Chemists and Druggists association denied the shop owners being involved in the same.
The price quoted by Cipla for the drug has been around Rs. 4000 and Hetero priced it at Rs. 5400 per 100 mg but adding the handling and other charges, it reaches Rs. 7000. For bulk orders, Hetero has even supplied at Rs. 4144 per vial.
As soon as the drug has reached the market, the criminals on cyberspace have been all set on dark internet to hustle and deal the drugs like Tocilizumab dozes and Remdesivir. They have been selling drugs to critically ill patients of COVID-19 at high prices depending on how urgent the need was.