Remdesivir: Delhi’s black market cashes-in soaring demand for Life-saving COVID drug

Delhi's black market cashes-in soaring demand for Life-saving Covid-19 drugs - We The World Magazine

As coronavirus shows no signs of slowing down in India, the healthcare system in the country is at its toes to manage the impact of the pandemic. In the undercurrent of such urgent scene in the nation, life-saving drugs are being sold at least 6-times the official price, the BBC investigation unveils.

Both Remdesivir and tocilizumab are being increasingly used by hospitals around the world and across India as a clinically tested ‘effective’ treatment for COVID-19. Remdesivir, for instance, has been found to reduce the symptoms of novel coronavirus by up to four days, according to reports.

After a dip into New Delhi’s medicine market, the BBC investigation found a thriving black market for the drugs in Delhi. Remdesivir is being sold at a whopping Rs. 30k tag ($401; £321) per vial, some six times the official price of Rs. 5.4k in India.

Several families in and around New Delhi had to pay sky-high prices for the drugs, according to the report. The BBC noted, one of the main reasons for the exorbitantly high-price of Remdesivir is because of a massive gap in the supply and demand.

The presently in-demand drug which was originally made by a US-based firm to treat Ebola is made by only one Indian pharmaceutical company – Hetero under license in India.

Hetero’s vice-president of sales Sandeep Shahstri told the BBC they’re not sure how the “leakage happened and “such black marketing was really demoralizing”.

“We have not given the medicine to our distributors. As per the guidelines, we have directly supplied the vials to hospitals,” Shahstri was quoted as saying. Hetero’s initial supply of 20k units of the drug is nearly exhausting.

General secretary of All India Chemists and Druggists Association- Delhi’s umbrella body for the medical store, Rajiv Singhal told he is not aware of any such instances.

“I am sure that none of our members are involved in such practices. It’s a national health emergency and I want to give a clear message that strict action will be taken against if anyone is found to be selling life-saving medicines illegally,” he was quoted as saying by the BBC.

In a recent announcement, Hetero is making a form-fillup (check here) mandatory for patients in need of Remdesivir. Applicants have to input details like name, location, email, and contact numbers, and the Hetero team will reach out to facilitate access to the drug directly to the hospital MoneyControl reports.

In the US as well, the demand for the drug has soared above balanced supply levels, ushering a shortage in hospitals, like in Florida. However, good for the Americans it looks like, as it has announced to scoop on the world’s supply of Remdesivir directly from the maker Gilead.

Read the full BBC investigation here.

have you been in need of such life-saving drug and faced difficulties? Let us know in the comments below.

(Cover image courtesy of @editorneindia via Twitter)