As the demand has surged in the past few months, these drugs are out of stock in most of the hospitals that are authorised to provide them to their patients. However, these drugs are being sold by dealers and distributors at a much higher price in the market.
Meanwhile, many dealers still cash upon selling Remdesivir at high costs as patients admitted in private hospitals require the drugs on an urgent basis. Rajkumar (name changed) was the only caretaker of his family of four who had tested positive for COVID-19, including his 73-year-old mother. As his mother turned serious upon admission at a private hospital, he was asked to obtain Remdesivir. Since he could not stand in the serpentine queue for obtaining the medicine and had a small time frame to obtain six vials for his mother, he asked doctors for help. The doctors put Rajkumar in touch with medical representatives in the hospital who directly take account of the medicine and drug stock in the hospital. The medical representatives promised to get the drugs within 24 hours but at a cost of Rs. 33,000 for six vials as he had to pool in medicine dealers for the procurement of the drugs. Rajkumar paid Rs. 33,000 for six vials of Remdesivir which costs around Rs. 9,360.
The Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation has recently opened two counters at Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital for the direct distribution of Remdesivir to COVID-19 patients who require the same after producing identity proof, RT-PCR reports and doctor’s prescription. However, drug dealers with the help of private practitioners are procuring the drug from the counters and selling it to the patients at a higher cost. The cost of one vial of Remdesivir at Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital is Rs. 1,560, but the single vial is being sold for Rs. 5,000 by the dealers.
While the hoarding of drugs continues through a chain of doctors, medical representatives, distributors and dealers, the State Drug Control Authorities say that action is being taken against these people in particular cases with the help of the police department.
“We are conducting investigations when we receive the complaints regarding the hoarding of drugs like Remdesivir and upon inspection, the arrests are being made. Tocilizumab is an imported drug and is supplied to private hospitals through government supply only via the distribution channel of Cipla pharmaceuticals. The drug is an off label drug, meant for the treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis. The black marketing of the drug can happen through medical representatives, distributors or dealer links with other States and local distributors linked in the particular sector,” said Drug Controller K Sivabalan.