The cost of a vial ranges from Rs 40,000-50,000. However, black marketeers are offering a single vial for anywhere between Rs 1- 2 lakh. This is because the drug is not manufactured in India, but is imported and distributed by Cipla.
The limited supply of Tocilizumab has sent many desperate family members of COVID patients down the black market route. Jenifer, a resident of Ambattur was in urgent need of Tocilizumab or its alternative drug Itolizumab as her 80-year-old father struggled with respiratory issues at a private hospital in the city. The hospital said that the drug was not available, but she was advised by the doctor treating her father to try and get hold of this drug.
After trying through her contacts and social media, a doctor friend of Jenifer’s came forward to help her find the drug through a medicine dealer in Tambaram. The dealer offered a single unit of Tocilizumab at Rs. 1,60,000 as the drug was unavailable in the private sector in Tamil Nadu and needed “high-level contacts” to procure it. Speaking to this reporter, Jenifer disclosed that she chose to buy the drug for her father who is still admitted in a critical condition at a private hospital in Ambattur.
“As I was told only one dose is required to help him recover, I used my savings to buy this medicine,” she said. According to her, the dealer cited that private hospitals in Tamil Nadu have no direct allocation of the drug, thus it is being sourced through a network of dealers in other States where it is available.
Another person who tried sourcing Tocilizumab said that he could not find the drug, but he came across a dealer who asked for Rs 25,000 as advance payment to procure a single vial. The cost of Tocilizumab is about Rs. 41,000 but the spike in the demand for the drug and low availability has priced the drug at about four times higher cost through dealers and private distributors.
As per the State Drug Control Authorities, fresh limited stock of this drug has now been imported and is available with the lone marketer company Cipla Ltd. for marketing and distribution in the country. No separate allocation is being sent to private hospitals.
A Cipla spokesperson said, “As per the latest Central government directive, Tocilizumab will only be supplied to authorised government and private hospitals.”