It may be recalled that in June, the arrival of Favipiravir tablets under the brand name Fabiflu in Vellore was announced by a leading pharmaceutical distributor who was the first to get the tablets when fear of the virus was at its peak. The tablets in strips of 34 cost Rs 3,500 averaging Rs 103 per tablet.
However, soon other companies followed Glenmark (manufacturers of Fabiflu tablets) by coming out with cheaper versions of the drug.
Kalaiarasu, an experienced pharmaceutical dealer said: “We hoped that fear of the virus would result in demand for the drug. Now that cheaper versions costing as little as Rs 25 a tablet is also available, our hopes were belied as we found that stocks were not moving.”
Also, the availability of cheaper versions of anti-COVID tablets resulted in Fabiflu now costing only around Rs 70, according to sources.
Another factor stressed upon is that the virus can only be treated by government hospitals and designated private hospital, which in Vellore is the CMC hospital, alone. While CMC procures the drug from distributors, government hospitals get their stocks from the centralised district drug warehouse. As smaller private hospitals and clinics cannot prescribe the tablet, no one comes to the pharmacies to purchase them. When asked, on what basis distributors stocked the drug, the reply was “to help those wanting the drug.”
Another issue is that many patients avoid government hospitals due to lack of hygiene and quarantine procedures not being followed. They also avoid authorised private hospitals due to the high cost and prefer to treat themselves as they know that in quarantine centres, other than a good diet and seclusion COVID-19 positive cases are prescribed only paracetamol tablets for fever.
A distributor said he had sold cheaper versions of the drug to many who fear they have COVID symptoms but treat themselves to avoid government and private hospitals.