“Discharge of several positive patients admitted to private hospitals are getting delayed due to the shortage of Remdesivir and other drugs critical in fighting COVID-19,” a physician at a private healthcare facility said. A senior government medical officer, who had recently complained to the State Health Department about the shortage of drugs, especially Remdesivir, besides substandard medical equipment making rounds, pointed out that while the State Drug Control Department has been taking action against hoarders, there is a need for tougher measures like invoking Goondas Act against those who hoard or sell the medicines at an inflated price.
“This is a country where even onion gets hoarded to build demand,” he said. “My friends at private hospitals have turned to medical representatives hunting for COVID-19 medicines and cost-effective equipment,” he added.
According to a pulmonologist in Coimbatore, records are being maintained properly by the stockists, but the black market operates beyond the billing books. To a query on Remdesivir shortage, Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan told DT Next that the private hospitals have been complaining of shortage. “Our government stocks are better, and we are supporting a few private hospitals to meet their demands,” he said.
Radhakrishnan pointed out that he had also instructed the drug controller to appoint more squads and take up more regular inspections to ensure that the life-saving medicines and medical equipment were not hoarded.
Director of the State Drug Control Department K Sivabalan said that there has been a shortage of Remdevisir as there are only 10 to 12 manufacturers in the country. He added that annually the State registers around 500 cases against pharmacists and stockists for illegalities, which is the highest in the country.
Adopt zero tolerance against hoarders: Centre
The Centre on Monday asked state governments to adopt zero tolerance against hoarding of essential supplies like food and drugs during the lockdowns and curfews imposed in some states.
The states have also been asked to ensure essential supplies remain available at fair prices. Besides, the states have been asked to create awareness so as to mitigate “panic buying” of essential commodities. These issues were discussed with state government officials in a meeting called by Consumer Affairs Additional Secretary Nidhi Khare to review the availability of essential commodities.