Most patients go through private hospitals and their doctors to procure the drugs, while doctors are aiding dealers and distributors with fake documents to hoard drugs for supply upon request.
The medical representatives in hospitals play a huge role in the illegal procurement of life-saving drugs that are in limited supply in the State.
While the doctors prescribe these drugs and assist medical representatives with identity proof, RT-PCR reports and prescription, the network of drug distributors and dealers is being roped in to sell these drugs for COVID patients at a much higher price available in government sector or it’s maximum retail price.
The highest demand appears to be for Tocilizumab, a drug distributed in limited quantities to different states by the Centre. As per sources with Tamil Nadu Drug Control Authorities, the State was allocated just 200 units of Tocilizumab recently. It is used to treat critically ill COVID patients and according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare protocol, Tocilizumab can be used on patients with oxygen requirements, and in mechanically ventilated patients who are not improving despite use of steroids. An 86-year-old COVID patient’s family was asked to arrange for Tocilizumab after he developed inflammation. The patient’s family contacted the distributor of a major pharmaceutical company for Tocilizumab, and they were asked to contact a local dealer who could supply the drug for Rs 1,50,000. (Detailed report on Page 2)
The supply and distribution has gone in reverse gear, as dealers are now contacted directly by the patient’s family through contacts and known sources.
The dealers also help in procuring drugs if the patient’s family is not willing to share the medical documents or ID proof documents as the doctors arrange for documents in any other patient’s name who does not require the drug. Drug Controller K Sivabalan said surprise inspections are being done by making requests for the drugs with dealers and distributors also to catch hold of people involved in illegal procurement of drugs used for positive patients.
While police have started cracking down on the sale of drugs such as Remdesivir for a higher price in the black market, they have sought information from the public if they come across any such transfer of drugs. “The problem is that those who are in need of such drugs and are ready to pay extra for it will not come forward to tip police about the network. But we have set our informants and have been monitoring the movements. We will soon know if there is any major nexus involved in it. From the arrests we have made so far, it looks like there is no major network involved,” said a senior police official.
The official said that the people who really need these drugs may not be able to get them due to the presence of black market and it has to be stopped.