Allocation of Remdesivir Has to Be Need-based: Bombay HC to Centre, Maha Govt

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The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Monday said the distribution of Remdesivir injections has to be on the basis of need and asked the Centre and the Maharashtra government what parameters are followed while allocating the drug to different states and districts. A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and SM Modak said if Maharashtra was contributing to 40 per cent of the COVID-19 cases in India, then the allocation of Remdesivir injections to the state should also be in the same percentage.

Remdesivir is listed for use in serious COVID-19 patients. In view of a sudden spike in demand of the drug due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, the Centre last week banned its export till the situation improves. "If contribution towards COVID-19 cases is 40 per cent from Maharashtra, then it is only right to say that 40 per cent of Remdesivir injections are allotted to this state. The allocation has to be need-based and not on any other factors that are not relevant," Justice Shukre said.

The court directed the Union and the state governments to file their affidavits by April 21, pointing out the parameters followed for the regulation and distribution of Remdesivir vials. The court was hearing a bunch of petitions on the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of facilities in hospitals and the hurdles being faced by the public.

The court also pulled up the Maharashtra government for "disparity and arbitrariness" while allotting vials of Remdesivir to different districts in the state. Advocate Tushar Mandlekar, appearing for a petitioner, informed the HC that the allocation of Remdesivir vials to Nagpur was less than what was allocated to Thane.

"There appears to be a disparity and some arbitrariness in the distribution of Remdesivir vials to Nagpur district. The vials are not being released in proportion to the requirement," the court said. The bench further said it did not understand the logic behind allotting over 5,000 vials of Remdesivir for around 2,000 beds in Thane, but allotting only about 3,000 vials of the drug for over 8,000 COVID-19 beds in Nagpur.

It noted that on April 13 and April 18, not a single vial of Remdesivir was allotted to Nagpur and on April 17, only 500 vials were allotted. "This has severely affected the administration of health care to COVID-19 patients in Nagpur. The possibility of mortality because of lack of Remdesivir cannot be ruled out.

It is the solemn duty of the state government to save and preserve each precious life," the court said. The bench said the issue needs to be resolved on a "war-footing", and directed the Maharashtra government to immediately release 10,000 vials of Remdesivir by Monday night to Nagpur district.

"The COVID-19 scenario in Nagpur has turned to its worst. So much so that there are no beds available, no life saving measures available, lack of oxygen and also the dearth of medical and para-medical staff," it said. "The spike in COVID-19 cases in Nagpur is steep and the situation was not so bad even in the first phase of the pandemic last year," the court observed.

Taking note of several COVID-19 patients waiting outside hospitals in Nagpur for admission, the HC directed the district collector and the Nagpur Municipal Corporation's commissioner to set up temporary pandals outside those hospitals with drinking water facilities for such patients.

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