As Delhi-NCR region is facing a sudden surge in Covid-19 related black fungus or mucormycosis cases, the required drugs Liposomal and Amphotericin B for treatment have become unavailable in the markets due to increase in its demand. This has created a panic among families of the infected patients, giving an opportunity to fraudsters and black marketers to dupe people even in such a grim situation.
Rahul (named changed) was asked by a private hospital in Delhi to arrange Amphotericin B injection immediately for his mother, who is infected with black fungus. He first tried to look for the medicine on both online and offline modes but did not find it anywhere. Later on, he found few contacts through social media and upon calling them he was asked to make a payment of Rs 50,000 beforehand, the amount was 10 times more than the actual price, and was promised the delivery of the required drug the same day in the evening. He made the full payment, but did not get anything. After multiple calls and messages to the person who promised to provide the life-saving drug, Rahul did not get any feedback and eventually he realised that he has been duped.
Sensing the fraud situation, he has filed a police complaint. “I was not able to think anything beyond arranging the injection at any cost for my mother when doctor told me to procure it to stop the spread of fungus. So after trying every shop, I found this number and I just immediately agreed to pay when that woman told me over the phone that she has Amphotericin B but will need full payment first. I was so upset at that time and could not even realise that they had not taken the address to deliver the medicine while I made the payment,” he said.
A similar incident was also narrated by another victim named Surya Dixit from Gurgaon who was also duped on pretext of getting Amphotericin B. She required the anti-fungal drug for her husband suffering from mucomycosis. After receiving a number from a friend, Dixit dialed it and enquired about the availability of Amphotericin B injection. She was asked to pay Rs 80,000 in advance, which she rejected and told them that she can only pay half of payment now and rest will done after the delivery of the medicine. After the person on phone agreed to the deal, she made a payment of Rs 40,200 for the medicine. Ever since, the number is not reachable.
“My friend got this number from somewhere and gave it to me as I needed Amphotericin B for my husband since it’s not available anywhere. The woman whom I spoke to sounded suspicious but at that time I didn’t not find any other option and went ahead for it by making the half payment,” said victim Surya Dixit.
Several people are falling into the trap of fraudsters in these grim situation. Arundhati Mitra also desperately tried to procure Amphotericin B injection for a relative who was admitted at a Delhi-based private hospital, but was also duped as others and made a payment of Rs 50,000 to fraudsters.
“My relative is admitted in the hospital and urgently needed Amphotericin B. We tried in different states but failed to get anything due to its shortage. And that’s when we got this number from social media and immediately got agreed to make the payment as they promised delivery by the evening of same day,” said Mitra.
No arrests have been made so far in related to the complaints filed by the victims in such cases.
However, Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has said that the required medicines to cure black fungus will be made available in the markets soon and the state governments have been asked to take action against such fraudsters.
“Same black marketing and fraud happened in the case of Remdesivir earlier and now happening with Amphotericin B. We have issued an advisory to state governments to take action against such people. I would also urge those who are looting such needy people that don’t do such things at a time when people are in trouble,” Mandaviya said.
Mucormycosis or "black fungus” usually infects people whose immune system has been compromised, causing blackening or discolouration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing blood.
Doctors believe that the use of steroids to treat severe Covid-19 could be causing the rash of cases because those drugs reduce immunity and push up sugar levels.