HC pulls up Maha govt on Remdesivir procurement, allocation

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(Eds: Adds details, quotes) Nagpur, Apr 21 (PTI) The Bombay High Court came down heavily on the Maharashtra government on Wednesday for its 'extremely callous' behaviour towards the issue of procuring and allocating Remdesivir injections for COVID-19 patients and said the authorities are shirking their responsibilities.

The Nagpur bench of the HC also expressed its displeasure over reduction of supply of liquid oxygen from the Bhilai Steel Plant in Chhattisgarh to Maharashtra, which has seen a huge jump in demand for the life-saving gas used to treat critical COVID-19 patients.

A division bench of Justices S B Shukre and S M Modak was irked that its April 19 order, directing the state government to supply 10,000 Remdesivir vials to Nagpur, badly affected by COVID-19, on that very day, was not complied with completely.

In strong remarks, the court noted that it was ashamed to be a part of this 'nasty and evil society' and was unable to do anything for the coronavirus patients of Maharashtra.

The bench was hearing a bunch of petitions on the issue of the pandemic, lack of medical facilities in hospitals and the hurdles being faced by affected people.

The court was later informed that between April 19 and April 21, as many as 5,245 vials of Remdesivir has been distributed in Nagpur, badly affected by the pandemic, and around 6,000 more vials of the key COVID-19 drug will be distributed by Thursday.

The bench took note of the issue of lack of oxygen supply in Maharashtra and expressed its displeasure with the drop in shipment of liquid oxygen from the Bhilai Steel Plant.

'Things have turned in reverse manner...instead of increasing the supply of liquid oxygen, the supply has been decreased from the normal practice of 110 metric tonnes per day to around 60 metric tonnes, the court said.

The bench directed Praxair India Pvt Ltd (Bhilai Steel Plant) to immediately start supplying the normal 110 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to Maharashtra.

The bench noted that the affidavits filed by the Joint Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Nagpur, and the Additional Collector have made contradictory statements on why the order on Remdesivir supply could not be complied with.

'We find that these officers have now started to shirk their responsibilities in giving certain relief to COVID-19 patients and in a way, they are also on the path to violate their fundamental duties,' the court observed.

It added that at this stage it was refraining from passing any adverse order and giving the authorities concerned an opportunity to correct themselves.

The Joint Commissioner (FDA), in his affidavit, said the Maharashtra government has no authority to control, distribute and allocate Remdesivir and that the process is handled by Mumbai-based Haffkine Bio Pharmaceutical Corporation Ltd.

He told the court that pharma companies send vials to their depots in Maharashtra from where they are dispatched to hospitals.

The affidavit said at present there is a shortage of Remdesivir in Maharashtra, the worst COVID-19-hit state.

The bench then pointed out that on the last hearing it was told that a state-level committee has been appointed to allocate Remdesivir injections to hospitals across districts in Maharashtra.

'Whose responsibility is allocation? This is highly objectionable. This shows extreme callousness and now the government is trying to shirk its responsibility.

'Is it not the state governments job to find a solution at its level, Justice Shukre said.

The bench further noted that the authorities are not providing any 'solace or relief' to coronavirus patients and are refusing to even comply with court orders.

'Are you not ashamed of yourselves? We are ashamed to be a part of this nasty and evil society where we are not able to do anything for the unfortunate patients of Maharashtra,' Justice Shukre said.

'What nonsense is going on here...you (government) wont do anything on your own and when we are trying to provide a solution you do not follow that too. You cannot walk away from your responsibilities,' the court said.

The court was informed by the Central Drug Controller that seven companies were manufacturing 88 lakh Remdesivir vilas each month which was sufficient to cater to the needs of serious Covid-19 patients across the country.

The bench, in its order, directed the Central Drug Controller to inform it on Friday steps taken by it under the Drug Control Act and other relevant Acts to ensure fair and equal distribution of the drug not only to Maharashtra or its Vidarbha region but to the entire nation. PTI CLS SP RSY RSY