HC wants Centre to `jack up' efforts to increase supply of black fungus drugs

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(Eds: incorporates related HC story) Nagpur, May 27 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Union government to intensify efforts to increase the production of medicines needed to treat mucormycosis, noting that the supply to Maharashtra was quite inadequate.

Justices S B Shukre and A G Gharote of the HC's Nagpur bench said the allocation of 'primary drugs' on mucormycosis was not in proportion to the number of active cases in Maharashtra.

The vacation bench was hearing petitions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

'We would expect the Central government to increase the allocation so that it matches with the requirement of the State of Maharashtra in terms of its share in the total number of active cases in India,' the court said.

On May 11, the Centre allocated 16,500 vials of the key drug on mucormycosis (a disease also known as `black fungus') to the state, but later it tapered off, the HC said.

By May 24, daily supply had fallen to 4,360, 5,090 and 4,060, it said.

As the Central government regulates the production of this drug, it 'needs to jack up its efforts in increasing the production of this drug in entire India,' the court said in its order.

'We request the Central government to apprise us of the steps taken by it to increase the production of the primary drugs and increase their supply to different states including Maharashtra,' the court added.

Amphoterecin B Lipid Complex and Amphoterecin B Liposomal are used for treating mucormycosis, the court noted.

'Unfortunately, there are more mucormycosis patients in India, particularly in Maharashtra, than the production of these primary drugs,' the court said.

In Maharashtra there are around 3,000 mucormycosis cases which means 11,375 vials of Amphoterecin B Lipid Complex are needed per day, the court said.

Against this requirement, the supply 'is extremely short', it said.

The judges also sought to know the measures planned by the Maharashtra government to face a possible third wave of COVID-19 pandemic.

The court also asked the Union government to inform by June 2, the next hearing, its plan regarding the extension of the vaccination programme to cover children.

It was satisfied that the Maharashtra government has come out with a detailed Standard Operating Procedure for treating patients of mucormycosis and also launched an awareness campaign, the HC said.

During the hearing of similar petitions before the principal high court bench in Mumbai, the state government said that against Maharashtra's requirement of 14,000 vials of mucormycosis drug per day, the state was receiving only 4,000 to 5,000 doses.

Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni said there are 3,200 active cases of mucormycosis in the state. Mumbai has 335 cases, he told a bench of Justices Amjad Sayyad and G S Kulkarni.

The Centre has identified only three manufacturers to produce anti-mucormycosis injections, Kumbhakoni said, adding a patient on an average requires four to five vials per day.

The state has now tied-up with Haffkine Pharma to manufacture the drugs to meet the demand, he added.

'Maharashtra has started in-house manufacturing of anti-mucormycosis injections. It takes 20 days to have the finished product. We completed the procurement of raw material on Wednesday,' the advocate general said.

By June 6, the state should have a comfortable demand-supply position, he added.

The Union government's counsel, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh said the states most affected by black fungus outbreak are Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat.

'The supply of injections to these states will be increased by mid-June,' he added.

The HC suggested that the Centre issue a protocol on use of steroids for treating COVID-19, as indiscriminate use of these steroids is said to be making patients vulnerable to catch black fungus. PTI CLS SP AYA ARU GK KRK KRK

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