Maharashtra has made it mandatory to show Aadhaar card, the results of a positive test and a doctor's prescription for citizens to purchase remdesivir and tocilizumab, drugs that are used to treat moderate and severe cases of COVID-19, according to several media reports.
The decision came amid complaints of tocilizumab and remdesivir being sold at exorbitant rates by black marketeers. "We have medicine in enough supply but the demand has gone up," Rajendra Shingne, the minister for the Food and Drugs Administration, was quoted as saying by NDTV. "We have received complaints that these medicines are being sold in the black market. We are going to take action against black marketeers."
Shingne said anyone overcharged for the drugs can call the government helpline (1800222365), following which action will be initiated. Shingne added that only private hospitals ask relatives of patients to procure these because coronavirus is being treated for free at civic-run facilities.
Shingne and state home minister Anil Deshmukh had held a meeting on Friday. "Cipla and Hetero have assured an increase in their supply of remdesivir. People don't need to panic as sufficient stock will be available soon," Deshmukh said.
Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) had last week raised concerns over the black marketing and profiteering of remdesivir and asked all states to keep "strict vigil" and prevent sale of the drug above the maximum retail price.
"We have already started random checking to see if black marketing is going on. Those found guilty will be punished under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940," FDA commissioner Arun Unhale told Hindustan Times.
The anti-viral drug remdesivir was cleared for "restricted emergency use" to treat severe COVID-19 patients last month.
According to Reuters, Cipla has priced its version cipremi at less than Rs 5,000 per 100 mg vial, while Hetero has priced its drug covifor at Rs 5,400. Meanwhile, Mylan's desrem has been priced at Rs 4,800 per 100 mg vial, exponentially cheaper than its price tag in developed countries.
An FDA official told The Times of India that over 2,100 vials of the remdesivir drug from Cipla arrived in Mumbai on Thursday, of which 1,600 doses went to private hospitals and the rest to BMC hospitals. The BMC received 6,000 vials of remdesivir last week from Hetero.
With inputs from PTI