Public Health minister Rajesh Tope said the Maharashtra state government would bear the cost of treatment of the ‘black fungus’ or mucormycosis that is being seen in recovering Covid-19 patients in Maharashtra.
The state will be looking to fund the expenditures under its medical insurance scheme, ‘Mahatma Phule Jan Aarogya Yojana,’ which currently encompasses 1,000 hospitals. It also mentioned that it would be looking into capping the price on Amphotericin B, the expensive anti-fungal drug used to treat the ‘black fungus.’
“The main antifungal drug, Amphotericin B, is expensive, and it may be difficult for people to bear the cost. We will look at the prices and take a decision on capping it,” he said, to Times of India.
A single vial of Amphotericin B can cost between Rs 5,000 and Rs 8,000, and the medicines have to be taken for 4-12 weeks, amounting to a sizeable cost for recovering COVID patients.
The consequences of mucormycosis, which can be fatal if left untreated, are often ignored by patients when hearing the cost of treatment. Dr Sanjeev Jambare, an ENT surgeon from Jalgaon, said to Times of India, “The daily cost of treating a mucormycosis patient can be in the range of Rs 60,000 to Rs 80,000. Many simply walk away when we tell them about the cost. If left untreated, mucormycosis is fatal.”
The fungal infection has killed eight so far, out of 200 patients suffering from mucormycosis. Those among COVID patients who are vulnerable to co-morbidities, or have taken steroids, are more prone to succumb to the fungus, said Dr Lahane, head Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER), to PTI.
Symptoms of the deadly black fungus include headache, fever, pain under the eyes, nasal or sinus congestion, and partial loss of vision among others.
The number of reported mucormycosis cases were lesser during the first wave in comparison to the second.