Even as the central government has asked pharmaceutical companies to ramp up the production of Remdesivir injection due to a surge in demand from COVID-19 patients, several state governments are tightening the scrutiny over its sales to arrest hoarding and black marketing of the medicine.
In a recent decision, the Delhi government has asked its drug inspectors to be stationed at the premises of Remdesivir distributors (retail drug stores are not permitted to sell the medicine) and personally verify the credentials of each customer before permitting the sale. The customers have been asked to produce the original prescription, Aadhaar card of the patient, proof of hospital admission and a RTPCR COVID-19 positive test result to be eligible for purchase of the medicine. The strict instructions have ensured availability, though resulting in long queues and token systems in front of several distributors.
Rajasthan has simplified the processing of purchasing the medicine by disallowing retail sales at the distributors end. Instead, hospitals have been asked to mail the details of the patients and the exact requirement of Remdesivir directly to Rajasthan Medical Services Corporation Ltd, the state medicine procurement agency. The agency will be responsible for the direct supply of the medicine to the hospitals.
In West Bengal, the government has prohibited nursing homes and hospitals from prescribing the medicine and asking the patient to source it. The state has made the hospitals responsible for arranging the medicine for the patient. Companies or their vendors have been asked to supply Remdesivir directly to the hospitals.
Several states like Karnataka and Maharashtra are also known to be following models similar to that of Rajasthan.
In some cases, the sale is complete only after the patient and the prescribing doctor accept and acknowledge the receipt of the medicine.
The current total installed capacity of the seven manufacturers of Remdesivir is 38.80 lakh vials per month. The government has given fast-track approval for seven additional sites having the production capacity of 10 lakh vials per month to six manufacturers. Another 30 lakh vials per month production is lined up. This is expected to ramp up the production capacity for manufacturing to around 78 lakh vials per month soon.
As an additional measure, the government has also placed Remdesivir, API and formulation under Export ban on April 11 to increase the supply of the medicine in the domestic market. Remdesivir supplies of approximately 4 lakh vials meant for export is being diverted by manufacturers to fulfill domestic requirement. EOU/SEZ units are also being enabled to supply to the domestic market.
The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has also asked enforcement authorities of states and Centre to take immediate action on incidence of black-marketing, hoarding and overcharging of Remdesivir.