The Supreme Court on Sunday asked the Centre to consider fixing ceiling price for drugs like Favipiravir, Tociluzumab, among others, used for treatment of COVID-19 patients as they are being sold at exorbiant rates.
The court said it has been informed by the Centre that the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has revised the maximum retail price of Remdesivir, an anti-viral drug used in COVID-19 treatment, to Rs 3,500. "However, it has come to our notice that several other drugs which are being prescribed by doctors for treating COVID-19 patients like Favipiravir, Tociluzumab, Enoxaparin, Ivermectin, Methylprednisolone, Paracetamol and Hydroxy-chloroquine are being priced at exorbitant rates creating issues of access and affordability."
The court said the Centre can consider invoking its statutory powers under the Drugs Price Control Order, 2013 which allows the government to fix a ceiling price or retail price of a drug for a certain period in extraordinary circumstances. The court, however, clarified that this is not its direction.
"COVID-19 is a crisis of an unprecedented nature and qualifies as an extraordinary circumstance. It will be in public interest to ensure that the price of essential drugs is fixed in such a manner that it is available even to the most marginalised sections of the society," it said.
The government in an affidavit had informed the court that the production of Remdesivir had increased to 1.03 crore vials per month as of April 23.
The Central government had allocated 11 lakhs vials of Remdesivir to 19 states with a high case load between April 21 to 30 through a letter issued on April 21, 2021. This allocation was further revised and expanded to all states and union territories through a letter issued on April 24, 2021.
As India battles the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, shortage of oxygen and drugs like Remdesivir have been reported from many parts of the country. India reported 3,92,488 new COVID-19 cases and 3,689 deaths because of infection in the preceding 24 hours as of Sunday morning.
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