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COVID-19 drug remdesivir sold at 500% above MRP, regulator moves to curb black marketing

Joe C Mathew     July 7, 2020

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) has swung into action to stop illegal sale of remdesivir, a medicine whose restricted use for emergency treatment of COVID-19 patients has been approved in the country.

The drug controller's response has come after LocalCircles, a community social media platform, flagged instances of black marketing and overpricing of the medicine. LocalCircles had sought immediate action by the apex drug regulator after participants on the platform - 93 per cent of the respondents - said that remdesivir is being sold at prices 300 to 500 per cent over the maximum retail price of Rs 5,400.

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Acting on the information, V G Somani, DGCI, has asked all state drug controllers to instruct their field officials to keep strict vigil to prevent black marketing and unauthorised sale of remdesivir.

Somani pointed out that the drug was approved for restricted emergency use for treatment of patients with severe COVID-19 infection subject to various conditions and restrictions. "Initially, remdesivir formulation of the innovator (Gilead) was approved on June 1 for import and marketing of the drug in the country. However, the importer is yet to import the drug after taking import licence from CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, which DCGI heads). Subsequently, CDSCO has granted permission to manufacture and market the drug to Cipla, Hetero and Mylan for the same indication, condition and restrictions," a letter sent to state drug controllers said.

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The LocalCircles however found that the drug was made available by unscruplous persons at a much higher rate. "The MRP of remdesivir marketed by Hetero is Rs 5,400, but consumers have reported it being sold at a price of anywhere between Rs 15,000 to Rs 60,000. Various medical shops have been telling buyers that the medicine is in short supply but can be made available if they are ready to pay a premium," the LocalCircles letter had informed DCGI.

LocalCircles said 93 per cent of 8,329 consumers from 233 districts of India said that the legal metrology and drug inspectors should be directed immediately to act against such practices.

They also wanted the company to have a trace and track system to ensure that the medicine is not being black marketed.

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