Vital drug.

Vital drug.

Profits lure criminals; IB, police trail Remdesivir hoarders across country

Remdesivir not magic bullet; given only to patients hospitalised: AIIMS chief

Agency Report | New Delhi | 26 April, 2021 | 11:20 PM

From Intelligence Bureau(IB) to various state police organisations, almost all major law enforcement agencies in the country are trailing criminal gangs, peddlers, hoarders, stockists, and black marketeers, suspected of amassing doses of Remdesivir, the most potent drug for treating coronavirus. In UP and MP, special squads have been formed while in Maharashtra and Gujarat, police commissioners of several districts are working round the clock to prevent pilferage of the wonder drug.

“Our STF teams and district police squads have busted several modules in the state, arresting more than 46 people accused of hoarding Remdesivir and even medical oxygen cylinders,” said Prashant Kumar, Additional Director General of Police (ADG), Law and Order, Uttar Pradesh, where acute shortage of Remdesivir resulted in deaths of many patients.

Lure of huge profit margins, often five times the actual value of a Remdesiver vial, even tempt hospital staff to dupe patient. “We unearthed an ongoing racket in a prominent medical college, where ward boys were selling Remdesivir in black market. The medical staff administered distilled water injections to patients, and instead sold their genuine Remdesivir injections at a whopping price of Rs 25,000,” an SP rank officer said.

There have been similar complaints from attendants of patients in other private hospitals too. ” On involvement of local distributors and stockists of such drugs, ADG, UP, Prashant Kumar, said that nexus between certain chemists shops or a few stockists cannot be ruled out. “We are verifying specific inputs, where stockists concerned with distribution of these injections are involved in hoarding. Once booked we will slap NSA (National Security Act) against such culprits,” the ADG said.

Each injection of Remdesivir costing around Rs 3,400 to Rs 5,400 is being sold for over Rs 30,000 to 40,000 in black market. In Nagpur, the acute shortage of these life saving drugs saw a steep rise in the prices. The police arrested five persons in Nagpur’s Beltarodi area on Saturday for selling Remdesivir at price of Rs 45,000 per vial in the black market.

Obviously, the hoarders were making profit ten times higher than the actual MRP of the injection.

“As the gap between supply and sudden demand of this potent drug has widened, immediate audit of stocks of distributors, stockists and big retailers is necessary. The government agencies have to plug the pilferage of this drug at all costs,” said Rajnikant Mishra, former Joint Director of CBI and DG of Border Security Force, adding, “it’s a shame that some people have stooped so low to steal life saving drugs. The crime is awful than a murder.”

In yet another shocking incident in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, eight people including three hospital staffers were arrested on Sunday for allegedly stealing and black-marketing Remdesivir. The police revealed that staffers would cart away injections meant for patients for a private hospital and then, through a network of agents, sell it at exorbitant rates amid huge demand for the antiviral drug. Police said that as cases of COVID-19 spike sharply, the demand of the injections have resulted in acute shortage in MP. Seeing the rampant hoarding of the drug in the state, DGP Vivek Johri had formed a task force to check the black marketing of injection, used at large scale for treating critical covid positive patients.

As Ramdevpir is being used to treat critically sick Covid patients, some attendants now want to ensure that the drug should be administered to the patients in their presence.

“I requested the Medical Superintendent that Remdesivir should be given to the patient in front of me. The injection is so expensive that I cannot rely on the ward boys alone,” said Adil Rizvi, a bank officer who was looking after a batchmate admitted in a private hospital near Amausi in Lucknow. “There could be a few exceptions, but nursing staff in all our hospitals, private or government are very reliable. I feel because the injections are being sold at a very high price in black market, there may be instances where attendants want to ensure that patients get the right dose in their presence,” said Dr Sandeep Sharma, a radiologist, associated with several leading hospitals in south Delhi.

On rampant stocking of Remdisvir, Dr Randeep Guleria, Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), had to issue a statement on Sunday saying that there was no need to panic and stock oxygen and medicines like Remdesivir. “Due to panic, people are stocking injections at their homes, hoarding Remdesivir drug and oxygen cylinders… Remdesivir is not a magic bullet and is given only to patients who are hospitalised, have moderate to severe disease and whose oxygen saturation is below 93… Don’t misuse oxygen and Remdesivir,” Dr Guleria said, whose statement was endorsed by leading doctors including famous cardiologist Dr Naresh Trehan. (IANS)