Health desk – 18 April 2021: In recent days in India, social media has been awash with desperate requests for help finding the drugs remdesivir and tocilizumab. The effectiveness of the two drugs is being debated across the world but some countries, including India, have given emergency use authorisation to both. It is in high demand. India has banned exports, but manufacturers are still struggling to meet the demand.
The BBC has found that the shortage in supply is leading to black marketing of the drug in Delhi and several other cities. At least three agents contacted by the BBC in Delhi agreed to supply each 100mg vial of remdesivir for 24,000 rupees ($320; £232) – five times the official price. India’s health ministry recommends six doses of 100mg vials for a patient for one course of the drug, but doctors say up to eight doses are needed in some cases.
Rajiv Singhal, general secretary of the All India Chemists and Druggists Association, said his phone was ringing through the day as people asked him to help find the drugs.
“The situation is so bad that I can’t even get the drugs for my own family members,” he said. “We are trying to take action against those who are black marketing, but I admit that there are leakages in the system.”
Another major problem patients are facing in smaller towns is that private labs are refusing to conduct chest X-rays and CT scans. Doctors often ask for these tests to assess the progress of the disease.
Many staff members at crematoriums are working without a break. They are getting exhausted. Many around India are asking if these situations were avoidable. “We did not learn lessons from the first wave. We were aware that the second wave was coming but we didn’t plan to avoid unfortunate incidences like shortages of drugs, beds and oxygen,” said epidemiologist Dr Lalit Kant.