244 Deaths Later, Kashmir Hospitals Initiate Procuring Experimental Covid-19 Drug

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by Saima Bhat

SRINAGAR: As the number of Covid-19 positive patients crossed 13000 mark in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday, the pandemic has triggered a huge demand for certain medicines. However, the drugs supposed to be in hospital inventory are missing.

“This medicine is unavailable at regular rates & reportedly a regular dose costing Rs 6000 is being sold on the black market for Rs 36,000,” Omar Abdullah tweeted. “Can someone in the administration please organise supplies of #Remdesivir without people having to struggle for it.” He tweeted while mentioning the deputy commissioner and the administration in the post.

Omar was tweeting about a drug Ramdesivir that Cipla is producing in India. Though an experimental drug, Cipla had said it would supply the government-run health chain. However, it is not available anywhere in Kashmir.

Ramdesivir is an antiviral injection that is used as part of the management for Covid-19 in the US, India, Singapore Japan, the European Union and Australia. Even the UK approved it in May 2020. This, however, is not a treatment.

“It is a recent drug and we have finally located the supplier who will supply it to SKIMS,” a senior official at the SKIMS said. “By the earliest, it must be available with us by Wednesday, not prior to that.”

SKIMS would be procuring the drug for the first time. Earlier, individuals would procure it from the market as and when required. “People are desperate and they try to get it but I do not think it is available in the market,” the official, who spoke anonymously, said. He asserted that the drug is just a trial drug like plasma therapy. “It is not a treatment.”

In Kashmir, the demand for Remdesivir reached the social media when a number of attendants of Covid-19 positive patients found it difficult to get the medicine in the local market.

A local journalist, Rameez Makhdoomi, who lost his mother to the deadly virus, wrote on his twitter, “As a person who lost mother recently to Covid, I would request JK govt to shun heartless approach and ensure availability of drugs like Remdesivir.”

Reportedly this drug has gone missing from the local market as the demand increased and it happened across India. At least seven persons were arrested in Mumbai on Sunday for selling this drug at Rs 30000.

As the individuals are getting desperate to have a vial of the injection, the doctors insist that the drug in demand is yet to prove effective in fighting the Covid-19.

Dr Tariq Tramboo, the senior interventional pain specialist, said, “Patients desperate for costly anti-virals including Remdesivir, used to treat corona. These drugs have not proven to be effective. Cheap paracetamol and dexamethasone are the only two drugs that help.”

There have been controversies surrounding the efficacy of Remdesivir, which was approved for the clinical use for both children and adults by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) as an injection on June.

The first randomised double-blind study, according to Science the Wire, showed no statistically significant treatment efficacy in severe COVID-19 patients.

The report also mentioned a study which sponsored by NIAID in May, which showed that Remdesivir didn’t affect the recovery of Asians, a result that never entered the media spotlight. On July 3, an independent expert wrote in a blog post for the British Medical Journal that the US government had purchased Remdesivir doses worth $1.5 billion because, he argued, the drug’s effects could actually be “exaggerated, embellished with unreliable effect measures”.

“We had 500 vials available with us and that were consumed by Wednesday last,” M Saheeb Najar, Area Manager of a pharma manufacturing company said. “We had approached government hospitals but we saw unwillingness. So we would gave it to patients on basis of the medical records, aadhar cards and other key documents and prescriptions.”

Najar said he expects the drug must be available with them within two days. “The black marketing has created a mess and every order is under scanner,” he said. “We have sold it to patients at Rs 4500 a vial against the MRP of Rs 5400.”

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