Erratic supply of the expensive immunosuppressant drug Tocilizumab and the anti-viral Remdesivir, used to treat severely ill Covid-19 patients, has led to their shortage at civic hospitals and chemists' across the city. Doctors have attributed this to people stocking up on these medicines, despite knowing how vital these are for critical patients.
The BMC, which procures Tocilizumab from the pharmaceutical company Cipla, with each dose costing between Rs 30,000-40,000, says it has been treating Covid-19 patients from its stock, free of cost. With a spike in the number of cases, civic-run hospitals, however, have been reporting problems with the supply of the drug.
Over the past few days, people have been tweeting requests for Remdesivir and Tocilizumab. “Hi...need Tocilizumab urgently for an aged patient very critical at Apex Hospital Borivali. It's either not in stock or pharmacies are charging up to 70K for a vial. Please help?” tweeted @fringemel.
Twitter user @yashrajx said, “Urgent help required: Remdesivir & Actemera Injection required in Thane, Mumbai. Remdesivir and Actemera injection urgently for a Covid+ patient. Will pick up anywhere from Mumbai/Pune. Patient is admitted in Thane. Kindly patient is on a ventilator.”
However, currently, Remdesivir is not available at chemists'. “Hospitals have to order it for their specific Covid-19 patients. There is a lot of paperwork involved. The manufacturer will give it to the hospital, which will give it to the concerned patient,” said a city doctor.
Abhay Pandey, national president, AFDLHF, alleged, “The government and the corporation are aware that these drugs are being procured in the name of asymptomatic patients who do not even require them. All this is being done to black market Tocilizumab and Remdesivir, so that dealers or hospitals can sell them at a higher cost.”
Dr Mohan Joshi, dean, BYL Nair Hospital, said initial treatment with the drug “found that 95 per cent patients were recovering”. Commonly used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, Tocilizumab is being administered to Covid-19 patients with pneumonia and breathlessness and those at risk of a cytokine storm, to prevent further severity.
“More than hundreds of patients have already been treated using this drug. We don’t have that much stock. The supply comes and goes. We are using it on patients only when we have stock,” he said.
Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani refuted this allegation, saying there was no shortage of Tocilizumab injections at civic hospitals. “We procure Tocilizumab depending on its demand and if any hospital requires more, we provide them with the dealers' numbers, so that they can coordinate directly with them and procure the drug,” he said.
However, there is a clamour for the drug when the public hears or reads about its efficacy and desperate to be prepared for any eventuality, they rush to 'stockpile' it for themselves.
Dr Ramesh Bharmal, dean, Sion Hospital, said people should understand, these life-saving drugs are crucial for critically ill Covid patients. “Since citizens have learnt that injections of Tocilizumab and Remdesivir can save lives, many of them consult their doctors and ask them to prescribe this drug. But they don’t understand that their rush to procure these drugs could prove a life-and-death situation for a patient who needs it urgently,” he said.
Dr Deepak Baid, president, Association of Medical Consultants, said, “Currently, there is a shortage of both life-saving drugs, but the civic body has assured it will be providing them by the weeke
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)