Mumbai: The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday stressed on the powers the central government had to place Remdesivir under the scheduled drugs and to regulate its price. The direction came from the bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Avinash Gharote who were hearing a suo motu PIL on the shortage of oxygen, Remdesivir and other essential drugs and amenities to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
As far the prices of Remdesivir is concerned, the judges noted that the same was being made available at different rates by different companies/manufacturers.
Responding to a query of the bench if the prices could regulated for the drug, assistant solicitor general of India (ASGI) U Aurangabadkar told the judges that the Union government has not notified Remdesivir as a scheduled drug and thus it cannot restrict its rate.
"We would request the Union government to include Remdesivir into the schedule drugs and regulate its pricing. Prima facie we are of the view that pricing is possible if a liberal interpretation is given to the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act," the bench said.
The bench went on to state that the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act did allow restriction or regulation of prices of a drug that was essential during a natural calamity or epidemic.
“The laws empower the union government to take such steps,” said the bench. It further noted that even the Drugs Control Act provided for fixing rates of essential drugs. The bench further considered that not a single drug, essential for treating Covid patients, has been notified as a scheduled drug by the Union government till date.
“The central government can now do so and fix the rates of Remdesivir,” noted the bench. The judges noted that the act provides for regulation of rates of drugs that are essential during an epidemic and would help stop the “extortion” of money from families of COVID 19 patients, and would also stop black-marketing of the drug.
"The center should perform its fundamental duty by fixing the price of Remdesivir at the earliest," the bench added.