Mumbai: The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, told the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday that it wasn’t holding back drugs and was giving all the states all it had and Maharashtra was getting the highest stock. Drug Controller General of India Dr VG Somani, also told the bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Shreeram Modak that it would increase the supply of Remdesivir if the state government were to make a request.
Dr Somani, who appeared through video-conferencing, told the bench that the actual production for Remdesivir was currently at about 21 lakh vials. “It takes around 40 days to get the finished product from its raw materials. We have increased the import of raw material to produce these injections.”
Dr Somani added that the allocation of the drug to the states was done by a combined committee, which was then communicated to the states and production houses. “We got the licence, without paying royalties, from Gilead Sciences with great difficulty for seven companies in India. It’s an investigational therapy drug,” he said.
“The consumption has reached optimum level. There are also instances of hoarding the drug and thus, we have ordered raids and have even registered FIRs against stockists,” he informed the court.
Justice Shukre then sought to know if the CDSO had any control over the distribution of the vials in the state, to which Dr Somani replied in the negative. On this the bench stated, “Someone should take care of this indiscriminate distribution of the drugs.”
“We also want to know if the supply of vials could be increased for Maharashtra, especially in view of the fact that the number of Covid cases are higher here,” Justice Shukre sought to know.
At this, Dr Somani replied, “A request can be made by the state government. However, the number of active cases would be a factor to consider hiking the supply of vials.” The official further said that the Central government was unable to meet demands of even other states and emphasised that Maharashtra was presently getting more than 2 lakh Remdesivir vials. The bench, having considered the contentions, said the authority must consider increasing this 2.67 lakh vials to a substantial amount.
During the course of the hearing, the bench noted that Remdesivir was being administered indiscriminately by doctors even in Covid care centres, in violation of the SOPs issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Doctors treating Covid patients must follow the SOPs, as this would ensure that the demand doesn’t hike further. Doctors, even in private hospitals, should not administer Remdesivir without a prescription,” Justice Shukre added in his order.
During the hearing, the bench was informed that there was some respite now in terms of the supply of oxygen and Remdesivir in and around Nagpur district. Advocate Vaibhav Bhure informed the court that Bhandara had 11,000 active cases but the district had not received a single vial since April 20. Advocate Aditya Goel, appearing for an intervenor, informed the court that Sun Flag Industry at Bhandara had the capacity to produce 120 metric tonnes per day and could be ordered to supply oxygen to Covid care centres.
Advocate Goel further said, “We need to be proactive and not reactive. Cases will rise in the near future. We cannot wait for these industries to show their readiness. Government has powers under section 37 of the Disaster Management Act.”
“Nagpur alone requires 170 MT daily. The plant’s capacity of 120MT is much higher than the demand in Bhandara. In fact, surplus could be supplied to Nagpur,” said Advocate Goel.
The bench then noted, “There are plants for producing oxygen in Bhandara, Thane, Pune and Alibaug. Advocate Goel says if oxygen from these plants is diverted, we can meet the alleged shortage of oxygen across the state. Authorities can consider this suggestion at the earliest.”
“The record shows that there is ample supply of oxygen from the state, as well as the Central governments. But the problem seems to be in distribution. There is some serious issue with the distribution of oxygen to all the hospitals,” the judges observed.
The bench further ordered the authorities to ensure that the issue did not persist on the next date of hearing. “We do not want to hear complaints from any hospitals on the next date of hearing that they weren’t supplied oxygen,” the bench added.
As far as the grievances of Bhandara and Amravati division were concerned, the bench ordered the authorities to ensure that there was a consistent supply of oxygen and the drugs Remdesivir and Tocilizumab.