Use Remdesivir Only for Covid Patients on Oxygen Support, Govt Says
Remdesivir is only meant for hospitalized Covid19 patients who are experiencing low levels of oxygen due to the infection, the central government has announced.
Remdesivir is an anti-viral drug, which was approved for the treatment of Covid19 in India by the country’s drug regulators in June last year. However, amid the present surge in Covid19 infections, India is facing a shortage of the drug — so much so that the government prohibited its export a few days back to address the domestic shortfall.
“It can only be supplied to a hospital, not a chemist shop to be procured by a patient,” Dr. Vinod Paul, a member of NITI Aayog, who is also leading the panel responsible for the government’s Covid19 response, told the Indian Express, adding that the drug “is only required for those hospitalized patients who are on oxygen.”
In fact, the usage of Remdesivir was never allowed for Covid19 outside of clinical settings, he clarified. “It is an investigational drug [i.e., not approved for general use]. Its role has been clearly defined in the clinical management protocol. There is no question of the use of Remdesivir in home settings. That is unethical,” Dr. Paul said.
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“Around 70% of total production is diverted towards Maharashtra [which needs 40,000-50,000 vials of Remdesivir every day]. The remaining 30% is distributed to other states. If we need 7,000 vials, we get only 1,500-2,000,” Shobhit Kosta, Food and Drug Inspector in Madhya Pradesh, told the Indian Express, highlighting the shortage.
Last year, with the number of Covid19 numbers falling across the country, the government had asked pharmaceutical companies to scale down the production of Remdesivir. But with the current rising Covid19 numbers and the corresponding rise in demand for the drug, manufacturers are ramping up production again.
Yesterday, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) also requested the country’s medical fraternity use the drug prudently, citing its “non-judicious use” for the ongoing shortfall in a statement. With the government having capped Remdesivir’s price in view of the health crisis, its demand has grown, the IMA said. “The affordability of the drug make the public to demand it use for their kith and kin, ever when there is not an absolute indication to use. This unjustified request must be resisted by the medical professionals, as the availability of the drug will be of more benefit to a patient who has absolute indication [sic].”
Echoing IMA’s call for prudence, Dr. Paul appealed to the citizens: “We request rational and judicious use of Remdesivir.”