Make remdesivir available like paracetamol: HC reprimands Gujarat Govt over COVID drug shortage
The state government's claim that only seven firms manufacture Remdesivir in the country and that 1.75 lakh vials are made every day was rejected by the Gujarat high court
Ahmedabad: Hearing a suo motu Public Interest Litigation on the worsening Covid 19 situation in the State, the Gujarat High Court slammed the State Government over shortage of the antiviral drug Remdesivir and its supply regulation, ordering it to make the prescription available to everyone, much like paracetamol.
This comes after media accounts of delays in RT-PCR trials and a "shortage" of Remdesivir, a primary antiviral medication used in Covid-19 care, prompted the Gujarat high court to file a public interest lawsuit on Monday.
As per the order passed by the Chief Justice on 11.04.2021, "The Division Bench presided by the Chief Justice on 06.04.2021 had a dialogue with the Senior most State Law Officers, learned Advocate General and the learned Government Pleader expressing concern regarding the upsurge of COVID-19 cases in the State and requesting the State to take appropriate measures in order to check & control the rise in COVID-19 cases and its management."
Further, the order stated, "The said dialogue was widely reported in the media, i.e. electronic, digital and print. It has been five days since. The newspapers, news channels are flooded with the harrowing tales, unfortunate and unimaginable difficulties, unmanageable conditions of the infrastructure, the shortfall and the deficit of not only testing, availability of beds, ICU, but also supply of Oxygen and the basic medicines like Ramdesivir, etc."
The Chief Justice order further added, "I could have ignored it but the volume of reports in the leading newspapers having nationwide circulation can not be ignored. It is the time that the Court must intervene. "
In continuation with the above order, the bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Bhargav Karia stated in a suo motu PIL that the government should come up with a strategy on what is needed and when it is needed, as well as cut out hoarders. The court said that the state should continue to seek out those who are hoarding drugs and those who are trafficking them at cheaper rates and take the best possible action against them, to which the government replied that it had already done so.
The chief justice also directed that the government make remdesivir available everywhere so that no one would have to run to form a line. Justice Karia added to this that the medicine should be made available like paracetamol.
However, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi argued that doctors are prescribing Remdesivir to Covid patients unnecessarily, claiming that the medication is a 10-year-old invention that includes cyclodextrin, which is harmful to the kidneys and liver, and that it can only be used in emergency situations and throughout hospitalisation.
In response to the argument advanced by Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, judges stated that doctors would not recommend Remdesivir for no reason. They aren't using anything to treat common illnesses. Doctors only prescribe Remdesivir when the RT-PCR result is positive and the patient's lungs are infected. Furthermore, the government should not base policies on the assumption that Remdesivir should only be provided under strict supervision.
In continuation of this, the state government's claim that only seven firms manufacture the drug in the country and that 1.75 lakh vials are made every day was rejected by the high court. According to the judges, manufacturers have stocks of medicines manufactured in January and February. The court questioned the control over Remdesivir supply and recommended that it be lifted.
The Court even questioned why this medication should be made available to a nursing home that isn't a Covid centre. The court inquired, citing the 1.5-kilometre-long line outside Zydus Hospital.
The court also rejected the process by which the government planned to supply Remdesivir on demand from its stock. Patients and their attendants are being exploited, according to the courts.
The judges further questioned why, with so much medication available, it is not made available in private hospitals and pharmacies.
The judges opined that it is impossible to imagine that there is a shortage because injections are available on the advice of VIPs. They also cited the government's claim that Gujarat manufactures the majority of the country's Remdesivir and demanded that the stock be properly accounted for, reports the Times of India.