Also orders 20k vials of Tocilizumab at Rs 30,870 each and 6 lakh Favipiravir tablets at Rs 58 each; govt will buy Rs 20 crore’s worth while rest will be for civic-run and private hospitals.

More than a month after health minister Rajesh Tope announced that the state government would buy the life-saving drug Remdesivir, the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) has ordered 60,000 vials of it at Rs 3,392.48 each. It has also booked 20,000 vials of Tocilizumab at Rs 30,870 each, and six lakh tablets of Favipiravir at Rs 58 per tablet or Rs 1999.20 for a strip of 34. The order came on the directions of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, amid reports about the widespread black marketeering of Remdesivir and Tocilizumab.

While the state government will buy Rs 20 crore’s worth of the drugs for its own hospitals, all civic-run and private Covid-19 hospitals designated by the government will be able to buy them at the same rates. Three companies – Hetero, Cipla and Mylan – will supply Remdesivir vials. Cipla’s version of Remdesivir is called Cipremi, Hetero Labs Ltd’s is called Covifor, and Mylan’s is called Desrem.

Dr TP Lahane, who heads the DMER, said, “We are first going to buy [Rs 20 crore’s worth] of these drugs for state-run Covid-19 hospitals. We have already issued orders for other public and private Covid-19 hospitals designated by the state government to buy them at the rates we have fixed. We have got the drugs at very competitive rates.”

He added, “We are booking these quantities for the next six months and the rates will be valid for one year. Black marketing will end with this and people will get life-saving drugs at affordable rates.”

So far, BMC-run hospitals are the only public hospitals with Tocilizumab. The BMC had placed an order for 15,000 vials of the drug at a mere Rs 4,100 per vial. According to Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) norms, pharmaceutical companies can only sell this drug to hospitals. But officials said that hospital pharmacies buy the drug at around Rs 4,500 per vial and sell it on the black market for as much as Rs 30,000 per vial to desperate relatives of critically ill Covid-19 patients.

Mumbai Mirror had last week reported that the city was facing massive shortages of Remdesivir and Tocilizumab. According to doctors and relatives of patients, Tocilizumab, which normally costs patients Rs 40,000 a vial, was being sold for up to Rs 75,000 a vial on the black market. Mirror had also reported that a crowd of more than 500 people landed up outside a store in Ghatkopar after learning that the store had about 400 vials of Tocilizumab.

Soon after the reports were published, the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a circular that made it mandatory for the relatives of patients to produce Aadhaar card details, a doctor’s prescription, consent form, a Covid-positive report and contact details when buying Remdesivir and Tocilizumab.

Meanwhile, Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad, who has been pushing to make the drugs widely available, said, “The first task was to crack down on the blackmarketeers. Once the state government has enough supplies, the drugs must be provided to all those who need them. Hospitals must give this drug to patients at the rates fixed by the state government. If hospitals charge more, action must be taken against them. I also urge the DMER to book more vials so that there are no shortages in the future.”

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