BENGALURU: The top price band for a Remdesivir injection is about Rs 5400, but shockingly, a family in Bidar was forced to shell out Rs 40,000 for one injection last week. And that too, it was procured from a hospital.
They later bought three more vials from agents for prices ranging between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000. When they could not get two more vials, the exasperated family shifted the patient to Hyderabad.
“We needed the injection for my uncle who was being treated for Covid-19. If you do not have money to pay for Remdesivir, being sold in the black market, then you have no option but to give up on the life of your loved one,” said a relative of the patient, who did not want to be named.
When Pranab Pani tried to arrange the drug for two separate Covid-19 patients this week, one private hospital in Seshadripuram charged Rs 5,000 per vial of Cipla’s drug, against the original price of Rs 4,000.
Another private medical centre in HSR Layout charged Rs 35,000 per vial from Hetero Pharma, he claimed.
“An increase of Rs 1,000 or Rs 2,000 is understandable. But charging Rs 35,000 for just one injection is inhuman and intolerable. I threatened to complain against the hospital to the authorities after which they produced six vials for Rs 5,000 each,” said Pani, a start-up mentor, business advisor and author.
A distributor charged Rs 7,500 per vial when Mohammed Fahad, coordinator of National Students Union of India, was trying to procure the drug for his friend’s grandmother who was being treated for Covid-19 in a hospital in Bengaluru.
The maximum retail price per vial for various brands of Remdesivir are Rs 5,400 for Hetero company, Rs 4,700 for Mylan, Rs 4,700 for Jubliant, Rs 5,400 for Reddy’s, Rs 4,000 for Cipla and Rs 899 for Zydus.
“When I contacted the BBMP medical staff, they too did not have Remdesivir. The pandemic has affected people financially. The government should provide this drug free of cost or not exceeding Rs 500 to Rs 1000 per vial. Like vaccines, it should be stocked everywhere in all centres,” Fahad said.
An NGO volunteer who helps patient’s families arrange beds, oxygen and drugs, said government and corporate hospitals have Remdesivir stocks, but the mid-sized hospitals with 40-50 beds do not.
He said there are many loopholes which the blackmarketeers exploit.
The pharma company gives the drug to the distributor/stockists, who give it to medical stores, who, in turn, sell it to middlemen or medical representatives, who then offer it to patients at jacked-up prices, he said.
Meanwhile, Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) has requested the government for 6,114 vials of Remdesivir for 1,535 patients, admitted in 65 hospitals in Bengaluru, for the next three days.
As of Wednesday, 943 vials were available with PHANA. On Wednesday, the State Government set up a dedicated cell for Remdesivir, headed by the Deputy Drugs Controller, to coordinate with hospitals.