Remdesivir: Higher demand, longer wait

Govt hospital lands in controversy after complaints that Remdesivir was being diverted to the grey market; cost of one vial touches Rs 30K

Published: 29th April 2021 04:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th April 2021 04:34 AM   |  A+A-

Kin of patients waiting to buy the drug at Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital in Chennai

By Express News Service

CHENNAI/SALEM/TIRUNELVELI: With the demand for Remdesivir soaring, and queues outside counters getting longer, TS Selvavinayagam, Director of Public Health, in a video message on Wednesday clarified that the drug is not a life-saving one and is not recommended as mandatory by the WHO.

“Unnecessary panic buying is a cause for concern. Not all patients need Remdesivir, and it does not increase one’s survival chances; it can only reduce the duration of hospital stay for symptomatic patients,” he added. Noting that all government hospitals have sufficient stock, purchased through TNMSC, he said private hospitals should not make people run pillar to post.

Meanwhile, relatives of a Covid patient, admitted to Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital, alleged that the nurses had written Remdesivir in the case sheet for three days without administering it. Speaking to media, one Saravanan, said: “As soon as I raised the issue, the nurses struck out Remdesivir from the list.

When I checked other patients’ case sheets, I realised that the staff had done the same. I suspect malpractice,” he added. Express contacted a hospital authority who refuted the allegations and said the staff might have written Remdesivir “by mistake”.

As State gasps, some are busy stuffing coffers

Not very far away, in Salem, the Government Mohan Kumaramangalam Medical College Hospital (GMKMCH) landed in a controversy after complaints that Remdesivir was being diverted to the grey market. A single dose is allegedly sold in Rs 10,000 to Rs 30,000 range in the district. The hospital administration refuted the charges but has ordered an inquiry. Hospital sources, however, admitted that the drug was being diverted to the grey market. “It is a fact that Remdesivir is sold to private hospitals in Salem and also in other districts. Records were fudged to show that it was given to in-patients.

an elderly woman getting vaccinated in Chennai | Martin Louis/

This started in January and people involved in this are making a lot of money,” said a doctor on condition of anonymity. While officials in the district medical warehouse did not respond to questions on the stock supplied to the GMKMCH, Dr R Murugaesan, who is the dean of the hospital, said: “After assuming office, I verified availability of the drug and doses administered to patients.

There is no mismatch.” Relatives of a 70-year-old Covid patient, admitted to a private hospital, said, “The hospital told us that it did not have Remdesivir in stock and that it could be bought from the GMKMCH. When we approached them, officials told us that it was meant for in-patients only. We then got to know that the State is selling Remdesivir at Kilpauk Medical College in Chennai for Rs 1,500.

We will be going to Chennai to buy it.” Meanwhile, serpentine queues are being witnessed at Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital, where a special counter for the sale of Remdesivir was opened on Monday. Some even fainted while standing under the scorching sun. A request from one of the treating doctors stating that the patient is receiving oxygen support, with the hospital’s name, RT-PCR positive report, CT scan report showing severe lung involvement, and Aadhaar card are mandatory to purchase the drug. T he counter will be open from 10 am to 5 pm.

What is this drug for?
The treatment protocol issued by AIIMS, ICMR-Covid national task force and the joint monitoring group states Remdesivir can be used in patients with moderate to severe disease within 10 days of onset of symptoms. It is not to be used in patients not on oxygen support, or in home settings, the Health Ministry had said.


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