New Delhi: Drug Controller General of India V.G. Somani has written to its zonal officers and the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to remain vigilant on sale and black-marketing of the crucial covid-19 drug remdesivir after receiving a letter from social media platform Local Circles.
“…this office has received a letter from M/s Local Circles, through MoHFW (health ministry), raising concerns regarding black marketing and overpricing of the drug remdesivir by certain unscrupulous persons," Somani said in a letter dated 6 July. Mint has reviewed a copy of the letter.
The letter by Local Circles was also written on 6 July and was addressed to NPPA chairman Shubhra Singh, Consumer Affairs secretary Leela Nandan, cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba as well as various officials in the health ministry.
Local Circles in the letter said that it had received many posts and comments from across the country about black marketing and overpricing of the drug.
“The MRP (maximum retail price) of remdesivir marketed by Hetero Healthcare Ltd is ₹5,400 but consumers have reported it being sold at a price anywhere between ₹15,000 to 60,000. Various medical shops have been telling buyers that the medicine is in short supply but can be made available if they are ready to pay a premium," Local Circles said in its letter.
The social media platform also conducted a survey, wherein 93% of 8,329 said that the authorities should act against black marketing of the crucial intravenous drug.
So far, the DCGI office has given manufacturing and marketing permissions for the drug to Hetero Drugs, Cipla and Mylan. Currently, Hetero Drugs’ supply is available in the market, while Cipla is ramping up its supply. Mylan received an approval just last week.
Gilead Sciences Inc had also signed a licensing agreement with Jubilant Life Sciences, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Zydus Cadila and Syngene International for manufacturing the generic of its novel drug, but these are yet to get an approval from the Indian regulator.
While Hetero Drugs has priced its remdesivir brand ‘Covifor’ at ₹5,400 per vial and Cipla’s ‘Cipremi’ is priced around ₹5,000 per vial. Mylan has priced its brand ‘DESREMTM’ at ₹4,800 per vial.
Gilead has allowed the seven firms as well as one company each in Egypt and Pakistan to sell the drug in 127 countries, including India. Most of the countries are low-income and lower-middle income countries, but there are also several upper-middle and high-income countries that face significant obstacles to healthcare access.
Gilead has priced its drug at $390, or about ₹29,000, per vial for governments of developed countries and $520, or almost ₹39,000, per vial for private US insurance companies.
The drug has also received emergency use authorisation for its branded drug remdesivir in India, the US and Europe, apart from a few other countries.