The Centre on Sunday banned the export of antiviral drug Remdesivir indefinitely, in view of the rising coronavirus cases in the country, ANI reported. The government said the ban, which covers Remdesivir injections and Remdesivir active pharmaceutical ingredients, will be lifted only after there is an improvement in the country’s Covid-19 situation.

Remdesivir is considered a key drug in combating Covid-19, especially in adult patients with severe complications.

In a statement on Sunday, the central government noted that India was witnessing a surge in coronavirus infections. “As on 11.04.2021, there are 11.08 lakh active Covid cases and they are steadily increasing,” it said, according to The Mint. “This has led to a sudden spike in demand for Injection Remdesivir used in treatment of Covid patients.

The government said the ban was imposed keeping in mind the possibility of a potential increase in demand for Remdesivir injection in the coming days. It added that the Department of Pharmaceuticals was in contact with domestic manufacturers to ramp up the production of the antiviral drug.

Authorities also directed all domestic manufactures of Remdesivir to display on their website the details of their stockists and distributors to facilitate better access to the drug for patients in India. Additionally, the Centre asked drugs inspectors and other officers to verify existing stocks of the drug, and take measures to curb its hoarding and black marketing.

Remdesivir has been proven to be effective against the coronavirus in human trials. It is developed by American biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences. South Korea, Japan and the United States have also approved the drug for emergency use. The drug is, however, not recommended for people with renal defects, pregnant and lactating women and children below the age of 12.

In India, Gujarat based-firm Zydus Cadila had signed an agreement with Gilead Sciences to produce and sell Remdesivir. The firm had launched its version of the medicine in August, at Rs 2,800 for a 100 gram vial. Apart from Zydus Cadila, Hetero Labs, Cipla, Mylan NV and Jubilant Life Sciences also produce the drug in India.

Shortages in Maharashtra

The Centre’s ban on the antiviral drug came a day after Union minister Nitin Gadkari reached out to Sun Pharma’s chief, asking him to arrange for 10,000 injections of Remdesivir for Nagpur, amid a shortage of the medicine in Maharashtra, the Hindustan Times reported.

A press release from Gadkari’s office on Saturday said the Lok Sabha member from Nagpur spoke to Sun Pharma’s Managing Director Dilip Shanghvi over phone to inform him about the shortages, and requested to him to provide more Remdesivir injections. The pharma company chief assured Gadkari of making available 5,000 injections immediately and the remaining 5,000 in next two-three days, the release said.

Maharashtra, the worst-affected state in India, is facing a shortage of the drug, amid a sharp rise in infections. Maharashtra Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat on Saturday said that in addition to a vaccine shortage, there was also a shortfall of Remdesivir injections to treat Covid-19 patients.

The state has decided to set up district-level control rooms to ensure smooth supply of Remdesivir injections, and prevent hoarding and black-marketing of the drug, PTI reported.

In addition to this, the government asked authorities to cap the price of Remdesivir between Rs 1,100 and Rs 1,400 per vial, and urged about a dozen pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the drug to ramp up production and lower its MRP (maximum retail price).