The Ministry of Health on Monday said that remdeisvir is not a life-saving drug and that its “unnecessary or irrational” use on Covid-19 patients is unethical.

The clarification came amid a high demand for the antiviral drug in India as the country struggles with an unprecedented second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The health ministry said remdesivir was an “experimental investigational drug” that had been granted emergency authorisation for use only on moderately sick Covid patients, who are on oxygen support under hospital settings. “It must never be administered in home settings,” it said.

The ministry added that studies show the drug did not reduce mortality rates in coronavirus patients.

Remdesivir is being used to treat critical coronavirus patients, even though medical opinion about its effectiveness has been mixed. Experts have warned that it’s no “silver bullet”. The World Health Organization in November issued a conditional recommendation against the use of remdesivir in hospitalised patients, saying there was no evidence that the drug improved survival and other outcomes.

But in the absence of any proven drug, doctors are increasingly prescribing it in India, driving its demand across the country. In recent weeks, social media has been flooded with desperate pleas to find access to remdesivir. The shortage of supply is also leading to the black marketing of the drug.

Earlier on Monday, All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director Randeep Guleria, a member of the national Covid task force, too said that the drug was “no magic bullet”, PTI reported. “Remdesivir is not a magic bullet and this is not a drug that reduces mortality,” he said. “We may use it as we don’’t have a very good antiviral drug. It has a limited role and we should be very careful in its usage.”