The controversy around the involvement of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar in efforts to procure antiviral drug remdesivir for Maharashtra from Daman-based Bruck Pharma deepened on Monday.
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis told The Indian Express that his party colleague Darekar had asked the Maharashtra Food and Drug administration to buy the drug from Bruck Pharma. But, Darekar had said last week that the saffron party planned to buy 60,000 vials of the medicine for Rs 4.75 crore as a “noble gesture”.
A political slugfest began on April 17 after both Fadnavis and Darekar rushed to the Vile Parle police station in Mumbai as authorities were questioning a director of Bruck Pharma about a large consignment of remdesivir they said was being stored in the city. It came at a time when states such as Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat have complained about a shortage of the drug, which is being used to treat critical coronavirus patients, even though medical opinion about its effectiveness has been mixed.
Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Abhimanyu Kale gave permission to the pharmaceutical company for supply and trade of remdesivir in the state once they comply with the necessary requirements, The Fress Press Journal reported. However, there was no mention of allowing Bruck Pharma to distribute the drug to anybody else other than the state government according to Kale’s April 17 letter.
“We have no knowledge of how the leaders of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar became involved in efforts to procure remdesivir for the state,” an unidentified FDA officer told The Fress Press Journal.
Kale gave permission to Bruck Pharma after 8 pm on Saturday and soon the two senior BJP leaders turned up at the police station asking that the executive of the company be released. The police had apprehended Rajesh Dokania on information that at least 60,000 Remdesivir vials were being sent abroad through air cargo, despite a ban on the export of the drug, according to PTI.
But Fadnavis claimed that the stock actually consisted of 7,000 vials. “When we met Bruck Pharma executives, they said they had the capacity to manufacture 20,000 vials per day,” Fadnavis told The Indian Express. “But they had to tie-up with a company with marketing authorisation. They also had stock of 7,000 vials that they were willing to supply immediately.”
Fadnavis also claimed that the stock of remdesivir was in Daman and not Mumbai. He added that it would be moved to Maharashtra once they get permission from the Daman administration.
An official said that the police were investigating if the company shifted its stock to Maharashtra before getting the permission.
Political leaders had criticised the BJP following the controversy, accusing Fadnavis of hoarding the drug amid the worsening coronavirus situation in India. Congress leader Sachin Sawant also pointed out that companies needed to inform the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and the state Food and Drug Administration about the details of the stock with them following the Centre’s ban on the export of the drug.
Exporters are not allowed to sell their products in the markets directly without proper authorisation. They are required to enter into an agreement with a company that has a marketing license.
On April 15, police in Gujarat’s Valsad district had arrested a technical director of Bruck Pharma and his associate for allegedly selling injections of remdesivir in the black market.