The Delhi High Court on Wednesday said that it appeared as if the central government wanted patients to die as it noted the new protocol on using anti-viral drug remdesivir to treat coronavirus patients, reported PTI.
The Union health ministry on April 23 had changed the protocol to use remdesivir. Now, the drug will be used for moderate to severe cases that require supplemental oxygen and have no “renal or hepatic dysfunction”. It also advised against use among patients who are “not on oxygen support or in home settings”.
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”. In November, the World Health Organization had 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.
“This is wrong,” Justice Prathiba M Singh said to the Centre on Wednesday. “This is a complete non-application of mind. Now people who do not have oxygen will not get remdesivir either. It appears you [Centre] want people to die.”
The High Court also said that it seemed as if the Centre was modifying their protocol to tackle the shortage of the drug. “This is complete mismanagement,” the court said, according to PTI.
The Delhi High Court was hearing a petition by a lawyer, who had contracted Covid-19 but was unable to get more than three vials of remdesivir. However, after the court’s intervention, he was able to get more vials on Tuesday night.
The High Court judge also took up urgent petitions on Delhi’s Covid-19 crisis and issued orders related to the processing of insurance claims, supply of remdesivir, and publicising information on hospital beds with oxygen.
The court accused the government for not putting in place a system to distribute remdesivir. “This is what is resulting in the black marketing of the drug,” it said, according to Bar and Bench. “Because you are not distributing. You are not acting in a proper systemic manner. There are only complaints, not the drug. This is complete mismanagement, I am sorry.”
Pharmaceutical companies are expected to provide their entire stock to the Centre, which in turn distributes it to state governments.
National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority Secretary Vinod Kotwal informed the court that more than 50,000 vials of remdesivir was sent to the Delhi government. However, the court said that it was not true as the Arvind Kejriwal-led government said only 2,500 were received.
The court sought information on the stockists and distributors of remdesivir and took note that of the 16 lakh vials available, 72,000 were allocated to Delhi. It also said that the number of vials was expected to be increased next time.
On the portal monitoring remdesivir distribution, the court said it should not be activated immediately before it is modified “so that patient/attendant of the person can get remdesivir”.
The Bombay High Court had on Tuesday questioned the Centre on how private individuals were buying Covid-19 drugs like remdesivir directly from manufacturers.
India is currently battling a second wave of the pandemic. On Wednesday, the country registered a record 3,60,960 new coronavirus cases in a day, taking the total number of infections since the pandemic broke out in January 2020 to 1,79,97,267. This is the highest ever single-day rise in cases reported by any country so far, and the seventh consecutive day when the country has recorded more than 3 lakh cases. For the first time, 3,292 deaths were registered. The toll is now 2,01,187.