New Delhi: Beware of fake life-saving drugs. Instead of Remdesivir, which is required for critically ill Covid patients, similar-looking vials of Monocef or Zetri, a low-cost antibiotic injection, are being sold in the black market.
Criminal gangs and swindlers active in Delhi-NCR and Western Uttar Pradesh are reportedly buying Monocef vials in bulk, each piece costing around Rs 52, and selling them to desperate customers for over Rs 5,500 to Rs 10,000 a piece.
Taking note of such rackets gradually reaching the smaller towns and rural areas, the Uttar Pradesh Police have alerted all the districts, particularly in western and central parts of the state, to keep a strict vigil on the stockists, distributors, and wholesalers of medicines.
“We have raided over 68,000 places to seize genuine or fake drugs being sold in the black markets in the past few days. In a bid to punish such accused persons harshly, cases are being registered under the National Security Act,” Prashant Kumar, Additional Director General of Police (ADG), Law and Order, UP, told IANS.
Acting on specific inputs, the Delhi Police on Tuesday unearthed a gang involved in selling fake vials of Remdesivir for Rs 5,500 each.
The gang, which was active in the Nand Nagri area of the national capital, had purchased low-cost Monocef injections in bulk.
“They got labels of Remdesivir printed from a local press fixed them on the Monocef vials. One Dhanesh Kumar from Ashok Nagar and Amit from Meet Nagar were involved in the racket. Both have been arrested. We are questioning them to ascertain how widespread the racket was,” said an officer of the Delhi Police.
And it’s not only in Delhi-NCR and its neighbouring states where such rackets are thriving. Fake Remdesivir injections are being sold in far-off places like Gujarat and Odisha.
In a major crackdown on such rackets, the Detection and Crime Branch of Ahmedabad Police arrested seven persons last week who were selling antibiotics as Remdesivir.
Fake labels of Hetero and Jubiliant, two major pharma companies manufacturing Remdesivir, were also seized from the accused persons.
Even in Maharashtra where cases are multiplying in smaller towns, the merchants of death are reportedly selling fake drugs to the needy attendants of Covid patients.
When asked how cheaper injections like Monocef are being sold in bulk to criminal gangs, the General Secretary of All India Organisation of Chemist and Druggist (AIOCD), Rajiv Singhal, said that instructions have been given to all chemists to keep a tab on the customers who demand injections in bulk.
“It is unfortunate if some criminals are selling antibiotics in the name of Remdesivir. We will take all measures to put a check on this crime, though as a practice we ensure that bulk drugs are sold only to the bonafide customers,” said Singhal, a key functionary of AIOCD, which represents over 9.50 lakh chemists across India.
To prevent any misuse of such fake drugs resulting in possible fatality of critical patients admitted to ICUs, leading Delhi radiologist Sandeep Sharma suggested that attendants should note the batch number of the vials for future reference.
“In some cases, attendants who are not allowed to enter Covid hospitals are provided videos of injections being administered to ensure that the right dose is being given to the patients,” Sharma said, adding: “Yet I would say that our nursing staff are very reliable and they take every possible care of the patients. A few exceptions relating to the use of fake injections on patients which were reported from some hospitals should not worry the people.”