Mumbai: Spelling huge relief for lakhs of Covid-19 patients, the government has slashed the prices of the ‘life-saver’ Remdesivir injection by nearly 50 per cent, to MRP Rs 2,450 per injection now, according to official sources.
In a missive late on Friday, the Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilisers, Department of Pharmaceuticals, NPPA – Advisor (Costs) N.I. Chowdhury has ordered all pharma companies to comply with the revised norms with immediate and retrospective effect.
“Based on the Form-V furnished regarding voluntary reduction in Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of Remdesivir, Manufacturers/Marketers of the Remdesivir are hereby directed to implement the revised MRP throughout the distribution chain w.e.f. 15.04.2021, irrespective of the batch numbers,” the stern notification said.
The decision came barely a day after a Maharashtra Barrister Vinod Tiwari demanded that the Centre should immediately bring Remdesivir under the DPCO regime in view of its alleged shortages, blackmarketing and corruption to the tune of over Rs 25,000-crore as the injection is in huge demand in ongoing Covid pandemic second wave. IANS first highlighted the issue exclusively on April 15.
Welcoming the Centre’s move, Barrister Tiwari said that it is good that the government has realized the agony of the millions struggling to get Remdesivir and are compelled to cough out huge amounts from the black markets.
“Now, with the MPR slashed to half and even lesser by some of the companies, people can breathe easy. It will also leash the pharma sector from exploiting the gullible masses in this critical time,” a victorious Barrister Tiwari told IANS.
The Centre’s orders have been sent to the manufacturers: Cadila Healthcare Ltd., Cipla Ltd., Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd., Hetero Labs Ltd., Jubilant Pharma Ltd., Mylan Laboratories Ltd., Syngene International Ltd.
Sources in the state FDA inform that under the new norms, the pharma companies shall sell even the existing stocks in the market with the revised prices which would hugely benefit the desperate patients or their families, besides the healthcare system.
In his petition to the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), a statutory authority under the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO), Barrister Tiwari had demanded a high-level probe into the “artificial scarcity, hoarding, blackmarketing and misuse of the drug which could run into a racket of over Rs 25,000 crore under the nose of the NPPA,” in the past ten months since the drug was launched after the pandemic was declared.
Incidentally, Maharashtra was the first state to make efforts to bring Remdesivir under the ambit of DPCO, but it was reportedly stonewalled by the Centre and others, he said.
Questioning why the NPPA did not follow its statutory responsibility to bring Remdesivir under the DPCO regime, Barrister Tiwari pointed out that as per the DPCO Act, 1995, issued under the Essential Commodities Act, the Centre is empowered to include any item of medical importance, like Remdesivir currently, within the DPCO list to control its manufacture, stocking, distribution, sale, etc and make it easily available at a reasonable price to the patients.
“The Covid pandemic is the biggest afflicting mankind since 2020 Why did NPPA wait for so long? Who’s responsible and what were the ulterior motives behind the delays?” demanded Barrister Tiwari.
The peititon was sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Union Ministers D.V. Sadananda Gowda, Harsh Vardhan, Mansukh Mandaviya, Central Vigilance Commission and concerned departments, seeking a hearing.
In a major fallout, the CVC took prompt note of Barrister Tiwari’s petition and asked him to submit more details, even as the country reels under a ‘shortage’ of Remdesivir with the ‘medical mafia’ playing havoc with patients who need the 6 doses (injections) for Covid treatment.
Barrister Tiwari cited examples of how the pharma companies were fleecing people with their different brands of Remdesivir – Cipremi is sold for Rs 4,000 though it is given to the distributor for barely Rs 1,080+GST, Covifar is sold at Rs 5,400 by the stockist who gets it for Rs 935+GST, Desrem bought for Rs 935+GST but sold at Rs 4,800, Redyx bought for Rs 900+GST but sold to the patient at Rs 5,400.
He termed it as “short-sightedness” on the part of the Centre and the powerful NPPA that when the pharma companies were given the advantage of compulsory export obligations, they could have easily offset the costs domestically and Remdesivir could have been provided either free of cost or at a nominal price to Indian patients, but this was deliberately not done.