Karnataka to regulate Remdesivir supply to private hospitals to curb black marketing

Medical Education Minister Sudhakar K said that decision was in view of checking black marketing and hoarding of the drug.
Karnataka to regulate Remdesivir supply to private hospitals to curb black marketing
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Karnataka's COVID-19 task force on Tuesday decided that the state government will regulate the supply of Remdesivir, the drug used in the treatment of coronavirus infected patients, to private hospitals. The move has been done to check black marketing and hoarding of the drug.

"Remdesivir which is currently available in the government hospitals will be supplied to private hospitals through the government.This will help curb black marketing of this drug," Medical Education Minister K Sudhakar's office said in a release.

In a clinical trial in the US, the antiviral drug has shown to reduce recovery time in COVID-19 patients. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has under Emergency Use authorisation allowed Remdesivir to be given to COVID-19 patients with moderate symptoms (those on oxygen). 

In May, Indian pharmaceutical companies Mylan, Hetero, Cipla and Jubilant Life Sciences had entered into non-exclusive licensing agreements with US drug major Gilead Sciences Inc for manufacturing and distribution of Remdesivir.

However, reports have emerged from across the country of the drug priced at Rs 5,400 being sold in the blackmarket at a price of Rs 15,000 to Rs 60,000. Following this, the Drug Controller  General of India (DCGI) had earlier in July asked states and union territories to keep a “strict vigil” to prevent black marketing of Remdesivir.  

Along with Sudhakar, other task force members, including Health Minister Sriramulu, Deputy Chief Minister C N Ashwath Narayan and Chief Secretary T M Vijay Bhaskar attended the meeting.However Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai was not part of it as he was out of Bengaluru.

At the meeting, the government has also fixed the rate for COVID-19 tests in private labs- Rs 2,000 for government referred cases and 3,000 for self-reporting cases.

It was also decided to purchase 4 lakh antigen test kits and 5 lakh swab test kits to ramp up testing, the release said, adding that approvals have also been given for additional drugs for treatment of COVID -19 patients.

The decisions also included increasing the monthly salary for AYUSH doctors to Rs 48,000, MBBS doctors to Rs 80,000 and nurses to Rs 30,000 for next six months. However, despite more than ten days of protests, Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers in Karnataka are yet to see their wages increased. ASHA workers are doing the task of conducting surveillance in households in the state including in containment areas.

The task force also made it clear that private hospitals have to reserve 50% beds for the government for COVID-19 treatment. The remaining 50% can be used by the private hospitals for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 treatment.

Private hospitals provide treatment under Ayushman Bharat scheme (ABARK) for COVID-19 patients. Those cases in which treatment does not cover under the scheme can be charged as per the user charges, the release said.

A committee will be formed to supervise and recommend purchase of equipment and medicines for COVID-19 treatment, which will be headed by ACS, ITBT Department.

Approval has been given for procurement of N-95 masks and one lakh PPE kits for the safety of healthcare workers. "Strict action will be initiated against private hospitals which charge more than the government fixed rates for COVID testing. Approval has been granted for purchase of equipment and upgradation of existing facilities at government hospitals at a cost of Rs 500 crore," the release from Medical Education Minister Sudhakar K's office stated. 

Decision also has been taken to connect the oxygen pipeline to 4,736 beds in 17 government medical colleges, which will enable high flow oxygen for these beds besides being beneficial for future use as well.

According to the release, 16 RT-PCR and 15 Automated RNA extraction units will be established to ramp up testing and this will help achieve the target of 50,000 tests per day.

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