Sale of Remdesivir, an antiviral drug prescribed to COVID-19 patients, will be shifted to the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium at Vepery in Chennai for public convenience, the state government told the Madras High Court on Thursday. It is not clear when the counters will be shifted to the stadium as the government has not informed the court. The government also said that it will set up additional counters to sell Remdesivir at the stadium, and has plans to sell at least 20,000 vials a day.
Currently, Remdesivir is being sold through two counters at the Kilpauk Medical College (KMC) on Barnaby Road. Ever since the counters opened, hundreds of COVID-19 patient caregivers have been crowding at the KMC campus in order to get tokens to get inside and buy Remdesivir for patients. The crowding and lack of social safety protocols in front of the KMC campus was pointed out by several people. TNM spoke to several patient caregivers who said that they had been waiting for more than 24 hours to source the vials from the counter. Caregivers of COVID-19 patients from other districts had also come to KMC to procure Remdesivir, due to lack of availability in other districts.
There is a shortage of Remdesivir in private hospitals and pharmacies and doctors have been asking patient caregivers to go and source the drug themselves. The acute shortage of the anti-viral drug is what prompted the state government to set up counters at the KCM to sell Remdesivir.
The shortage also led to a thriving black market where the drug was being sold for Rs 20,000 a vial. The State government charges Rs 9400 for 6 vials of Remdesivir at the KMC.
The submissions were made to the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Bannerjee and Justice Senthilkumar during a hearing of a suo motu plea on COVID-19 management in the state. According to reports, the submissions were made after an advocate complained that only one counter was selling Remdesvir and that it had to be expanded.
Chief Minister MK Stalin recently announced that the government will open Remdesivir counters at Madurai, Coimbatore, Trichy and Tirunelveli to address the state-wide shortage of the anti viral drug.
The Tamil Nadu CM also wrote to the Centre for more supply of the drug to address shortage in the state. In its submissions to the Madras HC, the state government added that it had received 250,000 vials of Remdisivir so far and the minimum requirement in the state was 20,000 vials per day. However, the allocation is only 7000 vials per day, without any promise of further allocation and supply.
It is important to remember that Remdesivir, according to many research papers, is not a life saving drug. Doctors treating COVID-19 patients have stated on record that they would reccomend Remdesivir only if said patient meets strict COVID-19 criteria. Even if it is not available, it is not the end of the world. I would definitely not recommend that people queue up outside of a hospital as that in itself poses a risk,” Dr N Sridhar, Consultant Intensivist, Head-Critical Care at Kauvery Hospital told TNM