The Delhi High Court Wednesday asked the Union government to take steps to get the medicine Amphotericin B, used for treating black fungus which is primarily affecting COVID-19 recovered people, from wherever it is available in the world, "before more precious lives are lost". The court said the Union government should inform it about steps taken to import medicine, the shortfall of which was coming in the way of treatment of Mucormycosis (black fungus) which has been on rise in the national capital and elsewhere in the country.
"You have to get the medicine from wherever in the world. You have to take steps right now. Wherever it is available in the world, get it," said a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh which was assured by the Union government that it has already started taking steps to import the medicine. The court noted that the domestic production of the medicine is far less than what is required in India and the Union government has informed that the production capacity of some of the producers has been doubled now.
It, however, said, "Looking at the shortfall in the supply, we are afraid that mere doubling of production will not suffice. It is not clear when the augmented production will come in actual production." The bench said, "The Union government may place on record the steps taken to import the medicine to augment the supplies within the country."
The bench said there are two things premium here, that is, time and human lives and if the supplies of the drug are not proper, it would be neither here nor there and it would not serve the purpose as the shortage is by two-third of the total demand.
"You need to import this to bridge the gap between your plan to enhance the capacity and completing manufacture before we lose more precious lives. So act fast on this," it said and asked the Union government to file a status on the present production capacity of the medicine, details of producers licensed to produce it, and when it would be manufactured with the increased capacity.
The court, which was told that currently Delhi has around 200 cases of Mucormycosis (black fungus), also asked the Union government to inform about the present case load and expected load in two weeks. The Union government has to file its report within three days. The issue of shortage of the medicine for treating black fungus was raised by advocate Rakesh Malhotra who said these cases are rising.
According to the Union Health Ministry, mucormycosis or black fungus is a complication caused by a fungal infection. People catch mucormycosis by coming in contact with the fungal spores in the environment. It can also develop on the skin after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, scrape, burn, or other type of skin trauma.
The disease is being detected among patients who are recovering or have recovered from COVID-19. Moreover, anyone who is diabetic and whose immune system is not functioning well needs to be on the guard against this, said the ministry.
Union government standing counsel Kirtiman Singh and Amit Mahajan informed the court that as on May 19, there are 7251 patients of black fungus in the country, including 200 in Delhi, so the case load in the national capital is 3% of the entire nation.
The counsel said there is shortage of the medicine so it is being allocated to the states as per their case loads and the stocks have been released in three tranches and Delhi has been allocated 3150 vials as of now.
To this, the bench said the court was not here to examine whether the Union government was allocating more to one state and less to another and that it has full faith in the government and asked them to explain the ways in which they are going to enhance the production of the medicine.
The Union government's counsel submitted that there are five companies manufacturing the drug in the country and they have been asked to increase their capacity and the government is also taking steps to import the medicine.
Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, said it is a serious issue as a lot of doctors are not prescribing these medicines and there is a huge demand as the number of cases are rising and the drug is in shortage. He said 15,000 vials of 50 mg is the projected weekly demand of Delhi as on May 18.
The High Court, on its own, has revived a disposed of petition filed by advocate Rakesh Malhotra related to COVID-19 testings and infrastructure, noting that the virus has raised its "ugly head" once again and the pandemic is raging with much greater intensity and "it is evident that the healthcare infrastructure is at the stage of imminent collapse"