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Bring Remdesivir under drug price control: Maharashtra Barrister




A prominent Maharashtra legal luminary has petitioned the Centre to declare the Remdesivir medicine – currently in huge demand owing to the Covid-19 pandemic – as a ‘life-saving’ medicine with controlled pricing to prevent blackmarketing and corruption.

Remdesivir is manufactured by a handful of companies under brand names like Cipremi (Cipla), Covifar (Hetero), Desrem (Mylon), Remdac (Zydus), Redyx (Dr. Reddy’s).

In a plea to the Central Government which controls the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), a statutory authority under the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO), Mumbai Barrister Vinod Tiwari on Thursday demanded a high-level investigation 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.

Despite efforts by certain states like Maharashtra to bring Remdesivir under the ambit of DPCO, he accused the NPPA of ignoring the grave situation which led to massive irregularities and corruption, besides desperation among Covid-19 patients across India.

Tiwari pointed out that under the DPCO, 1995, amended in 2013, 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.

“It was the duty of the NPPA under DPCO to follow its statutory functions and responsibilities by taking immediate steps to bring Remdesivir under the DPCO regime soon after the biggest pandemic afflicting mankind was witnessed last year. Why did it wait for so long? Who’s responsible and what were the ulterior motives behind the delays?” Tiwari told IANS.

Citing various documents and RTI replies, Tiwari said the NPPA took no initiative to bring Remdesivir under the DPCO regime and in the process crores of patients and people were looted of more than Rs 25,000 crore.

“The country is witnessing a tsunami-like second wave of Covid-19 but the NPPA has failed to rein in the prices of Remdesivir and the needy patients are left at the sheer mercy of the pharma companies and the medical mafia since over 13 months now,” rued Tiwari.

Addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the petition copies have been sent to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Union Ministers D. V. Sadananda Gowda, Harsh Vardhan and Mansukh Mandaviya, besides the NPPA and the Central Chief Vigilance Commissioner for an immediate hearing and reply.

Justifying his contentions, he pointed out that Cipremi is sold for Rs 4000 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.

Ditto is the case with 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 pointed out.

“Each patient needs 6 doses (injections) of Remdesivir. In the past ten months or so, the country has witnessed crores of cases. It must be probed how many injections were actually sold and how much the pharma companies, the medical mafia and the officialdom earned ‘blood money’ from it,” Tiwari said.

He said it was “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.

“The Maharashtra government had raised this matter officially with the Centre in Feb-March 2021. However, despite the gravity and urgency of the situation, the state’s plea was not heeded and the open market dacoity in the name of Remdesivir continues daily,” Tiwari said.

He has prayed that the Centre through NPPA take top priority steps to include Remdesivir in the DPCO list by the weekend. The Centre should order the Central CVC, the CBI or ED to conduct a nationwide probe to expose the unholy nexus between the pharma companies, medical mafias and the government officials who must be prosecuted, punished and dismissed as per the provisions of the NDMA and EDA.


Congress MP Rajeev Satav loses battle to Covid



Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member from Maharashtra, Rajiv Satav, passed away in a hospital here after a 23-day long battle with Covid-19, party officials said here on Sunday.

He was 46, and belonged to the core team of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

Satav had developed Covid symptoms on April 19 and a swab test turned out to be positive on April 21.

He was admitted to the Jehangir Hospital in Pune and as his condition worsened, a week later he was put on a ventilator.

After a brief spell of recovery, his condition again deteriorated alarmingly since the last week and he remained in the ICU where he succumbed early today

Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Friday that besides Covid-19, Satav was also being treated cytomegalovirus infection and some additional complications with the help of experts.

State Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat visited the hospital and inquired about his health while Minister of State for Agriculture and Congress leader Vishwajeet Kadam was regularly in touch with the family and the hospital.

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Mumbai Police give ‘Friends’ reunion witty spin to spread Covid awareness



Mumbai Police have given a witty, quirky twist to the much-hyped and upcoming “Friends” reunion special, in a bid to create Covid-19 awareness.

The official Twitter handle of Mumbai Police shared a snapshot of the “Friends” reunion teaser and urgd everyone to reunite with friends only after the final season of Covid-19.

“‘Reunite’ with your F.R.I.E.N.D.S – but only after the final season of #COVID19 please? Till then, online meet-ups will �be there for you’ #FriendsForever #FriendsOfSafety #TakingOnCorona,” the tweet on the microblogging website read.

This is not the first time Mumbai Police has referred to the entertainment world to create awareness.

Previously they have tweeted with stills and dialogues from films like “Uri: The Surgical Strike”, “Gulabo Sitabo”, “Main Hoon Na” and “Stree” among many others for the purpose.

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Maharashtra keeps vaccination of 18-44 age group on hold




Owing to continued shortage of vaccines, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday decided to temporarily put on hold the inoculation drive for the 18-44 age groups, Health Minister Rajesh Tope said here.

The stocks would be diverted to carry out a seamless and hassle-free vaccination for the 45-plus age group category till adequate doses of the vaccines are made available.

The decision came after a cabinet meeting presided over by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

“The vaccination for the 18-44 age group commenced on May 1. Till date, we have vaccinated 5-6 lakh people in that category, however, there is a shortage of vaccines,” Tope told media persons.

He said that there is a scarcity of both brands of the vaccines – Covishield manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, Pune, and Covaxin, produced by Bharat Biotech International Ltd, Hyderabad.

The current priority is to give the second dose to the 45-plus age groups who have already got one jab which should not go waste owing to delays due to shortages, he pointed out.

“Efficacy of the vaccines may be affected if the second dose is not administered within the stipulated time period,” said Tope, justifying the government stand to keep in abeyance the drive for the 18-44 age groups.

The government is making requests for more stocks to the Centre besides trying to source it from the international markets and the BMC plans to float global tenders for the same this week.

In a related development, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation has announced ‘Walk-in Vaccination’ for senior citizens aged above 60 for three days from Monday.

“The Walk-in Vaccination shall be permitted for all above 60 years, all who are due for the second dose and all differently-abled people. The special drive shall be conducted in all government and civic-run vaccination centres across the city from May 17-19,” Municipal Commissioner I.S. Chahal said.

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