Fake remdesivir made out of salt and glucose found, booming black market amid shortage

Popular coronavirus antiviral drug remdesivir was widely used and being discussed as an important drug in the fight against the pandemic during the first wave. However, now WHO has released a clarification that the drug has no special effects in curing an infected person. But the need for the drug spiked as the country battles a sudden surge of infections.

High demand and a growing number of cases led to an absolute shortage of the drug. Now black markets popped up in various cities where the cases are in high numbers. Fake remdesivir also started popping out in the market.

In an Instagram post, Bollywood actress Mouni Roy posted pictures of a fake remdesivir racket in which normal people are filling bottles of salt and glucose and selling them. These fake drugs end up in hands of the needy who often are in a rush to purchase the drugs and don’t have time to check them.

“We can all collectively agree that many measures were not taken in preventing the spread of the deadly second strain. A unanimous understanding, yes. Investigations will be underway. This is intentional, premeditated evil unleashed on countless vulnerable people,’ she wrote in her post.

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Remdesivir

In 2014, a US-based biotechnology firm Gilead Sciences manufactured the drug for use in the treatment of Ebola, a viral fever that spread widely in Africa. Later the drug was used to treat the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) epidemic and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic, both are caused by coronavirus.

Though the drug didn’t record much success in earlier epidemics, reports emerged during the present pandemic showing it is working against the SARS-CoV-2. However, big organisations such as the World Health Organization in their experiments concluded that the drug has little or no effect on hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Shortage

After cases fell at the end first wave, a fall in demand led to falling in the production of the drug. The government also didn’t take necessary actions to continue the production if the country faces another wave of the virus. In January once the demand fell, most manufacturers who had licenses stopped the production completely due to no fresh orders.

For making, active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and raw materials can be sourced domestically only a few important ingredients come from China or Egypt. The drug can be produced to meet the current demand in just 1-2 week but a rise in the black market around major cities grew to pill up and led to the acute shortage.

In March-April, the drug was produced at full capacity with 25-30 lakh vials and in April the production grew up to 38.8 lakh vials per month. 

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