Symptomatic patients with inconclusive result, too, need life-saving drugs, IMA tells government

Updated: Jul 14, 2020, 07:55 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

Even as trials are underway, there is a huge demand for tocilizumab and remdesivir in the state, especially in the MMR as cases are rapidly rising. The drugs are in short supply at hospitals, but are sold at exorbitant rates on black market

Doctors say there are those whose reports are not positive for COVID-19 but they need the medicines as they exhibit symptoms
Doctors say there are those whose reports are not positive for COVID-19 but they need the medicines as they exhibit symptoms

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has appealed to the state government to amend the rules for the procurement and use of two drugs crucial in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, to include those who are symptomatic but their report is either inconclusive or false negative as they, too, need the medicines.

Even as trials are underway, there is a huge demand for tocilizumab and remdesivir in the state, especially in the MMR as cases are rapidly rising. The drugs are in short supply at hospitals, but are sold at exorbitant rates on black market.

The ICMR has allowed the use of remdesivir and tocilizumab for critical patients. Pic/istock
The ICMR has allowed the use of remdesivir and tocilizumab for critical patients. Pic/istock

The state Food and Drug Administration had on Saturday restricted the use of remdesivir and tocilizumab for COVID-19 positive patients only, to crack down on the illegal sale of the medicines. According to the guidelines, hospitals have to submit a prescription, COVID-19 positive report and Aadhaar card of patients while procuring the two drugs.

"It's a good step to stop the sale in the black market, but the state government should also look into the shortage of supply. As per the state figures, there are around 1 lakh active cases, out of which 20 per cent have breathing difficulty, and need oxygen support and remdesivir. Each patient needs six doses of the medicine and we aren't getting these drugs anywhere," said IMA President Dr Avinash Bhondwe.

He added that the government should focus on increasing the supply of the medicines as the COVID-19 cases are much higher in the state. When the supply is enough, the black market sale will automatically reduce. There are symptomatic patients who are either waiting for their reports, or have inconclusive or false negative results, but they need the drugs too, the IMA said in its letter to the chief minister, the health minister and the FDA. "There are about 30 per cent of patients in these categories. Around 6,000 patients in the state need the drugs even if they haven't tested positive for COVID-19. So, we appeal to the state government to supply these injections on hospital prescriptions, declaration of admission, and to remove the condition of COVID-19 positive reports to procure the drugs," said Dr Pankaj Bandarkar, state secretary of IMA.

"We have been constantly raising the issue of symptomatic patients with a negative report. They are still facing issues in getting a proper treatment. Don't they need medicine and treatment on time? How can we refuse the treatment? If the condition is under control then why are there long queues outside remdesivir distributors?" asked Dr Deepak Baid, president of the Association of Medical Consultants.

"As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines, remdesivir should be used for critical patients only. We don't think critical patients will have a negative report. Thousands of positive patients need the medicines; we should give them the priority," said Arun Unhale, commissioner of state FDA. He added that for diagnosis, there is an option of antigen testing that gives the result within a few minutes. "Also, the pharmaceutical companies are asking for the documents, not the FDA. We have just given the instruction to follow the guidelines," he said.

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