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Black fungus cases among Covid patients has families scrambling for drug, Delhi pharmacies say no stock

The Indian Express called several large pharmacies in the city, none of which had any stock of the drug. South Delhi Pharmacy in Yusuf Sarai reported that every second call that they are getting now is an enquiry regarding Amphotericin B.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi |
May 16, 2021 7:17:34 pm
On May 7, curfew was clamped in the seven districts, restricting activities to only a few essential services.  (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

With concerns over cases of mucormycosis, a rare fungal infection, becoming relatively more frequent among Covid patients, families are scrambling to purchase Amphotericin B — an anti-fungal drug prescribed for its treatment — with pharmacies in Delhi reporting unavailability.

Dr Suvrankar Datta, a junior resident at AIIMS, is part of a network of resident doctors who have been trying to help patients and their attendants with medical resources. He said: “Initially, there were reports coming from the South and Gujarat that patients are unable to find the drug and that there is a severe shortage. In AIIMS emergency, there are currently 15 mucormycosis patients. Yesterday, our network got 11-12 SOS calls looking for Amphotericin B. Most of the pharmacies we called were out of stock, and we found only five-six pharmacies in Delhi which had some stock as of Saturday evening.”

Dr Sumit Ray, head of critical care at Holy Family Hospital, said the hospital’s pharmacy is also having difficulty sourcing the drug. “We don’t as yet have many cases of mucormycosis, just three cases who have come in after Covid treatment in other hospitals. Anticipating greater requirement in the days to come, we asked our pharmacy to procure the drug but they’re having difficulty doing that since it’s in short supply,” he said.

He said that treatment of mucormycosis patients requires a large quantity of the drug: “It’s a long treatment, at least for six weeks, and the dose is 3-4 mg per kg of body weight per day. Since this is the only antifungal to treat mucormycosis, production capacity needs to be increased.”

The Indian Express called several large pharmacies in the city, none of which had any stock of the drug. South Delhi Pharmacy in Yusuf Sarai reported that every second call that they are getting now is an enquiry regarding Amphotericin B. The call attendant at Rajdhani Medicos in Yusuf Sarai said they have been receiving many queries regarding it for the last five days.

The Indian Youth Congress team, led by IYC president Srinivas B V, has been a go-to point of assistance for those seeking help with medical resources and they attend to SOS calls through the day. They too have been getting several requests for the drug.

Said Manu Jain, national convener, IYC, “In the last 3-4 days, we have been getting a large number of requests for help with Amphotericin B in Delhi. But we are not even touching those because we can’t fulfil those requests; the drug is not available in the market. Right from the start, we are following the policy of responding only when we can help and not giving false hopes.”

Even AAP MLA Somnath Bharti said he found the same from his team of BridgeTheGap Foundation volunteers who are working to address Covid-related requests. “I have a team of 50-odd volunteers and they had been trying to help people get it. But according to various dealers they’ve spoken to, the drug is not available in the city. I request IMA, doctors and the government to recommend medicines that are available in the market,” he said.
In the meantime, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Sunday said, “Delhi government will take all precautions necessary regarding the black fungus infection in Delhi.”

However, the city’s prominent hospitals have not been reporting this issue. Lok Nayak Hospital Medical Director Dr Suresh Kumar said they have “enough stock for six months”.

Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant, internal medicine at Apollo Hospital, also said it was not facing this issue. “The number of cases are happening but it’s not so rampant. In the last couple of days, we’ve had just two cases which can be handled by a large hospital chain like ours,” he said.

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