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In Delhi, black fungus drug hard to come by, panic among kin of patients

With some hospitals expressing difficulty in procuring the drug, family members say they are running pillar to post looking for it – often in vain.

Written by Jignasa Sinha | New Delhi |
Updated: May 24, 2021 3:11:42 am
black fungus, Delhi covid casesMedical staff and care givers attend to Covid 19 patients at the Shenai banquet hall Covid care facility in New Delhi. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

A shortage of Amphotericin B, the drug used to treat mucormycosis or black fungus cases that have peaked following the recent Covid surge, is causing panic among families of those affected.

With some hospitals expressing difficulty in procuring the drug, family members say they are running pillar to post looking for it – often in vain.

A 30-year-old income tax officer working on deputation with the Finance Ministry, contracted the fungal infection on Thursday. His family rushed him from Kaushambi, where they live, to Delhi for treatment. Doctors told them that he immediately needs 20 vials of the drug.

The officer’s brother-in-law Hussain Taqvi, a Delhi High Court lawyer, said, “My sister and brother-in-law had Covid last month. My sister was undergoing treatment at home but her husband was rushed to VIMHANS. Now, he has black fungus and their children, aged 5 and 2, are at home while my sister and I look for vials. We didn’t find a hospital bed near our home, so we brought him to VIMHANS again, but they don’t have the drug. We need 20 vials now but doctors say we might need more.”

The family has put out SOSes on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.

A family member on Saturday said the officer was tested at the hospital and sent home soon. He is stable. He didn’t need the antifungal vials.

Vineet Bansal, a 40-year-old chartered accountant, recovered from Covid two weeks ago, while his wife is still infected and under home isolation. On Sunday, doctors at Sehgal hospital found he has black fungus. The family said antifungal drugs weren’t available at the hospital, and after three days, Bansal lost an eye to the infection.

His nephew Rahul Agrawal said, “We tried to get him admitted to other hospitals but couldn’t find a bed. My aunt is worried because he is not able to see and now has a severe infection in his nose. He has difficulty breathing and his face is swollen. Doctors prescribed him seven vials per day. How do we arrange these many? We spoke to three-four hospitals and are now shifting him to Fortis in Delhi. They have 7-10 vials which will last for at least two days.”

Each vial costs Rs 7,800 and patients are prescribed more than one a day, the families said.

Mohd Tauqeer Alam, an IT professional from the US, said he came to Delhi last month after his father Amiruddin Siddiqui (70) tested positive for Covid on April 17. “It took us days to find a hospital bed for him at Holy Family Hospital. He recovered after two weeks and was discharged. On May 3, he complained of headache and itchiness near the nose. We got him admitted to the same hospital and found that he has black fungus. We didn’t know anything about this. We were told to get 15 vials of Amphotericin B because the hospital didn’t have the drug,” said Alam.

Till Wednesday, the family was able to buy the drug from nearby pharmacies and stores. Despite this, they said Siddiqui’s condition has deteriorated as the disease has damaged his eyes, sinus area, and half of his face.

“Doctors performed a surgery to remove the moulds; he is in the ICU now. We are scared because the dosage of the drug has been increased but we don’t have more than three vials. We called relatives and friends but the drug isn’t available anywhere,” said Alam.

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