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Why are private individuals getting remdesivir directly from pharma firms, HC asks Centre

Politicians from several parties, including those in the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), sold or distributed the drug directly to people after procuring it from the manufacturer or by dipping into district stocks.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: April 27, 2021 10:26:38 pm
People queue up in Pune to buy Remdesivir. (Express Photo: Ashish Kale)

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday sought to know from the Centre as to why private individuals were getting Covid-19 drugs such as remdesivir directly from pharmaceutical companies, while the companies are required to provide their entire production to the Centre, which enables distribution to the states.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a PIL filed by city-based lawyer Sneha Marjadi alleging improper management of Covid-19 treatment in Maharashtra and seeking directions pertaining to shortage of remdesivir and oxygen supply among others.

The court took serious note of alleged distribution of over 10,000 vials of remdesivir by the Ahmednagar MP by procuring it from Delhi, and said that its Aurangabad bench had already taken cognizance of the same on Monday.

The plea before the Aurangabad bench had alleged illegal procurement by the Ahmednagar MP and sought action against him, along with confiscation of such injections by authorities.

Dr Sujay Vikhe Patil, BJP MP from Ahmednagar, had last week procured and distributed 10,000 remdesivir injections. Politicians from several parties, including those in the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), sold or distributed the drug directly to people after procuring it from the manufacturer or by dipping into district stocks.

While the Aurangabad bench had refrained from passing a specific order and said it would deal with the plea on April 29, it added, “Meantime, respondent authorities be at liberty to take effective steps as they would have taken in the event of such eventuality and do what a call of duty demands them to do.”

On Tuesday, the HC asked the central government lawyer, “How can 10,000 vials be made available by airlifting them from Delhi by a chartered plane? Would it not amount to private distribution by the person? Delhi itself is in crisis.”

“We want drugs to reach everyone who is needy and should not be only in the hands of a few,” Justice Kulkarni added.

The court was informed that the incident in Ahmednagar should not be seen in isolation and there were many such private individuals procuring drugs. To which the bench said, “If we find further such instances where pharmaceutical companies are providing remdesivir directly to private individuals, we may pass an injunction against them.”

The court also directed the state government to provide the status of crematoriums and morgues across Maharashtra and measures taken to improve their conditions, after it was informed that the situation at cremation centres were not properly managed due to the large number of Covid-19 patients’ bodies being received.

Seeking responses from the central and state government, the court posted further hearing on the PIL on Thursday.

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