Stating that over-reliance on imported drugs must be avoided, the Bombay High Court has asked the Centre and the Maharashtra government to create awareness about suitable alternatives to foreign-manufactured medicines, such as Tocilizumab, that can be used for treating Covid-19 patients. A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni said that in light of the shortage of Tocilizumab, the government must tell the citizens about other locally- manufactured, cheaper, and widely-available drugs that can be used instead.
“The Government of India, having placed on record its stand that Itolizumab, Dexamethasone, and Methylprednisolone are equivalent and/or better than Tocilizumab, it is high time all-out efforts are made by it as well as the state to remove the incorrect public perception that has since been created that only Tocilizumab can treat the inflammatory burst conditions in Covid-19 patients,” the high court said. “Over-reliance on imported drugs has to be avoided and all concerned ought to be made aware that now it is the time to treat and heal, and not make profit out of sale of essential life-saving drugs,” it said.
The high court passed the order on May 6, but it was made public on its website on Friday night. It was hearing a bunch of public interest litigations (PILs) on various issues pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The PILs cover issues such as the supply of oxygen, medicines, availability of hospital beds etc across the state. During the hearing on May 6, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, who appeared for the state government, had told the bench that Maharashtra was not getting adequate stock of Remdesivir from the Union government.
He had said that as per state’s data available on May 1, a total of 51,000 vials were needed in the state everyday, but it was receiving only 35,000 vials daily. In its order, the high court said it hoped that the Union Department of Pharmaceuticals, and the Director, Union Ministry of Health and Welfare would intervene in the matter of deficient supply of Remdesivir to Maharashtra.
The HC also directed the Maharashtra government to give wide publicity to the May 4 advisory issued by the ICMR on testing for Covid-19. The advisory, meant to streamline testing, and reduce the burden of existing path labs, dissuades one from testing Covid-recovered individuals at the time of hospital discharge.
It suggests that an individual once tested positive either by the RT-PCR or the rapid antigen method needn’t be tested again, and includes several other guidelines. It also said that the state government must not delay granting approvals to any proposals it receives on setting up new path labs for Covid-19 tests as well as other pathology tests.
The high court will continue hearing the PILs on May 12.