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“Quite disturbed” that Remdesivir is being distributed by politicians, film stars: Bombay HC seeks explanation from Centre, State

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday sought an explanation from the Central and State governments on how Remdesivir, the drug used for treatment of COVID-19 patients, and which is scarce in supply, can be distributed through a parallel channel by political and film personalities.

A Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni said that it was quite disturbed by the same, opining that making the drug available through such mediums amounts to hoarding/ illegal stocking of such drug.

“We are quite disturbed to note from such material, that the drug “Remdesivir” when is being allocated by the Central Government and under the orders passed by the Supreme Court as also of the various High Courts, as to how the same can be privately available for distribution at the hands of such political and film personalities,” the Court said.

In our opinion, this would certainly amount to hoarding/illegal stocking of such drug thereby introducing a system of its indiscriminate availability, which would cause serious prejudice to patients who are in urgent need of such medicines in most deserving cases, the Bench added.

The Court was hearing clutch of petitions on issues surrounding COVID management which also included the lead petition which alleged improper management of COVID-19 medical treatment in Maharashtra.

An application was filed in this regard by advocate Rajesh Inamdar seeking inquiry into the manner of procurement and supply of drugs like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab by individual persons.

Inamdar drew the attention of the Court to a large number of posts made on social media indicating certain political and film personalities indulging in supply of Remdesivir to citizens.

“Such material is in the nature of very recent messages appearing on the social media, clearly indicating supply of such medicine by political and film personalities. Such messages also record the gratitude expressed by those who have received the drug from such personalities,” the Court noted.

The Court did not hide its surprise at the same stating that it was “quite disturbed” by the news.

“Such personalities making the drug available privately, raises a grave question as to its equitable distribution in a system/regime which is set into motion for its allocation, as per requirement of each State,” the Court said.

The Court acknowledged that in few cases, these personalities may be helping someone in need but yet some unscrupulous person may approach them for the purpose of making profit.

“It cannot be conceived, that only bonafide and genuine persons would approach such personalities to secure such medicine,” the Court said.

The Court, therefore, said that although in some cases such political and film personalities may purport to help the needy patients, however, the drug being available with such personalities who are not part of the official machinery raises serious concerns, which need to be looked into immediately by the Central government as also by the State government.

“We accordingly direct the State as also the Union of India to place on record a report as to how such drug, which is so scare in its availability, can be parallelly (sic) distributed by such political and film personalities. Report to this effect be placed on record before the returnable date,” the Court ordered.

From the submissions made by the State and several lawyers for the petitioners, the Court concluded that even if local authorities claim they have enough supply of Remdesivir, the figures before the Court clearly indicated a deficit.

“We have also heard the petitioners say that the drug is not being supplied by the Nodal Officers when it is required at the hospitals,” the Court observed.

In this backdrop, the Court directed the governments to immediately look into how the private individuals were managing to procure drugs despite not being part of the official machinery.

The Court also directed the State government to explain in what manner they distributed the stocks intra-State after they received the same from the Centre.

The Court had in April said that if it found any private company procuring COVID-19 drugs and distributing them to the individuals directly, then it would pass an order of injunction against them.

The Court reiterated its directions from the previous order, directing the Central and the State governments to publicise information about the various drugs of Indian origin which are in use for treatment of COVID.

It expressed belief that such advisories would not only define the protocol for treatment of confirmed Covid 19 patients but also disseminate information on the use of the various drugs, available for such treatment, in different clinical conditions of the infected patients.

The Bench will hear the matter next on May 19, 2021.

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