India’s mounting COVID-19 cases are breaking its back and weighing down its healthcare system.
With the second wave, demand for Remdesivir, an antiviral drug has also heightened up.
The resultant- this drug is being so much in demand that many states are facing a massive shortage.
Furthermore, there have been many incidents of the drug being sold at a very high price, black marketing and hoarding as well.
The question arises- Why is everyone running behind Remdesivir?
The Government of India, also banned the export of the drug on April 11 to increase the country-wide availability.
Remdesivir, under the voluntary licensing agreement with M/s. Gilead Sciences, USA is manufactured by seven Indian companies, namely, Cadila Healthcare, Cipla, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Hetero Labs, Jubilant Pharma, Mylan and Syngene International. Cadila Healthcare’s Remdac is the cheapest being sold at INR 899 per vial.
However, what’s noteworthy is that to date there’s no evidence to indicate that the drug helps cure coronavirus.
As of yet, there’s no study to prove that Remdesivir, which was originally developed to treat Hepatitis C and subsequently tested against Ebola, helps curtail mortality in Covid-19 patients.
According to WHO’s Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan, “findings from five clinical trials show that Remdesivir did not reduce the need for mechanical ventilation among those suffering from a severe case of Covid-19 infection and nor did it help curtail mortality. There are smaller studies that have shown, in some small subgroups, perhaps some marginal benefits, like some patients who need low flow oxygen, the NIH trial showed that there was perhaps a marginal mortality benefit but that is a very small subgroup of patients.”
Another study was done by Adaptive Covid-19 Treatment Trial (ACTT-1), sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health showed that “Remdesivir was superior to placebo in shortening the time to recovery.”
WHO has laid down certain guidelines against the use of Remdesivir for treating Covid-19.
Then, why Doctors prescribe the drug?
Because no other antiviral drug is available and validated for use in the treatment of COVID-19.
Remdesivir is the only drug that has been validated by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) for use in the treatment of Covid-19.
Definitely, a doctor will try out all the methods to save his/her COVID-19 patients, reduce their ICU stays rather than waiting for their moderate condition to become critical.
‘It’s important to understand that Remdesivir isn’t magic bullet and isn’t a drug that decreases mortality.
We may use it as we don’t have an anti-viral drug.
It’s of no use if given early to asymptomatic individuals/ones with mild symptoms.
Also of no use, if given late,” says Dr Randeep Guleria, Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences Delhi in an interview.
Then why so much Hype?
Plainly because people have considered Remdesivir as a ‘life saving’ drug without caring about the cautions that its use can have adverse effects and ignoring the usual disclaimer about the drug having no benefits in terms of reduced mortality.
Dr Randeep Guleria told ANI that the drug should only be given to patients who are hospitalized, have a fall in oxygen saturation and have infiltrates on the chest X-ray or CT scan.
“Recovery trials showed that steroids will benefit but it’s also important to know when they’re given.
If given early before your saturation (O2) falls, it has harmful effect.
COVID patients who got steroids early had higher mortality than those who didn’t.
It is of no use if steroids are given on day 1.
They are useful only in moderate to severe illness when oxygen saturation is falling,” he further added.
We request with folded hands to please stop hoarding Oxygen cylinders and unnecessary stock of Remdesivir drug, injection.
It might be a life-saving step for someone out there.