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Are hospitals prescribing the more expensive remdesivir instead of cheaper alternatives?

NEW DELHI: The Department of pharmaceuticals (DoP) has raised concerns over complaints of "indiscriminate" use of anti-viral drug remdesivir in hospitals which is resulting in shortage of the drug in the country, officials toldET.The DoP has asked the health ministry and drug regulatory authority to monitor if hospitals are prescribing the high-priced remdesivir where low-priced antibiotics would do, as it has received complaints of indiscriminate prescription of remdesivir by big hospitals, even in cases where it was not needed.“The point is that remdesivir could be prescribed only for patients who are on oxygen or on ventilator support. However, it has been seen that instead of prescribing and using lower-priced medicines like dexamethasone and methylprednisolone, big hospitals are using remdesivir and other highly priced drugs indiscriminately,” said an official, adding that the DoP and National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) have been receiving complaints aboutit.The DoP recently held a meeting with the health ministry and representatives of Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and asked them to monitor if hospitals are prescribing remdesivir as per the protocol. “We would like to understand whether it is being prescribed as per the protocol or is there any evidence whether it is a case of over prescription,” said an official of NPPA.So far in India, remdesivir has been launched by Hetero Labs and Cipla. This week, Mylan Inc too released its first batch of remdesivir.Jubilant Sciences has also got approval to launch the drug.Production of the drug is expected to increase by the end of this month. “The supply is not too less. The production capacity will increase by end of this month to 3 lakh vials, still there are complaints of its shortage,” added the official.The concern, officials said, could be that doctors are prescribing where it is not envisaged, or this could be because of information asymmetry. “Because of high margins doctors may be prescribing high-priced medicines. That’s the concern,” another official said.To clamp down on the alleged black marketing of the drug, earlier the Drugs Controller General of India had also asked state drug regulators and NPPA to enforce the maximum retail price of the experimental Covid-19 drug.The action by Drug Controller General of India, VG Somani, came after Somani received a letter from LocalCircles, a social media site dedicated for governance and community engagement, on the alleged black marketing.