Antiviral Remdesivir unaffordable for COVID patients

Amid claims that antiviral drug Remdesivir is proving effective to reduce the risk of death among COVID patients, the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) — the main tertiary care hospital here—has failed to provide the costly drug to the patients free of cost. However, the Government Medical College run hospitals claim to provide it free to the covid patients.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) has approved Remdesivir injection “under emergency use authorization” for the treatment of suspected or lab confirmed Covid-19 cases hospitalized with severe disease.

According to medicos, it is a five day treatment. The loading dose of 200 mg (shot) on day 1 is followed by 100 mg (shot) daily for 4 days (total 5 days).

Each vial of Remdesivir costs between Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,400. Thus for a five day treatment, a patient has to pay anywhere between Rs 24,000 and Rs 32,400.

Social activists as well as doctors have been vocally demanding that the government should bear the cost of the medicine.

“I had to borrow money from relatives to purchase five vials of Remdesivir for my father who was undergoing treatment at SKIMS,” said Ishfaq Ahmad.

A senior official at SKIMS who wished anonymity said: “We have currently 236 COVID19 positive patients admitted at SKIMS, whom we are providing free of cost medicines. Our liabilities on account of purchase of medicine for COVID patients have crossed Rs 20 lakh. SKIMS is managing it out of its own resources. It is not possible to provide free Remdesivir injection unless the government funds it.”

Principal, GMC Srinagar, Dr Samia Rashid said: “GMC run hospitals are providing Remdesivir free of cost to COVID patients.”

Financial Commissioner, Health, Atul Dullo didn’t respond to calls and text message of this reporter.

President, Doctors of Association of Kashmir, Dr Nisar ul Hassan said: “The price of combination of drugs prescribed to patient makes it inaccessible to those patients who desperately need it. Because of high cost, Remdesivir is out of reach for poor people”.

He said government must make life-saving drug Tocilizumab also available for critically-ill Covid-19 patients for free. “The drug reduces the risk of death in seriously ill Covid-19 patients,” Dr Nisar who is influenza expert said.