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As India fights coronavirus, critically ill patients worry about drugs' supply

We could be going through an “extreme shortage” of life-saving medicines required by critically-ill or organ transplant patients, said Dr DS Rana, a prominent nephrologist and the head of the New Delhi-based Sir Ganga Ram Hospital

Dhairya Maheshwari Dhairya Maheshwari
New Delhi Updated on: April 02, 2020 21:38 IST
A file photo of buyers queuing up outside a drug store in
Image Source : PTI

A file photo of buyers queuing up outside a drug store in New Delhi

Sugreev, a 36-year-old from New Delhi, underwent a kidney transplant operation on March 8. While he stocked up his medicines, essential following the procedure, little did he anticipate that he would have to face a severe crunch of the drugs during the nationwide lockdown, a preventive measure to check the further spread of the coronavirus.

“I went through a cadaveric transplant, which means that I got my kidney from a dead donor. I might regress to my old condition if I don’t get my medication on time,” he tells India TV Digital.

The New Delhi resident says that the some of the drugs prescribed by his doctor at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital are in short supply these days, as several of them are unable to be imported from abroad in the wake of nationwide lockdown to check the rise in the number of coronavirus cases.

In the case of Rupendra Soni, a-37-year-old resident of Modinagar, which falls in the Ghaziabad district on the Delhi-Meerut highway, while he was able to find a live donor at the time of his transplant back in July 2017, he requires regular medicine intake to keep him going. “Earlier, I used to ask my local chemist shop for the drugs a day in advance and used to get it the next day. But this week, I was told by him that he had run out of imported medicines due to the sealing of international borders,” says Soni.

“I had to travel all the way to Delhi to the hospital. Thankfully, the policemen on the way were cooperative enough to let me pass when I showed them my medical files,” he recalls.

Pappi, yet another kidney patient from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, says that restrictions on courier services in the wake of the lockdown have left him severely hamstrung as he copes up with his medical condition. “I just two days of supplies left. I will have to travel all the way to Delhi to get my medication after that,” says 36-year-old Pappi, while talking to India TV Digital over the phone from his hometown in Uttar Pradesh.

The stories of Sugreev, Rupinder and Pappi could just be the tip of the iceberg and the nation could be going through an “extreme shortage” of life-saving medicines required by critically-ill or organ transplant patients, Dr DS Rana, a prominent nephrologist and the head of the New Delhi-based Sir Ganga Ram Hospital has said. “Not only critical life-saving medicines, but there is also a crunch in the supply of immune-suppressant drugs and those required during transplant procedures,” reckoned Dr Rana.

Dr Rana, a Padma Shree recipient, says that his hospital has been receiving SOS calls from “desperate patients” not only in the Delhi-NCR region, but also from far-flung corners of the country.

The hospital authorities have highlighted that patients as far as in Jammu and Kashmir have been reporting a shortfall in essential medicines, which have also been highlighted on social media.

“The hospital is arranging transport and other means to send medicines in the Delhi-NCR region, but is helpless in doing so when it comes to people in far-flung areas like Assam, Bihar and the north-eastern states,” Dr Rana notes with concern.

The kidney special has called upon the authorities to lift some of the curbs, at least as far as imported life-saving medicines are concerned.

The government, meanwhile, has stated it was leaving no stone unturned in ensuring the supply of essential drugs. "... chronic patients with associated ailments will be delivered all essential medicines at home," Luv Agarwal, the joint secretary at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said at his daily briefing this week.

The health ministry had earlier issued a gazette notification, which said that "the sale of the drug from now on should be in accordance with the conditions for the sale of drugs specified in Schedule H1 to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945."

The trajectory of India’s coronavirus cases registered a steep rise over the last few days, with the Union Health Ministry squarely blaming the organisers of a religious congregation at Nizamuddin for their carelessness. As of April 2, India recorded a total of 1,764 coronavirus cases, which resulted in 50 deaths.

Also read: India's coronavirus case count breaches 2,000-mark; 53 deaths so far

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