The Union health ministry has asked the Drugs Controller General of India to ensure equitable distribution of Remdesivir and Tocilizumab drugs, which have been included as "investigational therapies" in the national treatment protocols for COVID-19, across the country. The aim is to ensure that their availability is not skewed and does not remain confined to metropolitan areas, an official said.
According to official sources, Arunachal Pradesh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu recently raised the issue of unavailability of these drugs following which the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) intervened in the matter.
Seeing the possibility of it being a larger issue which may affect other smaller states and Union territories (UTs), the ministry asked the DCGI to ascertain how many states and UTs have been covered and which of them are left, as far as the availability and distribution of these drugs by the respective companies is concerned, they said.
"I am directed to say that apart from availability, the geographical distribution/reach of the drugs included as part of investigational therapies in Clinical Management Protocols for COVID-19, namely Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, may also be monitored.
"This ministry may kindly be apprised as to how many states and UTs have been covered and which of the states and UTs, if any, are left as far as the availability and distribution of these drugs by the respective companies is concerned," the letter dated July 27 said.
The ministry has included the use of Remdesivir (for restricted emergency use purposes) and off-label application of Tocilizumab for treating COVID-19 patients in moderate stage of the illness as “investigational therapies" in the updated Clinical Management Protocol for COVID-19.