India coronavirus: Life-saving Covid-19 drugs sold on Delhi black market

India coronavirus: Life-saving Covid-19 drugs sold on Delhi black market
India coronavirus: Life-saving Covid-19 drugs sold on Delhi black market

A BBC investigation has found that two life-saving drugs used to treat Covid-19 patients in India - remdesivir and tocilizumab - are in short supply and being sold for excessive rates on a thriving black market. Vikas Pandey reports from the capital Delhi.

Abhinav Sharma's uncle had very high fever and difficulty breathing when he was admitted to a hospital in Delhi.

He tested positive for coronavirus and doctors told the family to get remdesivir - an antiviral drug that's been approved in India for clinical trial and also under "emergency use authorisation", meaning doctors can prescribe it on compassionate grounds.

But procuring it proved an impossible task - remdesivir did not seem to be available anywhere.

Mr Sharma desperately called people to arrange for the drug as his uncle's condition deteriorated by the hour.
India coronavirus: Life-saving Covid-19 drugs sold on Delhi black market


"I had tears in my eyes. My uncle was fighting for his life and I was struggling to arrange the medicine that could possibly save him," he said.

"After dozens of calls, I paid seven times the price to get the medicine. I was willing to pay any price really, but my heart goes out to people who can't afford it," he said.

Mr Sharma's plight is familiar to many families in Delhi, desperate to do whatever it takes to save their loved ones. Some say they have been forced to pay exorbitant prices for the drug - many of those ending up at a medicine market in old Delhi.

The BBC was able to connect to people working at the market who said they could arrange the drug, but for the right price.

"I can get you three vials - but each will cost 30,000 rupees [$401; £321] and you have to come right away," said one man, who claimed he worked in the "medicine business".

The official price for each vial is 5,400 rupees, and a patient typically needs five to six doses. Another man quoted 38,000 rupees per vial.

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