Tocilizumab drug black market racket in Gujarat unearthed

The Foods and Drugs Control Authority (FDCA) of Gujarat has unearthed a black market racket of the drug – Tocilizumab, considered to be quite effective in the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

The FDCA got the information about Tocilizumab being sold in the black market in Surat and following the tip-off, it had set up a trap to nab the culprits involved.

A decoy customer in the guise of a pharma trader was sent by the FDCA to a chemist store – Sarthak Pharmacy in Surat on Wednesday.

After several negotiations, the deal between the proprietor Uma Kejriwal and the decoy trader was struck at Rs 57,000 for a 400 ml vial of injection. The regular price of the vial is Rs 40,000 in the market.

The FDCA nabbed the woman proprietor Uma Kejriwal, who tried to sell the injection to the decoy customer.

At the store, the FDCA confiscated, three vials of Tocilizumab drug.

Sarthak Pharmacy is a wholesale pharmacist in Surat. The proprietor could not furnish the bills of the confiscated drug. On inquiry, she told the FDCA that she had procured the drug from a medical representative (MR) of a private pharma company in Adajan, Surat.

When the FDCA nabbed that MR, upon inquiry, he said about another person from a pharma agency in Ahmedabad, and from him another name of an employee of the TB hospital in Ahmedabad Civil hospital campus also emerged.

The FDCA has registered a case against Sarthak Pharmacy, under the Drugs (Prices Control) order for overcharging against MRP and have initiated the investigation against Uma Kejriwal, Mitul Shah of New Shanti Medicines, Adajan, Amit Mancharamani of Ahmedabad and Ghanshyam Vyas, a pharmacist in TB hospital, Ahmedabad Civil hospital campus.

“The drug was obtained from the Indian supplier’s stock at Ahmedabad by an ex-employee in Ahmedabad, where the TB hospital employee’s bank accounts were used to carry out a transaction. Besides, overpricing offence, there are many other rules and regulations being violated in the entire shoddy business. The FDCA is investigating all those,” Hemant Koshia, Commissioner, FDCA told IANS.

Tocilizumab drug is said to be very effective in the treatment of Corona infection and is right now being imported from Switzerland through a single Indian firm.

However, the demand far outweighs the supply which is very limited. This is the reason for the drug being sold in the black market.

The Gujarat government had ordered and procured 5,000 injections from the Indian supplier, out of which 2,900 were for the government hospitals, chiefly for the Civil hospital Ahmedabad and 2,100 for private hospitals that were treating Corona patients.

For some time, there were many complaints regarding the unavailability of the Tocilizumab in the state.