As the common phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” goes, we can aptly say that in India, necessity is the mother of black markets. It is unfortunately very usual for us to use people’s desperation and play it to our advantage and Covid-19 is no different.
A BBC investigation found that there are two life-saving drugs used to treat Covid-19 patients in India. They are Remdesivir and Tocilizumab. Both are in very short supply and this has given birth to the black marketing of these drugs.
The antiviral drug Remdesivir is being sold at more than three times its price. According to a Times Of India report, the drug originally cost between ₹3,000 and ₹5,000 plus GST but is instead sold for ₹12,500 to ₹13,000 in the black market in Tamil Nadu. The agents selling it are gaining profit in huge margins.
Similarly, the second drug, Tocilizumab was recommended by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) for emergency use in coronavirus. The drug costs ₹28,500 plus GST per vial but is being sold in the black market for ₹75,000 to ₹90,000 a vial.
India has not set a price cap for Remdesivir because it has been approved only as an experimental therapy and not a drug for Covid-19. This leaves a lot of room for black marketers to play around with its pricing.
According to the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, Remdesivir has not been approved as a drug and because of that, they cannot regulate the price of one of the most expensive Covid-19 treatments in India.
All they can do is control the prices of devices and products that are declared as drugs under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.
Despite the large scale scam taking place, authorities at the local level have only been acting on specific complaints. The trend is predicted to continue until the medicines are institutionalised and the supply increases.