Srinagar: With the number of Coronavirus cases rocketing, stocks of drugs like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab--both believed to be effective in treating infected patients--are fast depleting and raising concerns in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The hospitals in the region are also claiming that their stocks of Covid-19 vaccines are limited, compounding challenges for locals in the region. The shortage of these drugs comes at a time when experts are saying a second wave of the pandemic has hit the region but is yet to peak as the number of cases are expected to further rise in May.
In April, the number of cases in Jammu and Kashmir swelled rapidly from less that 3,000 cases in the first few days to over 24,000 fresh cases on Wednesday. According to the government data, as many as 3,023 fresh cases and 30 deaths, 18 of them from Kashmir valley, were reported across J&K. Since the past week, the number of cases reported daily has been the highest since the pandemic hit last year in March.
With the surge in cases, the UT government ordered to impose a curfew in 11 out of 20 districts from Thursday evening to May 3 morning as a measure to thwart the fast spreading of the disease. Areas that will be under severe restrictions include both capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu where majority of Covid treatment centres are located.
Many patients and their attendants since past few days have complained of the lack of availability of key drugs like Remdesivir at hospitals as well as in the market. Patients have turned to social media platforms like Twitter to seek the medicines. An attendant of a 60-year-old patient claimed Remdesivir was not available in Srinagar’s Chest Disease Hospital. The non-availability comes days after head of the hospital, Dr Naveed Nazir Shah interacted with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on ‘Mann ki Baat’.
Dr Yashpal Sharma, the Managing Director of J&K Medical Supplies Corporation Ltd. – the department responsible for procurement of drugs – told NewsClick that both the drugs were not part of the “treatment protocol”.
“The shortage is not only limited to J&K, but due to the sudden surge of cases, the shortage is being felt. We had enough stocks before the new wave until March,” Dr Sharma said.
According to the official, a fresh consignment of nearly 960 Remedisivir vials has been sent to Kashmir valley hospitals and another 1,000 are scheduled in the next few days so there is no immediate dearth for two to three days but, he says, it will not be available in all the hospitals.
“We only provide these drugs to Level 1 hospitals where there is an intensive care unit. So a lot of patients cannot avail these at other hospitals, which are not designated to receive them,” he adds.
Amongst the 960 vials, about 300 vials have also been sent to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura, a premier medical facility which until now has been procuring the medicines on their own.
Dr Sharma also claimed that a false alarm has been raised in view of “hoarding and black marketing” of the drugs.
Last year in November, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a “conditional recommendation” against the use of Remedisivir in hospitalised patients – irrespective of how sick they are – stating there was “no evidence” that the drug improved survival or other outcomes in these patients.
Meanwhile, the three main hospitals in Srinagar, including SMHS hospital, has said their Covid-19 vaccines are out of stock right ahead of the beginning of vaccination for everyone above the age of 18 on May 1 as per the new central policy.
A senior health official, however, claimed that the UT administration has enough vaccination stocks for persons above 45 years age. “Since the UT government has to procure vaccination for persons between 18-45 years from manufacturers directly, it will take another two to three weeks till the vaccines become available,” Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education, J&K, Atal Dulloo said.