By LE Desk

New Delhi, April 27: A local court is reviewing a plea by the Delhi Police’s crime branch to allow the release of 93 vials of seized remdesivir so that they can be given to health care facilities or patients, amid a critical shortage and rampant black-marketing of the antiviral drug, which some doctors have prescribed for Covid-19 treatment.

Police officers aware of the matter said the Rohini court is likely to decide on the matter after a drug inspector verifies the authenticity of the drugs. The matter is likely to be heard on Tuesday.

“We have requested the court to release the seized remdesivir injections to any hospital or NGO so they may reach the patients in need,” said deputy commissioner of police (crime) Monika Bhardwaj, the Hindustan Times reported.

Apart from the crime branch, which seized 93 vials of the drug in three raids between April 21 and 25 from seven alleged hoarders, the south and west district police teams seized nine more vials and arrested five people in connection with the matter on Sunday.

Police units of the two districts are also likely to move court for the release of the nine seized vials.

“We will soon move an application, seeking the court’s permission to give the seized injections to the drug controller, hospitals or any NGO,” said Atul Kumar Thakur, DCP (south).

Amid the unending spate of Covid-19 hospitalisations, the Capital has been hit by a severe shortage of several drugs used to treat Covid-19 patients such as remdesivir, faviprarir and ivermectin, a scarcity that has been exacerbated by hoarders and black-marketeers, with the drugs being at rates 10-15 times their retail value. For instance, HT reported on Monday, a dealer in north Delhi offered to sell a customer a vial of remdesivir, which retails at between ₹900 and ₹3,500, at ₹25,000.

“Social media is flooded with SOS messages and contact details of people selling the injections. The problem lies there itself. Patients or their family members bargain with these sellers. The bidding starts at around ₹25,000 for a vial and often stretches to ₹70,000 or ₹80,000, depending on a customer’s desperation,” said a senior police officer.

The district police, crime branch and other Delhi Police units have now been directed to keep a vigil on such racketeers.

For instance, the seven people arrested by the crime branch were selling each injection for between ₹25,000 and ₹40,000.

“Interrogations revealed that they were getting the remdesivir from contacts in Punjab and Haryana. The crime branch teams have been conducting raids in the two states to arrest other racketeers,” Bhardwaj said.

The police have also cracked down on hoarders of medical oxygen, which has been critically short in the city as well, forcing hospitals and patients to plead authorities for urgent supplies.

On Saturday, a local court sanctioned the release for medical use of 48 cylinders containing 2,300 litres of medical oxygen that the southwest district police seized on Friday from a person in Dashrath Puri near Sagarpur.

“Any hospital or NGO that needs the oxygen may approach us with a request letter, along with an affidavit attesting that they will return the cylinders after use. The cylinders will remain with us as case property,” said Ingit Pratap Singh, DCP (southwest).

Considering the severity of the pandemic, case property seized in these cases, which may save lives, can be released in favour of the rightful owner or, alternatively, it may be handed over to someone who may need it, said senior advocate Vikas Pahwa.

“These injections can also be sold to government hospitals and nursing homes. A magistrate has the power to decide this application at the preliminary stage of the case itself,” he said.

Meanwhile, the police on Monday evening arrested two people, one of whom is a nurse who works at a private hospital in Rohini, for allegedly illicitly selling remdesivir injections.

Deputy commissioner of police (Rohini) Pranav Tayal said they arrested Sudhir (who goes by a single name) and seized two vials of the injection. He was to deliver the two for ₹60,000 each to the complainant.

“The role of the nurse emerged upon further investigations. She has been apprehended because Sudhir bought the injections for ₹38,000 each from her,” he added.

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