Chemists facing problem of plenty as demand for antiviral drugs falls


Following a decline in COVID-19 cases in the country, chemists who had stocked up on antiviral drugs — Remdesivir and Favipiravir — used in the treatment of moderate and severe cases of the disease are facing a problem of plenty.

With the stocks having a short shelf life of three months, most of the products are nearing expiry. As the chemists had procured these drugs on advance payments, they are worried of suffering losses, with pharma companies not accepting the stocks back.

On January 1, the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists wrote to the marketing and distribution heads of pharma companies (manufacturers of Remdesivir and Favipiravir) requesting them to accept all returns of such stocks.

The letter, signed by association president J.S. Shinde and general secretary Rajiv Singhal, stated that the association members, who have always supported the industry, had accepted their “unusual terms” and cooperated with the companies on the matter of COVID-19.

“Most of our members were compelled to purchase Remdesivir and Favipiravir drugs on advance payment. But in the recent past, owing to the drastic fall in the number of COVID-19 positive cases, the demand for such products has gone down. The stocks lying with stockists have come close to their date of expiry as most of the batches had a shelf life of hardly three months,” the letter stated.

“Besides, a vast difference in trade prices of similar molecules/formulations of various drugs manufacturers also has aggravated the situation for breaking movements of their brands. This has resulted in a huge non-moving stock of Remdesivir and Favipiravir lying with stockists. Suppliers/companies are not accepting such stocks for adjustment,” the association said. “With these drugs strictly mandated to be sold on prescription, retailers and stockists have no other option but to return the stock to the companies.”

A.K. Jeevan, general secretary of Karnataka Chemists and Druggists Association, told The Hindu that chemists across the country were facing this problem. “As we were compelled to buy the drugs on advance payments, we will have to face huge losses for no fault of ours if the companies do not accept the returns,” he said.

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“In Karnataka, although the State government has been providing these drugs free of cost to patients treated under its quota, private patients (those not being treated under the government quota) were buying it from chemists. Now, with the cases dropping drastically, there is no demand for these drugs,” he said.

Govt. procuring less

C.N. Manjunath, nodal officer for labs and testing, who is also a part of the State’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee, said the State government had reduced its procurement of these drugs as the need had come down.

“There was a short supply of this expensive drug when the demand had gone up from July. Subsequently, more companies started manufacturing and the prices dropped significantly. The State government has been procuring this at a cost of ₹1,800 per vial,” he said.

“The number of cases has come down now. Most of the cases being reported are mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic, resulting in a huge drop in the number of ICU cases too,” Dr. Manjunath explained.

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Sagar Biswas

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