The few medicines known to help treat Covid-19, such as remdesivir and steroids in hospitalized patients, are scarce. The most basic treatment —oxygen therapy — is also in short supply, leading to unnecessary deaths. Even hospital beds are scarce.
Black market prices for remdesivir, which is produced by several Indian companies, have increased up to 20-fold to about $1,000 for a single vial, said Siddhant Sarang, a volunteer with Yuva Halla Bol, a youth activist group which is helping patients find medicines and hospital beds. “People are going to dealers with 200,000 to 300,000 rupees ($2,700-$4,000) in a suitcase,” he said.
The BBC has also found that the shortage in supply is leading to black marketing of the drug in Delhi and several other cities. At least three agents contacted by the BBC in Delhi agreed to supply each 100mg vial of remdesivir for 24,000 rupees.
The demand for medical oxygen has also soared in several Indian sates. The Delhi High Court took strong note of black marketing in oxygen cylinders, reportedly being sold at Rs 1 lakh per unit in the national capital for treating seriously ill COVID-19 patients, and asked the government to take action against those indulging in it.
Harsh Raj, a native of Motihari, and his friends have been making fast bucks by selling oxygen cylinders at higher prices to infected patients living in Rajiv Nagar area of Patna. The ADG informed that Harsh and his friends managed to earn close to Rs 12 lakhs in a week’s time by selling oxygen cylinders in black-market.