Liposomal amphotericin B is given as an injection to infected persons who are kidney patients and amphotericin B is for those without renal problems. Kidney patients need continuous medication and the drug is costlier too with the price per vial going up to ₹7,000.
“The Centre has directed pharma firms to ramp up production. But the companies are taking time to do it as their capacity had been low. Also, a batch of new drugs take at least 25 days to reach the market after the mandatory quality assurance tests. These are causing the current shortage,” a senior official in the State Drugs Control Department said on Wednesday.
Sources said that the Centre had devised an allocation plan for various States depending on the number of patients and their condition. Though Kerala had earlier sought 5,000 doses anticipating a high demand, in view of the large number of cases from northern States, they were given priority. Very few doses are reaching here now.
Hospitals in the State procure these drugs mainly from companies such as Mylan and Cipla based in Mumbai and Bengaluru, the senior official said. He said that the allocation of the drugs in the State now is only through Kerala Medical Services Corporation Ltd.
Only government hospitals are directly getting it. “Private hospitals can buy them only from the Karunya Community Pharmacy outlets run by the corporation. This is expected to stop black-marketing and hoarding,” he said.
Sources said that this infection was not widespread earlier with only less than 10 cases being reported from States in a year. Pharmaceutical companies never produced the drugs in large quantities because of low demand. The surge in COVID-19 cases, however, changed all that and there was a dramatic rise in the number of patients. This led to a corresponding rise in demand, but the drugs are in short supply, they added.