July 20, 2020 / 10:28 AM / 24 days ago

Indian police arrest 14 for black market remdesivir as COVID-19 cases jump

FILE PHOTO: A lab technicians holds the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment drug "Remdesivir" at Eva Pharma Facility in Cairo, Egypt June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Indian police have arrested 14 people on suspicion of selling locally made doses of Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir at five times the maximum retail price as a surge of novel coronavirus cases boosts demand for the antiviral drug.

Remdesivir, which has been shown to trim hospital recovery times in a U.S. clinical trial, has been cleared by several countries as a treatment against the disease that has killed more than half a million people globally.

Gilead Sciences GIL.O, which owns the patent to the drug, has licensed it to six Indian drugmakers, allowing them to produce generic versions. But only limited production has begun.

India’s tally of coronavirus cases has risen to 1.11 million with more than 27,000 deaths.

Police in the financial hub of Mumbai and in the southern city of Hyderabad said they have arrested, in all, 14 people for selling the drug on the black market for as much as 30,000 rupees ($400) a dose, compared with the maximum retail price of 5,400 rupees.

Police seized 23 vials of remdesivir produced by Cipla and privately held Indian drugmaker Hetero Labs from the suspects, they said.

The Food and Drug and Administration (FDA) of the western state of Maharashtra, which has recorded more than 310,000 coronavirus cases, has been trying to crack down on the black-marketing of drugs with the help of local police, the state’s FDA commissioner Arun Unhale told Reuters

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav

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