The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court asked the Centre to include Remdesivir in list of scheduled drugs so that its price may be regulated.
The decision came when the bench was hearing a suo motu public interest litigation on shortage of oxygen, non-availability of Remdesivir and hospital beds in Nagpur district.
The Assistant Solicitor General of India, Ulhas Aurangabadkar notified the bench of Justices Sunnil Sukhre and Avinash Ghatore that adding Remdesivir to the list of scheduled drugs might be difficult.
The Bench responded, “Prima facie, we are of the view that it is possible to regulate the pricing if a liberal interpretation is given to the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics Act.“
The Bench stated that the provisions of DCA allowed restriction and regulation of prices of a drug which turns out to be an essential drug during a natural calamity or epidemic.
The Bench also noted that the Drugs Control Act provides for fixing rates of essential drugs.
Both the Acts enables the central government to fix rates of essential drugs during an epidemic.
However, till date not a single drug has been added to the list of scheduled drugs.
The Bench remarked, “If the powers conferred on the Central government are exercised, it will go a long way. It will stop extortion of money from families of Covid-19 patients and will also put a full stop to the black-marketing of the drug. The Centre should perform its fundamental duty by fixing the prices.”
The Court also reprimanded the Maharashtra government for lacking proper mechanism of procurement and distribution of Remdesivir vials across the state and directed it to exercise the powers under Disaster Management Act and Epidemic Diseases Act and centralise purchasing of all Covid-19 medications at reasonable price and eliminate time consuming tender process.