Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya suspended three senior scientists at the Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) and also pulled up the Drugs Controller General of India, V G Somani, after an investigation revealed that fake Remdesivir antivirals were sold during the second wave of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, according to a report in Mint.
The CDL is India’s apex lab, responsible for conducting quality checks on drugs and vaccines. It has now come to light that the three suspended scientists deliberately delayed carrying out similar checks on Remdesivir, said government officials. The development comes at a time when a bribery allegations have rocked the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO).
Hailed as a wonder drug at one point in time, the scientists submitted their findings on Remdesivir to CDSCO after the sample’s expiry date. In 2020, the drug regulator granted restricted emergency use of Remdesivir for Coronavirus patients. An injectible, Remdesivir was first used by former US president Donald Trump after he contracted the virus before the WHO issued a warning against its use.
In an interview to Mint, one of the govt officials stated, “CDL Kolkata is an apex lab for quality check of life-saving drugs, medicines and vaccines. They have to submit a quality compliance report to the CDSCO in a timely manner. However, during the covid pandemic, such reports were allowed to be submitted in a fast-track manner.” He further added that in the case of Remdesivir, the report was delayed intentionally for a period of nine months.
The health ministry received a tip off regarding the same last month, following which an investigation was ordered by Union health minister Mandaviya. During the investigation, it was revealed that Remdesivir sample was spurious and the three suspended scientists were trying to conceal the report.
A strict warning has now also been issued to the DGCI, directing that such incidents should not happen again. Further, the health ministry has also ordered V G Somani to regularly monitor the work of central labs, those responsible for the quality check of life-saving drugs.