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Devendra Fadnavis alleges harassment by Uddhav govt to Remdesivir supplier as Maharashtra struggles with coronavirus

Maharashtra is currently one of the worst affected states in the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. There are currently 6,47,933 active coronavirus cases in Maharashtra of which 1,20,452 are in Mumbai.

Mumbai Police on Saturday detained and questioned director of Daman-based pharma company Bruck Pharmaceuticals over supply of Remdesivir vials, one of the anti-viral drug prescribed to some patients with severe symptoms of Chinese coronavirus. While Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis alleged that the director was arrested because BJP managed to get permissions in place for supply of the drug to Maharashtra, Mumbai Police claims they only ‘questioned’ him because of rampant black marketing of the drug.

The Maha Vikas Aghadi Minister Nawab Malik on Saturday through a series of tweets questioned the Centre over Remdesivir’s shortage in the state and country and alleged that the Centre is denying permission to companies willing to sell the drug in the country.

In the purview of the critical shortage of Remdesivir, leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis sought FDA’s permission for a Bruck Pharma to supply the drug to the state in a sincere attempt. However, in a shocking turn of events, Mumbai police summoned a director of Bruck Pharma at 9 pm on Saturday alleging that the Remdesivir stockpile was going to be illegally flown out abroad by air cargo from their storage facility.

In a major embarrassment for the state government, the director of the Daman-based pharmaceutical manufacturing company was questioned for about 45 minutes. The director was released after former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and another top BJP leader Praveen Darekar rushed to the police station to submit the permission letter.

In a media interaction, Devendra Fadnavis informed that a Maharashtra minister’s OSD had called company officials and questioned threateningly as to why the provisions were made at the request of the opposition party.

He also informed that the company’s director was detained by a team of 10 police persons for no apparent reason.

Response by Mumbai Police

The Deputy Commissioner of Police, zone 8, Manjunath Shinge in a statement cleared their stance saying, “We had received information from our network that a huge quantity of Remdesivir made in Daman is being stored in Mumbai and will be transported out of the country by Air cargo. We all know how important the Remdesivir medicine is for treating Covid-19 patients and it’s a matter of life and death. There is a shortage of this medicine and its export has been stopped by the government. Hence, we acted swiftly and called the owner of the pharma company just to question him about where the medicine has been stored in the city. We acted in good faith for the larger interest of public.”

Another police officer stationed at Vile Parle police station informed, ”We just wanted to know why the medicine is being stored and not distributed when it’s in such high demand. It could have been black marketed.”

Seeking permission for Bruck Pharma

Praveen Darekar said that the state minister for Food and Drugs Rajendra Shingne was in the know of the plan as it required the state’s permission. He informed, “We wanted to distribute the drug through the state government. As a noble gesture, we decided to foot the entire cost of Rs 4.75 crore. Fadnavis was to hand over the Remdesivir stock to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.”

Bruck Pharma is one of the 16 manufacturers of Remdesivir in India that has permission to export however it does not have a marketing license. In order to sell Remdesivir, it has to approach one of seven pharma companies that have marketing license for Remdesivir in India.

Sharing more information, Fadnavis said, “Four days ago our leaders Pravin Darekar and Prasad Lal had gone to Daman to Bruck Pharma and requested them to supply the drug to Maharashtra. They obliged but said they did not have the license. Then I spoke to Mansukh Mandaviya and got them the license.” Mandaviya is minister of state I/c of ports, shipping and waterways as well as chemicals and fertilizers. Department of Pharmaceuticals falls under Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.

On the other hand, a State FDA official said they were planning to give emergency approval to a few manufacturers for direct sale. “But right now it is in the talks stage. Bruck has not been given marketing approval yet,” he added. 

Politics over Remdesivier

The late-night drama unfolded after Maharashtra’s Minister Nawab Malik alleged that the Centre had asked Remdesivir manufacturers to not supply to Maharashtra. Threatening the government, he said under such circumstances, the state government would have no choice but to seize the stocks from these export manufacturers and supply them to those who need them.

In an attempt to create panic Nawab Malik alleged that the Centre gave permission to one of the export companies to supply Remdesivir to the state of Gujarat only.

However, the BJP leaders were quick to call his bluff. BJP MP Manoj Kotak shared images of two identical letters issued by the FDA’s of the respective state governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat, stating the Centre has no role in the matter.

Mumbai BJP spokesperson Suresh Nakhua also shared the two letters, one by the BJP-led Gujarat government on April 12 and the other by the Mava Vikas Aghadi on April 16. He stated that the MVA government has not been prompt enough in dealing with the crisis at hand.

Union Minister of State for Chemical and Fertilisers Mansukh Mandaviya also lashed out at Malik saying the latter’s tweets are full of half-truths and that his threats are unacceptable.

Maharashtra is currently one of the worst affected states in the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. There are currently 6,47,933 active coronavirus cases in Maharashtra of which 1,20,452 are in Mumbai. Almost 60,000 people have lost their lives in Maharashtra due to the virus since beginning of pandemic.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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