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.
Four days ago we had requested Bruck Pharma to supply us (Remdesivir) but they couldn’t until permission was given. I spoke with Union Min Mansukh Mandviya & we got FDA’s permission, but at about 9 pm, police arrested him (supplier): Maharashtra LoP Devendra Fadnavis pic.twitter.com/vUDweax1k6— ANI (@ANI) April 17, 2021
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.
DCP told us that they received inputs that some exporters had 60,000 vials &wanted to verify the same. We showed them permission letter. He (DCP) said it wasn’t communicated to them. Whatever happened was wrong: Maharashtra LoP Devendra Fadnavis on arrest of (Remdesvir) supplier— ANI (@ANI) April 17, 2021
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.”
There’s shortage of Remdesvir, & black marketing is rampant. We had got information about this storage facility. Acting in good faith, we only wanted to verify the inputs. He (supplier) was called for enquiry, it wasn’t an arrest: Manjunath Singe, DCP Mumbai pic.twitter.com/QXr9m1Rsc8— ANI (@ANI) April 17, 2021
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.
There are 16 export oriented units in our country that have 20 Lakh vials of #Remdesivir, since exports are now banned by the government, these units are seeking permission to sell this medicine in our country but central government is denying the same. (1/3)— Nawab Malik نواب ملک नवाब मलिक (@nawabmalikncp) April 17, 2021
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.
Here is the another proof of step motherly treatment given by central government to #Maharashtra.— Nawab Malik نواب ملک नवाब मलिक (@nawabmalikncp) April 17, 2021
This is the approval letter to one of the export companies to supply stock of #Remdesivir to the state of Gujarat Only.
Can this double standards be explained ?@ANI @PTI_News pic.twitter.com/p2It2JHkMy
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.
The letters issued by the FDA of the resp.states @nawabmalikncp— Manoj Kotak (@manoj_kotak) April 17, 2021
1) Centre has no role in this
2) BDR Pharma had applied to Maharshtra and Gujarat Govt for permission Both state govts sanctioned the same in the prescribed format as shown below pic.twitter.com/U28INkt5uq
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.