Tocilizumab ‘out of stock’, Covid patients in tricity left in the lurch

Tocilizumab ‘out of stock’, Covid patients in tricity left in the lurch

Naina Mishra

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20

The tricity is now facing a shortage of tocilizumab injections, an essential drug in the treatment of severe Covid-19 patients. Patients are left at the mercy of medicine distributors and pharmacists for the drug, but all they get in response is “out of stock”.

With Covid-19 cases surging, Cipla, one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the world, has already run out of its stock of tocilizumab.

A nine-month pregnant woman is struggling against Covid-19 at the PGI’s ICU ward and requires tocilizumab, prescribed by doctors. Her family members have raised numerous demands on the social media for the drug, but to no avail. A relative of the patient said, “I have been trying to source the injection, but all efforts have gone in vain. These are testing times for us.”

Many hospitals in the tricity have prescribed tocilizumab for Covid patients, leaving their families in search of this drug all over the tricity.

Dr HK Kharbanda, who set up the helpline for tricity residents, said, “The only query we have received till now is about the tocilizumab injection, which is currently out of stock. We have managed to arrange two injections today.”

Amit Duggal, Drug Inspector, UT, said, “The drug is currently out of stock, not just in Chandigarh but also in the adjoining states. The only supplier, Cipla, will send the injection in batches in the coming days to various states.”

This is the next drug to be given after remdesivir, which is used to treat patients with moderate symptoms, while the latter works for those who need intensive care unit (ICU).

A Zirakpur-based distributor said, “The company has stated that the drug will be made available by April 30.”

Remdesivir in short supply

In some parts of the northern region, including the tricity, chemists are running out of remdesivir stock. Remdesivir is an anti-viral drug used in the treatment of Covid patients in critical condition.

Dr Amandeep Kaur Kang, Director, Health Services, UT, said the state had procured remdesivir in advance in anticipation of a rise in the cases. Government hospitals in the UT have been supplied sufficient stock of remdesivir.

The PGI today said the institute was in the process of procuring remdesivir and tocilizumab for patients.

About tocilizumab

It is an immunosuppressant, commonly used for rheumatoid arthritis, and marketed as actemra by Swiss pharma company Roche. It was repurposed in January to fight severe lung infection in Covid-19 patients. Roche supplied it to Cipla, which supplied it further. The drug is an anti-IL-6 receptor-a monoclonal antibody that is indicated for the treatment of IL-6-mediated inflammatory disorders. It calms the inflammatory storm in the respiratory system by blocking IL-6 receptors.

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