COVID-19: Parl panel meeting stresses on cheaper drugs, cautions against presumed ‘peak’


File photo: Parliament

File photo: Parliament

The parliamentary standing committee on home affairs, chaired by Congress leader Anand Sharma, has asked the Union government to regulate the prices of coronavirus medicines being made by various pharma companies, citing reports of black marketing of drugs such as Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, people familiar with the matter said.

The panel also told the government that hospitals and pharma companies are charging exorbitant amounts from the patients and that this lobby needs to be stopped, the people added.

Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla, joint secretary in health ministry Lav Agarwal, and other senior officials the briefed the committee, which pointed out that locally made affordable drugs should be made available to the public. The home secretary informed the committee that letters have been sent to states asking them to take measures to stop the sale at higher than prescribed prices of life-saving drugs.

The panel also stressed that there was a need to promote locally made drugs for the benefit of public.

Sharma, the chairman of the committee, said in the meeting that the pandemic gives us a unique opportunity to come out with a report that can be a guiding force for any such health crisis in the future.

Members of Parliament (MPs) from different parties also spoke about the issue of migrant workers and said that it must be ensured these labourers do not face such hardships in future, and suggested that they be covered under special welfare schemes to protect them in the event of job losses.

The committee heard the government’s report on the management of the COVID-19 pandemic and the phased unlocking and resumption of economic activities.

Bhalla told the committee that government has managed the COVID-19 crisis “successfully”. In a detailed presentation on steps taken by the government since early this year, he pointed out that India has one of the lowest mortality rates in the world.

Luv Agarwal informed the committee that there are many estimates and researches on when COVID-19 will peak in India, but it is not right to make any estimate on the possible peak period as it might lead to either complacency or fear among the people.