As COVID-19 spreads rapidly, more people are seeking treatments and more people are requesting certain injections or drugs. Remdesivir is one of such drugs that doctors are prescribing on a case-by-case basis to patients with severe illnesses. While the production has almost doubled, there is still a shortage of this medicine in the market. The demand for the drug has caused the market to flood with counterfeit products. Hetero Labs holds a 33% market share (13 lakh vials per month) in terms of production, the majority of fake Remdesivir released in the market imitate their packaging.
Let’s know a little more about the much-talked-about medicine Remdesivir! Remdesivir was developed primarily to treat Hepatitis C but was also proven effective against Ebola in 2014. There has been using of the drug since then for the treatment of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The COVID-19 coronavirus belongs to this family of viruses that cause MERS and SARS. Remdesivir is an antiviral medicine meant for curing infected cells and preventing viral replication.
Why Remdesivir is Being Counterfeited and How to Spot A Fake Remdesivir?
The number of COVID-19 cases in India is on an alarming rise under the second wave of the novel coronavirus. It is unfortunate in this circumstance that a lifesaving drug-like Remdesivir is getting counterfeited when the country is facing one of the worst crises in history. The two main factors behind the emergence of Remdesivir counterfeits are black marketing and hoarding.
The second wave of Covid-19 has seen the gravity of the infection increase at a disturbing rate. In such circumstances, Remdesivir is a life-saver drug that can increase the survival rates of the infected. However, the demand for the medicine is much higher than its supply. Such is the demand for the drug that it is being black marketed at triple the price — normally priced between Rs 899 and Rs 5400 for a vial, Remdesivir is currently being sold illegally at higher rates of over Rs 20,000.
Hoarding also creates a supply-demand gap. Two sections of people have been making efforts to get hold of the vials of Remdesivir. One section is people who are urgently and genuinely in need of the medicine for the Covid-19 treatment of their loved ones who are in the hospital. The other section is the people who don’t have COVID-19 symptoms and are hoarding the medicine as they are in fear of it running out in case they need it.
Though COVID-19 vaccine distribution has started, the demand for Remdesivir will keep rising, as the current infection rates supersede the vaccination rates. So, it is essential to ensure that you are in receipt of the real medicine. The fake and real Remdesivir might look similar, but you will find more differences upon closer inspection. Thus, you need to know about the points of difference between the packaging of the real and fake vials.
There are eight significant differences that you should watch out for and they are discussed here:
- Mention of The Symbol Rx on the Packaging: The symbol Rx comes from the Latin word “Recipere”. It is the symbolic representation of a medical prescription. Rx drugs cannot be sold over-the-counter. Due to this reason, the packaging of fake Remdesivir will not have the term Rx printed on it.
- Missing Manufacturer Logo: As of May 2021, the only producers of the medicine in India include Hetero Labs, Cipla, Zydus Cadila, Mylan Labs, Dr Reddy’s Labs, Syngene International and Jubilant Ingrevia (part of Jubilant Life Sciences). All original products will have a credible logo, along with the name of the producer.
- Incorrect Name on the Packaging: The original Hetero Labs Remdesivir has the name “COVIFOR”. Fake Remdesivir gets distributed under the name “COVIPRI”, a pseudo name that has been fashioned after the original.
- Mention of ™ on the Vials: Real vials of Remdesivir have the ™ symbol, which stands for ‘Trademark’. It exclusively identifies the drug as belonging to a particular company and identifies the company’s ownership of the brand. Any original packaging of the medicine will have the term ™ on it.
- Warning Label and Declaration: Remdesivir from Gilead Sciences Inc. became the first drug to get the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) formal clearance for treating Coronavirus back in October 2020. The warning label on the packaging by Hetero has the declaration “COVIFOR is manufactured under the license from Gilead Sciences, Inc”. The original warning label is in red, which is the brand colour for Hetero. In the fake one, there is no such warning and the label has a black colour.
- Several Errors in Capitalisation: The fake packaging of Remdesivir comes with many errors in capitalisation. Here’s outlining the most prominent three of them:
- A capitalisation error appears in the third line on the package. The original package reads as “100 mg/Vial” and the fake one has “100 mg/vial” written on it.
- Another capitalisation error is at the bottom of the front side of the counterfeit Remdesivir package. “For use in” written on the original package of the medicine has turned into “for use in” on the fake one.
- A third capitalisation error exists underneath the brand name in “Vial/vial” on the fake packaging of Remdesivir.
- Finally, there is a capitalisation error in the text below the name of the drug maker, Hetero Labs. The fake package writes India as “India”.
- Alignment Errors in the Brand Name: You will also find an alignment error in the brand name of the fake Remdesivir. The fake injection has more gaps in the brand name than the actual one.
- Telangana Has A Wrong Spelling: There is another major spelling error in the full address on the package of the counterfeit Remdesivir injection. The state Telangana is written as ‘Telagana’.
These eight signs should sufficiently alert you about whether you have the original product or not.
As mentioned earlier, until the covid-19 vaccine gets completely distributed, the demand for drugs like Remdesivir will keep increasing. The government has taken some measures to stop the widespread sale of the drug on the black market. For instance, the Remdesivir supply protocol has changed in states like Tamil Nadu, where the hospitals need to source such necessary drugs and not the patients. In case of an emergency, remember the points mentioned above and do not buy drugs from unverified medical suppliers. We are living in an unforeseen situation, so you need to take more care of yourself and beware of such drugs.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.