Till now, four pharmacists — three of them from Delhi and one from Gurugram — have been arrested for their alleged links to the drug smuggling rackets.
The two pharmacists arrested on Monday are also distributors of medicines and are based in Hauz Khas, Delhi. They used to procure the drug illegally and supply it to the other pharmacists involved, who further sold it to the smugglers.
The MRP of Remdesivir is Rs 5,400 per vial. The accused distributors would get it for about Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 and sell it to pharmacist Pradeep Kumar, who ran Medigreen Pharmacy in front of Medanta Hospital, for about Rs 15,000. He used to sell it further to Mohnaad, one of the four Iraqi nationals arrested last Tuesday for allegedly smuggling the drug out of the country, without a bill for Rs 18,000 per vial. Mohnaad and the other foreigners involved in the drug ring used to smuggle the medicine to Iraq and sell it in that country for Rs 1 lakh (Indian currency) per vial.
Remdesivir is an experimental drug, and it is not allowed to sell it in the open market. The manufacturers of the medicine can supply it only to designated Covid-19 hospitals in the country.
“The drug should not have reached the pharmacist in the first place. We are trying to track the supply chain to find out who was supplying the medicine to the distributors,” an officer said.
Police, however, refused to share the details of the third pharmacist arrested from Delhi, saying they are tracking more people connected with the case. “At this point, we can’t share more details as those involved may get alerted and escape,” the officer added.
The investigator said they have not approached the drug manufacturer till now as they are following “reverse tracking” to reach the source of the medicine.
“From the Iraqi nationals involved, we tracked down the pharmacist in Gurugram. Through him, we tracked the drug distributors from Delhi,” said the officer, adding that the involvement of one of the drug’s manufacturers or people working for them could not be ruled out.
TOI reached out to the manufacturers of Remdesivir for their response on the pilferage of the Covid-19 medicine, but couldn’t get a response. Cipla and Hetero have received approval for manufacturing and marketing of Remdesivir only for “restricted emergency use” on Covid patients.
Last week, Haryana Police and the state drug controller had busted two international drug smuggling rackets, both linked to each other, operating from residential houses in Gurugram and recovered 63 different kinds of medicines, including Remdesivir, besides several for cancer, depression, epilepsy and other diseases.
Five foreign nationals, including four Iraqi nationals and a woman from Uzbekistan, were arrested. All of them had been staying in India without any valid document, such as a passport or a visa. The four Iraqi nationals were working as translators with three prominent hospitals in the city.
Police had recovered a total of Rs 75 lakh in cash and a luxury vehicle during the two raids. The accused had stocked large quantities of medicines worth Rs 45 lakh in India, which were supposed to be dispatched to Iraq on July 31 and sold there for Rs 3 crore.