‘Black fungus’ drug in short supply across India

pharmafile | May 19, 2021 | News story | Research and Development  

Amphotericin B, an anti-fungal drug used to treat the rare infection mucormycosis, or ‘black fungus’, is in short supply across states in India.

The drug, which is also on sale on the black market, is manufactured by many Indian firms. Black market COVID-19 drug sales have also been rising across India.

Cases have been rising across India, with officials in Gujarat state stating that close to 900 cases of mucormycosis had been reported in the past month.

Last week, the health minister of Maharashtra, one of the worst affected COVID-19 states in India, Rajesh Tope, said there were 1,500 cases of the infection.

The infection mucormycosis is caused by exposure to mucor mould which is commonly found in soil, plants, manure, and rotting fruits and vegetables.

Doctors say the infection could be triggered by the use of steroids in severely-ill COVID-19 patients.

It affects the sinuses, the brain, and the lungs and can be dangerous in diabetic or severely immunocompromised people, such as cancer patients or people with HIV/AIDS.

Doctors say that while early detection increases the chances of recovery, many patients developing mucormycosis continue to be Covid-19 positive, leaving little or no chance for treatment.

Dr Vishala Pandya, Superintendent of Gujarat Medical Education and Research Society (GMERS)-run Gotri medical college hospital in Vadodara, said, “We are getting Amphotericin B from the Gujarat Medical Services Corporation Limited (GMSCL). It is available in batches but if the number of infected patients increases in the coming days, it will be a problem.

“The regular version of the drug, which is more freely available in lyophilised powder form, is not recommended for patients with comorbidities. One patient requires close to 120 injections for long-term treatment.”

There are two forms of the drug available: standard amphotericin B deoxycholate and liposomal amphotericin.

Dr Akshay Nair, a Mumbai-based eye surgeon, told the BBC: “We prefer the liposomal form since it is safer, more effective, and has lesser side effects. The flip side being that it is more expensive.”

On Monday, the Gujarat High Court as referred to the rise of mucormycosis cases as “a very serious issue”.

India reported today a total of 267,334 Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours today.

Lilly Subbotin

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