Over the last few days, as the Covid-19 cases in India surged so did the demand for Remedesivir, a drug manufactured by a pharmaceutical firm Hetero Drugs to treat Covid-19 patients. The high demand for the drug created a fear of counterfeit drugs being sold. The fear was palpable on social media where many believed that copycat drugs are on sale, cashing in on desperate patients who are finding it difficult to procure Remedesivir from pharmacies.
Twitter posts and WhatsApp messages claiming to help people identify the genuine drug from copycats are now viral. BOOM reached out to Hetero Drugs who said the packs with spelling errors in the image are fake and that an investigation is being conducted.
"Those packs are fake and we are investigating the matter. We have also lodged a police complaint regarding the same," said a spokesperson from Hetero Drugs.
The images first went viral after Monika Bhardwaj, DCP Crime, Delhi police tweeted the photos, saying, "Attention!! Lookout for these details before buying Remdesivir from the market."
In a second tweet, Bhardwaj added that no complaint had been received about such a spurious Remdesivir package and shared the photo of the original medicine pack.
The tweet pointed out the difference between a real and a fake Remedesivir package-- the marker showed capitalisation and spelling errors on the fake one.
We reached out to people who had bought the Hetero Drug company manufactured Remdesivir and found a person in Gondia, Maharashtra who had bought the same for his cousin, a COVID-19 patient. On the condition of anonymity, he sent us photos of the Covifor box to show how different it is from the viral images of the fake box.
Comparing the user given images with the box in the viral images, we found the following differences:
On the front label of the box :
On the back of the box:
BOOM could not trace where or who procured the duplicate box of Remdesivir but was able to confirm that they are not the ones manufactured by Hetero Drugs.
VIALS FILLED WITH SALINE AND ANTIBIOTICS SOLD AS REMDESIVIR
We further searched for reports where fake vials of Remdesivir had been seized and found news articles about the same happening in various cities including Pune, Bangalore, Mysore and Lucknow. According to Indian Express, a staff nurse working at a private hospital in Mysore was arrested for allegedly refilling cheap antibiotic medicines or saline solutions in empty vials of Remdesivir. The Week reported that in Lucknow, which is facing a massive shortage of Remdesivir, the police has cracked down on gangs selling fake vials of the medicines with packaging carrying several spelling errors like 'prescribin' (instead of prescription), 'introvenous' (instead of intravenous) and sometime Remdesivir spelt as 'Redmdesivir'."
The Packs In The Viral Image Are Fake : Hetero Drugs
BOOM reached out to Hetero Drugs, based in Telangana who said they had come across the viral images and were investigating the matter. A spokesperson from the company in an email wrote, "We did receive information from other sources on the duplicate product packs imitating Hetero's Covifor brand. Those packs are fake and we are investigating the matter. We have also lodged a police complaint regarding the same."