NEW DELHI: The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) may soon crack the whip on those selling oseltamivir, the medicine to treat swine flu, in
retail stores. In a move to step up vigil on the retail sale of the drug at high prices, the DCGI has asked all state drug inspectors to keep a check on the movement, manufacture and sale of the medicine in their jurisdictions, a health ministry official, who asked not to be named, said. The present warning from the health ministry reiterating that the drug should not be sold in the open market and in private hospitals by pharmacies comes at a time when companies are urging the government to allow retail sale of the drug.Drug makers manufacturing or importing oseltamivir are allowed to either sell it to government hospitals or directly to the government through a tender. The government is worried about a possible illegal stocking of the drug and panic consumption that could result in the virus developing a resistance to the medicine. “There may be people willing to take advantage of swine flu and make money out of it. This product is meant for government supply only and it is not permitted to be sold through retail chemists and druggists in India. Indiscriminate use of this drug by the public could result in the virus developing resistance to this,” the official said. Companies, such as Cipla, Ranbaxy and Hetero, have developed generic version of the drug. The DCGI’s move was prompted by reports that the only drug, oseltamivir, to treat swine flu is available at various pharmaceutical retail outlet at a very high price. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported 35,928 laboratory confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza, from 76 countries till Monday. According to the health ministry, so far samples of 329 persons have been tested in India, of which 35 have been tested positive for novel influenza A H1N1.