As the deadly second wave of the coronavirus ravages India, black fungus infections have emerged as a major threat among recovering and recovered COVID-19 patients. It is a rare fungal infection that grows around blood vessels and frequently infects the eyes, jaws, and brain.
With pharmacies in Delhi reporting the unavailability of Amphotericin-B as cases of black fungus rise, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government has decided to create a four-member technical committee to regulate the distribution of medicines.
According to a notification released by the government, those hospitals requiring the drug, will have to seek prior approval from the committee for it to be supplied.
Also known as mucormycosis, black fungus, was first reported in the state of Gujarat and southern India. However, Delhi has witnessed a sudden surge in infections in recent days, with pharmacies running out of Amphotericin-B, the drug needed to treat black fungus patients. In fact, the relatives of patients have sent out SOS calls on Twitter demanding the drug for the treatment of their loved ones.
Finding the drug in Delhi has become extremely difficult and even hospitals like Holy Family are having a tough time in making it available for their patients. Dr Sumit Ray, head of critical care at Holy Family Hospital, said, “we don’t as yet have many cases of mucormycosis, just three cases who have come in after COVID treatment in other hospitals. Anticipating greater requirement in the days to come, we asked our pharmacy to procure the drug but they’re having difficulty doing that since it’s in short supply”.
He added: “It’s a long treatment, at least for six weeks, and the dose is 3-4 mg per kg of body weight per day. Since this is the only antifungal to treat mucormycosis, production capacity needs to be increased”.
On the other hand, Dr SK Jindal, an eminent pulmonologist from the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, told Sputnik, “the judicious use of medicines is very important for patients reporting black fungus. Since the immunity of patients on high doses of drugs is already compromised, especially in diabetic patients with the COVID-19 infection, black fungus attacks are increasing phenomenally”.
Sputnik called many pharmacies in Delhi, but found out that the drug wasn’t available. Attendants at Lifeline Medicos in the Lodhi Colony and Sanyog Enterprises Pvt. Ltd (a pharmacy in the Qutab Institutional Area) said that they are receiving multiple calls for Amphotericin-B, but are unable to provide it to customers as they don’t have any.