“Seriously” Consider Waiving Custom On Black Fungus Drug: Delhi HC to Centre

City Health Top Story

At least 600 cases of black fungus have been reported in Delhi so far amidst a short supply of the Amphotericin B drug. 

New Delhi– While recognizing that there is a shortage of black fungus treatment drugs in the country, the Delhi High Court asked the Centre to waive the custom duties on the drugs being imported from Dubai and other areas. The bench, presided by Justices Vipin Sanghvi and Jasmeet Singh, was hearing a petition filed by an individual who has been facing a shortage of supply for his own treatment. 

The Court said, “We direct that if the import is made by any person, a bond may be taken from the importer without actual payment of duty till a decision is taken.” 

However, the judge also made sure that the bond states that the importer will pay the duties if the Centre decides to not waive the said duties. Justice Singh asked if it is fair to levy duties at this time. 

The cases of black fungus have been rising countrywide for the last month. The doctors have said that the infection is attacking patients who are immuno-compromised or diabetic. Not only in Delhi, but many states are also going through a shortage of supply while the prices of the drugs are expensive and unaffordable for many. 

Advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for the Delhi state said that the number of cases is rising and around 6000 doses are required for the 613 cases currently registered. He also said that the number of cases is expected to rise to 1000 in the coming months. To this, the Court said that the Centre needs to allocate it to other states as well. The judge said, “We can’t pass an order that gives it to A or B at the cost of C. If we were in excess supply, we would have passed the order.”

The Haryana Medical Corporation Limited has floated a global tender for 15,000 vials of Amphotericin-B injections that are used in the treatment of black fungus on May 26, 2021. Advocate Mehra said that they will incur the cost of the drugs imported but asked the Centre to procure it for them. However, he also added, “If the centre can make a statement that the state government can source it on its own, we will do it.”  

Justice Singh said that the Court will have a definite course of action tomorrow. 

Dr Biplab Jamatia, a community health professor in the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) said, “The situation is very contentious regarding the import duties on life-saving drugs like Amphotericin B. During this time of crisis, the government must consider waiving the duties.”

He explained that the black fungus infection existed earlier as well but because it was very rare and the pharmaceutical companies in the country used to manufacture it on a contract-demand basis. Due to the rising cases, getting imported is the only option to meet the sudden demand. 

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