The Supreme Court on Thursday will hear a petition seeking directions to the Centre to constitute a body of experts at the national level who shall formulate a standard protocol of treatment about the line of treatment and/or usefulness/requirement of any particular medicine. The plea stated that the same shall be given wide publicity in English, Hindi and regional languages so as to dispel any misgivings about the medicines.
The petition will be listed before the three-judge bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat. It also seeks directions to be issued right from the stage of testing of Covid followed by proper treatment as per the standard protocol formulated by the national body of experts.
It further seeks directions that the expert body so constituted at the national level should continue to function and review/revise the treatment protocol and suggest additional guidelines from time to time as the virus is mutating (changing its form and nature) and may continue to mutate and therefore, national preparedness for any emergency situation should not only be for the present but also for the future.
The plea has been filed by health activist and public health expert Amulya Nidhi through AOR Abhimanue Shrestha and settled by Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh.
The petitioner has submitted that the present petition has been filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India in extreme urgency and required to be considered by the Court at the earliest so that people who are facing the severity of coronavirus or its mutants do not continue to remain in panic and suffer due to uncertainty and confusion regarding clinical diagnosis, treatment and hospitalization at various stages of the corona mutant.
The petitioner submitted, “1,69,60,172 persons have been infected so far in India which is the highest in Asia and second highest in the world. 192,311 persons have died and 26,82,751 known cases are currently active. The lack of clarity regarding treatment is resulting in patients being put in critical condition or worse, succumbing to the infection. The rate at which the infection is taking place and deaths which are occurring, calls for an immediate setting up of a machinery consisting of experts and others to disseminate correct information to people and the medical community throughout the country so that timely and correct treatment is provided to them and they are saved from using drugs which are unwarranted and sold at exorbitant price by creating scarcity.”
It said, “The said body of experts should continue to function till the corona crisis continues as the virus has a tendency to mutate (change its form or nature) creating further complications. This body should be independent and transparent, providing correct information to the people. This is now required in the national interest. People have a right to know, under Art. 19(1)(a), about the correct protocol of treatment and to protect their health and life from the deadly corona infection, under Art.21.”
The plea averts, “The present guidelines issued by the Government are hazy and nor properly been communicated to the public and it is likelihood that there will be deficiency in diagnosis, clinical treatment and hospitalization of Covid-19 patients.” It has been discovered by the petitioner that there are flaws and loopholes in Diagnostic Procedure and Drug Administration per se. For instance – Home collection samples all of a sudden has been abstained and further study on medicine Remdesivir shows that this medicine produces no beneficial impact on Covid-19 patients. There are substantial questions raised on behalf of public at large, which needs to be answered by the Health Ministry and by this Court as follows:
- Whether RT-PCR is sufficient or should it be accompanied by other tests? At what stage, if at all, is a CT scan necessary?
- Standard treatment procedure of which medical institute should be followed? What is the standard protocol for drug administration?
- Why are doctors prescribing Remdesivir despite negative global view?
- Whether Remdesivir and Favipiravir have any confirmed efficacy or not?
If yes, in what situations?
- What are these medicines and what is their use in Covid treatment?
- At what stage of oxygen drop should a patient be hospitalized?
The petitioner submitted that the confusion is evident from/ has been noted by the following-
1. International medical journals and health-expert’s observations;
2. Conflicting Directives from Indian Health & Medical Institutions colleges;
3. Practices which differ from Guidance of International Health organizations;
4. Practices which differ from Guidelines of other countries;
5. Differing treatment procedures prescribed by Doctors/Hospitals;
6. News articles by health experts approve or disapprove certain practices;
7. Social media information/mis-information regarding covid treatment;
8. Changing stand of the Government of India on efficacy of drugs;
9. TV debates with experts showing differing views;
10. General news articles in Indian newspapers.
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The petitioner has submitted that in order to lessen the plight of people on the ground it is necessary that the government should inform the public through its expert agencies as to what is the correct position regarding diagnosis and treatment of Covid-19, so that people will be able to take all necessary steps in time and can avoid being subjected to unnecessary costly treatment and panic on account of ignorance and plethora of advises which are conflicting and confusing.
“In the matter of drug administration, there are conflicting opinions, especially on the usage of Remdesivir. Government needs to clear its position whether this drug is useful for treatment of corona virus or not and if it has some use at critical juncture, it should be made available at all hospitals/nursing homes. Because necessary information about this drug is not put in public domain, a scarcity has been created. It is difficult to get this medicine and if at all one is successful then one has to pay anything between Rs 10,000 and Rs 50,000. Chemists and others are hoarding this medicine and exploiting the present situation. Right to health is a Fundamental Right and people have a right to know about the efficacy or otherwise of this medicine. The Govt. of India should take full control of the situation so that no one admitted in a hospital should suffer, if at all, because of non- availability of this medicine. Strict action against those who have created scarcity of this medicine be taken,” it said.