The drug has been widely used for Covid-19 treatment in the country. The case has sparked concern among activists on spurious drugs that have reached patients. The drugs are believed to have been sold in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Acting on a tip-off, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) had raided three wholesale drug dealers, two of them in the suburbs of Kandivali East and Goregaon East. Stocks of Favimax 400 and 200 (Favipiravir tablets) and hydroxychloroquine tablets collectively worth Rs 1.5 crore were seized. Cartons in which the tablets were packed named the manufacturer as Max Relief Healthcare from Solan in HP.
The FDA then dashed an email to the drugs controller in HP who clarified that no such company existed. “A further inquiry revealed that Max Relief Healthcare’s Noida establishment was selling drugs to wholesalers in the state when it did not have a licence to do so. All states were immediately alerted to stop using this drug,” an FDA officer said.
On May 30, the Max Relief owner, Sudip Mukherjee, appeared before the FDA but carried no documents linked to the production and sale of drugs. “He could not provide any information about drug production and sale licences either. At first glance, the photocopy of a licence that he produced appeared fake. He was handed over to the Samta Nagar police station where an FIR was registered the same day and Mukherjee was arrested,” said the FDA officer. Another FIR was registered at Vanrai police station in Goregaon East.
Inquiries took a police team to Meerut in UP where they zeroed in on Sandeep Mishra, an employee of a pharma lab, who was allegedly manufacturing spurious Favipiravir tablets, and his associate who was helping to pack them. “A sample was tested and they were confirmed to be fake,” said senior inspector Anand Hake, Samta Nagar police.
Mishra and Mukherjee have been booked under the Indian Penal Code and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. More arrests are likely.
Earlier this month, Gujarat FDA had seized fake Favipravir tablets that had even been listed on an online pharmacy store and were being sold for Rs 1,096 per strip. The fake drug was found to be nothing but starch after tests were conducted. A number of local stores in three Gujarat cities were selling the tablets.