Second wave sees rise in oxygen usage, Remdesivir not critical

Remdesivir was used only because there was no other anti-viral drug available to treat Covid-19, he said.

Indian Council of Medical Research director general Dr Balram Bhargava said on Monday the second wave had seen oxygen usage go up with 54.5% of patients needing it in the March-April 2021 period compared to 41.1% in September-November 2020.

The number of symptomatic patients reporting shortness of breath has increased to 47.5% at present from 41.7% during the first wave, Bhargava said, adding supply of oxygen needs to ramped up. However, the use of ventilators had come down during the second wave. The fatality rates at present is 9.7% compared to 9.6% in the first wave.

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The government played down the role of Remdesivir in Covid-19 treatment and suggested a more judicious use of the drug. Vinod K Paul, member, health, Niti Aayog, said Remdesivir was given an emergency use authorisation and was an investigational therapy. It was not a magic bullet to treat Covid-19 and was not to be treated liked an antibiotic and given to patients at home, Paul said. Remdesivir is not a critical medicine but it had some benefits so there was no need to panic about its availability, Paul added. He expected supply of Remdesivir to go from 27 lakh vials to 40 lakh vials and reach 76 lakh vials shortly. Remdesivir supply got affected as a lull in the cases had led to a drop in production, he said.

Dr Randeep Guleria, director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said timing of giving the Remdesivir drug was important and giving it early or late would be harmful to the patients. Guleria also said the drug did not decrease mortality but only reduced hospital stay by a few days. Remdesivir was used only because there was no other anti-viral drug available to treat Covid-19, he said.

Paul also refuted reports that said the second wave had hit the younger population in the country. The government study based on data of 9,485 in-patients across 40 centres in the country compared the first wave in September-November 2020 with the second wave in March-April 2021. The study showed that 70% of patients were above 40 years and older population continued to be more vulnerable. The number of people below 30 years who were infected was at 31% in the first wave and had gone up marginally to 32% in the second way. People affected in the 30 to 40 years remained the same at 21%. The number of infected people infected in the 0 to 19 yeas had gone up from 4.2% in the first phase to 5.8% in the second wave. In the 20 to 29 year group, positive cases was up to 25.5% now compared to 23.7% in the first phase.

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