Reality bites as hospitals run out of anti-snake venom

Plea in Supreme Court halts local production; drug may be imported

Acute shortage of anti-snake venom (ASV) vials in the State-run and private hospitals in the City has pushed the government to look beyond the country’s shores. It is now contemplating importing the ASV vials.

Snake bite cases are on the rise with summer setting in and the shortage can prove disastrous.

Mariam Daha, 48, died from snake bite late on Tuesday night, after she accidentally stepped on a Russell’s viper that was crawling in her garden in Vidyamanya Nagar in Andrahalli near Peenya. She was rushed to Unity Lifeline Hospital in Nagarabhavi, but the hospital did not have ASV injections. Daha was referred to Panacea Hospital, where too there were no injections. She died in the hospital.

These hospitals receive at least two cases of snake bite in a month and for the past six months, they have not been able to procure the ASV vials due to lack of availability.
Following complaints about shortage of the anti-snake venom at hospitals, Deccan Herald reporters visited Victoria Hospital.

Those manning the pharmacy and emergency department said that anti-snake venom was not available. A duty doctor advised that if there was an emergency, the same could be obtained from St John’s Medical College Hospital. However, when contacted, Victoria Hospital medical superintendent P K Devdas said that the hospital did have anti-snake venom.

The Karnataka State Drugs Logistics and Warehousing Society (KSDLWS), which supplies drugs to all government hospitals, primary health centres and BBMP health centres, too has not been able to procure ASVs for the past six months. Dr Sridhar Murthy, chief supervisor, KSDLWS, admitted that there was severe shortage of ASV vials in hospitals. “We have informed the government about the problem in procuring ASVs. We have put forth a proposal before the government to import the ASV vials in the coming days. Hopefully, we should procure them.” said Murthy.

According to sources, an animal rights organisation has filed a petition before the Supreme Court, questioning the manufacturing of anti-snake venom, which is produced using venom from snakes and this has hit production. Companies like Serum Institute, Pune, Vins Biotech, Hyderabad, and Hoffkins Institute, Mumbai, supply these vials.

Neetu Sharma, a resident of Uttarahalli, said she had been visiting hospitals in her locality hoping to find the ASV, but in vain.

“We live in that part of the City where snakes are our daily visitors. We cannot run from one hospital to another during the golden hour. I hoped to find one hospital where I could rush in case of an emergency, but that was not to be.”

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