91 dead in R'than due to lack of snakebite antidote

Injections from free medicine scheme 'siphoned off'

Scarcity of anti-snake venom injections in government hospitals has claimed over 91 lives in the past six weeks across Rajasthan.

Several snakebite patients are battling for life in government hospitals in the state. But the state government seems to have no prompt solution to overcome the shortage of anti-snake venom (ASV) injections.

None of the government officials in the medical and health department was ready to give the exact figures of deaths, but at the same time they were not denying media reports of 91 deaths in state due to snake bite.

The increasing number of deaths has now become a political issue, drawing strong reactions from various quarters.

ASV injections are covered under the Chief Minister’s free medicine scheme, and are supposed to be provided free of cost in all government hospitals.

Sources said the government had reduced the price of ASV injections a few months ago, following which pharmaceutical companies reportedly reduced manufacturing and supply of injections to the government.

The sources said the shortage of injections is also due to delay by the health department in placing orders with the manufacturing companies. The previous orders were placed on August 28, and the companies were supposed to deliver the drug within 75 days.
Now the government is banking on outside companies and other states to get the injections.  
Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said she was unaware of the crises. She said Health Minister Rajendra Rathore is monitoring the issue and there is no need to worry.

Rathore said 83 injections have been arranged and more injections will be arranged soon.
“The matter was not brought to my notice. There is no need to panic. Eighty-three injections have been arranged and more will be arranged this week. Immediate action is being taken to procure the injections in the state,” he said.

He said a person in Jodhpur had filed a complaint that ASV injections meant for hospital use were being sold by private shops at a very high rate.

After investigations, two contract-based employees deputed at the counter for free medicines have been suspended. The probe will continue and culprits will not be spared, Rathore said.
The opposition Congress alleged that the state government is not serious about the free medicine scheme, as evident from the scarcity of ASV injections. The party also plans to raise the issue in the state Assembly.

“People are dying due to unavailability of medicines under the free medicine scheme. People dying of snakebite is a matter of shame. The government needs to take the issue seriously,” Rajasthan Congress spokesperson Archana Sharma said.

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