thousands of vials of fake remdesivir during a bust. A tipster led them to a factory where they recovered 3,371 vials that were filled with glucose, water and salt.

Many other doses had already been sold and maybe even put into patients’ bodies, the Gujarat police said, posing a public health risk of unknown scale.

Those who turn to the black market often know they are taking a gamble.

Anirudh Singh Rathore, a 59-year-old cloth trader in New Delhi, was desperately seeking remdesivir for his ill wife, Sadhna. He acquired two vials at the government-mandated price of about $70 each. He needed four more.

Through social media, he found a seller willing to part with four more vials for about five times that price. First, two arrived. When the second two were delivered, he noticed the packaging was different from the first batch. They had been made by different companies, the seller explained.

The Rathores had their doubts, but Sadhna’s oxygen levels were dropping and they were desperate. Mr. Rathore said they gave the doses to the doctors, who injected them without being able to determine whether they were real or fake. On May 3, Ms. Rathore died.

Mr. Rathore filed a police report and one of the sellers was arrested, he said, but he has been racked with guilt.

“I have the regret that probably my wife would have been saved if those injections were original,” he said, adding that the police had sent the vials to be tested.

“People are using the crisis period for their own benefit,” Mr. Rathore said. “This is a moral crisis.”

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