SC notice to Centre, states on in-house pharmacies

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the Centre, states and Union Territories on a PIL alleging patients are compelled to buy medicines from the in-house pharmacy stores of hospitals and are prevented from buying them in the open market.

A bench of Justice S.A. Bobde and Justice Nageswara Rao issued the notice to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the governments of all states and Union Territories.

The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by practising lawyer Vijay Pal Dalmia contended that patients admitted in private hospitals are being made to suffer considerable financial losses through the forced purchase of drugs from in-house pharmacies.

These stores sell drugs at a much higher price than other stores that usually offer discounts over MRP (maximum retail price), Dalmia said.

He sought directions to the governments to ban this malpractice and protect the interests of the buyers of medicines, medical devices and implants and medical consumables.

The advocate said as of now, “there is no law or policy framework” to prevent the misuse, fleecing and looting by hospitals, and the governments have left the people in the unscrupulous hands and repressive regime of the hospitals.

“Ban the hospitals and hospital pharmacies from compelling the patients to mandatorily buy medicines from hospitals and the hospital pharmacies only at MRP or manipulated and artificially inflated prices for profiteering also from sale of medicines, when the medicines are available at lesser and heavily discounted prices in the open market from the medical shops, retailers, dealers and distributors duly licensed and regulated by the Drug Control Department of state and central governments,” stated the plea.

The governments, despite knowing all these malpractices adopted by hospitals all over India, have shut their eyes and totally ignored the interest of the patients which they are bound to protect, it added.

It said these acts of financial malpractices are “against the humans, humanity, morality and the right of the citizens to live a dignified and respectable life”, adding that it is also obligatory on the governments to provide best and affordable healthcare to the citizens.

The advocate also said the governments should ensure that notice boards are put up at appropriate and prominent places in the hospitals and the hospital pharmacies that the patients and their attendants have the choice to purchase medicines from the vendor of their choice including the hospital pharmacy.

The advocate said his wife is suffering from breast cancer and the hospital where she is being treated has given a medicine at an MRP of about Rs 61,132, whereas the medicine manufactured and marketed by the same company is being sold in the open market at a discounted rate of Rs 50,000 for each injection.

Also, on the purchase of four injections, one injection is being given free of cost to the patient, thereby bringing the effective cost to Rs 41,000 for each injection.

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