NEW DELHI: Faced with the whopping cost of medicines for treating his ailing mother, a law intern today moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction to ban hospitals and their in-house pharmacies from compelling patients to mandatorily buy medicines from them at inflated prices.
The top court agreed to examine the plea jointly filed by the law student and his advocate father, alleging that the prices of medicines, medical devices and medical consumables were inflated in collaboration and connivance with the drug manufacturers.
A bench of Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao issued notice and sought reply from Centre and all states on the matter in four weeks.
Advocate Vijay Pal Dalmia, the joint petitioner with son Siddharth Dalmia, appeared in person and said by taking advantage of the ignorance, their plight and adverse circumstances of the patients in hospitals across India, people were being compelled to buy medicines from there or their in-house pharmacies.
Highlighting the problems faced during the treatment of his mother who was last year diagnosed with breast cancer, the law student in his plea said she had to undergo surgery, which was to be followed by six rounds of chemotherapy and other treatments along with Biceltis injections every 21 days.
During the course of treatment, it came to their notice that Biceltis injection was sold to them at an MRP of Rs 61,132, while the same medicine manufactured and marketed by the same company was being sold in the open market at a discounted rate of Rs.50,000.
Besides, on the purchase of four injections, one injection was given free of cost to the patient towards the patients' support programme by the company.
The plea said that by giving a free injection, the effective cost per injection came to around Rs 41,000, but it was being sold at an MRP of Rs.61,132.
He said the entire treatment till now has incurred a cost of Rs 15 lakh and the total estimate of complete treatment will be around Rs 30 lakh.
Dalmia said the hospital and their in-house pharmacies did not give them the free injection, being offered by the medicine company, and they, for the first time, realised the existence of an organized methodology adopted by the hospitals, nursing homes and healthcare institutions for "fleecing and looting" patients by compelling to buy medicines only from them.
"These acts of financial malpractices by the hospitals all over India are against the humans, humanity, morality and the right of the citizens of India to live a dignified and respectable life, and the fact that it is also obligatory on the Respondents to provide best and affordable health care to the citizens of India," the plea said.
It said such practices by the hospitals, which were under the immediate control of the Centre and state governments, were against public health, right to live a dignified and healthy life, and public interest and morality.
The plea said that these hospitals and in-house pharmacies gave no choice or opportunity to the patients and their attendants to buy medicines from other licensed and authorised pharmacies, retailers, dealers and distributors from the open market.
It said while part of the treatment cost of the mother of the Petitioner was covered by insurance, the prohibitive cost was "nightmarish" and cannot be afforded by a common Indian, who may be a person belonging to below poverty line, poor class, lower middle class, middle class and even the higher-middle class.
The plea sought direction that the patients and their attendants shall be free to have the choice of purchasing medicines, medical devices and implants and medical consumables from the vendors of their choice and hospitals cannot compel them to buy them only from their pharmacies.
It also sought direction to the Centre and all the States to ban such malpractices and protect the interests of the buyers of the medicines, medical devices and implants and medical consumables.