The state health departments efforts to set up fair price medicine shops in some state-run hospitals has evoked criticism as the government has allegedly failed to provide a detailed guideline on prices of the medicines to be sold at these shops.
A government order issued on March 19 stated that the state had decided to establish fair price medicine shops at 20 hospitals – SSKM,Calcutta Medical College,Calcutta National Medical College,Sagar Dutta Medical College,and district hospitals in Malda,North Bengal,Burdwan,Midnapore,Bankura,Jhargram,Barasat,Hooghly,Suri,Purulia,Raiganj,Jalpiaguri,Darjeeling,Asansol,Bishnupur and Arambagh.
The shops,to be run round-the-clock by Gluconate India Private Limited,will sell 263 generic medicines including anti-cancer drugs,important combination drugs,orthopedic and cardiovascular implants and medical consumables. The hospitals were told to find a 1,500 sqft area inside the campus to set up the shops.
Senior health officials,however,said the department had not framed guidelines on the price of the medicines in the shops. There is a chance that high-cost medicines will be sold to get a high commission. For example,paracetamol tablets are sold at Rs 1-3. Without guidelines,the shop owners can sell paracetamol tablets of Rs 3 instead of Rs 1. Moreover,it is difficult to keep 263 generic medicines at fair medicine shops as all anti-cancer drugs cannot be found in generic names. Therefore,experts suggested the government should introduce uniform pricing of generic drugs.
Doctors of CPM-backed associations described the move as a political gimmick. They demanded reissuance of the order.
Dr Asit Biswas,spokesperson of the health department,admitted there is a chance that shop owners could keep costly generic medicines,but efforts were being taken to see that people get medicines at fair prices.