The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday said that the medicines for patients should be available at “cheap rates” but instead “people are being fleeced like anything”. A division bench of High Court during the hearing of a PIL also made a mention of the Chandigarh Newsline investigation on arbitrary pricing of medicines being sold by different pharmacists at PGIMER and observed that the doctors should prescribe only generic drugs.
During the hearing of the PIL seeking directions that the private hospitals should be restrained from overcharging on medicines and forcing the patients to make purchases only from the shops located within their premises, the division bench of Justices Ajay Kumar Mittal and Anupinder Singh Grewal took serious note of the matter and gave the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) two weeks’ time to respond to the PIL.
“They are fleecing people like anything. Everybody is thinking in terms of money only,” the division bench observed after it was informed that the PIL does not involve the issue of medicines being sold at higher rates than the MRP but same medicines being sold at different prices under different brand names.
The PIL had been filed by Dr Sandeep Kumar Gupta, who is a scientist at Veterinary College Hissar, in March. In his plea, he also sought directions for an inquiry into the amount being overcharged by the hospitals. The division bench observed that the state governments of Punjab and Haryana, which have also been impleaded as respondents in the case, cannot do anything about the pricing as the same is determined by the central authorities.
While referring to the Newsline investigation, the division bench said that a news item has also appeared about medicines being sold at different prices at PGIMER. Deputy Advocate General, Punjab, Shireesh Gupta said that the news report has revealed that a single medicine is being sold at five different prices by the pharmacists at PGIMER.
“They should prescribe generic medicine only,” the division bench observed, adding that they have also “heard” that the doctors are being given offers by the pharmaceutical companies to prescribe their medicine. However, the division bench added that it is not only about PGIMER but all hospitals including private institutes.
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Observing that private hospitals “are not commercial shops”, the division bench asserted that it will take such hospitals to task which are seen overcharging the patients. The bench noted that they are already hearing two cases of similar nature involving two private hospitals.