THE MEDICINES being sold at different prices is a “cause of concern” and the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) will initiate efforts to provide maximum benefits to patients, PGI’s top administrative official has told Chandigarh Newsline.
The comments have come days after a CNL investigation showed how the prices of four frequently prescribed medicines vary widely at five different chemist shops located on the PGI campus. Not only that, the price of the same brand is sold at a much higher price at private pharmacies in PGI than at chemists outside the campus.
Asked about the differences in the cost of medicines as highlighted by CNL earlier this week, PGI’s Deputy Director Administration (DDA) Amitabh Avasthi said on Friday that “the rates at which medicines are being sold at different prices is a cause of concern”. “This is an issue for everyone and at PGI, we cannot say we are an exception to it. To tackle this issue, we need to understand the problem, which is not at the local level. It is at national level because the price discovery mechanism is not decided by PGI. It (prices) is not decided by the authorities who allot shops at PGI to chemists which is through tender process and other mechanisms,” stated Avasthi.
He stated that the price control was being done at the central level and the mechanism needs to be “strengthened” so that people across the city, country and PGI get medicines at a uniform price. Avasthi further stated that now that the issue (cost of medicine) has been flagged to the institute administration, the institute will take it up with the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) and drug control authorities.
“Right now at PGI what we can do is in future allotments, we may increase the mandatory discount which is in the tender document. Right now, PGI is saying that any chemist has to give a minimum of 15 per cent discount to the customer. In our tender document in times to come, when the next tender is due, we will enhance this limit of discount so that people are likely to get medicines at cheaper rates. We will increase the discount so that there is some relief for the patients,” informed Avasthi.
On the lack of information system for the patients about the chemists available at the institute, the DDA said that “the information system will be put in place so that each patient and their family members know in any particular building, who all chemist outlets are available”. “It is then up to the patients to decide from where they want to purchase the medicines,” he said.
Asked about PGI’s plan to open its own pharmacy, Avasthi said the institute wants to provide more options to the patients. “It means that the patients will have a wide range of options. There will be private chemists, Government of India’s Amrit and Jan Ashaudi and our own proposed pharmacy.”
On a question about PGI’s preferring revenue (through rent of chemist shops) over patient benefit, Avasthi said “a balanced act has to be carried out”. “We are getting an annual revenue of Rs 100-150 crores out of the estate department and the shops that have been rented out throughout the campus, which also forms part of the annual budget. The Government of India has time and again told institutes like us to become more and more self-reliant financially…but yes at the same time like PGI, we cannot one-sidedly think only about earning revenue through these sources.”
Avasthi also pointed out that apart from offering increase in the discount percentage at chemist shops, the institute would actively consider opening more shops in that area(Emergency). “We can always have a government outlet in that area…although it is likely to reduce some revenue. Yet the fact remains we will earn some revenue as well and the rates of the medicine can be reduced further,” he said.
The PGI has already announced that they will form a committee to examine the entire matter. Sources said the institute has already finalised the names of committee members and Dr G D Puri, head of the Department of Anaesthesia, is likely to be made chairman of the committee.