SC notice to Centre, states on high medicine cost

The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the Centre and all states on a plea seeking a ban on the practice of private hospitals fleecing patients by forcing them to buy medicines from their own pharmacies with an inflated price.

The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the Centre and all states on a plea seeking a ban on the practice of private hospitals fleecing patients by forcing them to buy medicines from their own pharmacies with an inflated price.

A bench of Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao issued a notice to the Union government and all states on a writ petition filed by Sidharth Dalmia, a law student, and his advocate-father Vijay Pal Dalmia.

The petitioners sought directions to ensure that appropriate notice boards were put at prominent places in the hospitals and the pharmacies that the patients and their attendants were free to purchase medicines, medical devices, implants and other consumables from the vendor of their choice, including the hospital pharmacy.

"The government has become a silent spectator and collaborator in the fraud being perpetuated by hospitals on people from different financial backgrounds and strata of life, thereby becoming a party to the violation of the rights, including the right to life, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution," they said.

Though the medicines are available at lesser and heavily discounted prices in the open market from the medical shops, as per regulation by the drug control department of state and central governments, there was no law or policy framework to prevent the "misuse, fleecing and looting by hospitals", they claimed, adding the governments have left the people in the unscrupulous hands and the regressive regime of these hospitals.

Medical insurance coverage in India is between 3 and 4 %, which means a major chunk of patients pay inflated medical bills from their own pockets.

The health profile of India report stated that 75% of patients, who visited private hospitals, settled medical bills from their household income or life savings. Another 18% borrowed money from private lenders to pay medical bills.

Vijay's mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, was made to spend Rs 15 lakh for the treatment, which included highly inflated prices of medicine and injections.

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SC notice to Centre, states on high medicine cost

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