The practice of private hospitals compelling patients to buy medicines only from their in-house pharmacies at “inflated prices” has come under the judicial scanner with the Supreme Court seeking a response on Monday from the Centre and states on why it should not be banned.
A bench of Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao agreed to hear a PIL filed by Vijay Pal Dalmia, alleging that he had to pay more than Rs 20,000 more for each Biceltis injection purchased from the hospital when Dalmia’s wife was being treated for breast cancer.
They alleged that they were not allowed to get the medicine from outside where it was cheaper, and challenged the practice of “fleecing and looting” of patients by private hospitals.
“These acts of financial malpractices by hospitals all over India are against humanity, morality and the right of the citizens to live a dignified and respectable life, and the fact that it is also obligatory on the governments to provide the best and affordable healthcare to citizens. Such practices by hospitals… are against public health, right to live a dignified and healthy life, and public interest and morality,” the petition said.
Govt has ignored interest of patients: PIL
The petitioners alleged that they decided to file the PIL only after getting first-hand experience of “an organised methodology for looting and fleecing” of patients by hospitals by compelling them to buy medicines only from pharmacies within the hospital premises at highly inflated prices in collaboration and connivance with drug manufacturers.
They said the hospital charged Rs 61,132 for one Biceltis injection, while the same medicine by the same firm was being sold in the open market at a discounted rate of Rs 50,000. Besides, on purchase of four injections from the open market, one injection was given free of cost, bringing down the effective cost per injection to around Rs 41,000, they contended. “Direct governments to ban hospitals from compelling patients to mandatorily buy medicines from hospitals and hospital pharmacies only at MRP or manipulated and artificially inflated prices… when the medicines are available at lesser and heavily discounted prices in the open market,” the petition said.
“The governments, despite knowing all these malpractices adopted by hospitals all over India, have shut their eyes and totally ignored the interest of the patients, which they are bound to protect as they have complete power and authority over the hospitals,” the petition said.