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Medicine bar on hospital junior doctors

The authorities have stumbled upon a nexus between a section of doctors and medical representatives at M.R. Bangur Hospital, which forced patients to buy over-priced drugs from chemists in the Tollygunge area.

A complaint from a patient’s relative has led the authorities to impose norms that make it difficult for junior doctors, who handle the bulk of duty at the indoor and outpatients’ departments, to prescribe medicines not available within the hospital.

Officially, however, the new rules are meant only to help patients get better treatment. “Nothing much should be read into the recent circular,” said hospital superintendent Debasis Haldar. “It’s just part of our efforts to make things easier for the common man,” he added.

But, officials unwilling to be quoted admit they have discovered a racket involving the sale of over-priced drugs. These are manufactured by local firms — mostly based in the suburban belt of South 24-Parganas, like Sonarpur and Baruipur — and cost almost double the drugs manufactured by better-known firms, say the officials.

Medical representatives from the local firms hang around the hospital and on the campus, requesting doctors to “keep their products in mind” while prescribing drugs. The doctors, senior health department officials said, get anything between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of the cost of the drugs. Though most doctors are not involved, those who form a part of the racket make anything between Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000 every month, say officials.

The recent case which led to the bust involved a surgery wing house-staff who prescribed a locally-made antibiotic that cost around Rs 100 for every packet of 10 capsules. The patient’s relative (both prefer to remain anonymous) could not find it in the shops, but was offered another brand generically similar to the prescribed drug by a chemist.

This drug, however, was rejected by the doctor, forcing the patient’s relative to go to another chemists’ on Prince Anwar Shah Road. The owner of the shop gave him the correct picture, after which he lodged a complaint with the authorities.

The hospital authorities last Thursday asked the house-staff for an explanation. After admonishing him, they drew up a list of rules. The most important of them asks junior doctors to prescribe, as far as possible, drugs available in the hospital. “If some other medicines are required, the visiting physician will have to be consulted,” asserted superintendent Haldar.

The patients are, however, in a spot. The hospital depends heavily on its junior doctors and they now say the new rules will affect — besides the corrupt among them — patients as well.

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