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Drug price order

New Delhi, Oct. 3 (PTI): The Supreme Court today asked the Centre not to alter the existing pricing system for essential medicines after fears that such a change could lead to a steep hike in prices.

“We make it clear that the government should not alter the price system as notified on July 13, 1999, and similar subsequent notifications,” a bench headed by Justice G.S. Singhvi said while granting seven days to the Centre to decide on the pricing of essential medicines.

The bench said it had to intervene because it was concerned about the issue. “We are directly concerned about it. The court does not run the government, but it steps in only when required,” the bench said. The matter will be heard again on October 9.

The Centre told the court that the recommendations, made by a group of ministers, would soon be placed before the cabinet for the final decision.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed in 2003 by the All India Drug Action Network and others that had complained that only 78 drugs were placed under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995, taking the rest of the medicines beyond the reach of the common man.

During the last hearing, the petitioner’s counsel had expressed apprehensions that the proposed drug policy might lead to a steep hike in prices of essential medicines.

During the last hearing, the Supreme Court had asked the government to ensure that prices did not “escalate” and burden the common man.