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SC notice to govt for discount on drugs

New Delhi, Dec. 18: The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre on a PIL urging that medicines, surgical implants and devices be made available at a discount of 56 per cent on retail prices throughout the country on the lines of the AIIMS model.

A bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhya sought the Centre’s response on the PIL filed by one Avishek Goenka saying such a directive was necessary in view of the skyrocketing prices of drugs and implants, which are beyond the reach of the common man.

The PIL said it was essential to protect citizen’s rights to equality (Article 14) and life (Article 21) as there were no “credible policies” of the Centre and states to make medicines, surgical implants and devices affordable at government hospitals and funded/subsidised medical centres.

“The governments at both Centre and states have failed the citizens by being unable to incorporate and deploy an innovative and self-sustainable model which can address the problem of high prices of health care inputs, particularly medicines and surgical inputs — which are needed by almost every citizen of the nation,” the petition said.

According to the petitioner, such a model was in place at AIIMS, which ensured the availability of specified medicines and surgical inputs at a 56 per cent discount on MRP by incorporating a hefty bank guarantee from the seller.

“The entire process is incorporated by floating tender in the most transparent manner. The entire system is accountable, backed by guarantee (should the seller default on performance). India, being a country with a vast population having varied economic status, there is without doubt room for existence of multiple models to deliver social good, and no single model can deliver all the intended welfares,” the petitioner said.

The petition cited various reports to claim that an effective medicare system was essential in India where there was only one operation theatre for a lakh people. In contrast, east European countries have an average of 25 OTs for the same number of people.

The petitioner urged the apex court to direct the authorities concerned to ensure that “medicines, surgical inputs, implants and prosthetic devices are available at discounted rates to the majority of citizens of the nation at all health and other facilities, which are owned, partially funded or subsidised in any manner, by the central or state governments or by their affiliated bodies.

“Make it mandatory for doctors practising individually or in any category of health centre (public or private or public-private partnership) to prescribe both generic as well as branded medicines.”

The petition also urged the Centre to study and evaluate the discount model followed by AIIMS and appoint an expert committee that can in a time-bound manner help implement it.