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Panel to probe hike in drug purchase price

The government will set up a committee to find out why medicines are being purchased for state-run hospitals and health centres at a higher rate.

Bihar Medical Services and Infrastructure Corporation Ltd, an undertaking of the health department, has, since March, been given the responsibility to fix rates for medicines, purchase them and distribute them to the government health hubs. The rates fixed are higher than that set by the State Health Society, Bihar. (See chart)

The medicines are purchased from the same companies as before. The decision to form a panel to probe the reasons for fixing a higher rate was taken at a meeting on Tuesday.

A senior officer in the health department said: “We discussed how the rates of medicines were varying so much. The officials of Bihar Medical Services and Infrastructure Corporation Ltd have been asked to calculate why there has been so much difference in the rates approved by them and the State Health Society, Bihar. An investigation team would be soon formed to inquire into the matter.”

When The Telegraph contacted Tripurari Sharan, the general manager (finance) of Bihar Medical Services and Infrastructure Corporation Ltd, he rubbished allegations of irregularities.

He said: “Many companies had stopped sending medicines on the rate fixed by the State Health Society, Bihar. It shows they were not happy with the rates. Many of them had even conveyed to us that they were not getting any profit based on the old rate. This was one of the reasons for the rate revision. Second, the rates were increased because of the rupee’s depreciation by around 30 per cent against the dollar. Most of the raw materials are brought from foreign countries and that is why the price of the medicines has shot up. The composition of the some of the medicines we have purchased are also different from the medicines purchased by the State Health Society, Bihar.”

Sources said the State Health Society, Bihar, used to fix the rate at which the medical college and hospitals had to purchase the medicines. Chief minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday at the inauguration of the three regional warehouses to store medicines said the responsibility was handed over to the Bihar Medical Services and Infrastructure Corporation Ltd as there were problems in the earlier system. He said heads of the state-run hospitals were not showing interest in purchasing medicines because they feared vigilance inquiry in case of failure in any step.

Sources said the Bihar Medical Services and Infrastructure Corporation Ltd was also assigned the task as State Health Society, Bihar, was already saddled with other projects and there was a need for a dedicated body to purchase and distribute the medicines.

In the new system, the undertaking of the health department distributes the medicines to the medical college and hospitals and the district-level hospitals after purchasing the drugs on their own.

However, the difference in the two rates varies from 40 per cent to 400 per cent, sources said. Some of the medicines whose rates vary to a great extent are iron folic acid tablet and syrup, dicyclomine hydrochloride tablet, lignocaine injection and cough suppressant syrup.

A drug inspector said prime facie it seems there has been irregularities on the part of the undertaking’s officials. “There can be no justification for the difference in the rate to be 400 per cent higher from before. I have been told that the corporation purchased some of the medicines from the same company. So how could the difference be so high?”

State drug controller Hemant Kumar Sinha, joint secretary, health, Sanjay Kumar, director-in-chief, health, Surendra Prasad and general manager (finance), Bihar Medical Services and Infrastructure Corporation Ltd, Tripurari Sharan were among the officials who attended the meeting on Tuesday where the decision to form the committee was taken.