New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday reserved its order on a PIL seeking its direction to the Centre to make available generic medicines and medical treatment to the public at a reasonable cost.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, after hearing the submissions of the petitioner NGO's counsel, said the court would consider it.
"We will consider it and will pass an order on the basis of material placed before the court," the bench said.
NGO Fight For Human Rights's advocate KR Chitra submitted that there was no regulatory authority to ensure that medical device firms do not overcharge patients and non-availability of medicines at affordable rates is a violation of fundamental rights.
The counsel argued that majority of Indian population is living below the poverty line and they are not in a position to purchase branded medicines at high cost.
"India has strong capability to produce generic medicines in almost all the therapeutic categories. India is one of the world's largest exporters of generic drugs to over 200 countries, including the highly regulated markets of US, Europe, Japan and Australia and hence respondent no 1 (Union of India) is bound to make available generic medicines on a largescale throughout India...," Chitra, who is also one of the trustee of the NGO, said.
It has also arrayed Union of India and Medical Council of India (MCI) as parties in the matter.
During the hearing, counsel for the government, said there are stores in Delhi where generic medicines are available and when the need arises, more such stores are opened.
Counsel appearing for MCI also said the council has taken out a circular asking medical practitioners to prescribe generic medicines to the patients, as far as possible. The petition added that generic medicines do not entail heavy expenditure on brand promotion and can be sold at comparatively lower margins. Such medicines are encouraged by governments in most of the countries and common people find them affordable and within their reach.
The petition said that according to an RTI reply, it has been found that 'Jan Aushadhi Scheme' is not being implemented effectively and urgent directions of this court are very necessary to make available medical treatment to the general public at a reasonable cost.
"The petitioner is filing instant petition in public interest highlighting the plight of citizens of India especially poor people who suffer due to non-availability of generic medicines, unethical practise of doctors, hospitals, drug manufacturers and absence of regulations on the part of the government to check prices of drugs and medical devices and equipment," it said.
The petition sought direction to MCI to initiate penal action against doctors who indulge in "unethical and medical malpractice" under Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002.
"Over the years, India has developed a strong capability in producing generic medicines in almost all the therapeutic categories. These medicines are being sold mostly as branded medicines with high brand promotion and marketing expenditure which pushes up the retail price of these medicines," it said.
The PIL alleged that no serious steps have been taken to implement the measures envisaged by the government like price control of essential medicines, making available generic medicines and giving wide publicity regarding its benefits and availability to the poor people.
It also said there are very few Jan Aushadhi stores operational in different parts of India and they are inadequate to meet the demands of vast majority of poor population.