The aspiring lawyer has taken on medical institutes for forcing people to purchase medicines from their in-house pharmacies, often at inflated rates or at the maximum retail price (MRP), when they have the option to buy them from drugstores in the open market that give discounts.

On a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Jindal Global Law School student Siddharth Dalmia with help from his advocate father Vijay Pal Dalmia, the Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the union health ministry and all states, asking why such a practice that involves fleecing poor patients cannot be banned.

The petitioner also wants notice boards to be put up at appropriate and prominent places in all private hospitals and their in-house pharmacies, saying patients and their attendants are free to purchase medicines, medical devices and implants and medical consumables from the vendor of their choice. Siddharths mother Neelam was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in July 2017 for which she had to undergo surgery.

This was followed by six sessions of chemotherapy, 20 of radiotherapy and 17 of adjuvant chemotherapy (where a combination of procedures are used), which are still continuing. As part of the treatment, every 21 days she had to be given antibody injections for which the hospitals pharmacy charged `61,132 per shot.

The family was already strained by the fact that the treatment thus far had cost `15 lakh, and the total estimate was more than `35 lakh. One day, to his shock, Siddharth realised that the injection for which he was being charged `61,132, was being sold in the open market at a discounted rate of `50,000, and there was an additional offer too. On purchase of four injections, one was being given free as contribution towards the patient support programme by the company, bringing the effective cost of each shot to `40,000.

The first seven injections were given by the hospital at `61,132 each and they never offered any free ones like other companies on buying a specified number. After immense persuasion involving three visits and threats of legal action, the permission was finally granted by the hospital for purchase of injection from the open market, despite the fact that the treating doctor had made the recommendation to allow this, Siddharth said.

I decided to move the SC as during the course of the treatment, I realised that there is an inflated artificial prices in collaboration and connivance the drug manufacturers.

Hospital pharmacies sell only at MRP or manipulated and artificially inflated prices for profiteering, when the drugs are available at cheaper and heavily discounted prices in the open market from chemist shops, retailers, dealers and distributors that are duly licensed and regulated by the drugs control department of state and central governments, said Siddharths PIL.

Centre and states, despite knowing all these malpractices adopted by the hospitals all over India, have shut their eyes and totally ignored the interest of the patients, which they are bound to protect as the government has complete power and authority over these hospitals, the plea said.

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