Court asks HP to regulate prices of life-saving drugs

The Himachal Pradesh High Court has directed state government to set up a committee of experts to prepare uniform guidelines for regulating minimum retail prices of life-saving essential drugs.

The court also endorsed the suggestion of Advocate General Shrawan Dogra about making it mandatory for the retailers of the medicines to display a comparative list of the medicines with prices for the benefit of the patients.

"We direct the Principal Secretary (Health) to the government of Himachal Pradesh to constitute a committee for this by January 31, 2013.We hope that such committee can give its recommendations by March 15," the court ordered.

A division bench comprising Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjay Karol passed the directions on Friday on a petition filed by Amandeep Chauhan, a local citizen seeking court's directions to state and central governments to make essential drugs available to the patients at reasonable prices.

The bench set-up a 13-member committee of experts including doctors of the Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital in Shimla and the Rajendra Prasad Medical College, Tanda in Kangra district for seeking guidance on availability and identification of cheap medicines, which could be sold at the retail shops including those run by Roji Kalyana Samitis.

The court also issued notices to the state government and Baddi-based pharma companies to file a reply stating what steps they were taking to ensure that drugs were available at the minimum costs.

During the hearing the bench drew a comparison on some drugs like Atorvastatin, used for heart ailments saying the drug manufactured by Hetero Labs Ltd and marketed by Gen X Pharma Ltd under the brand name of GenxVast cost Rs.12 for a pack of 10 tablets of 10 mg each. The same manufacturer's drug marketed under brand name Lilo by Glaxo SmithKline cost Rs 33.75 for a pack of 10 tablets of 10 mg each.

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