Published on: 20 August 2023 at 13:20 IST
The Supreme Court has taken notice of a public interest litigation (PIL) petition, which aims to address the issue of medical professionals prescribing expensive brand-name medicines instead of more affordable generic drugs containing the same active ingredients in , Kishan Chand Jain V. Ethics and Medical Registration Board and Ors.
The petitioner asserts that advocating for generic drugs could alleviate financial stress on patients and enhance access to crucial medications.
Ensuring access to medicines is vital for effective healthcare and the realization of the ‘right to health.’ The affordability of medicines significantly contributes to healthcare delivery and optimal health outcomes.
The Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra heard the PIL filed by transparency activist Kishan Chand Jain. The petitioner seeks actions like disciplinary measures for non-compliance with generic drug prescriptions, establishing maximum retail prices for generic medicines, surprise checks on prescriptions, and disallowing trade names for off-patent drugs.
Kishan Chand Jain highlights the economic benefits of generic drugs, which are identical in composition to branded medications but come without a specific brand name, making them more cost-effective. Generic drugs can cost 50 to 90 percent less than their branded counterparts, making them more accessible and affordable to a wider population.
The PIL also underscores the need for effective enforcement mechanisms. The existing regulations, such as the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette, and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, emphasize the importance of prescribing drugs by their generic names to prevent exploitation.
However, the lack of robust enforcement mechanisms has hindered practical implementation, allowing these regulations to remain mostly on paper. It was argues that bodies responsible for enforcing these regulations have failed in their duty, leading to negative consequences for marginalized groups and contributing to a healthcare crisis.
The absence of provisions for setting maximum retail prices for generic versions of medicines also leads to arbitrary pricing. The petitioner draws on a Rajasthan High Court ruling and a recent Supreme Court judgment, both highlighting the right to affordable medical treatment as a fundamental right linked to the Indian Constitution’s Article 21.
The National Medical Commission (NMC) has issued new guidelines, requiring doctors to prescribe drugs using generic names to ensure rational prescription practices. Non-compliance could result in penalties or even license suspension.