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SC admits Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking action against doctors for non-prescription of generic medicines

New Delhi :The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Padriwala, and Justice Manoj Mishra has admitted the PIL filed by an Agra-based lawyer Adv K C Jain seeking stringent disciplinary actions by the Ethics and Medical Registration Board, as well as the State Medical Councils, against registered medical practitioners (RMP) who do not prescribe generic alternatives to branded names. The writ petition also calls for a mechanism wherein the National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority establish a pricing mechanism that takes manufacturing costs into account while deciding the MRP of the medicines. The PIL states that this mechanism will ensure that the patients are not being overcharged or exploited by medical establishments relying on inflated MRPs.

The Supreme Court bench was initially hesitant to admit the petition and advised the petitioner to communicate their concerns to the Indian Medical Council. The petitioner informed the bench that the RMPs conduct is being regulated by the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002 which also emphasizes on prescribing generic drugs since 2002 but the said clause is not being implemented by the RMPs. After hearing the petitioner plea the bench formally admitted the petition and issued notices regarding the Writ Petition (Civil) 793 of 2023. The petitioner has emphasized in the petition that despite the Medical Council of India’s (MCI) guidelines requiring doctors to prescribe generic medicines since 2002, a span of 21 years, branded medicines are still commonly prescribed. This practice results in increased costs for patients compared to generic alternatives.

The petition also underscores the necessity of medicines for the right to life, but high costs restrict access for economically disadvantaged individuals. The petition cites MCI regulations from 2002 and subsequent communications advocating generic medicine prescriptions, as well as amendments made in 2016, emphasising the importance of doctors prescribing generic medicines. Despite these measures, the practice is not consistently followed nationwide.

The petition further highlights that only 20% of drugs fall under the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO), failing to address pricing for the remaining 80%. This situation forces patients to pay elevated prices for medicines.The petition points out that access to affordable medicines plays a pivotal role in ensuring effective healthcare delivery and upholding the right to health. The petition notes that generic medicines, containing the same active ingredients as branded versions but without the associated brand name, are often significantly more affordable, with price differences ranging from 50% to 90%.

The PIL raises concerns about the pricing of scheduled and non-scheduled drugs as per the DPCO. While scheduled drugs are subject to price control, non-scheduled drugs lack a fixed procedure for pricing, allowing manufacturing companies to set significantly higher MRPs. The petition calls for government intervention in regulating the prices of non-scheduled drugs. The matter is scheduled for the next hearing on October 6, 2023.

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeks the following directions from Supreme Court of IndiaStringent disciplinary actions against  doctors who do not prescribe generic alternatives to branded names.Mechanism wherein the National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority decides the MRP of the medicines considering its manufacturing cost to reduce the cost of medicines.