Medicines sold in market and supplied to hospitals at very different prices

Srinagar: An official document mentioning the rate list of various drugs procured for hospitals in Jammu & Kashmir shows shocking discrepancy between prices at which the drugs are bought for hospitals and prices at which they are sold in the retail market.
Patients and their families have to bear the brunt of this extra expense as several drugs and medicines, including life-saving ones, are often unavailable at hospitals and can only be bought at chemist shops in the retail market.

The official document accessed by Kashmir Reader lists several drugs and medicines, one of them being Ceftriaxone injection (1ml). It is supplied by the manufacturer to Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation Limited (JKMSCL) at a cost of Rs 14.10 but the patient has to pay Rs 85 for it under brand name Injection Kafi and Rs 55 for brand name Inj C-Tri.

A bottle of injection Mannitol 20% costs patients Rs 100 at shops, while the JKMSCL and hospitals get it for just Rs 18.05.
The injection Methyl Prednisolone Sodium Succinate (500ml) is available at Rs 126 to hospitals but is sold at Rs 653.66 under the brand name injection Steronex in the retail market.

The injection Oxaliplatin (50mg) is sold at Rs 2,200 under brand name ‘Oplatin’, almost ten times more than its hospital rate of Rs 273.
Similar is the case with medicines in tablet form. A strip of ten tablets of the common medicine Ofloxacin + Orinidazole (200mg + 500mg) are available at Rs 97 under brand name Tab Zil, while its wholesale rate is just Rs 17.

Another glaring example is Tab Imatinib (400mg), ten tablets of which are sold at MRP between Rs 2,100 and Rs 3,072 while their wholesale price approved by JKMSCL is Rs 193.87.

Mushtaq Ahmad Pukhta, a representative of pharma dealers and distributors in J&K, acknowledged that there is a vast price difference between drugs supplied to hospitals and those sold in the market. However, he justified the difference, saying, “Branded companies cover many expenses in the MRP, including research and marketing. The companies invest huge money on research and development, and marketing. They have to put it in the final MRP.”

When asked why companies offer commissions to doctors to prescribe particular drugs, Pukhta said that it is market strategy.
“I am not privy to any such practice but I can’ deny it also, as there have been several case in the past which created the perception that corruption is involved in pharma business,” he said, adding that the government should put strict regulation in place to curb such malpractice.

Deputy Drug Controller Irfana Ahmad told Kashmir Reader that her department has no mandate to regulate drug prices. However, she said, the department has been monitoring the market for any overpricing.
“The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority is the appropriate authority to look into the pricing. Our role is of enforcement,” she said.
She said the drug control department has in the past raided private clinics and chemist shops to check any violation of the Drug and Cosmetic Act.
“We have taken action against many people in the past for overcharging and wrong practice. We will continue to do so,” she said.


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