What to do if hospitals charge more for drugs?

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) is a governing body that fixes ceiling price of essential medicines Under the Drug Pricing Control Order (DPCO) 2013.

For medicines not under price control, manufacturers are allowed to increase the maximum retail price by 10% annually.

However, in February 2018, an analysis of bills from four reputed private hospitals in Delhi and NCR by the NPPA has revealed that they are making profits of up to 1,737% on drugs, consumables and diagnostics and that these three accounts for about 46% of a patient’s bill. If you are also one of the victims and don’t know what to do, read on….

Q. What is the “Drugs (Prices Control) Order (DPCO)”?

The Drugs Prices Control Order (DPCO), 1995 is an order issued by the Government of India under Sec. 3 of Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to regulate the prices of drugs. The Order interalia provides the list of price-controlled drugs, procedures for fixation of prices of drugs, method of implementation of prices fixed by Govt., penalties for contravention of provisions etc. For the purpose of implementing provisions of DPCO, powers of Govt. have been vested in NPPA. Later, the Drugs (Prices Control) Order (DPCO) 2013 was notified.

Q. Are all the drugs marketed in the country under price control?

No. The National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) 2011 is adopted as the primary basis for determining essentiality, which constitutes the list of scheduled medicines for the purpose of price control. The DPCO 2013 contains 680 scheduled drug formulations spread across 27 therapeutic groups. However, the prices of other drugs can be regulated, if warranted in public interest.

Q. What is NPPA and its role?

National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), was established on 29th August 1997 as an independent body of experts, formed under the decision of Cabinet committee during their Drug Policy review in September 1994.T he Authority, interalia, has been entrusted with the task of fixation/revision of prices of pharmaceutical products (bulk drugs and formulations), enforcement of provisions of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order and monitoring of the prices of controlled and decontrolled drugs in the country.

Q. What is the meaning of Maximum Retail Price or MRP?

Maximum Retail Price or MRP is the HIGHEST price at which the product can be sold in India. This includes the cost of production, transportation, middlemen profit and also all applicable taxes.

Q. What if there are two MRPs for the same product?

When shoppers and manufacturers forced to follow the strict rule of MRP pricing, they come up with the strategy of dual MRPs, to fool the customers. They create two MRPs for the same product. However, Government has devised a solution to this problem. Now the same product can’t be sold in a state with two MRP rates. Also, if you find two different MRPs for the same product, then the lowest price of that product is considered to be payable amount.

Q. Where to complain if charged over MRP?

As per the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 a complaint can be filed in-

  • # District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF)- If the value of the claim is up to Rs.20 lakh.

  • # State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC)- If the value of the claim exceeds Rs.20 lakhs but is within Rs.1 Crore.

  • # National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) – If the value of the claim exceeds Rs.1 Crore.

Q. Who can file a Complaint?

  • Any consumer;

  • Any voluntary consumer association;

  • Central Government or any State Government;

  • One or more consumers, where there are numerous consumers having same interest

  • In the case of death of a consumer, his legal heir or representative.

Q. What margins are allowed to a wholesaler and a retailer as per DPCO, 2013?

For scheduled (controlled) drugs the margin is fixed at 16%. For non-scheduled formulations, the companies are at liberty to decide the margin.

Q. If a retailer sells medicines by breaking packing, what price can he charge?

If a retailer sells loose quantity (unpacked) the price of such medicine should not exceed pro-rata amount of the price printed on the label of the container.

Q. Can consumer ask for the price list of medicines being sold by a chemist/retailer?

Yes. Every retailer is required to display the price list and the supplementary price list furnished by the manufacturer/ importer on a conspicuous part of the premises where he carries on business in a manner so as to be easily accessible to any person wishing to consult the same.

Q. Is it mandatory for a chemist/ retailer to issue cash receipt for sale of medicines?

Yes. Every chemist/ retailer is required to issue a receipt for sale of medicines and maintain the copies of cash/ credit memos.

Q.Where to find the details of consumer forums?

Jago Grahak Jago-National Consumer Helpline-1800-11-4000