New Delhi: Pointing out that the price of medicines prescribed by doctors is going beyond the reach of the common man, the Supreme Court on Thursday made it clear to the Centre that it should not form a pharma policy which may cause increase in the price of essential drugs.

It also slammed the government for not controlling the price of such drugs during the last 17 years.

A bench of justice G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya said drugs prescribed by the doctors is going beyond the reach of the common man and "any formula for price fixation which goes against common man should be quashed".

"Drugs prescribed by the doctors---eminent and not so eminent--- is going beyond the reach of the common man," the bench said adding "people have to go hungry for paying the medicine bill".

The bench pulled up the government for not taking any decision on bringing more drugs under the price control after 1999 and during the pendency of case before it for the last nine years.

"Let it be clear that formula for fixing price for essential medicines should not be changed," the bench said when it was pleaded that the new policy could lead increase in price.

"Pricing policy should not be such that by that policy prices of medicines get increased," the bench said.

It said government can have concern for drug manufacturers but it must have "substantial concern" for the common man.  During the arguments, the apex court asked Additional Solicitor General Siddharth Luthra to take specific instruction from the government as to when the new drug policy would be notified.

"The courts are extremely slow in interfering in the policy matters but where the people would go if the government fails to take decision in 17 years"? the bench said.

It said "the issue is of concern for the common man. Affidavit filed by the government is not up to the mark."

Luthra, after taking instruction, assured the court that new policy would be notified by November 25.

The bench then posted the matter for further hearing on November 27. The apex court was hearing a public interest litigation plea filed in 2003 by the All India Drugs Action Network and others which had complained that currently only around 78 drugs are placed under the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 1995 (DPCO), making rest of the medicines beyond the reach of the common man in terms of their prices.

In the last hearing on October 3 the bench had asked the government not to alter the existing pricing system for essential medicines, a step which may allegedly lead to a steep hike in their prices.

"We make it clear that the government should not alter the price system as notified on July 13, 1999 and similar subsequent notification," the bench had said.


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