Private players cannot infringe right to health of consumers
September 14, 2012, Kolkata
“The right to health is a fundamental right of every citizen of this country and no entity can infringe that right”, asserted Smt. Chandrima Bhattacharya, Hon’ble Minister of State, Department of Health & Family Welfare, Government of West Bengal (GoWB) at an event jointly organised by CUTS International and Department of Health & Family Welfare, GoWB in Kolkata today. She informed that to be able to provide low priced generic medicines to the common citizen the state government is planning to open 35 fair price shops in the state, with 15 of them in the first phase starting from October 2, 2012.
The event, State Focus Group Dialogue, organised under the project titled, Business Regulation and Corporate Conduct (BRCC), is being implemented by Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS International) in four states of India, viz. West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. The objective of the project is to address regulatory and operational constraints faced by businesses, motivate firms to adopt responsible corporate conduct and evolve a policy dialogue between business and policymakers to promote business development in a sustainable manner.
The participants from all stakeholder groups of the two focus sectors, namely, Pharmaceutical and Healthcare, brainstormed on the study findings and gave their recommendations towards charting out a forward looking roadmap for the state.
The study revealed that awareness levels about relevant guidelines were quite low. 20 out of the 50 pharmaceuticals were found to sponsor events, workshops, etc. for doctors. Many of them were not willing to fix salaries for medical representatives. Only a handful of hospitals had mechanisms for monitoring the compliance to RUD guidelines by the doctors. Only about 2% of the prescriptions analysed were found to be rational.
Sanghamitra Ghosh, Managing Director, West Bengal Medical Services Corporation Ltd., GoWB invited all groups to work as partners in governance to make the sector work for the welfare of all and not only the rich. She mentioned that price of medicines is a serious concern for the government and care should be taken so that high prices of medicines and services do not lead to oppression and exploitation, especially of the ordinary consumers. She also stressed on the low awareness levels of most stakeholders and said that civil society should play an important role in improving the situation.
Prof. Krishnangshu Roy, Director, School of Tropical Medicines, suggested that a study of satisfaction index of healthcare providers and recipients could be the way forward to better understand the scenario existing in the state and invited positive feedback from all stakeholders to make new scheme of Fair Price Shops a success. Chetna Kaura, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, gave a brief overview of the National Voluntary Guidelines (NVG) which was developed through several consultations with representatives from the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. Ram Dayal Dubey, President, Indian Medical Association (IMA) highlighted the huge gap between good policies and bad implementation. Shashanka Mouli Roy from West Bengal Medical Sales Representatives Union said that mare autonomy needs to be given to NPPA to check unregulated prices of medicines. Sajal Roychoudhury, former Director, Directorate of Drug Control, said that the quality of products coming from the small and medium manufacturing sector was the main problem where government should come forward to improve their product quality.
Shashanka Shekhar Dev representing DISHA, said that corporate should take more initiative to train their staff on handling bio-medical waste. G.K. Pal, Assistant Director, Directorate of Drug Control, felt that mushrooming of too many retail shops is not good for the sector and this is one sector where unnecessary competition does more harm than good. He also felt that promotional medicines should be allowed to reach the market.
Representing CUTS International, Rijit Sengupta observed that the state government should strengthen the ability of sectoral associations so that these associations could play an active role in making the sectors more responsible by monitoring the performance and behavior of their members.