While hearing a public interest petition filed by the organisation, People's Watch, that asked for a CBI inquiry into the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and doctors, the Patna High Court has directed the Union Government and the State Government to submit their reply on the matter within a month.
The People's Watch PIL alleged that an unholy nexus existed between medicine companies and doctors which was responsible for making the common man poorer by as much as Rs 20, 000 crore every year.
The petitioner's lawyer, Arvind Kumar, cited documents to illustrate what he called "a tangled web" the drug companies had woven in the past two decades, with doctors at its centre.
He alleged that there was considerable evidence to suggest that medicine companies had an influence on the medicines doctors decided to prescribe to their patients.
Many had gone so far as to own medicine shops that catered exclusively to some highly successful doctors, the lawyer said. He added that all this was against the law.
The petitioner gave the example of Bangladesh where doctors were allowed to choose from only 200 drugs that were sufficient for 90 per cent of the diseases. In India, on the contrary, thousands of formulations were manufactured, many of which were of poor quality or simply not needed.
The petitioner cited the case of a raid conducted by the Lokayukta of Karnataka on a drug controller who, it was revealed, had cleared 259 products that were 'not of standard quality'.
Investigations by the Lok Ayukta had revealed that there was a well-organised system under which money changed hands illegally between pharmaceutical companies and trading establishments.
The situation in Bihar was, most likely, more grim, the petitioner alleged.
The PIL further claimed that drug companies 'sponsored' doctors and their families on junkets and paid for the expenses incurred.
Similarly, the medical conferences that were organised were often subsidised by drug companies.
The petitioner cited numerous documents and papers to demonstrate how the unethical practices of the doctors and medicine companies were robbing the common man, besides ruining his health.
Finally, the petitioner suggested that state governments in the country should buy only generic medicines for state hospitals, and enjoin doctors by law to prescribe only generic medicines.
The governments should further ensure that medicine shops did not stockpile generic medicines to artificially jack up their prices, the petitioner said.