More dangerous than cancer is the malignant fleecing of patients.
Cancer patients are being forced to pay double to 10 times the market price of medicines. Members of the Bhai Kanhaiya Cancer Roko Sewa Society, who made the allegation on Monday at a press conference here, brought drugs on the market and retained bills to prove the allegations.
"If so much is charged over and above the market price," said Gurpreet Singh Chandbaja, president of the society, "you can imagine the chemists' profit over the wholesale price."
It seems that drug companies have bought not only doctors but also political parties and leaders who might have interests in the pharmaceutical business, the society has said. "It seems to be a strategy to prevent the government from controlling the price of drugs," said Kultar Singh, an office-bearer of the society.
Buying some cancer medicines to give away to patients, the society was shocked at the gap between the maximum retail price (MRP) and the actual selling price. Since the government has injected some stock into the cancer-medicine market, the price on the open market has fallen somewhat. "Earlier, cost was even higher," said Gurpreet Singh. "Chemists charge whatever they wish."
Doctors who write the prescriptions guide the patients to buy only the specific brands of medicines and only from particular chemist's shops. "We have calculated that everyday in India, cancer patients are fleeced to the tune of Rs 1 crore," said Kultar Singh, who is grandson of former president Giani Zail Singh. "The state and union governments never have come out with a price-control policy. Is vested interest at work?"
If the supply of a few cancer medicines being taken over by the government could make a difference to the price, why couldn't the strategy be adopted for other medicines, said Kultar Singh.
'Ask doctors to declare assets'
"It's not cancer but the price of medicines that's killing patients," said Maghar Singh, a member of the society. The society has demanded that to check this malpractice, it be made mandatory for all doctors to declare their assets.