Petitioner Manohar Lal Sharma, a lawyer, has demanded a CBI probe into a September 22 government order that he says frees a list of medicines from pricing control.
His public interest plea alleges that the government acted under pressure from the pharmaceutical lobby and seeks quashing of the circular.
“It will come up for hearing as early as possible,” the bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices S.A. Bobde and A.M. Sapre said.
According to the petition, the alleged “conspiracy” between the Centre and the pharma industry has already led to a sharp rise in the prices of 108 drugs used to treat diseases such as tuberculosis, AIDS, diabetes, heart ailments, cancer and high blood pressure.
Some of the examples Sharma has cited are:
Glivec, an anti-cancer tablet, whose price he says has risen from Rs 8,500 to Rs 1.08 lakh per strip of 10 tablets;
Plavix, used in the treatment of blood pressure and heart ailments, which he says now costs Rs 1,615 per 10 tablets — up from Rs 147 earlier.
The anti-rabies injection, Kamrab, which he says now costs Rs 7,000 a vial — up from Rs 2,670.
Sharma has stressed the date of the circular, issued by the chemicals and fertilisers ministry on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to America.
“The timing of (the price) decontrol smacks of a plot to help multinational pharmaceutical companies, mostly headquartered in the US, to earn bumper profits,” the petition says.
“Rollback of the price control powers of the drug pricing authority or yielding to the pressure of the USA are against the interests of the millions of people in India.
“There is a risk of India giving away its rights, obtained through multilateral platforms, through bilateral treaties with the US. Indians need to be vigilant.”
The petition says India’s patients are facing a threat to their lives not just from their diseases but also from the circular.
It says India has about 4.1 crore patients of diabetes, 5.7 crore of coronary heart disease, 22 lakh tuberculosis sufferers, 11 lakh cancer patients, 25 lakh HIV/AIDS patients and 6 crore people with high blood pressure.