On the occasion of the silver jubilee of its enactment, the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 was commemorated in Kochi at a function organised on the 24th of December by the Partnership for Safe Medicines – India. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. K.V. Thomas, Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, said that there was a proposal on the anvil to amend the Act, and that a parliamentary standing committee was looking into the matter. Indicating the need for such a step, he referred to redressal forums being chock-a-block with complaints, due to which it takes years for dispute resolution to be effected.
Narrowing down the focus to the medicines scenario in the country, Mr. Thomas expressed concern at the steep increase in drug prices, which were being foisted on the consumers under the pretext of research costs. He lamented also that many doctors toe the line of pharmacy companies when they prescribe medications, as they are dazzled by the gifts of cars, apartments and foreign trips that these companies promise them. Often, the doctors prescribe medicines for a month, when a week’s medication would have sufficed. The menace of spurious drugs in the market was yet another issue Mr. Thomas referred to. The minister drew attention also to dubious advertisements that make tall claims and said that in the interests of consumer protection, there is a need for a fair amount of self-regulation by the media and advertisement agencies.
Yet another salient consumer issue in the field of medicine is that of court scrutiny of medical practitioners, which forces doctors to cover their bets and raises the costs of patient care. Notably, Dr. P.V. George, the erstwhile National President of the Indian Medical Association, who also addressed the meet, spoke of doctors being forced to practice “defensive medicine”. He said further that many patients were not satisfied if doctors prescribed simple medicines. He wanted that attitude to change. Dr. George drew the attention of the gathering also to the menace of spurious and sub standard drugs in the market.
Addressing the meet, Mr. Bejon Misra, Founder and Director-General of the Partnership for Safe Medicines - India, said that safe and quality medicines need to be made accessible to all. Mr. Misra, a noted consumer activist, voiced a broader concern with putting an end to the exploitation of consumers in general. He said also that awareness of consumer rights had been an important factor in bringing to an end the monopoly of a few big firms of many sectors.
Other notables who addressed the meet include Hibi Eden, MLA; Manoj Parida, Joint Secretary in the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, and Ranga Iyer, Advisor, India Health Progress.
Media Coverage: The Hindu. KOCHI, December 25, 2011