The Supreme Court was recently told that pharma companies gave off Rs 1000 crores in freebies to doctors for prescribing Dolo 650. For the unversed Dolo 650 is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug which became a household name earlier in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, and its heart-wrenching aftermath.

Justice Chandrachud, who was part of the Supreme Court bench along with Justice Bopanna, called the issue a serious one and assured that the court will look into it.

Mentioning that he himself took Dolo 650 when he had COVID-19 recently, Justice DY Chandrachud was quoted saying, “What you are saying is music to my ears. This is exactly the drug that I had when I had COVID recently. This is a serious issue and we will look into it.”

The two-Justice bench was approached by senior advocate Sanjay Parikh and advocate Aparna Bhat who represented ‘Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives Association of India’.

Appearing for the NGO, the advocates told the Supreme Court that the market price for any 500 mg tablet is regulated by the government, but a drug above 500 mg can be priced as per the manufacturing pharma company.

The Justices were also told that to pocket hefty profit margins, the company gave off freebies to doctors.

The Facts of the Matter

As the country continues to make sense of the first and second waves of pandemic, and its aftermath, a new revelation has emerged, raising questions on Dolo brand.  For the unversed, Dolo 650 is produced by Micro Labs. It is a tablet prescribed for fever management.

It became a household name after it was prescribed by doctors across the country during COVID-19’s second wave. Such was the response of the tablet that Dolo triggered memes, and even became trending on Twitter.

Recently, the Supreme Court was told that doctors were given freebies worth Rs 1,000 crores in return of prescription of the drug.

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NGO Approaches SC

A SC bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna was approached by Sanjay Parikh and Aparna Bhat, who represented NGO ‘Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives Association of India’.

The apex court bench was told that the market price of drugs up to 500 mg comes under the ambit of Indian government’s price control mechanism. However, the price of drugs above 500 mg can be fixed by Pharma Company.

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“Music to my ears”: DY Chandrachud

Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh also said that the drug company gave off freebies to doctors to prescribe Dolo 650 mg and as a result, make hefty profits. After hearing the appeal, Justice DY Chandrachud remarked and said, “What you are saying is not music to my ears. This is exactly what I had when I had Covid. This is a serious issue.”

Raids were Conducted In July

Earlier in July, the IT department had conducted raids on 36 premises of Micro Labs across 9 states in India. After the raids, the CBDT had alleged Micro Labs of being involved in “unethical practices” and distributing freebies worth Rs 1,000 crore in exchange for prescribing products made by the company.

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Matter Scheduled for Further Hearing

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court bench of Justices Chandrachud and AS Bopanna told Solicitor General KM Nataraj to file response to the filed plea in 10 days, and gave a 1-week time to the petitioner to file rejoinder.

The matter is now scheduled for further hearing on September 29.


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