KATHMANDU, Jan 20: Poor patients at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) no longer have to pay even Maximum Retail Price (MRP) for the medicines, thanks to the hospital administration that has started a 24 hour low-price dispensary from this week. The hospital pharmacy has been selling medicines at prices up to 800 percent less than the Maximum Retail Price (MRP).
The hospital pharmacy has been selling 500mg calcium tablets at Re 0.51 although its MRP is Rs 4. Likewise, the price of 500 mg Amoxicillin sells for Rs 3 at the pharmacy although the MRP is Rs 9.70.
The MRP of Azithromycin 500 mg tablet is Rs 40 but the pharmacy sells the tablet for just Rs 11.50. Similarly Omeprazole, whose MRP is Rs 6, is selling at the pharmacy at Rs 1.25. At pharmacies elsewhere, the price of Pentpprazole capsule is Rs 9, but it costs just Rs 3 at the hospital pharmacy.
But other pharmacies operating on the premises of the hospital however charge the MRP printed on the medicines.
From the prices introduced at the TUTH dispensary, one can say that pharmacies and drug companies have been fleecing the patients. The drug manufacturers provide huge profit margin to retailers but TUTH is giving the profit to the patients. The pharmaceutical companies even provide gifts and bonuses to the drug retailer but the hospital asked for discounts.
The hospital administration said the low-price pharmacy was started to provide relief to the poor patients.
"It is a big relief for the patients like me," Pitambar Dhungel of Nawalparasai, who had just bought some medicines at the pharmacy, said. He said that his son has been recuperating from surgery of kidney stone. Dhungel, however complained that he did not get all the medicine he needed at the pharmacy. The administration said the low price dispensary has just been started so they don´t have all the medicines but they will start selling all kinds of medicines soon.
"We have just started the pharmacy, so it will take some time for it to operate in a full-fledged manner," said Professor Bhagwan Koirala, the director of the hospital. He said that Rs 200 million is needed to run the pharmacy in full-fledged manner but the hospital is unable to arrange the sum immediately.
Dr Koirala, in the past had started a similar low-price pharmacy at Manamohan Cardiothoracic,Vascular and Transplant Center. The pharmacy is still operational there.
Senior pharmacist at TUTH Kishor Dev Acharya said that the hospital is not providing any subsidy in the medicines and is instead earning a profit of 14 percent. He said that patients have been benefitting from huge discounts provided by the pharmacy.
"We have not been able to operate the pharmacy in large scale. We can make more profit if it runs in a full-fledged manner, "he added.
Acharya gave the credit for setting up the pharmacy to Director Koirala, who has been introducing several measures to improve the hospital which had been running at huge losses for years.
All the government hospitals across the country have been giving out pharmacies on rent.