Overcharged patients refunded | Ban to stay till issue resolved Ashish K Tiwari


Mumbai: Tata Memorial Hospital, India’s leading cancer speciality hospital, has put on hold sale of all Novartis branded anti-cancer (oncology) drugs at its two pharmacies in Mumbai. According to hospital sources, a temporary ban has been imposed on the stocks of Swiss drug maker after certain inventory-related issues cropped up post a dna report on November 5, highlighting pricing discrepancy with one of Novartis branded Octreotide variants – Sandostatin LAR 20 mg vial (injection).

It’s been almost a month now that the ban has been imposed during which the Tata Memorial administration has been pursuing this matter with Novartis and its stockist (Om Sai Surgicals) as part of an internal inquiry. dna has learnt that a stock check of Novartis branded oncology drugs was undertaken as a result of which medicines worth over Rs 150,000 (Tata Memorial’s purchase price) – including Sandostatin and Glivec – were found to be near expiry or already expired.

Tata Memorial called for the near expiry / expired stocks to be taken back. “However, the Novartis stockist was unwilling to accept the returns saying the (near expiry / expired) stocks were directly sold by Novartis and hence it was the company’s responsibility to take them back.”

With the issue not getting sorted, Tata Memorial eventually decided to impose a temporary ban on the sale of Novartis branded anti-cancer drugs at its two pharmacies.

Novartis India spokesman said they did not have anything to add to what they had said earlier.


On its part, Tata Memorial Hospital administration called it a ‘temporary lull’ as a result of other operational issues including (drug) rejections being made, which the hospital wanted cleared up.

According to Narayan HKV, medical superintendent, Tata Memorial Hospital, “The issue pertains to a few other (Novartis) drugs and we want all of it settled before it becomes business as usual. There are many verticals at Novartis and at times some (verticals) delay the matter. Having said that, whatever nominal issues are pending they (Novartis) are settling it.” He added that the hospital would take-off the ban as soon as the matter gets settled.

In all, an inventory of close to 500 units (including variants) of Afinitor, Glivec, Tasigna, Femara and Zometa valued at around Rs 28 lakh (Tata Memorial’s purchase price) have been set aside. “These (Novartis branded) drugs are not being sold in our two pharmacies till such time the issue is resolved,” said the source adding that generics of the aforesaid drugs are being prescribed instead.

Post the dna report on November 23, Tata Memorial decided to repay the four cancer patients being overcharged for the Sandostatin injections. Earlier this week, a family member of one of the cancer patients confirmed, “The balance (Rs 19,319) has been credited to the smart card, which is used for making payments for various tests, procedures in addition to accessing diagnosis reports at the kiosks.”

Narayan also confirmed that the Sandostatin pricing issue has been sorted out. “We have already refunded money to cancer patients and have already got a credit note (from Novartis) for the same,” he said.

It is also learnt that executives from Maharashtra state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspected the records books of Tata Memorial Hospital after the dna report.


Published Date:  Dec 06, 2014