The couple, unaware that Hiranandani did not allow any other service provider to collect stem cells, had made an arrangement with LifeCell International. They had paid an advance of Rs 60,000 for the banking, that lasts up to 21 years. A complaint was lodged in June 2012, after which a probe was ordered by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
Hiranandani's refusal came when the couple went to seek permission to allow the LifeCell representative to collect the stem cell on the day the baby was born. Stem cells must be collected shortly after a baby is born. Hiranandani cited its tie-up with Cryobank for denying entry to another company representative on its premises. The couple tried to reason with the hospital and then decided to shift to SevenHills Hospital, Marol, for the delivery.
The body, while penalizing the company 4% of its annual turnover of the last three years, said the hospital should behave ethically towards patients. It said the hospital's arrangement was based more on a commission model rather than competition and that was "against the spirit of health services". CCI found that Cryobank was paying the hospital Rs 20,000 for every patient who opted for stem cell banking. This practice is common in the industry.
The industry hailed CCI's decision. "Patients deserve to be given a fair choice. The industry is new and such pacts can hamper its growth," said Meghnath Roy Chowdhry, secretary, Association ofStem Cell Banks of India (ASBI). Gynecologists said most city hospitals affiliate more than one player though the practice may be different for nursing homes. "Each company may have something better to offer. As doctors we only explain the benefits and disadvantages of storing stem cells, but beyond that the choice is with the patients," said Dr Suchitra Pandit, president, Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India.