India's healthcare system is riddled with corruption and the national drug approvals agency is a "snake pit of vested interests", the health minister has said, backing a rising tide of criticism of unethical practices by doctors.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan's remarks came after leading doctors and advocacy groups joined hands in a bid to eradicate corruption from India's $74 billion healthcare ­industry, forming anti-graft panels at hospitals and ­writing open letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new government.

"I am more aware than anybody else of the corruption that is eating into the entrails of every aspect of governance, including the health system," Vardhan, himself a doctor, said in an interview with yesterday's Indian Express newspaper.

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Practices such as taking kickbacks for referring patients to a particular test centre are widespread.