The general public can expect the government to announce within three months, the maximum retail price for coronary stents, which has recently been added to the national list of essential medicines (NLEM) 2015, effectively bringing them under price control.
While patients, doctors and Indian-stent manufactures have welcomed the move, others aren’t celebrating the announcement.
Speaking about the move, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, K.L. Sharma explained that the move has been based on recommendations which noted that all types of stents, including the latest biodegradable stents should be put on the list.
“The sub-committee has submitted its report and the government has accepted its recommendations. We have now sent this to the Department of Pharmaceuticals and the process of price fixation will take its natural course. We are hopeful that the maximum retail price will be fixed and announced in the next three months. Processes are already underway to ensure that a transparent and fair mechanism is adopted for price ceiling, which will benefit the poorest of the poor and make good quality stents available at the best price,” Mr. Sharma added.
The sub-committee of expert cardiologists was constituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in October 2015 under the chairmanship of Professor Y.K. Gupta, head, department of pharmacology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), to examine the issues relating to the essentiality of coronary stents and recommend whether it should be included in the NLEM.
Medicines and devices listed in the NLEM are sold at the price fixed by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), while those in the non-scheduled list are allowed a maximum annual price hike of 10 per cent.
Dr. Ripen Gupta, Interventional Cardiologist, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, said: “Of course we welcome the move as the cost benefit goes directly to my patients and I am hoping that more people will be able to afford this advancement in technology. Price control will ensure that base price is uniform across government, semi-private and private facilities. It will also bring in much needed transparency in the system. Drugs outside price control can be sold at prices set by the manufacturer, which is governed by profit making and market forces.”
“We appreciate the government move to include stents in NLEM, which will ensure more transparency and accessibility of these essential life-saving devices for the patients. However, we request NPPA to follow a diligent process to arrive at a fair MRP considering the fact that unlike pharmaceuticals, every Class III medical device like Drug Eluting Stents (DES) needs huge investment on R&D and clinical trials and an ad-hoc decision may be detrimental to the Industry,” said Gurmit Singh Chugh, managing director, Translumina Therapeutics, DES, manufacturer in India.
Ganesh Sabat of Sahajanand Medical Technologies Pvt. Ltd, which manufactures stents, said: “We welcome the move as this would mean that this treatment can be made available to all, including the middle class and the poor. Local manufacturing means that we are offering stents at 1/5 of the cost.”
However, the medical devices industry said the inclusion of stents in the NLEM and the consequent price cap could stop manufacturers from introducing technologically advanced stents in India.
NATHEALTH, a forum comprising both Healthcare Providers and Medical Technology Companies, has strongly opposed the inclusion of Stents in NLEM.
“Medical procedures in India are among the most affordable in the world, which is a combination of cost of devices and services. Any notification should be considered only if it can bring down the overall cost of treatment for the patient without denying them the options to avail the treatment of their choice. Additionally, such notifications significantly impact the ‘Make in India’ attractiveness of the country,” said Mr. Milan Rao, chairman, medical technology forum, NATHEALTH.
Himanshu Baid, the chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry, medical technology division, said: “A price control on the nascent medical devices sector at this stage does not bode well in creating a conducive environment for FDI.”