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Thursday, 23 February 2017

Stent prices slashed by 85%; health group gives thumbs up

Heart patients in need of angioplasty and stents have a reason to cheer. After nearly a year, prices of stents have now been fixed by the government, bringing down cost by as much as 85 per cent.

According to a notification issued by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), prices of drug eluting stent would be fixed at ₹29,600, while that of bare metal stents would stand at just ₹7,260. In comparison, the prices of drug eluting stents now range between ₹40,000 and ₹1.98 lakh. Similarly, bare metal stents cost patients between ₹30,000 and ₹75,000 on an average.

According to data shared by the NPPA earlier, prices of stents jump exponentially by as much as 1,000 per cent from the production till the time it reaches patients, with hospitals enjoying abnormally high margins of 650 per cent, in some cases.

“The most shocking revelations that came to light through the extensive deliberations of the NPPA, were about the massive cuts being taken by cardiologists and hospitals,” said GS Grewal from the Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare (ADEH).

Stents had been included in the National List of Essential Medicines in July last year, and were added to the Schedule I of the Drug Prices Control Order, 2013, in December, bringing the devices under price control.

Following the notification, all stent manufacturers as well as importers would have to price their products below the notified ceiling price.

Hospitals pulled up

Hospitals, too, have been pulled up in the notification, and have been ordered to “separately mention the cost of the coronary stent along with its brand name, name of the manufacturer/importer/batch number and other details, if any, in their billing to the patients.”

Since hospitals also function as retailers of stents they would be required to display the prices prominently in the hospital premises, as per the Drug Price Control Order 2013.

Health groups, meanwhile, expressed satisfaction with the decision.

“After months of consultations, we welcome the strong and determined action of the government, particularly in the face of a concerted campaign by industry and profit-oriented hospitals to prevent any form of effective price control,” said Malini Aisola of the All India Drug Action Network.

Health activists also expect that the move would be challenged in court by stent manufacturers. “We expect that the industry will launch a legal challenge to the government action that has prioritised patients’ lives over industry profiteering. It will have to be ready to face them in court because what they are really challenging is the right to life and health of millions of patients,” said KM Gopakumar, legal advisor to Third World Network.

Ananthkumar, Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers and Parliamentary Affairs, meanwhile, said that the capping of stent prices will give patients an average benefit of ₹80,000-90,000, resulting in a gross relief of ₹4,450 crore in one year.

He further added that the ceiling prices take into account ethical profit margins and research and development costs of each member of the supply chain of coronary stents.

The Medical Technology Association of India expressed disappointment with the decision to cap prices saying the “move will reduce the options available for the Indian patient for their specific medical condition or deprive them the satisfaction of choosing from the most advanced and cutting edge technologies.” The Association further asked for a 45-day transition time for implementing the price change.

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