After stents, govt mulls price cap for four more devices

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More medical devices, including orthopaedic implants and catheters, may soon come under price control. The Union health ministry and the drug pricing authority have started deliberations in this direction.

Around four critical devices, apart from cardiac stents, which is already under price control, are likely to be brought under the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM), sources said.

Once under NLEM, such devices will automatically fall under the purview of price control and companies will have to sell them at an MRP fixed by the regulator.

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has started analysis of price data for critical devices.

The pricing authority has also called for a stakeholder consultation on the issue later this week.

After the NPPA imposed price cap on cardiac stents earlier this year, some hospitals have started passing on the hikes to other devices which are also used in procedures related to heart.

This has resulted in increase in overall procedure costs. This has helped companies and hospitals maintain margins, an official said.

Initially, the regulator had shortlisted 19 such commonly used medical devices, including catheters, heart valves, orthopaedic implants and intraocular lenses, and asked companies to submit price and production data related to them.

It had also made recommendations to the health ministry to include more medical devices under NLEM. By bringing more medical devices under the price control, the government is trying to tap this loophole.

Following NPPA’s suggestion, the health ministry had set up an expert committee to evaluate the data. Sources in the health ministry as well as some senior industry executives said, “a decision on the matter is likely to be taken very soon”.

TOI had reported in May that how, despite stringent price caps imposed on coronary stents, the nexus between medical device manufacturers and hospitals continues with the two colluding to push non-coronary stents and other high-end life-saving products with huge margins.

Documents with quotations from suppliers to hospitals reviewed by TOI show that medical devices and different kinds of stents — other than coronary, which have been brought under control — are offered to hospitals at prices far lower than that charged from the consumer. Medical devices market in India is estimated at around $7 billion. India imports around 80% of medical devices.

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