Breaking a nexus that exists within the health sector, the central government has finally made life saving coronary stents accessible and affordable in India. On January 14, The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA)has notified a ceiling price for Drug Eluting Stents (DES) at Rs. 29,600 and for Bare Metal Stents (BMS) at Rs. 7,260 under the provisions of paragraph 19 of the Drugs Prices Control Order, 2013.. The prices were made affective from February 14.
Family members of the heart patient will be given some liberty in choosing between different available stents and not do just as the doctor says in the hope that it is in the best interest of the patient. Additionally, hospitals have been ordered to strictly mention the cost of the coronary stent along with its brand name, name of the manufacture/importer and other details separately while billing. Hospitals that function as retailers of stents will be required to display the prices in the hospital premises as per the Drug Price Control Order 2013.
For the past couple of years, members of All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN), Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare, Third World Network etc had been urging the Government to take immediate steps to make life-saving coronary stents affordable.
The groups noted that the order is an important first step in checking the corrupt practices of the unethical triad of industry, doctors and hospitals that has become commonplace across the health sector. “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 Dr. G. S. Grewal, Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare (ADEH).
Meanwhile, the Rajya Sabha continues to investigate the issue of pricing of medical devices. “Even as we welcome this strong action by the NPPA, we ask that the Rajya Sabha Petitions Committee continue to investigate and call for information on the use, availability and affordability of coronary stents in India. The pricing is only the tip of the iceberg and if we are to truly ensure universal access to healthcare for heart patients, we need to regulate and clean up every aspect of the system,” said Sulagna Chattopadhyay, petitioner, Rajya Sabha Petitions Committee.
“The NPPA must ensure that the prices continue to be monitored and make further revisions as required while also expanding price control to other medical devices,” she added.
Heralding the NPPA order, health groups are calling for further actions by the government. “Further Policy measures are required to ensure that these benefits pass to the patients including controlling the cost of cardiac procedures, issuing standard treatment protocols for cardiac interventions and introducing a mechanism of medical audits,” said Amulya Nidhi of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan.
Through price fixing, the Government has increased awareness but more work is needed to regulate hospital rates and practises.