New Delhi: A day after the Prime Minister, in his Independence Day speech, said the government was working to bring down the cost of knee surgeries, India's top pharmaceutical regulatory body, on Wednesday, reduced the prices of orthopaedic knee implants by 59 to 69 percent. These became the second medical device brought under price control after cardiac stent prices were cut by 85 percent, in February this year.
The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority announced the reduction of four categories of implants -- the commonly used Cobalt Chromium was brought down 65 percent, from Rs. 1,58,324 to Rs. 54,720; the Special Metal implants such as titanium & oxidized zirconium came down 69 percent, from Rs. 2,49.251 to Rs 76,600; the High Flexibility implant came down 69 percent, from Rs. 1,81,728 to Rs. 56,490; revision implants came down 59 percent, from Rs. 2,76,869 to Rs. 1,13,950.
The NPPA fixed the price for specialised implants for tumours and cancer at Rs. 1,13,950.
The Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers and Parliamentary Affairs, Ananth Kumar, told the press that these cuts would save patients Rs. 1500 crore annually, calling it "a step to prevent Unethical Profiteering and ensure Affordable and Quality Healthcare for the Last Man". He also quoted from reports by the World Health Organisation that warn of osteoarthritis becoming the fourth leading cause of disability by 2020.
The union health ministry had classified orthopaedic implants as 'drugs' in 2005, bringing them under the purview of the NPPA. The body, on August 9, made public its analyses of price data, collected from the manufactures and importer and other public sources. It showed a substantial jump in cost from the landed price -- at the point of manufacture or import -- to the MRP at which the implant is sold to the patient. The trade margin of the total knee system averaged around 313 percent. This came after "an exhaustive stakeholder’s consultation on the issue of exorbitant cost of orthopedic knee implants and excessive trade margins", read the notification.
It's notification, scathingly, read the price cap was necessary to protect public interest, especially "under present extraordinary circumstances of a failed and exploitative market because of information asymmetry between the patient and healthcare delivery system".
To ensure patients will not be misinformed about prices the Authority directed hospitals, clinics, etc., to "specifically and separately" mention the cost, the brand name and the name of manufacture/importer and other specifications in the bill. It also warned manufacturers to not disrupt the supply of the implants with the price cap coming into effect.
After the cardiac stent price cap, international manufacturers such as Abbot and Boston Scientific had tried pulling out their latest generation of stents from the Indian market, temporarily creating a shortage scare.