The word “Price caps” has never raised much chaos in the Indian health sector as it does now. The story dates back to February 2017, when India decided to set price caps on cardiac stents by up to 85%. Since then, price caps have been a raising concern for both the India and US.

 

When did it all start?

 

It was on February 13, 2017, that the government of India began imposing national price caps of between 75% and 85% on coronary stents (stents), an implantable medical device that ensures adequate blood flow to the heart. The policy was only applicable to the stents then. But it was said that the government was taking steps suggesting they may impose similar reductions on as many as 14 other types of medical devices. But as being one of the leading suppliers of medical devices to India, It was the U.S which was much impacted by these measures. Nearly three leading global medical device makers – Abbott, Medtronic and Boston Scientific – Have requested to dip their best cardiac stents from the Indian market if not India extend price caps on medical devices. As the Indian government stood firm in the decision and allowed the companies to withdraw the products a six-month notice, they demanded a sub-category for their new generation stents and a considerable pricing for them. Indian government then invited the companies to submit scientific data to prove the “Supremacy” of their new products, and thus a higher price. But it has been reported that despite several invites the companies didn’t submit the data, thus forcing the government to reject their plea.

 

Beneficial or Not?

 

Price is always the only concern as the technology advances. While the price caps seems to have benefited the patients who opted for an open surgery before, the question whether the reduction may be beneficial to all is still unanswered. The other countries which produce the stents were the most beneficial ones apart from the patients. Though the sudden price cap affected the U.S manufacturing companies, it acted as a benefit for other non-U.S medical equipment manufacturers including China. If utilized well, this might be the golden period for the Indian companies as well. This is the time for the companies to show innovation and produce more effective equipment. In spite all these chaos, the states are requesting more price drops. The Maharashtra government submitted a report recently to the Union health ministry to cap the prices of 18 medical devices that includes intra-ocular lenses (IOL). But the doctors are not sure if it would be beneficial for all the eye diseases including cataract. The quality of the stents and other medical equipment before the price cap and after the price cap needs to be taken into concern. India has been benefited with all kinds of latest medical breakthroughs as a result of increased research and innovation in the medical and technological sector. But the erratic price cap may avert the topmost innovators and manufacturers from coming up with newer generations of stents, thus limiting the choice for doctors and patients.

 

The current scenario

 

Despite much pleas and discussions, India still rejects U.S. request on medical device price caps. India, being one of the top medical device markets for the exporters is now creating a shudder for the U.S by standing stubbornly on their decision. The concerned authorities say that this position is not going to change since it is within the right of the government of India to impose price caps. India’s National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) is still pushing for more price controls. A letter has been written by NPPA to the health ministry asking for three other devices used to treat heart ailments – cardiac balloons, catheters and guide-wire – to be added to a list of products eligible for price controls. NPPA finds the price of the mentioned equipments ‘unreasonably high’. But the US finds this policy very troubling. The United State Trade Representative, in April have said that ‘India was the largest GSP beneficiary at $5.6 billion’ and are currently reviewing India’s eligibility under its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a programme that allows duty-free imports of certain goods. Whilst the government is planning for providing affordable treatment to the people, the future availability various options of high-quality stents and equipment will be a raising concern until proven wrong.

 

Reference : Reuters, usitc.gov.publications, The wire.