Heart patients, who were forced to shell out a huge amount of money for stents used during angioplasty, are happy with the latest government announcements, setting a price slab on different types of the device. The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) recently fixed the price of bare metal stents at 7,260 as against 45,000 previously and of most used drug-eluting stents at 29,600 as against 80,000 to 1,75,000. Both imported and domestic stents will cost the same. The move has not only been cheered by the patients but is also appreciated by the majority of the healthcare industry players. However, a handful of them remains dissatisfied.
The higher authorities in the Central Health Ministry do not agree with the decision of fixing all types of stents prices as they believe this will affect the quality of stents. According to the sources, stents of the fourth generation are based on the higher technology will not be available in the market. “A health committee, comprising top cardiologists and scientific advisors, decided to fix prices of stents for all generations. But the breakthrough technology based stents will not be a part of this price fixing. I will raise this issue in health committee as it’s a serious concern and needs to be discussed,” said Dr Sanjay Jaiswal, Member, Rajyasabha.
Most of the medical practitioners support the decision as it will give big relief to patients who earlier could not afford the costly treatment.“This is a welcome step. More people will be able to afford healthcare. Healthy individuals will add to the productivity of thenation. Cheaper and quality healthcare is most welcome. It will lead to a healthier India,” said Dr Sujay Shad, Director heart transplant unit, Sir Gangaram Hospital Dr KK Aggarwal, National President, Indian Medical Association said, “It’s a good step taken by the government. ”
In general, hospitals across the country used to charge cardiac patients very high fees. There were reports suggesting that doctors advise bypass surgery and stenting (angioplasty) even if they are not required. Businessman Anupam Kashyap, 60, has appreciated the latest government decision. He was charged 2.15 lakh for angioplasty in a private hospital. “The amount they charged me for the procedure was uncalled for,” he said.
According to the government reports, about 30 million people suffer from cardiovascular problems. More than two million die of heart attacks and strokes each year and lakhs of patients who suffer from heart disease every year. More than 2 lakh heart surgeries take place in the country annually. The increasing cardiac problem in India has given the opportunity to international companies to earn huge profit by selling stents and other medical equipment.
The data collected by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on stent procedures show that the hospitals in Asia’s third — largest economy could be selling stents at margins of 100 to 654 per cent decision. A public interest litigation (PIL) filed in 2015 against the racket of companies making stents revealed that the coronary stent industry in India make about 3,300 crore profit each year. According to the survey of Cardiology Society of India (CSI) in2013, 24000 patients underwent angioplasty procedure, which almost doubled in 2014 with more than 41,000 patients in India with acute coronary disease received angioplasty procedures. Each year, the percentage increases and new companies join the league to make more money from patients.
Here is what a few leading hospitals used to charge for angioplasty procedure
Sir Gangagram Hospital was charging 70,000 to 1.5lakh which depends on the type of stent required but this cost doesn’t include procedure charges.
Max hospital was charging 80,000 to 1.5lakh for stents.
BLK hospital was charging 1 to 1.5lakh.
The Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare (ADEH) had earlier met with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers and the Drug Controller of India. “The price of stents, implants and drugs needed a serious review since they are a lifesaving product. It has been observed that many a times the stents are put in the rich and the affluent just for the sake of profit. For the poor the prices are already so high that they are unable to afford,” the ADEH said in a statement.
The data revealed by ADEH pointed out that prices of stents manufactured by international companies have huge difference in MRP and actual price. Drug-eluting stents cost 70,000, which is actually sold in the market for 1,65,000.
While the majority of the medical practitioners have lauded the initiative, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has said that this step could be detrimental to patients’ safety as well as industry body.
Medical procedure in stenting, which includes many other charges, continue to remain the same in most of the hospitals
“This move could limit the accessibility of cutting-edge technologies in coronary stents for Indian patients, affecting both treatment quality and risking the high growth medical tourism sector. Since even after extensive stakeholder consultations, including eminent cardiologists and industry, on various methodologies to potentially control stent prices, it is evident that NPPA did not regard the suggestions offered in patient interest. The medical technology industry is disappointed with this outcome. The industry was expecting a reasonable price along with rational differentiation in drug-eluting stents, to recognize innovation,” said CII Medical Technology Division Chairman Himanshu Baid.
The fixing of stent prices has been drastically reduced the procedure cost. However, balloons used in stenting still sell for higher prices. A medical procedure in stenting, which includes many other charges, continue to remain the same in most of the hospitals.