[Ip-health] Civil society group condemns medical device firms' attempt to pressurise govt, says price control should be expanded

K.M. Gopakumar kumargopakm at gmail.com
Wed Oct 25 05:32:30 PDT 2017

control-should-be-expanded/articleshow/61223824.cmsCivil society group
condemns medical device firms' attempt to pressurise govt, says price
control should be expanded
TNN | Oct 25, 2017, 05.00 PM IST
NEW DELHI: The All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN), a public health
advocacy group, has condemned the US-based medical device industry's tactic
of writing to US Trade Representative (USTR) seeking partial or full
suspension or withdrawal of India's benefits under the Generalized System
of Preferences (GSP).

They called industry association Advanced Medical Technology Association
(AdvaMed)'s representation to the USTR "a barefaced attempt to intimidate
the Indian government and retaliate against its decision to fix the retail
prices of cardiovascular stents and knee implants in the public interest".

An AIDAN statement said that the well-thought-out decision to regulate the
prices of cardiovascular stents and knee implants put an end to the rampant
overcharging and the exploitation of patients by hospitals and doctors in
collusion with companies. "AdvaMed's move exposed the unabashed greed of
the industry and its willingness to hold poor people's health at ransom for
the sake of maximising profits," it added.

Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) member of Parliament Dharamvira Gandhi
also wrote to the commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu urging the
government not to buckle under pressure from the industry or the US as
price fixation of medical devices had brought great relief to patients who
were at the mercy of hospitals and doctors who used to charge high margins
before the price cap.

Data collected by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) had
shown that stents were being sold by hospitals at extremely high markups
(654% in the case of drug eluting stents on average), pointed out AIDAN.
"This was an outcome of unethical business practices, established and
institutionalised by the leading foreign stent manufacturers, which rely on
commissions to hospitals and kickbacks to members of the medical fraternity
to boost sales and gain market share," it said, adding that the
artificially inflated prices patients were charged bore no relation to
manufacturing or import costs.

AIDAN pointed out that while the same companies and colluding hospitals
have paid massive penalties for cheating the public in the US, no action
was taken in India to penalise companies for overcharging or to recover
money on behalf of the people.

The civil society group appealed to the Indian government to approach the
Competition Commission of India for an investigation into prevalent
anti-competitive practices in the marketing of medical devices, especially
stents and orthopaedic implants. It called on the US government to refrain
from exerting pressure on India for taking measures to make medicines and
medical devices affordable and accessible to patients. The statement asked
for price controls to be expanded to cover 19 additional categories of
medical devices classified as drugs.

The grievances propagated by the US medical devices industry are
disingenuous on two other fronts stated AIDAN. "The Indian government
rejected the companies' demand for differential pricing for cardiovascular
stents based on claims of innovation due to the complete lack of any data
to support such claims. In fact, these companies (Abbott Healthcare, Boston
Scientific and Medtronic) failed to submit verifiable and credible evidence
to demonstrate the clinical superiority of the so-called "innovative"
stents. Closer scrutiny of the "innovative" stents showed that they are
actually "me-too" products that were being sold at a premium in order to
create more profits, to the detriment of patients," argued AIDAN.

In response to AdvaMed's claim that stent price control has resulted in
major losses, AIDAN pointed out that the government's capping of prices
only curtailed illegitimately high trade margins, especially to hospitals,
and did not impact the companies' margins, which remained highly
profitable. It added that the companies were trying to thwart much-needed
governmental intervention to correct the prevailing situation of market
failure and widespread exploitative pricing in medical devices.

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