In a huge relief for lakhs of patients who have to opt for coronary angioplasty to insert stents to open up clogged arteries, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) on Monday fixed a price ceiling of drug eluting stents (DES) and bioresorbable stents at Rs 30,000 and that of bare metal stents at Rs 7,500.
The charges will be effective from the date of notification, i.e., February 14.
A huge number of patients have to undergo angioplasty in India, with 2016 alone accounting for over six lakh stents that were used in such procedures. Lack of price regulation has resulted in huge variations in the prices of stents, with hospitals making the maximum profits.
According to an Economic Times report, the cost of a drug eluting stent currently ranges between Rs 24,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh and that of a bioresorbable stent is Rs 1.7 lakh to Rs 2 lakh. According to the NPPA, a stent could cost the patient over ten times by the time it moved from the manufacturer to the patient.
According to the manufacturers, the average cost of a DES for a domestic company is about Rs 8,000 and prices of imported DES start at about Rs 5,000.
Hospitals, understandably, had been at odds with the proposal to enforce a price cap on stents. As per data, hospitals made the maximum profit on stents, marking up prices by as much as 650 per cent in some cases. Many hospitals saw stents as part of their revenue stream and made huge profits on them and hospital groups had strongly opposed price control on stents.
With the new notification, hospitals will have to bill stents separately.
All hospitals will also have to follow Para 24 (4) of the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO) 2013 which states: "Every retailer and dealer shall display the price list and the supplementary price list, if any, as furnished by the manufacturer, on a conspicuous part of the premises where he carries on business in a manner so as to be easily accessible to any person wishing to consult the same."
Stents were included in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) vide a Health ministry notification dated July 19, 2016, after the Delhi High Court sought action on a public interest petition seeking price control on stents.
Five months later, on Dec 21, the Department of Pharmaceuticals notified stents in schedule-I of the DPCO 2013 clearing the way for price fixation.