A Lawyer's Fight With Hospitals Has Led To A Decrease In Heart Stent Price By 400%
In a decision that would benefit the common man, the NPPA (National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority) has finally capped the prices of cardiac stents (used in angioplasty procedure for heart patients). In a notification published on Tuesday, the authority set a ceiling of a bare metal stent to Rs 7,260 and drug eluting stents and bioresorbable vascular scaffold/ biodegradable stents to Rs 29,600.
This decision came after the Delhi High Court asked the government to take immediate steps responding to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Advocate Birendra Sangwan. The PIL was seeking price control of stents since many people can not afford what could probably be life-saving surgery due high prices of stents.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Birendra Sangwan said, “In 2014, my friend’s brother suffered a heart attack, and was admitted to the Metro Hospital in Faridabad. The hospital charged an exorbitant amount for the stents. My friend and I were curious to know why we were charged so high. The hospital authorities were not giving us satisfactory answers and also the MRP was not mentioned on the packaging. On 10 October 2014, I sent a letter to the Union Health Ministry complaining about the over pricing of stents by the hospitals. I also filed a Right To Information (RTI) application to ascertain which category the stents fall under – metals or drugs.”
The reply by RTI bewildered Birendra, and he came to know that stents are drugs and exempted from customs duty. Also, the stents were notified as drugs but are not covered under any price control mechanism as they were not enrolled in National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM). The NLEM is a list that contains essential medicines which must be available in adequate numbers and be affordable.
Birendra filed a contempt petition against Union Health Ministry, and he was told that stents were included in the NLEM. He filed another PIL in December 2016. And in between these petitions being filed, the Department of Pharmacy, NPPA added stents in Schedule-I of the list thus reducing the price of the drug.
NPPA’s data showed massive margins were being charged at each step in the supply and distribution of stents. By the time the stents reached the patients, they were charged almost 1000-2000% more than the original cost. His PIL is a huge blow to the country’s Rs 3,300 crore coronary stent industry. Acc. to a report published by The Times Of India, Government data shows that hospitals could be selling stents at margins of up to 654%. The current slash is around 400% of the profits that were being made.
The Logical Indian thanks Birendra Sangwan for undertaking this fight and making stents more affordable.