Prices of orthopedic knee implants set to be capped, hints govt

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has sought the views of all the concerned stakeholders on its preliminary analysis of orthopaedic implants that show huge trade margins for manufacturers and distributors

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New Delhi: “We are walking the talk. We will not allow over-charging in healthcare. Strong message to the violator,” reacted the union minister for chemicals and fertilizers, Mr Ananthkumar recently in a tweet as a reply to another tweet of a media person that sought to highlight the issue related to overcharging of orthopaedic implants.

This was in the background of an office memorandum from the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) where citing specific cases, it has mentioned that while the amount that patients were supposed to pay was Rs 29,600, they paid Rs 60,000 and Rs 1,25,000 respectively.

The order from NPPA dated 4th August 2017, with subject, ‘Display of the trade margins on the orthopaedic knee implants on preliminary analysis’ asked the stakeholders to communicate their views within a week’s time.

“The MRP of a total knee system varies between Rs 59,091 and Rs 4,13,059. The distributor, who gets the product for Rs 1,67,162, earns a margin of Rs 2,45,297, or 147%, on the product. Distributors and hospitals are earning hefty trade margins that can range from 67% to as high as 449%”, the order stated.

The top regulator had earlier shortlisted 19 commonly used medical devices, including catheters, heart valves, orthopaedic implants and intraocular lenses, and asked companies to submit price and production data. It made recommendations to the health ministry to include more medical devices under the national list of essential medicines.

The medical technology industry associations are expected to meet the NPPA officials on 9th August to present their clarifications on the issue of overcharging in the case of orthopaedic implants.

The tweet from Ananthkumar was clearly pointing towards the fact that the minister is very tough on the issue and NPPA’s analysis of the price data for knee implants has his clear backing. However, there is another twist to the story. It is the health ministry which will take a final call on the issue of knee implants’ inclusion into the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM). Only after that, the NPPA could be taking action against the companies for overcharging if proved.