The United States wants India to withdraw products from the market if they do not wish to sell at government determined rates as the Washington presses New Delhi not to extend price caps on medical devices, said a U.S. trade official to the media.
With the intention to make medical devices such as knee implants and heart stents more affordable for the general population of the country, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has in recent months slashed prices of such medical devices by up to 75 percent.
But by saying they hurt innovation, profits and future investment, these moves have bene protested by Indian medical-technology industry – which counts U.S. firms such as Abbott Laboratories, Boston Scientific Corp and Johnson & Johnson as key players. The Indian medical technology industry is worth $5 billion.
Letting companies withdraw their products if they wish to, allowing for higher pricing for technologically advanced equipment and not extending the price caps to other devices is what is being pressed for by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to the Indian government, said a senior official of the association.
With the aim to ensure adequate supply of devices for patients, order effectively barring companies from any immediate withdrawals of heart stents or knee implants following price capping was issued by the Indian government last month. For example, saying it’s not commercially viable under government set prices, Abbott wants to withdraw one of its stents. However, the Indian government has rejected its plea.
“It is a principal concern for the United States,” the U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.
There were no comments available from India’s trade ministry, which co-chairs such discussions under the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum. Further, there were also no comments available from the department of pharmaceutical which were directed the question addressed to the federal drug pricing regulator.
Providing affordable healthcare to patients takes precedence over the interests of companies, Modi, however, has previously said.
“Illegal profiteering” is what has been equated with for high margins charged for some medical devices by the Indian government. In some cases, these margins can exceed 400 percent.
Pressure to revise its stance on price caps for medical devices by India have been increased by the United States. Their concerns were conveyed to Indian trade officials in New Delhi by assistant USTR Mark Linscott and his delegation last month, reported the media quoting a person familiar with the matter.
Requests to reconsider India’s decision to cap prices of stents, which are tiny wire mesh tubes used to treat blocked arteries, was made in May this year by a group of U.S. Congress members.
India must continue to develop policies based on its requirements and not succumb to diplomatic pressure, said Tanoubi Ngangom, an associate fellow for healthcare at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.
“Indian government should retain a pro-public health stance on pricing medical devices to ensure access to affordable healthcare,” she said.
(Adapted from Reuters)