Patients fleeced in sale of medical devices

MRP of cataract lenses up to 576% higher than import price

Patients fleeced in sale of medical devices

The lenses used in cataract operations and catheters required for angioplasty are two medical devices that are commonly sold to hapless patients at hugely inflated prices, benefiting both manufacturers and certain hospitals.

This has come to light from two recent reports prepared by the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which asked the central government to fix ceiling prices for a large number of medical devices, in the same way it was done for coronary stents.

For instance, while the import price of one type of intraocular lens (IOL) is Rs 2,737, the same lens is sold at a price of Rs 6,500 to the wholesaler or the hospital. But the maximum retail price of the lens is a whopping Rs 18,500 — a jump of almost 576% from import price to the MRP.

Another batch of lenses has an import price of Rs 4,400, while the wholesale price is Rs 6,000 and the MRP Rs 9,575 — a jump of 117%. Both are imported by a Bengaluru-based company.

“It is observed that maximum available intraocular lenses are imported. There is a difference between the purchase cost/import cost and the printed cost (MRP). Also there is a difference between the price to hospital and its MRP. There is a difference of 200-300% between purchase cost and MRP of lenses,” said the report, a copy of which is available with DH.

“If a patient has to purchase the medical device from a retail shop, he/she has to pay the MRP. Hence, the out-of-pocket expenses of the patient are increased and patients are unnecessarily burdened,” the report said.

The government had notified the IOL as a medical device in 2005. It is one of the medical devices whose prices are supposed to be regulated, even though doctors regularly report gross abuse of regulatory norms.

The Maharashtra FDA report showed that the MRP of urine bags was 500% higher than the cost at which they are supplied to the hospital. Similarly, oxygen bags are sold at about 300% higher prices than the MRP.

A second report from the same agency showed that the profit margin earned by hospitals for the balloon catheter (needed in angioplasty) is between 25-472% and for the guiding catheter, it is between 50-529%, with respect to the import price. A 2014 report from the Odisha drug authority came with similar findings.

The disclosure comes months after the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) fixed the ceiling price of coronary stents to check profiteering.

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