Medical device industry divided on syringe prices

Once again, the medical device industry is split down the middle this time on fixing the prices of injection syringes.

A day after an association of Indian syringe manufacturers brought a self-regulation circular, capping the trade margin at 75% on ex-factory price, another industry group comprising multinationals opposed the move.

"There is no need to revisit ex-factory or landed cost-based price capping and try to re-invent the wheel. Self-regulation based on the decision of a small group is not sustainable," Medical Technology Association of India (MTAI), an association of medical technology companies, said in a press statement.

The statement comes a day after All India Syringes and Needles Manufacturers Association announced that its members would voluntarily cap the trade margins at a maximum of 75% on the ex-factory prices (including GST) by January 26, 2018. The AISNMA an association of largely domestic medical device manufacturers said it took the decision in the wake of a meeting with the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority earlier this month.

The NPPA advised the syringe manufacturers to either voluntarily limit the margins and MRP or the government would have to step in to regulate them. The local manufacturers wrote to MTAI, asking them to adopt the self-regulation for patient benefit.

"We have seen out of 26 manufacturers of syringes and needles only 12 companies gave WhatsApp confirmation; already one member dissenting and others not confirming illustrates that self-regulation will not sustain. A more sustainable approach will be for government to mandate trade margins with necessary changes in the Drug Price Control Order," MTAI said, articulating its differences with the other group.

The issue of trade margins on medical consumables came into limelight following a case in the Gurugram-based Fortis hospital, which was found guilty of overcharging patients. The hospital charged up to 1,737% margin on some of the medical consumables.

Blatant profiteering

On several types of disposable syringes, the hospital enjoyed a margin between 900-1,200% and the lowest margin on one type of disposable syringe was 492%.

"Hospitals are buying medical devices from those manufacturers who keep high MRP of their products despite low ex-factory prices. This is nothing but profiteering at the cost of patients," said Rajiv Nath, president, AISNMA.

In the past, the industry was also divided on the issue of capping the prices of coronary stents, which had been brought under price control by the NPPA.

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