Govt plans price cap for diagnostic tests

Govt plans price cap for diagnostic tests

A Liquid Nitrogen bank containing suspension of stem cells. Cell culture for the biomedical diagnostic

The Health Ministry is planning to prepare a list of essential diagnostics, whose prices can be regulated by the government.

Once ready, the essential diagnostics list (EDL) is likely to function in the same way as the National List of Essential Medicine – a catalogue of medicines, whose ceiling prices are fixed by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority in accordance with a government order.

The World Health Organisation on Tuesday came out with the first-ever list of essential diagnostic tests to improve diagnosis and treatment outcomes around the world.

The WHO EDL contains a list of 58 tests to be carried out at primary healthcare centres and another 55 tests for the reference laboratories.

 “The WHO list is a guidance document based on which each country is to come out with its own list of essential diagnostic,” Kamini Walia, a senior scientist at the Indian Council of Medical Research, who represented India on the World Health Organization Strategic Advisory Group on In Vitro Diagnostics, told DH.

In future, the health ministry may create a mechanism on the lines of Essential Medicine List and periodically revise the EDL so that the cost of a set of basic diagnostics remain within the reach of common people.

The WHO inventory concentrates on in the tests of human blood and urine. The first list of 58 tests are those that are particularly suitable for primary health care facilities for detection and diagnosis of a wide range of common conditions.

The remaining 55 tests – meant for reference laboratories – are designed for the detection, diagnosis and monitoring of priority diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis B and C, human papillomavirus and syphilis.

To draft an Indian EDL, ICMR in March organised a meeting that was attended by scientists, government officials, industry representatives and WHO officials. A second meeting is being planned in August to shape the Indian catalogue, which is likely to be ready by 2018 end.

“The EDL will push for making diagnostics available and affordable and for government commitment in making them available,” said Walia.

As of December 2017, the NPPA regulates the prices of 851 medicines including two coronary stents. Recently knee implants were also brought under the NLEM to fix their ceiling prices. The government informed the Parliament that since the introduction of NLEM-2011, the consumers saved more than Rs 11,350 crore because of the price regulation.

India has one of the world’s highest out of pocket expenditure, of which nearly 60% are spent on drugs and diagnostics. According to the Economic Survey, 2018, the out of pocket expenditure on health continues to impact the finances of 62% Indians adversely.