The Kerala government plans to introduce a system for procuring coronary stents directly from manufacturers and supply them to hospitals, amid efforts by drug regulators to implement the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority’s (NPPA) order capping the device’s prices.
A stent is a mesh tube placed in arteries to improve the blood flow to the heart.
According to the NPPA order issued on February 13, the price of a bare-metal stent will be capped at Rs 7,260, while drug-eluting stents and biodegradable stents will be priced at Rs 29,600 apiece, excluding taxes.
A senior official of the Kerala government said the state will “keep a buffer” of quality stents and provide it to hospitals when the latter raise the demand.
The scheme, the official added, will initially be for state-owned hospitals and subsequently extended to private hospitals based on their demand.
“Once this scheme is rolled out, no hospital will be at the mercy of distributors. We will procure it directly from the company,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The state is in the process of collecting data from various quarters to assess the demand for stents in hospitals, and is likely to launch the scheme as early as April 2017, the officials said. This will be the first time a state will procure stents on behalf of hospitals.
While this scheme will ensure adequate availability of high-end stents, the state drug controller will continue to ensure that hospitals raise demand and provide coronary stents to patients.
This measure comes at a time when the Centre is trying to ensure adequate availability of high-end stents at hospitals across the country by asking manufacturers to update the NPPA with their manufacturing and distribution plans every week.
The Centre has made it obligatory for manufacturers to submit their data on a weekly basis by invoking the section 3 (i) of the Drugs Price Control Order 2013. The government invoked the order after it received complaints on shortage of high-end coronary stents. The NPPA is also investigating 26 hospitals on account of overcharging.
“During deliberations (with stakeholders) it was found that huge unethical markups are charged at each stage in the supply chain of coronary stents, resulting in irrational, restrictive and exorbitant prices in a failed market system driven by information asymmetry between the patients and doctors, pushing patients to financial misery,” the NPPA had said while justifying its decision to impose the price ceiling.