US law­mak­ers ask In­dia to re­think price cap on stents

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Front Page - Reuters letters@hindustantimes.com

MEM­BERS OF THE US CONGRESS SAID THEY WERE ‘TROU­BLED’ BY THE PRICE CAP, WARN­ING THAT IT COULD DE­TER FIRMS FROM LAUNCH­ING MED­I­CAL PROD­UCTS IN IN­DIA

A group of US law­mak­ers has backed med­i­cal de­vice mak­ers by urg­ing In­dia to re­con­sider its de­ci­sion to cap prices of heart stents, rais­ing the is­sue ahead of Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s visit to the United States later this week.

In a let­ter sent to the In­dian am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton last month, and seen by Reuters, 18 mem­bers of Congress said they were “trou­bled” by the price cap, warn­ing that it could de­ter firms from launch­ing new med­i­cal prod­ucts in In­dia.

Modi’s govern­ment has in re­cent years capped prices of hun­dreds of life-sav­ing drugs to make them more af­ford­able. And in Fe­bru­ary, it im­posed a 75% price cut for cer­tain heart stents — wire mesh tubes used to treat blocked ar­ter­ies.

The govern­ment jus­ti­fied its ac­tion by cit­ing “huge un­eth­i­cal markups”. But global med­i­cal de­vice mak­ers have protested the cap, with some say­ing it would force them to sell be­low cost.

The US law­mak­ers warned that peo­ple would be de­nied ac­cess to the lat­est med­i­cal ad­vances if com­pa­nies backed away from In­dia’s $5 bil­lion med­i­cal-tech­nol­ogy mar­ket.

“The sud­den and un­prece­dented na­ture of the de­ci­sion threat­ens cit­i­zens’ ac­cess to the new­est and most in­no­va­tive med­i­cal tech­nolo­gies and raises strong con­cerns about the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment in In­dia,” they said in the May 22 let­ter, which has not pre­vi­ously been made pub­lic.

The In­dian em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

The US De­part­ment of Com­merce is likely to raise the is­sue with Modi dur­ing his visit on June 25-26, ac­cord­ing to an in­dus­try source aware of the plans. “It’s one of the big­gest pain points,” the source said.

An aide to Modi said com­pa­nies were be­ing asked to bring down prices of med­i­cal de­vices “or be pre­pared to quit” the coun­try, and a bu­reau­crat who works closely with the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice said rais­ing the mat­ter to diplo­matic lev­els would not in­flu­ence In­dia’s po­si­tion.

US-based com­pa­nies such as Bos­ton Sci­en­tific Corp and Ab­bott Lab­o­ra­to­ries sell heart stents in In­dia, while John­son & John­son sells other de­vices.

Fol­low­ing the Fe­bru­ary de­ci­sion, Ab­bott moved to with­draw one of its stents from In­dia, but its plea was re­jected by Modi’s govern­ment.

Bos­ton Sci­en­tific, which also has a re­search base near New Delhi, sought a higher price for one of its stents but a govern­ment panel de­clined the re­quest.

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