US lawmakers ask India to rethink price cap on stents
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.