"I Am Certainly Concerned About Price Caps"

Shravan Subramanyam, Managing Director of Roche Diagnostics India, tells Joe C. Mathew about the business prospects offered by India's new National Health Policy
Joe C. Mathew   Delhi     Print Edition: November 5, 2017
Photo: Rachit Goswami

Q. How promising is the new health policy?

It is very encouraging. It proposes to shift the conversation from treating illness to preventive care. We certainly need more investments at the disease-screening stage. But right now the policy is just words. Are they increasing funds to have such facilities? Are they ensuring that more patients get tested? Those are things that are not yet clear to us. We are waiting. We want to be ready when the opportunity comes.

Q. Is there a shift in your business plan?

Over the past few months, we have been trying to accelerate product launches in India. Our global pipeline is very rich. We wanted to make sure what products would make sense for India. We have not yet changed the portfolio dramatically although we are adapting ourselves to the disease areas that we want to address. We are looking at infectious diseases, cardiovascular conditions, cancer and women's health - the key pillars of Indian healthcare. As it turns out, the National Health Policy has many of these as priorities.

Q. The government is talking about capping prices of medical devices and diagnostic tests. How do you see the development?

They have included a few diagnostic tests like HIV, so it is possible that it can come under price control. I do not expect it to be a major problem for us because we are already competitive in pricing terms. India imports products at much cheaper rates than many other countries. So, if you compare the same test in other countries, we will be vastly cheaper. I am certainly concerned about price caps. But I also want to see the service provider to be responsible. For instance, in the case of stents and implants, companies have been made to cap their prices, but we do not know to what extent it is translating into lower patient cost. There is a need to have self-discipline, a little bit, and have that conversation with the labs, hospitals, us and the policymakers to make sure that access is not restricted. At the same time, incentive to innovate should not be restricted.

@joecmathew

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