National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has stepped up vigil over the pricing pattern of critical medical equipment used for COVID-19 management. In a stakeholder meeting called by the authority on July 1, NPPA is known to have asked all manufacturers and sellers of medical equipment and devices needed for COVID-19 treatment to ensure that their products carry maximum retail price label and the price hikes, if any, are within the annual 10 percent limit, and justified.
"Availability and monitoring of prices of critical medical equipment for COVID-19 was on the agenda of the meeting", an industry representative said.
NPPA has powers to monitor and, if needed, fix the prices of all medical devices that are covered under the definition of drugs. With the recent broadening of definition, almost every medical device fall under this category. However, the authority has so far opted to monitor the prices of medical devices, and not fix any ceiling price. As part of its monitoring exercise, NPPA seeks regular price inputs from importers and manufacturers of these devices to ensure that there is no profiteering.
The list of critical COVID-equipment, as prepared by the Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation (CDSCO) or the office of the Drugs Controller General of India includes 33 items. The commonly used and prominent ones included in the list are self inflating resuscitation bag, mobile X-ray unit, portable ultrasound machine, ABG machine, hematology and bio-chemistry tests, glucometer, stethoscope, digital thermometer, IV stand, nebulizer, ventilators, suction source, ECG machine etc.
Incidentally, the Consumer Affairs Ministry, through a notification on June 23, 2017, had brought all medical devices declared as drugs under the ambit of Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, thereby making labelling and display of prices mandatory for such category of medical devices. Industry leaders say the rule was not enforced in a stringent manner until COVID-19 outbreak triggered questions over pricing patterns of such products.