A lawyer’s fight against a Rs 3000-crore industry

Birender Sangwan has rattled hospitals, doctors, importers and stent manufacturers in the country, who collectively are a Rs 3,300 crore business.

Published: 02nd March 2017 05:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd March 2017 05:05 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Birender Sangwan has rattled hospitals, doctors, importers and stent manufacturers in the country, who collectively are a Rs 3,300 crore business.

The 37-year-old lawyer had in 2015 filed a PIL asking stents to be added to the national list of essential medicines.

In December 2016, he filed another PIL seeking a limit on the maximum retail price of stents, and succeeded.

“The cost that the patient is getting a stent at was total of the manufacturer’s price, and the margins of distributors and hospitals. It came up to a profit margin of 1,000 per cent. Is this right? A medical device has never been added to the national list of essential medicines. Stent is the first to be added to this list of 850 drugs. India is a huge market and cannot be ignored. No industry will shut down because of this order,” he said.

According to the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority report on pricing of stents, the number of cardiac interventions in the country has increased fivefold in the past 10 years. Coronary atherosclerotic is a common form of cardiovascular disease in India, which affects 32 million people with a mortality of around 1.6 million every year. Cardiac stents are used to treat coronary artery closure. Nearly 2 per cent of CAD patients are treated with angioplasty.

Stent suppliers have to comply with Para 28 of Drugs Price Control Order (2013). It states that manufacturers, importers and distributors cannot refuse to sell any stent without good reason.

“Whichever companies show artificial shortage of stents, we will go to the court against them. I have a list of six companies so far. NPPA had asked manufacturers and importers to submit its rates. If a fourth generation stent costs Rs 1.8 lakh, why didn’t they submit it to the NPPA?” Sangwan asked.  

“There is no dearth of innovation in our country. If the industry says that newer innovations will not hit Indian markets because of the cap order, the manufacturer can approach the NPPA on how much it has cost them to produce it and the NPPA will fix prices accordingly. It need not necessarily cost Rs 30,000 (per stent),” he added.

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