Fortis #39;overcharging#39; fallout: Activists ask regulator to cap prices of more medical devices
The country’s drug price regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) on Friday issued notices to Fortis Healthcare, asking the company to provide copies of bills in connection with a case of alleged overcharging by its hospital in Gurugram.
NPPA said its notice was based on newspaper reports about Fortis Gurugram charging approximately Rs 16 lakh from Jayant Singh for treating his seven-year-old daughter Adya, who was suffering from dengue and subsequently passed away.
NPPA shot off a letter the company’s Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director seeking copies of invoices/bills raised, name of medicines administered along with details of quantity and price charged towards medicines and consumables.
NPPA gave Fortis a deadline till December 8 to submit the information it has sought.
The Union Health Ministry too has sought details of the case and asked the Haryana government to initiate an “urgent probe”.
Fortis denied allegations of overcharging and said all the consumables were transparently reflected in the records and charged as per actuals.
“Care of ventilated patients in ICU requires a high number of consumables as per globally accepted infection control protocols,” it added.
The NPPA notice comes at a time when there is a growing demand for regulation of private healthcare and reining in the trade margins that hospitals, distributors and manufacturers enjoying on medical devices and consumables.
Welcoming NPPA’s notice, public health activists asked the drug price regulator to urgently add 19 additional categories of medical devices classified as drugs under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Drugs and Cosmetics Rules.
NPPA has earlier sought pricing data of these devices that consist widely used medical consumables such surgical dressings, hypodermic syringes, IV cannulae, disposable perfusion sets, catheters, heart valves among others.
“The prices of consumables used by hospitals are ridiculously inflated,” said Malini Aisola of All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) — a national network of several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that advocates a rational drug policy.
Aisola asked NPPA to put the data collected by the authority on 19 medical devices and consumables in the public domain.
AIDAN in its study found that trade margins over high-volume consumables such as disposable syringes, IV Cannula sometimes go as high as 10 times ex-factory prices.
In the case of Adya Singh, the Fortis bill suggests it charged for 660 syringes and 2,700 gloves during her 15-day hospital stay.
Aisola also expressed concern that hospitals bill consumables which are not directly used on the patient but used by staff for upkeep of the facility.
Hospitals were also under criticism for not sufficiently passing the benefit to the patient when the NPPA capped the prices of coronary stents, slashing the prices by around 85 percent.