NPPA released revised maximum retail prices for digital thermometers, blood glucose meters, blood pressure meters, oximeters and nebulizers that would reduce their retail costs from tens of rupees to several hundred rupees
The Center announced price caps on digital thermometers, blood glucose meters, blood pressure meters, oximeters and nebulizers on Friday, cutting the prices of some devices in half.
The National Pharmaceutical Prices Authority (NPPA) has released revised maximum retail prices for these five categories of medical devices, which would reduce their retail costs from tens of rupees to several hundred rupees.
But health activists have questioned the government’s inaction on these devices through the two waves of Covid-19 and said the cap formula continued to facilitate high trade margins.
The price caps will come into effect on July 20. The actual difference between prior and revised MRPs will vary from brand to brand and device to device.
An oximeter with an earlier MRP of Rs 3,999 will have a new MRP of Rs 1,545, another earlier oximeter priced at Rs 2,600 will need to be priced at Rs 1,950. A blood pressure monitor at the earlier price of Rs 3,500 will be priced at Rs 1,375. A glucometer available earlier at Rs 1,590 will now be priced at Rs 675. A digital thermometer will now be priced at Rs 249 versus Rs 270 earlier.
The prices will not change for devices whose manufacturers had already applied the formula imposed by the NPPA. The formula specifies that the MRP should be calculated by adding three elements: the distributor price, 70 percent of the distributor price, and the goods and services tax.
Health activists said the 70% cap was too high and wanted the government to cap the trade margin earlier in the supply chain – landed cost or ex-factory cost – and not the price to the distributor.
“This is a strategic exercise to legitimize high margins and any relief for consumers is extremely late,” said Malini Aisola, coordinator of the All India Drug Action Network, a consortium of doctors and health activists. monitoring price trends in the healthcare sector.
“The NPPA did not lift a finger during the first wave, nor during the second wave,” Aisola said.
Demand for some of these devices, particularly oximeters, from consumers across the country has skyrocketed over the past year.
Aisola said the revised MRP, which continued to support high trade margins throughout the supply chain, provided insight into ‘excessive profits’ on these devices during Covid-19. She said the formula was inadequate and “does not keep affordability at the heart of the exercise.”
The NPPA, through an office memorandum on Friday, called on state drug controllers across the country to ensure the devices were available in revised MRPs and to take action against hoarding, the black market or overvaluation.