Healthcare major Abbott on Friday announced the withdrawal of two of its latest generation coronary stents from India, including a bio-absorbable stent it had introduced four years ago, citing commercial unviability.
The decision comes just months after the country's drug pricing regulator capped the prices of stents.
The company said it was disappointed that the government has not fixed prices of old and new technology of stents separately.
However, Abbott said it is aligned with the government's intent to provide affordable stents and reassured that there will be no shortage of Xience Gold Standard range of stents.
NPPA (National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority) had effected up to 80 percent price cuts on stents under the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO) in February 2017.
A stent is a tiny expandable tube shaped mesh to open up narrowed or weakened arteries to prevent chest pains and reduce chances of a heart attack. Doctors place stents in the artery through a less-invasive procedure called angioplasty, performed in a catheterization laboratory known populary as cathlab.
Price of bare metal stents was fixed at Rs 7,260 and drug eluting stent (DES) and biodegradable stents at Rs 29,600. Both the prices are exclusive of value added tax.
DES constitutes 95 percent of the market.
Naresh Trehan of Medanta said that the move was inevitable and other firms may follow suit eventually.
"The cap has led to a lack of stent innovation in the country. Patients from abroad have stopped coming as they feel we lack the latest in stent technology. We need a quick decision from the government to resolve this as we have started to lose ground" said Trehan.
Before the cap, prices of such stents to most patients undergoing heart procedures spanned between Rs 75,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh, based on the make, the hospital charges and fees of the surgeon involved.
The NPPA's decision has caused a fair deal of heartburn to stent makers. Many have threatened to pull out their products from Indian market, while some said that the decision will be detrimental for bringing in innovative therapies to the country.
MNCs including Abbott, Medtronics, Meril Lifesciences and Boston Scientific have around 60 percent market share of India’s stent market which is valued at around USD 531 million in revenues by 2016-end.
The NPPA's move was also intended to put an end to profiteering by stent manufacturers, distributors, hospitals and doctors through highly inflated margins. NPPA study found out that distributors had trade margins between 13 and 196 percent for sale of stents to hospitals, while hospitals enjoyed a margin between 11 percent and 650 percent on sales to patients.
Around 25 percent of deaths in India are attributed to cardiovascular disease (CVD). Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common CVD accounting for 90-95 percent of all CVD cases and deaths.Watch video for more.