US medical devices industry’s push to restrict market access draws flak
New Delhi: The Indian medical devices industry has condemned a move by US-based medical devices firms seeking suspension or withdrawal of India’s benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), saying it was in retaliation against the Indian government’s decision to fix retail prices of various medical devices.
Earlier this week, the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed), an American trade association representing top medical technology companies including Abbott, Boston Scientific and Medtronic, made a representation to the US Trade Representative (USTR) demanding partial or full suspension or withdrawal of India’s benefits under (GSP).
India’s drug pricing watchdog had earlier this year substantially cut prices of cardiovascular stents and knee implants in public interest.
The issue will be discussed at the US India Trade Policy Forum to be held in Washington DC on 26 October.
Pitching the case of US medical device companies in September, Ambassador Robert E Lighthizer, US Trade Representative, had written to minister of commerce and industry Suresh Prabhu and principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Nripendra Misra, saying that the “price control policy” had “troubled” them.
A copy of the letter, reviewed by Mint, says “the pricing policy has created serious problems for US companies that sell their products in the Indian market”.
The letter goes on to state that capping of prices of stents has “disproportionately affected the innovated and advanced stents, most of which are imported”.
It also said that since the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) denied applications by US firms to withdraw their products, the firms have been forced to continue to sell their products in India at a “significant loss”.
Fearing that price controls may be expanded to more medical devices, it said that US producers are forced to “rethink about their presence in the Indian market”.
It also urged the government to not extend price capping to other devices until a policy is formulated that would not only address government priorities related to patient costs, but also promote trade, innovation and access.
“Until such a policy is developed, I urge you to not expand price controls to additional medical devices. I propose that our teams renew their engagement on this important bilateral trade issue with the objective of reaching a mutually beneficial outcome as soon as possible,” read the letter.
The matter was earlier discussed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington DC in June.
Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator, Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AIMED), lashed out at US multinational medical device companies and AdvaMed for pressurizing the government to bow to their “unjust demands”.
“It is shocking to see how US MNCs are lobbying with the US Trade Representatives for using threat of access to the US market by Indian exporters and to suspend or withdraw Indian exporters’ import duty benefits under Generalized System of Preference (GSP), to arm twist the Indian government in creating differential pricing for US FDA approved stents. We also appeal to the US government to investigate how the US Medical Device companies are misleading, misguiding and misinforming the US Trade Representative (USTR) against India.
Representatives from the All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) said access to health products is non-negotiable and the “Indian government should reject the bullying tactics of the US based medical device industry,” it said in a statement.
AIDAN said the move “exposes the unabashed greed of the industry and its willingness to hold poor peoples’ health at ransom for the sake of maximizing profits”.
Industry representatives say that in the past too, the US biopharmaceutical industry had asked the Department of Industrial Policy &Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, to roll back decisions related to the rejection of patents on critical medicines such as sofosbuvir for hepatitis C.
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