NEW DELHI : Capping prices of knee implants helped more people buy them, India’s drug price regulator said, two years after slashing their prices by up to 69%.

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has observed a 30% increase in the sale of orthopaedic implants between July 2018 and July 2019.

“The authority observed that there is more than 30% increase in sale of knee implants during the period of July 18 to June 19 in comparison to that of previous year. It may be inferred that fixation of ceiling prices of orthopaedic knee implants under Para 19 of the DPCO, 2013, has contributed to increased access to affordable healthcare to general public," said the minutes of the meeting held on 8 August.

In August, the NPPA increased the prices of knee implants by 10%. It also decided to monitor the ceiling price of orthopaedic knee implants to ensure the cost does not increase beyond 10% in a given year. This comes at a time when the industry is demanding a 20% increase, in view of the recent currency depreciation.

The NPPA had notified the ceiling price of orthopaedic knee implants on 16 August, 2017 by invoking extraordinary powers, in public interest, under Para 19 of Drugs Prices Control Order (DPCO) 2013, for a period of one year. Subsequently, it was extended for another year.

The industry has also been demanding a separate price ceiling for knee implant components such as bone cement and material required for revision surgery.

A member of a medical device association, requesting anonymity, said: “Price caps have left little room for innovation, leaving patients with less options in the country."

Last year, the US medical device lobby group AdvaMed had even written to the NPPA, saying that not raising knee implant prices for another year could take a “toll" on manufacturers.

The US trade association said it was “critical" for the government to evaluate the long-term “negative impact" of such decisions on patient outcomes.

The trade association represents nearly 350 medical technology firms, including manufacturers such as Abbott Laboratories, Boston Scientific Corp. and Medtronic Inc.

The prices of widely used cobalt chromium total knee implants were capped at 54,720, bringing its average maximum retail price (MRP) down by 65% from 1.58 lakh, according to data available with the ministry of chemicals and fertilizers.

In 2017, NPPA had said there were as many as 20 million patients who required arthroplasty—a surgical reconstruction or replacement of a joint—but only about 100,000 could afford to have one every year.

According to a World Health Organization report, osteoarthritis is likely to become the world’s fourth leading cause of disability by 2020.

According to orthopaedic surgeons, 90% of knee implants available in India are imported.

Companies selling such implants include Stryker Corp., Smith and Nephew Plc, Biomet Inc., Zimmer Inc., and Johnson and Johnson.

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