India introduces price controls for knee implants

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has capped prices of orthopaedic knee implants, in the country’s latest move to bring down prices of medical devices.

The introduction of price controls marks the latest step by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to make drugs and medical devices more affordable. In February, it imposed a 75 percent price cut for certain heart stents - wire mesh tubes used to treat blocked arteries, which caused protests among manufacturers.

India’s drug pricing authority said on Wednesday that orthopaedic implants in India had unjustified, unreasonable and irrationally high trade margins, leading to exorbitant pricing.

Ananth Kumar, Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers, told a news briefing the government had capped knee implant prices “in public interest.”

Kumar said the price of the widely used cobalt chromium knee implant, priced at up to 250,000 rupees ($3,895) at Indian hospitals, would now be capped at 54,720 rupees ($852).

The government will not allow “illegal profiteering, unethical profiteering”, Kumar said.

The Association of Indian Medical Device Industry, which represents Indian manufacturers, said it supported the government’s move.

Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator for the group, said that some of the six Indian knee implant manufacturers found the prices “perfect and reasonable”, and that the caps would help patients.

Major international pharmaceutical companies have protested against India’s price controls on drugs and medical devices, arguing this will curb innovation and could hurt future investment plans.

Johnson & Johnson, for example, which makes artificial knees, has been worried about potential price curbs in this area.

The Medical Technology Association of India, which includes several foreign companies such as Johnson & Johnson among its members, said in a statement that it was reviewing the order and may offer suggestions for its implementation later.

Johnson & Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

($1 = 64.1850 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Aditya Kalra and Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Euan Rocha and Jane Merriman