A price cap on medical devices, which include stents and cardiac implants, is a very bad idea, one that the government should drop right away. Given India imports nearly 75% of its requirement of medical devices, the prices do often become a barrier for patients from the lower income group. But, given the costs of treatment at public healthcare facilities is a fourth of that at private ones, as per data from the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), it is not as if the choices for low-income patients are very limited. Even if they overwhelmingly choose private sector healthcare—the NSSO data says that more than 70% of Indians indeed prefer this—the government would do better to offer some sort of support to such patients rather than fixing a cap that will unnecessarily punish the device makers as well as the patients, as the latter may have to contend with a shortage of such devices in case the Indian price cap also causes a fall in the availability of the devices, as it did in the case of certain medicines that were brought under price regulation.
The long-term solution would, of course, be to encourage domestic production, and introduce competition that is certain to bring prices down. While the government does in indeed envision a Make in India shift for medical devices, the price caps only serve to deter foreign investors—it is only recently that the segment has been opened up for 100% FDI—and makers, with the latter expected to bring in the know-how. There is the likelihood that it would be years before Indian production—an estimated $3.5 billion industry at the moment—catches up to global quality standards, which would only mean patients’ suffering would be compounded in the interim.