The longstanding anomalies in pricing coronary stents are set to be resolved as the drug administration started fixing the prices of the life-saving medical device for patients with blocked coronary arteries.
With the introduction of new rates, prices of most of the stents would come down by 20 to 80 percent. In some cases, the prices might decline by over 90 percent.
A total of 21 companies import 47 types of stents to the country. The Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) has primarily fixed the prices of 26 types of stents of 11 importers.
“We have sent copies of the price list to public and private hospitals directing them to strictly follow the list from today [Thursday],” Maj Gen Mustafizur Rahman, director general at the DGDA, told The Daily Star yesterday.
The DGDA move came a day after Bangladesh Medical Device Importers Association went on a strike over what it said “misunderstanding with the government” about fixing of prices. The association stopped supply of stents to hospitals during the strike, putting heart patients' lives at stake.
The supply resumed after the association leaders met DGDA officials at its office yesterday. The officials in the meeting clarified fixing of stent prices for the association leaders.
Uncontrolled prices of stents were affecting patients for long. Moreover, many were opting to go to India after it slashed stent prices by up to Rs 30,000 in February.
According to cardiologists, hospitals were charging patients at different rates as patients were in the dark about the actual prices. They used to pay between Tk 80,000 and Tk 1.5 lakh for a drug-eluting stent at public hospitals. In some private hospitals, the cost varied between Tk 1.5 lakh and Tk 2.5 lakh.
“In public hospitals, the patients can now save Tk 20,000 to Tk 40,000 for each stent, while the savings would be much more in the cases of private hospitals,” said Prof SM Mustafa Zaman of the cardiology department at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).
For example, he said a patient had to spend Tk 80,000 for a Japan-made Ultimaster Sirolimus Eluting Coronary Stent system at the BSMMU. The same device would have been sold at Tk 1 lakh to Tk 1.2 lakh in private hospitals.
The DGDA, however, has fixed the price of the Japanese stent at Tk 61,900 for all the private and public hospitals.
The highest price fixed by the DGDA was Tk 149,891 for the US-made drug-eluting Xience Xpedition and of Xience Alpine stents.
The lowest prices of Tk 20,409 and Tk 25,000 have been fixed for non-drug-eluting Avangarde and Rebel stents.
Cardiologists said drug-eluting stents were used for over 90 percent patients to have better results.
“This [reduced prices] will definitely be a big relief to the patients and doctors,” said Prof Mustafa.
Maj Gen Mustafizur said the prices were fixed on the basis of import costs. The prices also included a reasonable profit margin for the importers.
The other stent importers were yet to submit their import bills to the DGDA, he said. “We will fix the prices of all the 47 types of stents in the next few days.”
Following the slashing of stent prices in India, the DGDA formed an inter-ministerial committee to fix the prices in Bangladesh.
Prof Afzalur Rahman, director at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, said the fixing of stent prices would significantly reduce the harassment of patients and increase their freedom of choice.