Eye lenses get cheaper
Less than a month after fixing the prices of heart stents, the drug administration has set the prices of eye lenses which need to be surgically implanted in patients with poor vision.
With the new rates, prices of most lenses would halve. In some cases, prices might decline even more than that.
The move would likely end the demand-as-you-wish prices for lenses and prevent patients from getting short changed. It would also make lenses more affordable.
The lowest price of Tk 1,225.70 has been fixed for US-made Epoch Intraocular Lens. Earlier, its lowest price was between Tk 2,000 and Tk 2,500.
The highest price for an US-made single piece AcrySof ReStor Multifocal IOL has been fixed at Tk 58,000. Those used to be sold between Tk 62,000 and 65,000.
The Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) has fixed the prices of 15 types of lenses of four importers earlier this month.
“We have fixed the prices of lenses and sent copies of the price list to public and private hospitals directing them to strictly follow the price list and hang the list in a place so that the patients can see and choose on their own,” Ruhul Amin, director of the DGDA, told The Daily Star.
Amin said the fixing of prices would remove confusion over pricing and patients would not be cheated as the product details would include the maximum retail price. The products would have registration numbers, expiry date, and the country of origin.
“… an overall control will be established in this sector,” he said.
Since the products would be under the DGDA scanner, they would be safe, efficient, of good quality, Amin said.
Uncontrolled prices of lenses had been affecting patients for a long time. According to ophthalmologists, some hospitals were charging exuberantly taking advantage of patients not knowing the actual prices.
Partha Pratim, whose father had the surgery six months ago at a city hospital, told The Daily Star that he had bought the lenses for Tk 7,500 each. He said the lenses would have been much cheaper had the surgery been done now.
“Earlier, the lenses were sold at much higher prices and the new prices will be affordable,” said Shawkat Ara Shakoor Milly, a professor at Community Ophthalmology of National Institute of Ophthalmology and Hospital.
Sources said syndicates active in government hospitals used to charge patients more for a lens. The patients used to be deprived of proper lens at the proper price.
Apart from this, there were syndicates who brought substandard lenses from India and China and labelled them “Made in USA” to charge more.
According to the Bangladesh National Blindness and Low Vision Survey 2000, the age standardised blindness prevalence rate is 1.53 percent and thus, there are approximately 675,000 blind adults (30 and above age group) in the country.
The report also said Cataract was the predominant (79.6 percent) cause of bilateral blindness.
Cataract is a very common disease in Bangladesh. Cataracts occur when changes in the lens of the eye cause it to become less transparent, cloudy, blurry, and misty.
The purpose of the lens is to bend (refract) light rays that come into the eye to help the person see. Having a cataract can be like looking through a foggy or dusty car windscreen. Things may look blurry, hazy or less colourful.
“During cataract surgery, the cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens. That lens is called an intraocular lens (IOL). The only way to remove a cataract is with surgery," said Milly.
She also said every year approximately two lakh people undergo cataract surgery.
“This [reduced prices] will definitely be a big relief to the patients and doctors,” said Milly.
Zahidul Islam, lens importer and owner of ZAS Corporation, said patients would now have more options in choosing lenses of different prices, which was not possible earlier as doctors used to prescribe a package that included the surgery, lens and hospital fees.