The Drug Administration on Thursday fixed the prices of 26 of the 47 brands of coronary stents used in Bangladesh with a 155 per cent mark-up and the supply of the lifesaving medical device, suspended by suppliers on Wednesday, resumed following negotiations.
The suppliers went on an undeclared strike on Wednesday after the Drug Administration announced on Tuesday that it would fix and regulate the prices and quality of stents as the high prices hit hard patients.
Drug Administration director general Major General Mustafizur Rahman said that the prices would be drastically fall soon, as four importers proposed to fix the prices between Tk 25,000 and Tk 50,000, while such stents were selling for even Tk 2 lakh.
Drug Administration director Golam Kibria told New Age on Thursday that following a series of negotiation, the Drug Administration and stent traders agreed to fix the prices.
‘So far, 11 stent companies have fix the prices of 26 of the 47 brands of stents used in Bangladesh ranging between Tk 20,000 and Tk 1.49 lakh,’ he said.
‘We have sent the price list to 27 hospitals, where stent implantations are carried out, to display it at open places at the hospitals,’ Kibria said.
‘The stents are labelled with expiry date and price,’ he said, adding that no unlabelled stents would be sold.
Golam Kibria said that the traders were asked to register their stents as soon as possible with labelling them with expiry date and prices.
The Drug Administration and the traders agreed to fix the prices with a mark-up of 1.55 per cent, he said.
Bangladesh Medical Device Importers Association
president Gazi AK Shaheen said that the association agreed to fix the prices and hoped that all brands of stents would be labelled by next Sunday.
He said that the traders agreed with Drug Administration proposed mark-up of 155 per cent, but they would propose for a review to raise it to 189 per cent.
Gazi AK Shaheen said that they agreed with the Drug Administration and the prices would be labelled on the stents by the next week.
There are 47 brands of stents in Bangladesh imported from the United States, Europe and Japan, Drug Administration officials said.
They said that 21 companies imported the stents, enjoying duty free benefit and exemption of value added tax, but sold them at much higher prices.
The government of neighbouring India controls the price of stents, which ranges between Tk 8,900 and Tk 36,400.
India has also enlisted stents as essential drug.
Cardiac patients are on the rise in Bangladesh.
National Health Bulletin 2016 statistics showed that about 50 per cent cardiac patients increased at National Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in the past six years.
The statistics showed that some 63,390 heart patients were admitted to the institute and 222,186 took outdoor treatment in 2015 while the figures were 41,545 and 160,000 in 2009.
The bulletin showed that about 38 per cent of death in Bangladesh was caused by cardiovascular diseases.
Although some 18,000 stent implantations are needed in a year, the patients are to bear exorbitant prices in absence of government’s regulation.
Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder Zafrullah Chowdhury said that some traders in association with some cardiologists were cheating patients with the use and sale of coronary stents.
He said that the government or the institute and public hospitals should import the stents for and make free for the patients.
Zafrullah, however, welcomed Drug Administration move to fix the price of stents.
‘When the heart patients are increasing in Bangladesh, the government should ensure more facility and keep strict vigilance against any irregularities in health service,’ said the noted health rights activist.
The Wednesday’s undeclared ‘strike’ was enforced mostly at public hospitals like National Institute of Cardio Vascular Disease, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Public hospitals usually do not keep stents in stock as they are expensive and hospitals are unable to preserve them. Stents are usually ordered and delivered on demand.
Officials at private hospitals, however, said that there was no scarcity of stents at their hospitals on Wednesday.
National institute director Afzalur Rahman said that some 10 patients at the institute failed to get stents implanted on Wednesday due to the suppliers’ ‘strike.’
He said that there was no problem on Thursday and stents were implanted to 20 patients, including the 10 scheduled for Wednesday.
Senior sales executive Masud Parvez of Cardiac Solution told New Age at the institute that they were instructed by the company high-ups not to supply stents to the institute on Wednesday.
He said his company’s stents of Biotronik brand sold for Tk 50,000 to Tk 1.8 lakh.
‘Prices are fixed upon negotiation with the patients’ relatives,’ Masud said.
He informed that they supplied stents upon orders by doctors involved in the implantation.
Rafiqul Islam, 65, from Tikatuli in Dhaka, got two coronary stents implanted at the national institute on Thursday.
His daughter Rezwana Islam said that they bought the two stents for Tk 2.3 lakh.
‘We cannot bargain down the price when our dear ones are in critical condition,’ she said.
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