Vested quarters, particularly a group of cardiologists, stent suppliers and drug manufacturers, have been making profit out of cardiac patients’ sufferings and vulnerability for decades now in Bangladesh. There have been numerous reports in the media on ways doctors and hospitals have held patients hostage and over-charged them for stents. A New Age report on Friday quoted a patient of Dhaka to be paying Tk 2.3 lakh for two stents at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases. These longstanding irregularities in the pricing of coronary stents are set to be resolved as the drug administration started setting prices of the life-saving medical device for patients with blocked coronary arteries. The Directorate General of Drug Administration on Thursday introduced new rates and prices of most of the stents would now reduce by 20 to 90 per cent. Although a total of 21 companies import 47 types of stents to the country, the drug administration has primarily set prices of 26 types of stents of 11 importers. If this regulation is successfully implemented, it will be the beginning of an end to cardiac patients’ exploitation in the existing healthcare system. At a time when patients with symptoms of cardiovascular diseases are on the rise, the government’s decision to regulate the price of stent is a welcome move.
The decision to set prices of stents came after a prolonged negotiation with the drug administration and stent traders; and 11 stent companies have set prices of 26 of the 47 brands of stents used in Bangladesh, ranging between Tk 20,000 and Tk 1.49 lakh. In order to make public aware of the regulation, the drug administration has also sent the price list to 27 hospitals and asked hospital authorities to display the list at a prominent site so that doctors can no longer keep patients in the dark and further overpriced selling of stents could be prevented. The drug administration has also instructed authorities to ensure that no unlabelled stents are sold. While all these are commendable moves on part of the government, it should also take preventive measures so that no company or a group of stent suppliers could create an artificial crisis of stent and similar life-saving devices to reclaim control over the market or make a situation in which the strict implementation of this new regulation becomes difficult.
In addition to the regulation of stent price, the drug administration and the ministry of health should also consider enlisting coronary stents as essential medical devices given that of about 222, 186 patients with cardiovascular diseases took health care services from the national institute alone in 2015. The number of total cardiac patients in the country are much higher. In this context, the government should also take an initiative, as recommended by public health experts, to import the stents and make it free for patients, particularly the poor ones. It should also keep strict vigilance against any irregularities in cardiac care services.
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