Tuesday, 26 September, 2023
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Poor patients suffer for rising prices of cardiac devices

Poor patients suffer for rising prices of cardiac devices

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Escalating prices of crucial heart surgery devices, such as coronary stent systems, are posing significant financial strain on low-income patients in the country.

The recent price surge, linked to the increased dollar value, has led to an upsurge in medical expenditures for the poor patients.  

The government recently raised the prices of essential cardiac devices such as stents, pacemakers, valves, oxygenator circuits, and catheters, citing the rise in the value of the dollar.

Md. Nurul Alam, Deputy Director and Head of Medical Cell of the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA), reported a price rise of up to 15 percent for these devices, depending on importers and brands.

"The adjustment is reflective of the international market and dollar price," he told the Daily Sun.

He further affirmed that the price increment followed due process and involved all stakeholders' consultation. However, allegations have surfaced of many hospitals and companies overcharging beyond the government-fixed rates, resulting in price hikes of 30percent to over 100percent in many cases this year.

The DGDA issued a notice in February, under Director General Major General Mohammad Yousuf's signature, announcing the price hike of coronary stents.

However, some physicians claim that the increase was implemented without adequate stakeholder consultation or adherence to due process, catering more to importers' demands.

“We've conducted numerous meetings to regulate the sale of medical devices, including cardiac stents, and are striving to reduce the prices,” said Md. Abdul Malek, Deputy Director of the DGDA.

Still, sources from patients and private hospitals indicate that the increased prices have imposed significant financial burden, particularly on low-income patients.

Device prices vary based on brand, import country, type, and international market trends.

The highest-priced coronary stent system, Ireland's Xience Alpine Everolimus Eluting Coronary Stent System, is priced at Tk 1,49,891.07, while the lowest-priced device, Germany's Suna Stent Delivery System Cobalt Chromium Coronary Stent Delivery System, is set at Tk 14,388.54.

Despite the DGDA fixing the prices for 55 types of cardiac stent devices imported by 55 companies, and a price increment of around 20-30percent for pacemakers, many hospitals and retailers have been charging beyond the established rates.

This situation has caused particular hardship for low-income patients requiring these life-saving devices.

Patients at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) and National Heart Foundation Hospital reported spending considerable additional amounts due to the price increase of cardiac devices.

Rakibul Islam, a city resident, told the Daily Sun about his mother's cardiac issues, and their struggle to afford the stent recommended by her doctors. Another person, Rahsed, shared his inability to admit his mother for a crucial pacemaker change due to the inflated costs.

The price hike has drawn criticism from health professionals.

Prof. Dr. Mir Jamal Uddin, Director of NICVD, stated, "Poor patients are suffering due to the increased prices of the medical devices. Prices should be rationalized and reduced."

Prof. Dr. Afzalur Rahman, former NICVD director and member of DGDA's technical subcommittee for price fixation, noted that they had discussed price reductions with cardiac stent parent company representatives on May 29.

He said, "Companies have been requested to submit revised stent prices. Prices should be cut, as the current rates are burdensome for poor patients."

Dr. Rahman further recommended that all medical device prices in the country be revised down to rational levels to alleviate the financial strain on patients.