NPPA Chairman paid ‘price’ for trying to Control price of treatment

Private Hospitals &Medical Device Lobby got him transferred; Patients’ rights group slams government

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New Delhi: Private Hospitals and Medical Device lobby have retaliated with a vengeance.

National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) chairman, who capped the price of exorbitant stent and exposed ruthless fleecing of patients by hospitals, himself paid a price for daring to take them on.

In a midnight move, the government shifted NPPA Chairman Bhupendra Singh, to some other department in a brazen show of its anti patient stance. Also, NPPA has been left headless as no replacement for Mr. Singh has been announced.

Health and patients’ rights groups have slammed this move and have expressed apprehension that this might seriously impact public interest particularly the measures of NPPA unveiled by him to plug unethical profiteering.

Patients’ rights group All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN), has come down heavily on the unwarranted move. It has asked government to reconsider its anti patient decision and let him continue as NPPA chairman.

In a statement sent to Medicare News, AIDAN has said, ‘We are deeply concerned about the manner and timing of the transfer of Mr. Bhupendra Singh, Chairman NPPA. The NPPA under the governance of Mr. Injeti Srinivas and Mr. Singh showed tremendous leadership. Mr. Srinivas was transferred even before the completion of one year following the price regulation of critical cardiac and diabetes medicines through public interest of the DPCO. During his term, Mr. Singh has taken many positive steps to ensure affordability of medicines and medical devices that discomforted the industry.

The release further said, ‘Notably, the NPPA undertook landmark price control of stents and knee implants. There was greater accountability to the public because of increased transparency and responsiveness to grievances of patients and the industry.  Enforcement was also significantly strengthened with the recovery of hundreds of crores due to overcharging by the industry. The NPPA also saw unprecedented success in the courts with its stands vindicated by favourable judgments passed by the Supreme Court and High Courts in most cases.’

Finally, the NPPA took a proactive role in initiating monitoring of high margins charged by private hospitals in an effort to curb unethical profiteering.
‘We fear that Mr. Singh’s transfer in total disregard to the public interest is due to the pressure from the industry and corporate hospital lobby.
The pharmaceutical industry has long sought to undermine and weaken the NPPA in order to enable uninhibited profiteering and circumvention of the law. The recent price revise of coronary stents angered the US-based MNCs which ran a malicious campaign against the regulatory authority’ the release said.

The final precipitating factor, we believe, was the report analyzing bills of four patients and which exposed the gross overcharging and misconduct of private hospitals. In this same report, the NPPA appealed for policy intervention to correct the injustice towards patients as it had reached the limits of its mandate.

By transferring out the Chairman, the institutions positive outlook towards consumers will be blocked and messages uncertainty for continuation of critical interventions to make medicines more affordable to the common man and to stem systematic looting in the healthcare industry. Not appointing a replacement will render the NPPA non functional at a critical juncture when patients interest must be served, ‘the release said.

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