New Delhi: The chairman of National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), Bhupendra Singh on 1st March 2018 has been transferred to the National Authority for Chemical Weapons Convention. The move has reportedly raised concerns from public health activist evoking howls of protest.
According to a government notification, NPPA chairman has transferred to a new role. The appointments committee of the Cabinet has appointed current National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority chairman Bhupendra Singh to the National Authority for Chemical Weapons Convention in the cabinet secretariat “in the rank and pay of additional secretary”, said the notification. It is unclear who would succeed him as the new chairman of NPPA reports ET.
In the presence of Bhupendra Singh, NPPA had capped the price of stents and knee implants and exposed the huge margins being charged by corporate hospitals.
Business Standard has reported that it has been alleged that an “industry and hospital lobby”–mainly large multinational pharmaceutical companies and corporate hospitals–was behind the transfer.
The move comes after the NPPA published an analysis showing how private hospitals buy medicines and medical devices cheaper in bulk and sell them on to patients much above the maximum retail price, earning margins of up to 1,737%.
The NPPA analyzed the bills charged by four “reputed private hospitals” after relatives of deceased patients complained of overcharging. Patients’ families had protested that final bills were three times the initial estimates, the NPPA noted.
The NPPA conducted its analysis after Gurgaon’s Fortis Healthcare charged the family of seven-year-old Adya Singh, a dengue patient, Rs 16 lakhs for a 15-day stay and treatment. The hospital had allegedly billed the family for 616 syringes and 1,500 non-sterile gloves.
The All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) expressed concern over the manner and timing of the transfer and said it seriously impacts public interest particularly when measures are being taken to plug unethical profiteering.
AIDAN said in its press statements that 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.
AIDAN added that the manner of the transfer created a chilling effect on the functioning of NPPA and conveyed a message of insecurity to the incumbent, which could prevent the new chairperson from acting decisively. Singh has taken many positive steps to ensure affordability of medicines and medical devices that discomforted the industry.
According to the AIDAN statement, 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.
AIDAN has demanded that the government reconsider the transfer and make NPPA a statutory body with fixed term periods for the chairperson to ensure the independence and integrity of the regulator.
RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch too has taken exception to the move, tweeting sarcastically about the “reward” given to a bureaucrat for doing a good job.
Ashwini Mahajan, national co-convenor of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an affiliate of RSS, tagged the PMO and the PM tweeted
@narendramodi @PMOIndia Pl see, @Bhupendra_IAS your key man against pharma lobby, bringing down cost of stents and knee implants, exposing >1700% profiteering by corporate hospitals, working for bringing down prices of other medical consumables &devices, ‘rewarded’ with transfer pic.twitter.com/DxlSnmOw7q
— ASHWANI MAHAJAN (@ashwani_mahajan) March 1, 2018
Speaking with TOI, Rajiv Nath of the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AIMeD) said, “Change is inevitable but should not be disruptive and when good officers leave suddenly it is disconcerting and not motivating for other officers.”
Singh took over the NPPA charge as chairman in January 2016. He is an UP cadre IAS officer of the 1985 batch.