We are deeply concerned about the manner and timing of the transfer of Mr. Bhupendra Singh, Chairman NPPA, a move which seriously impacts public interest particularly when measures are being taken to plug unethical profiteering.
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.
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 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 nonfunctional at a critical juncture when patients interest must be served.
The Government has the authority to transfer officers but that authority should be exercised in good faith. The manner of transfer creates a chilling effect on the functioning of NPPA. Further, it conveys a message of insecurity to the new incumbent which could prevent the new Chairperson from acting decisively.
Therefore, we ask that:
the Government reconsider its decision and allow Mr. Singh to complete his three year term in the NPPA, and;
the NPPA be made into a statutory body along with fixed term periods for the Chairman and leadership to ensure the independence and integrity of the regulator
NPPA Chairperson Transferred Soon After Expose on Pvt Hospitals
Chairperson of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), Bhupendra Singh, under whom the NPPA had exposed how private sector hospitals were making undue high profits, has been transferred, giving rise to some serious questions.
Singh has been appointed to hold the post of Chairman of the National Authority for Chemical Weapons Convention. The NPPA is the authority which oversees the regulation of drug prices and is expected to ensure their availability.
According to Scroll, Singh had led the organisation into releasing a report on 20 February that referred to huge profits made by private hospitals by inflating bills for medicines as well as those for syringes, gloves and other medical tools.
The report, says Scroll, found that the margins of profit on some items were as high as 1,700 percent.
According to IndiaSpend, the NPPA had found that the total expenditure on drugs, devices and diagnostics (46 percent) was substantially higher than procedures and room rent (11 percent), which were more visible components, even though they weren’t a part of the publicised package.
The report adds that patients often complained that final bills were three times the initial estimate.
The NPPA, under Singh, had thus called for several policy interventions which would curb these unlawful profits, something that probably didn’t win him the confidence of several persons in the private health sector and the government, reports Scroll.
According to Economic Times, the NPPA under Singh had also slashed the prices of cardiac stents by over 80 percent in 2017, in a bid to improve a heart patient’s access to the device.
Along with this, the report adds, the NPPA had also fixed maximum prices and trade margins of knee implants in “public interest”, which led to a 69 percent drop in their retail prices.
Considering the NPPA’s exposé of the corruption abound in the private health sector under Singh and the latter’s actions in trying to curb the same, the reason behind his sudden transfer has made several professionals in the field suspicious.
Speaking to The Quint, Rajiv Nath, coordinator of Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AIMED), voiced his doubts regarding the motive behind Singh’s transfer.
One thing is for sure, this action of sudden transfer is indicative of power of lobbies that opposed Bhupendra Singh’s initiatives – US MNCs win this round by using the US Government to lobby with the PMO. And the loser is the consumer and Indian med tech manufacturers.
Rajiv Nath to The Quint
“Change is inevitable but should not be disruptive. Let’s hope the excellent initiatives taken by Bhupendra Singh are carried forward by next incumbent,” he added.