An injection or a syringe costs around Rs 2 to make, but the common Indian patient buys it at five times the sum. The single-digit “profit“ on an injection may seem trivial till one notes that three billion injections are sold across India annually , revealing that patients as a group are overcharged by billions of rupees every year.The import price of a popular hip implant is Rs 8,906, but by the time it’s marked on a patient’s bill, it costs Rs 1.29 lakh, a markup of 1,448%.

These are two examples TOI found after talking to distributors of medical devices a day after the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) capped the prices of cardiac stents at Rs 29,600 api ece. NPPA fixed the prices following complaints that patients had to, in some cases, pay over 700 times the import price.

The truth is that not only are these six lakh cardiac stents sold across India every year, but millions of syringes, cannulae or eye lenses, too, are sold at highly inflated prices. Margins of 300%, 600% or more are common in or thopedic implants for the knees or hips,“ said a distributor who didn’t want to be identified. One of India’s most commonly used knee implant costs Rs 46,000 to patients but is imported at only Rs 9,264. There is more. A check of the online export data showed that Indian syringes are exported at Rs 2 per unit.

Social health activist Abhay Shukla calls these inflated prices as the daily Indian scam. Dr Shukla, national convener of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, said, “Consumers dictate most markets, but this isn’t the case in healthcare where the doctor decides on behalf of a patient.The consumer or patient is safe if the doctor is ethical, but there is a high risk that the doctor may be more concerned about his financial health and take de cisions on the basis of incentives from companies.“ Calling for vigorous price control, he said: “There is a daily scam happening, but it doesn’t make an impact because it is scattered across the country .“

Rajiv Nath, who owns the country’s biggest syringe manufacturing unit and is the coordinator of AIMED (Association of Indian Medical Devices Industry), said, “There have been many discussions on the inflated prices of ortho implants and syringes, but nothing has been done so far.“ A 2015 NPPA notification said that apart from cardiac stents, prices of even ortho and ocular lenses would be regulated.

Nath told TOI that he too had suffered due to the inflated pricing practice. “The average price for manufacturing syringes is between Rs1.5 and Rs 2, but most products sell for more than double,“ said Nath, whose product was priced at Rs 4.50.