Crackdown on Mumbai hospitals overcharging for stents

After it was found that hospitals in Mumbai are overcharging cardiac patients by 400-500 per cent on stent implants, the Legal Metrology Organisation (LMO) has initiated a crackdown against leading hospitals for overcharging on MRP and violating packaging rules.

The LMO has filed a case on Monday against Breach Candy Hospital, a leading private hospital, for violating packaged commodity rules.

Additional director-general and controller of legal metrology Amitabh Gupta said, "We seized seven surgical and three pharmaceutical products under PCR rules. Stents are sold at Rs1.1 lakh. We got three distributors' bills for stents and balloons, and will initiate action against the distributors. The hospitals do not keep stents in reserve but have been sold them for Rs90,000. The purchase bill has been taken."

Gupta said, "I am doing the best I can by putting the issue in the public domain. Patients should know that they are being charged Rs2 lakh or so for a stent whose original cost is Rs10,000-15,000. Often, the importer sells to the distributor for Rs40,000, the distributor makes the hospital pay Rs80,000-90,000, and the hospital charges patients Rs1,70,000-2,00,000. Imagine the profit everybody is making at the cost of the patient."

The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) had recently made it mandatory for stent-makers to disclose their detailed pricing data and information about products by 31 January.

Other hospitals, including Kokilaben Ambani, Lilavati, Fortis (Mulund), Asian Heart Institute, Hiranandani (Powai), Global Hospital (Parel) and H N Hospital (Reliance), Girgaum, are also facing the music. "We found that packaged commodities like balloon device, angiography catheter, Euretic Euroworld, fabric natural fiber, IV catheter, guide wire, breathing circuit, limbo single limb anaesthesia, Handson gloves and blood collector did not conform to packaged commodity rules," said Gupta.

At Fortis, it was found that the MRP (maximum retail price) on Fabric natural fibre was smudged, among other violations. At Lilavati, the PTCA guide wire and angiographic catheter did not carry the complete name and address of the importer, date of import, MRP and customer care number.

Kokilaben did not declare the MRP or manufacture date on surgical gloves, and its weighing machine was not re-verified and stamped in time. Hiranandani similarly defaulted on its Cook angiography catheter and breathing circuit.

Kokilaben Hospital executive director Dr Ram Narain said, "A team from the legal metrology department had come on Friday and requested for the price of stents and consumables to patients. It was made clear that we have packages for coronary angioplasties, where a stent and other consumables are included. We do not charge above the MRP for any of these items."

Breach Candy Hospital chief executive N Santhanam also refuted charges of overpricing. "The officials only spoke of packaging and issues pertaining to price of stents. We assured them that we will take it up with the distributor. We sell stents much below the MRP," he said.

The LMO has appealed to patients and relatives to remain alert during hospitalisation. They can report malpractices to the department by calling 022-2288 6666 or email dclmms_complaints@yahoo.com