Indian price cap on stents may boost medical tourism in Nepal

Kathmandu, June 15

The recent decision of the Indian government to put a cap on prices of cardiac stents could give a boost to medical tourism in Nepal, according to medical officials associated with different health institutions in the country.

If the Indian government sticks to its guns and implements the new price cap on stents in India despite pressure from foreign stent-makers and suppliers in the country, Indian patients, for whom money is not an issue, may opt to travel to Nepal for angioplasty.

This, in turn, could increase the number of patients seeking angioplasty treatment in Nepal and also boost sales of stents.

On February 13, the Indian government had put cap on coronary stents at IRs 30,000 each, with an aim to give relief to millions of Indian patients. A coronary stent is a wire mesh tube used to clear blockages in coronary arteries and prevent heart attacks.

“However, the decision taken by the Indian government could wind up compromising the quality of stents,” explained Bimal Upreti, head of financial section at Shahid Gangalal National Heart Centre, adding that the stent price cap in India could inadvertently promote health tourism in Nepal as Nepali health institutions have been providing angioplasty treatment using high-grade coronary stents.

According to him, health institutions in Nepal provide a wide range of options for patients seeking angioplasty treatment. “Though a low-grade stent can cost as little as Rs 35,000, most hospitals in Nepal use high-grade modern stents for angioplasty, which cost around Rs 60,000.”

However, there is no certainty of the windfall as, according to Upreti, the Indian government is under immense pressure from stent-makers and suppliers in India to review the price cap. Upreti also informed that there has been no notable increase in flow of Indian patients in Nepal seeking stent transplant treatment recently. However, he said it was too early to say if the recent decision taken by Indian government would not have an impact.

Rajan Bhandari, sales officer of Sindhu Surgical Concern, also said that the stent business in Nepal has not seen any notably change after the Indian government imposed the price cap. “The demand for stent in Nepal is increasing at its annual growth rate of almost five per cent. The stent price cap in India has not increased the demand in the domestic market yet,” he said.

As per Bhandari, the domestic market demands almost 1,500 coronary stents in a year.

Nevertheless, Upreti sees the potential for a boom in stent business in the country, should the medical fraternity along with tourism stakeholders be able to properly promote qualitative heart treatment options being offered in Nepal.