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COVID continues to take its toll!

The medical devices industry is seeking Rs. 70,000 crore investment, the value of the medical devices retail market, in manufacturing and JV projects from overseas, over the next five years. Japan’s plan to shift factories out from China is being eyed for 1,200 technical collaborations for over Rs. 42,000 crore. Dialogue is on with US companies too. In an attempt to gain a place in global supply chains, 200 joint ventures for Rs. 14,000 crore, and another Rs. 14,000-crore investment from about 50 multinational companies are being sought. The ground has been prepared. There is no longer the anomaly of inverted duties; cess has been added on to the basic duty; ICMED Quality Assurance Certification is in place; a medical device regulatory framework, separate from pharma, is being formed; and Medical Devices Parks, with financial assistance for creation of common manufacturing facilities, are being set up.

COVID continues to play havoc with the medical fraternity, be it vendors or users. There is a drastic reduction in the uptake of medical devices, for new purchases and replacement equipment. Discretionary, elective procedures in hospitals are still not being performed. The USD 3-billion medical tourism continues to be at a standstill. The trickling telemedicine consultations are like a drop in the ocean. With a 50–70 percent drop in revenue, the government’s push to reserve hospital beds for COVID-19, alongwith the imposition of price caps on treatment, is back-breaking. Private laboratories, with abysmally low non-COVID test volumes are being coerced to drop the financially unviable price of Rs. 4500 for a COVID-test. Clinical trials for diseases other than COVID are almost suspended. The downstream impact for patients and the drug industry could be substantial.

On another front, in their mad race to serve their respective national interests, the group of 20 most powerful nations, which account for 90 percent of global GDP, has failed to reflect collective responsibility. A global contest has been taking place over the last two months in the myriad of efforts to corner PPEs for their respective countries. While Washington secured 200,000 N95 masks from Bangkok, which were originally intended for Germany, and outbid the French by three times the price with cash upfront for a plane full of supplies at Shanghai airport, Turkey seized ventilators meant for Spain, Italy a shipment of medical alcohol headed for Tunisia, and Czech Republic the masks headed for Kenya. A crucial struggle seems to be taking place within humanity itself!

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