Ramesh ShankarThursday, September 1, 2022, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

After taking several initiatives in the pharmaceutical sector during the last some years to make India self-reliant in production of essential medicines, the Central government has gradually been turning its attention to make India self-reliant in medical devices sector too. It was for this purpose, the Central government has recently come out with the draft National Policy for Medical Devices which was primarily aimed to reduce India's dependence on import of medical devices, especially the high-end devices. The policy is of considerable significance, as nearly 80% of the medical devices currently sold in the country are imported, particularly the high-end medical devices. It is a fact that the Indian medical devices companies have so far been focusing on low-cost and low-tech products, like consumables and disposables, leading to a higher value share going to multinational companies. The government should take more measures to arrest the trend of growing import dependency in the medical devices sector. The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that the increase of import of medical devices has been five-fold over a six-year period as India imported Rs. 12,866 crore worth of medical devices in 2016-17. In the financial year 2021-22, imports of medical devices have grown an alarming 41 per cent over the previous year as India imported medical devices worth Rs. 63,200 crore in 2021-22, up 41 per cent from Rs. 44,708 crore in 2020-21. More importantly, China remained at the top of import source for India as medical device imports from China grew 48 per cent from Rs. 9,112 crore in 2020-21 to Rs. 13,538 crore in 2021-22. Imports from the USA also increased steeply by 48 per cent to Rs. 10,245 crore in 2021-22 from Rs. 6,919 crore in 2020-21.

The trend is really alarming and there should be some mechanism to reverse it. The fledgling domestic medical devices industry needs to be encouraged to make the country self-reliant. Under this background, the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD)’s demand to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take initiatives to set up a separate Department of Medical Devices on the lines of Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) holds much water. The domestic medical devices manufacturers are of the view that a separate Department would define priority devices to fight priority diseases and implement the strategy to shift India’s import dependency from over 70-80 per cent to less than 30 per cent in next 5 years for priority devices and in the next 10 years for all devices. By creating a separate Department, the domestic medical devices manufacturers will be assured that the government is taking this fledgling sector seriously as medical devices are not pharmaceuticals, though both may be medical products. AiMeD is of the view that creation of a separate Department would be a big boost to the domestic medical devices manufacturers to make India one of top 5 manufacturing hubs for medical devices worldwide and be nodal interface of manufacturing industry with all Central government departments to catalyze the growth of the Indian medical device sector. It is true that the DoP and the Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers have so far had limited success to carry out the mandate given to them to boost domestic manufacturing of medical devices and address the 70 to 80 per cent import dependency and have limited expertise of the medical devices industry as the high precision medical device industry has very little synergy with chemicals & fertilizers industry. So, there should be a nodal coordinating centre exclusively for the medical devices sector. A separate Department might be the answer as it will definitely boost the fledgling domestic medical devices sector in the country.