We are deeply concerned about the manner and timing of the transfer of Mr. Bhupendra Singh, Chairman NPPA, a move which seriously impacts public interest particularly when measures are being taken to plug unethical profiteering.
The NPPA under the governance of Mr. Injeti Srinivas and Mr. Singh showed tremendous leadership. Mr. Srinivas was transferred even before the completion of one year following the price regulation of critical cardiac and diabetes medicines through public interest of the DPCO. During his term, Mr. Singh has taken many positive steps to ensure affordability of medicines and medical devices that discomforted the industry.
Notably, the NPPA undertook landmark price control of stents and knee implants. There was greater accountability to the public because of increased transparency and responsiveness to grievances of patients and the industry.
Enforcement was also significantly strengthened with the recovery of hundreds of crores due to overcharging by the industry. The NPPA also saw unprecedented success in the courts with its stands vindicated by favourable judgments passed by the Supreme Court and High Courts in most cases.
Finally, the NPPA took a proactive role in initiating monitoring of high margins charged by private hospitals in an effort to curb unethical profiteering.
We fear that Mr. Singh’s transfer in total disregard to the public interest is due to the pressure from the industry and corporate hospital lobby.
The pharmaceutical industry has long sought to undermine and weaken the NPPA in order to enable uninhibited profiteering and circumvention of the law. The recent price revise of coronary stents angered the US-based MNCs which ran a malicious campaign against the regulatory authority.
The final precipitating factor, we believe, was the report analyzing bills of four patients and which exposed the gross overcharging and misconduct of private hospitals. In this same report, the NPPA appealed for policy intervention to correct the injustice towards patients as it had reached the limits of its mandate.
By transferring out the Chairman, the institutions positive outlook towards consumers will be blocked and messages uncertainty for continuation of critical interventions to make medicines more affordable to the common man and to stem systematic looting in the healthcare industry. Not appointing a replacement will render the NPPA nonfunctional at a critical juncture when patients interest must be served.
The Government has the authority to transfer officers but that authority should be exercised in good faith. The manner of transfer creates a chilling effect on the functioning of NPPA. Further, it conveys a message of insecurity to the new incumbent which could prevent the new Chairperson from acting decisively.
Therefore, we ask that:
the Government reconsider its decision and allow Mr. Singh to complete his three year term in the NPPA, and;
the NPPA be made into a statutory body along with fixed term periods for the Chairman and leadership to ensure the independence and integrity of the regulator.