AiMeD urges the government to neutralise the 12-15 per cent disability factor in manufacturing medical devices in India for reduction of imports
Imports of medical devices are up by up 41 per cent from Rs. 44,708 crores in 2020-21 to Rs. 63,200 crores in 2021-22 as per Commerce Ministry data analysed by the Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD).
Speaking on the rise in imports of medical devices, Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator, Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD) said, “NITI Aayog and the Department of Pharmaceuticals recognises that Indian manufacturers have a 12-15 per cent disability factor in manufacturing medical devices in India. We urge the government to neutralise this disability for reduction of medical devices imports in India as was in the case of consumer electronics, including mobile phones and even in the toy industry.
India’s top five medical device import sources – China, the US, Germany, Singapore and the Netherlands together accounted for Rs 37,519 crore, or 68 per cent, of the total value of imports, AiMeD’s analysis has shown.
At present, the duty on Chinese imports ranges mostly from zero to 10 per cent, but the bulk of the items are in the 7.5 per cent category and one item at 25 per cent, it said.
Nath urged Department of Science & Technology (DST) & Department of Biotechnology (DBT) to seek correction of tariff to a nominal 15 per cent because then only entrepreneurs can survive and have a productive relationship with Academic institutions for innovations in process & product development or incremental improvements in performance to become competitive.
Indian Medical Devices industry requested the government to expedite steps to end the 80 per cent import dependence forced upon us and an increasing import bill of over Rs 63,200 crores, expedite steps for patients’ protection, stronger quality, safety regulations, price controls to make medical devices and quality treatment accessible.
“It’s a very alarming situation as the increase has been five-fold over a six-year period as India imported ₹12,866 crore worth of medical devices in 2016-17”, Nath added
Despite government’s efforts to slow imports from China, sadly China remained the top import source for India as imports from China grew 48 per cent from Rs 9,112 crore in 2020-21 to Rs 13,538 crore in 2021-22.
AiMeD pointed out that from 1,200 units, the numbers had gone up to 1,800 during the peak of the pandemic. Slowly, units started to shut down as imports from China kept on rising. Now, it is estimated that there are around 1,500 such units, and many more are on the verge of closing down.
For the beleaguered domestic industry capacity utilisations had dropped by the October-December quarter of 2021-22. From the peak utilisation levels of 100 per cent, by November 2021, around 33 per cent, or one-third of India’s medical devices making capacity, was estimated to be lying idle. This is even higher currently.
AiMed pointed out that among the six major categories of medical devices like consumables, disposables, electronics and equipments, implants, IVD reagent & surgical instruments that are imported, the growth has been the highest in the ‘electronics and equipment’ category. India imported Rs 40,649 crore worth of medical devices that come under this category in 2021-22 against an import worth Rs 4,569 crore in 2016-17.
The import of surgical instruments went up to Rs 1,260 crore from Rs 243 crore during this period. The other categories of products fared like this: IVD reagent (from Rs 361 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 6,564 crore in 2021-22), consumables (from Rs 5,249 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 8,488 crore in 2021-22), implants (from Rs 384 crore to Rs 3,155 crore) and disposables (from Rs 2,061 crore to Rs 3,084 crore).
AiMeD also analysed the top 50 medical device import items from China to identify the areas of greater dependence for India. A bulk of the imported medical devices from China (in value terms) fall in the ‘other items’ sub-sections under various major categories, it finds. AiMeD urged that the government should consider shifting from an 8 Digit HS Code to a 10 Digit HS Code as done by USA and Europe to give more granular data for enabling better analysis and policy making.
“GoI needs to take policy decisions as done for mobile phone & consumer electronic industry to give level playing field, if not a strategic advantage to domestic manufacturers, while safeguarding consumers or India will remain 80 per cent import dependent which is a high healthcare security risk”, concluded Nath.