Friday, June 27, 2014
The new Modi government in India has so far restricted itself to making a few broad policy announcements relating to the Indian healthcare system and the commercial players who provide medical devices, drugs, expertise and technologies to this sector, so it is unclear what level of government intervention, investment and policy changes there will be across a wide range of critical areas. The declared overall policy goal is to achieve a holistic healthcare system: the government intends to formulate a new Health Policy and National Health Assurance Mission, which will include the promotion of yoga in the AYUSH programme, and creating AIIMS-like institutions in all the states across India(the flagship AIIMS centre in Delhi, the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, is the leading public sector diagnostic and treatment centre in India). The new government also intends to focus on a major new initiative to improve hygiene, waste management and sanitation across the nation for which the "Swachh Bharat Mission" will be launched later this year.
Interestingly, given the ideological bias of the government towards public private partnerships, the Budget in July is likely to encourage bigger take-up of private health insurance by giving policy holders increased deductions for tax purposes.
The appointment of senior technocrats to the health and science ministries send a strong message of intent but there are unresolved policy issues across a wide range of areas, including:
- The need for consistency and sustainability in policies affecting funding and delivery of clinical services
- The regulatory environment remains under-developed and unclear; for example it is largely undefined for stem cell treatments and gene-based therapy; the concept of a single window regulator for clinical trials has previously been mooted with little progress on this front
- The playing field for multi-national companies versus home-grown companies
- IPR handling, especially patent regimes, which can affect the investment and innovation eco-system, and hence the pace of development of new treatments
- Drug pricing
- The FDI regime for medical devices and drugs development
Healthcare provision remains a major challenge for the government so it will be interesting to see how innovatively and aggressively the new government tackles this challenge.