Colombia Imposes Price Controls on Medical Supplies

EspañolEffective this March, the Colombian government will begin to regulate the prices of some medical supplies, including but not limited to coronary stents, cochlear implants, and osteosynthesis products. The national Health Ministry made the announcement on Thursday, February 19.

El stent se vende en Colombia, según Minsalud, al doble que en otros  países (Flickr)
Colombia’s health minister claims the stents are sold in Colombia for twice as much as in neighboring countries. (Flickr)

Minister Alejandro Gaviria explained that clinics and hospitals in Colombia charge around COL$5 million (US$2,300) for stents that cost COL$3 million ($1,400), a 40 percent markup. In some cases the state medical system Fosyga has to cover twice as much, COL$6.5 million, the minister claimed.

Fosyga is a public solidarity fund that covers Colombian health expenses when they suffer an accident or a chronic disease, a unique feature of the country’s mixed social-security program. Gaviria’s claim is that the price control will save the Health Ministry some COL$14 billion ($5 million) annually, given the yearly average of 2,000 coronary stent procedures.

Statement by Minister Gaviria announcing the price controls. (Spanish, Caracol Radio)

The Santos administration official said heart diseases are among the top causes of death, which spurred the government to develop the experimental price-control system with coronary stents, which may be expanded to include other medical products.

In addition, the minister shared that the National Commission of Prices on Medicines and Medical Devices, which already has 8,600 pharmaceuticals under direct price controls, has relabeled the different types of coronary stents as “free under watch.” This means distributors must notify the state of their prices for the devices.

Gaviria said the initiative comes after evaluating the prices of coronary stents in 15 Latin-American countries. In Colombia, “they are much more expensive than in countries such as Spain and Germany,” the minister said, while assuring the regulation of medical devices would be based on international standards.

Sources: El Universal, Caracol Radio.

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