Reviewed by – Dr. Satish Reddy
Over the last decade, knee replacement surgery has become a popular and safe option for patients who have end-stage arthritis of the knee. When non-surgical treatments (medicines, physiotherapy) for knee arthritis fail, knee replacement can help you lead a pain-free and active life. However, sometimes the cost of a knee replacement procedure may deter patients from surgery.
In India, knee replacement is still a very costly procedure that is difficult to afford for low-income families. The cost of knee replacement can range anywhere between 1.5 Lakhs to 3 Lakhs based on the choice of hospital, implants, and other factors. An estimated 1 Lakh 20 Thousand knee replacement surgeries take place in India every year. Still, there are many more patients who are unable to afford knee replacement due to cost reasons. The good news is Indian government has now slashed the cost of knee implants at a significantly lower rate than current market rates, a move that could result in savings of Rs 1,500 crore annually to patients requiring surgery.
Preliminary analysis by the NPPA (National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority) shows the MRP of the total knee system ranges between Rs 59,091 and Rs 4, 13,059, that included the imported as well as Indian brands. Most doctors prefer that the patients use high-quality implants manufactured by reputed companies such as J&J, Smith and Nephew, Stryker etc.
However, the high MRP of such imported implants was making them out of reach for a large number of patients. Further to the implant cost, one has to keep all other costs in mind, including the hospital stay costs, surgeon cost, and time in the operation theater, and several other miscellaneous (medicines, physiotherapy) charges. The latest price regulation by government is seen, in this context, as a step towards rationalizing health care costs.
As a result of this move, the most widely used cobalt chromium in knee replacement surgery will now cost Rs 54,720 as against an earlier MRP of Rs 1, 58,324. Similarly, the prices of special metals like titanium and oxidized zirconium have been slashed by almost 70%, to Rs 76,600 from Rs 2.50 Lakh. Similarly, when a revision knee replacement is required, the MRP of needed implants has been cut by as much as 60 percent. Undoubtedly, it is a news of great relief for patients who have been suffering from severe knee pain but have been putting off the surgery due to cost reasons.
Our medical research team also discussed this positive move by the government with Dr. Satish Reddy, who is a highly renowned and experienced knee replacement surgeon in Hyderabad. Dr. Satish Reddy has been successfully operating thousands of patients every year for knee replacement. He has also introduced the latest techniques and implants in Hyderabad, that increase success rates and longevity of the implants.
His observation was that this move by the government will help make the latest and highest quality implants more affordable for everyone. However, the cost reduction for the Co-Cr implants is only going to be marginal since even earlier, it was not being charged at the full MRP. Another important consideration that patients should keep in mind is that the government has capped the price of the implant, but the procedure is usually offered in form of a package, that includes everything. Therefore, it will be important to keep in mind that package costs may not be reduced as much by some hospitals. Still, the introduction of the cap on the implant is still a positive move as it is going to help a much larger number of patients take benefit of going with high-quality implants.
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