Industry calls for separate regulation of medical devices
While the country’s Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss announced recently that the government was having a re-look at the drug policy in the country and was working towards establishing quality standards, for which it has already introduced the Drugs and Cosmetics (Amendment) Bill, 2007 in order to facilitate setting up of a Central Drugs Authority and introduce centralized licensing for manufacture of drugs.

The inclusion of medical devices as a part of the overall description of drugs has drawn serious concerns from the medical devices industry. It has been suggested that medical equipment / medical devices be added as a independent definition and be defined as per the Global Harmonization Task Force to include any instrument, apparatus, implement, machine, appliance, implant, in vitro reagent or calibrator, software, material or other similar or related article intended by the manufacturer to be used alone or in combination, for human beings for one or more of the specified purposes.

There is also a need for separate provisions for the regulation of medical devices since they cannot be clubbed with provisions relating to drugs and cosmetics in view of the completely different characteristic of devices and equipments as compared to drugs and cosmetics.

The Government of India is proposing to set-up the Medical Devices Regulatory Authority of India (MDRA). The MDRA would be expected to formulate appropriate guidelines to be a national certifying and regulatory agency in India for medical equipment and devices. In this connection, it is very important to ensure that there is not regulatory overlap for the medical devices industry.

The Draft Medical Device Regulation Bill 2006, and the proposed MDRA is based on tenets of European Medical Device Directive, which is largely accepted even by the Global Harmonization Task Force (GHTF) recommendations.

The proposed constitution of the Central Drugs Authority of India and Drugs Consultative Committee also needs to be reconsidered to increase the maximum number of members to include representatives from all fields including manufacturers of drugs, cosmetics and medical devices who can understand and analyze the points from the industry specific perspective.

Healthcare vouchers for the underserved
The financially-weaker section of the society may hope to get better healthcare facilities from privately-run hospitals in the future. The government is planning to issue healthcare vouchers to the poor who could use it as a currency in private hospitals. Hospitals, in turn, would get full refund from either the government or accredited insurance companies.

Some states like Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand have already tried this successfully in pilot projects. Haryana, Karnataka and Kerala too have tried public-private partnership and insurance schemes to provide healthcare access to people. Private hospitals and insurance companies will be accredited with the government for this purpose. The proposal is part of a blueprint for healthcare reforms outlined in the eleventh five year plan.

The government’s target is to lower the cost of healthcare for the tax payers as well as to increase access to quality care for the poor. As per the latest official data, Indians spend about 6% of their consumption expenditure on health care. Families’ out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare accounts for about 72% of the total health expenditure incurred in the country. Consumers end up spending heavily for private healthcare as government spending in healthcare remains below 1% of the GDP.

Intel (India) develops remote health monitoring device
US microchip maker Intel is developing a technology to allow remote monitoring of a person’s health through signals from a hand held device.

Intel’s Indian and US researchers have built a prototype which would alert a person carrying the wireless device, and doctors monitoring the person’s health, to any impending medical emergency.

The Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker’s research facility in Bangalore is playing a leading role in development of the system. Mobile health monitoring would cut costs and give access to preventive healthcare to under-served populations and rural communities, Rattner said.

Last year, the healthcare unit of General Electric unveiled a portable, battery-operated electrocardiograph that monitors heart functions and can be understood even by physicians who are not specialists in the field.

The product will enable physicians to treat patients, particularly in rural areas, where two-thirds of India’s 1.1 billion population lives but lacks access to good medical facilities.

British NHS patients soon to be treated in India
The British government will allow patients with non-emergency conditions to be treated in Indian hospitals under a scheme paid for by British taxpayers.

The scheme will enable British patients to use Indian healthcare facilities previously denied to them.

Under current EU regulations, insurance only covers treatment that falls within three hours of flying time from the European patients’ country of location.

Last month, India’s Trade and Commerce Minister Kamal Nath had in his visit to London said that the NHS could cut patients’ waiting time by outsourcing treatment to India, prompting a positive response from British authorities.

Growing waiting lists in NHS-run hospitals has become a political issue in Britain. Some 300,000 foreigners came to India for medical treatment last year.

AIIMS like Ayurveda institute to come up in New Delhi
An AIIMS like Ayurveda institute will be set up in the capital to carry out clinical research, drug safety uation and scientific validation of the traditional Indian system of medicine.

A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the establishment of the All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA) as an autonomous organisation under the Department of AYUSH.

An 11-acre plot in Sarita Vihar in south Delhi has been identified for setting up the AIIA, which will also have a 200 bed research and referral hospital for facilitating clinical research.

The institute will initially be set up as an autonomous registered body of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and will be fully funded by the Central government with the objective of raising it to the status of Deemed University in 10 years. The institute will offer post-graduate and doctoral programmes in the identified fields of research.It will have four major divisions – Department of Fundamental Research, Division of Drug Development, Standardisation, Quality Control and Safety uation, Division of Clinical Research and Teaching, and Research and Referral Hospital.

Hiranandani hospital outsources radiology services to Wellspring
Leading drugmaker, Nicholas Piramal India has announced that its subsidiary Wellspring is partnering with Dr. L H Hiranandani Hospital for the complete outsourcing of the radiology department at Dr. L H Hiranandani Hospital to Wellspring.

Dr. L H Hiranandani Hospital is a 130-bedded, state-of-the-art tertiary at quaternary care hospital. It has recently been accorded NABH accreditation, the only hospital in Mumbai and the western region of India to have received this distinction. The hospital has centres of excellence in interventional cardiology, orthopaedics, minimal access surgery, bariatric surgery, human reproduction and aesthetic surgery. Talks are on with pre-eminent healthcare groups in the country to plan for more hospitals in the future.

Wellspring is the largest provider of diagnostic services in India and currently has 85 centres spread across 57 locations. It is also the only player that offers end-to-end diagnostic solutions, covering the full range of radiology and pathology tests.

Wellspring will install a state-of-the-art 1.5 Tesla MRI machine costing over INR 50 million (the first of its kind) in the area in Dr. L H Hiranandani Hospital, and will operate the existing radiology facilities within Dr. L H Hiranandani Hospital.

Wellspring has already been entrusted with the diagnostics facilities of many renowned hospitals, such as Guru Nanak, Lok and Bhakti Vedant in Mumbai; Jeewanmala and Ashlok in Delhi; Mittal in Ajmer and Shanti Nursing Home and Shanbag Nursing Home in Bangalore.

ICICI Venture buys majority stake Mysore hospital
ICICI Venture, part of the financial conglomerate, the ICICI Group, has announced that it has taken a majority stake in the Mysore-based healthcare company, Vikram Hospital Private Ltd (VHPL).

The investment, for a consideration of INR 96 crore, has been made through ICICI Venture’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Iven Medicare India Private Ltd.

The company, which now had a super speciality tertiary care facility in Mysore, is establishing five more super speciality hospitals in that city, apart from expanding the cardiac care facility at its main hospital in Mysore.

They also plan to set up hospitals in other districts and invest INR 300 crore in the next two or three years, resulting in an additional capacity of 1,500 beds in super speciality facilities. The company is focused on only providing secondary and tertiary healthcare, while adopting a “doctor-driven model”, so that the local doctors would not feel the company is competing with them.

NASSCOM: INR 100 cr fund for small cos including medical devices

Software industry body NASSCOM announced the formation of a fund with an initial corpus of INR 100 crore to help individuals and very small companies in setting up their businesses. The anchor investors in the Nasscom-ICICI Knowledge Park Innovation Fund (NIIF) – are Tata Consultancy Services, Bharti Airtel Ltd and ICICI Knowledge Park, Nasscom said. Nasscom President Kiran Karnik said the fund would have a corpus of INR 100 crore to start with, but this could be increased to INR 200 crore in future. There will not be more than ten institutional investors in the fund.

The fund will invest in a cross section of sectors such as medical devices, life sciences, wireless technologies. It will invest in early stage companies and help academicians as well as researchers looking to commercialise their inventions.

Karnik said while the larger firms have the resources to invest in innovations, smaller ones fail to scale up due to lack of timely availability of seed capital. Besides, there are certain fields where the risks are high and gestation periods long and the new fund will help meet the requirement of these entrepreneurs, Karnik added.

Singapore’s Parkway eyes 50% stake in Khubchandani (Mumbai)
Singapore’s Parkway Group which owns one of Asia’s largest hospital chains, plans to pick up 50% stake in Mumbai-based Khubchandani Hospitals for INR 155 crore. Mauritius-based investment holding firm Koncentric Investments will hold the remaining 50% stake in the firm which plans to set up chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities in India.

Currently, Khubchandani Hospital has 10,000 equity shares paid up capital. These are held by Dr Prakash Khubchandani who is the MD of the hospital and Mrs Tarana Khubchandani.

As per the plan, Khubchandani Hospitals intends to set up a USD 80 million multispecialty hospital in Mumbai soon. The hospital is close to acquiring 10,000 sq feet of land in the city. The construction of the hospital is expected to start by the end of the year and could be completed in three years, sources said. When contacted, Khubchandani Hospital officials declined to comment.

At present Parkway has a joint venture (JV) with Apollo Group, India’s largest hospital chain, to set up hospitals in West Bengal. Currently the JV has a hospital in Kolkata. Parkway Group also has another company Apollo Gleneagles with Apollo Group to set up PET CT Scan centre in Hyderabad. The Singapore-based firm is learnt to have received a no-objection nod from the Apollo Group and has sought approval from the government to go ahead with the new venture.

Parkway Group runs a chain of hospitals, clinics, laboratories and other healthcare facilities in Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. Parkway Group has been looking at expanding its presence in the healthcare sector of the country. Koncentric Investments is a holding entity owned by two Indians, atleast one of whom is related to the existing promoters of Khubchandani Hospitals.

DIAL to transfer airport medical unit to pvt hands
The Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) is planning to handover its medical unit to a private hospital soon.

It has been reported that DIAL has been discussing the options with six hospitals � Indraprastha Apollo, Max Healthcare, Fortis Hospital, Escorts Hospital, St Step hen’s and Holy Family Hospital. At the Hyderabad Greenfield Airport, the medical unit is handled by Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.

The medical unit at the airport was started in 1984 when a close relative of former Vice-President, V V Giri, died of cardiac arrest at the airport. The CGHS doctors posted at the airport for curative checks could not help him. Soon, a full-fledged medical unit was set up at the airport.

The unit has 21 beds – four at IB domestic terminal, two at IA domestic terminal, eight at the international terminal, six at the casualty centre situated at the airside and one at the cargo. Every month, the unit treats around 2,700 patients. Other than the medical unit, the Indira Gandhi Internation Airport also has an aircraft emergency medical centre below the apron control area to handle about 150-100 patients.

The patients visiting the unit include passengers, airport staff and other visitors. The doctors are given specialised training in aviation medicine and to handle aircraft crash situations. The doctors are also trained for helping in investigations in a crash.

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