| |NOVEMBER 20229The Government of India is making efforts to boost local manufacturing through the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemeand incentivised, especially for critical products by including them in the PLI scheme or through tariff protection and non-tariff measures. "It was mostly the multinational companies that had applied for the medical devices PLI scheme", says V Alva, founder of Skanray Technologies, a leading invasive ventilator manufacturer.Importing is Cheaper"Many Indian manufacturers have reconciled with the fact that government is seemingly unwilling to correct the low tariff structure prevalent since many years. They have adapted to a new business strategy of importing rather than making in India as it is convenient and cheaper", says Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator, Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD).The government cannot really ban imports as the local industry will also suffer as India is still dependent on China for components. The government has made changes to the medical equipment legislation to greatly broaden the reach of the regulation. The adoption of new statutory legislation for medical devices is also being discussed.Increased ProductionDuring the second wave of pandemic, the Indian Medical Device sector had increased its production of ventilators, masks and PPE kits to meet the increasing demands. For example, India used to produce just 6.24 million pieces of PPE kits per annum before COVID but this number got ramped up to 233.87 million pieces per annum. Similarly, India used to make only 3,360 ventilators per year earlier but now makes over 700,000 ventilators per year. Hurdles Due to Social MediaThe second wave of pandemic in India has clearly had a huge positive impact on the Indian face mask market. This is mainly because of the increasing demand for face masks, as they prevent or slow down the transmission of life threatening COVID-19 infections. But in the recent times, it is seen that the mask industry is facing a huge problem wherein Facebook, Google and Amazon have now started blocking all mask related ads. These companies are citing a policy aimed at ensuring medical grade masks are reserved for health care workers. Using words such as `N95', `filtration', `COVID-19', `virus' along with making any efficiency related claims on websites is strictly prohibited.This ban makes it extremely difficult for the consumers to buy genuine medical masks that offer real protection over cloth or three-ply masks and makes it almost impossible for mask brands that existed from long time in the market to continue their e-commerce activities.Situation in Other CountriesThe growing prevalence of chronic diseases across the countries and the increasing emphasis of healthcare agencies towards early diagnosis and treatment, is leading to an increasing number of patients undergoing diagnostic and surgical procedures. The rise in the number of inpatient admissions and the increasing number of surgical and diagnostic procedures is fueling the demand for medical devices, including capital equipment and consumables in developed and emerging countries. This is further augmented by the increasing investments by leading market players in the R&D for the development of technologically advanced equipment, with an aim to cater to the growing demand for innovative devices. For example, Johnson & Johnson Services invested an estimated $12.15 billion in R&D in 2020. The Way ForwardDespite the considerable medical equipment possibilities, the country must retain a stimulating environment for its own production of medical devices in the post pandemic era. For this industry to have long term prospects, long term support is required. The medical device industry of India has much more room to flourish and a diverse ecosystem of stakeholders, including medical devices, academia and the government. The ultimate goal of the roadmap should be constant innovation with research and development. PO
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