The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the inadequate availability of essential medical devices in India during a time of intense demand. Medical devices, ranging from ventilators and oxygen purifiers to personal protective equipment (PPE) and N95 masks, were in short supply when the health system in the country and the population it serviced needed them the most. However, medical devices largely remain inaccessible even otherwise, both in terms of availability and affordability. This lack of access stems from issues such as hurdles in their procurement in public and private hospitals, supply issues due to inadequate manufacturing capacity in the country for high-end medical devices and the high cost of importing such medical devices in the country.
While India has a robust pharmaceutical industry which contributes to 20 per cent of the global demand for generic drugs and low-cost vaccines, the medical device market and industry in the country is quite nascent. India is the 20th largest medical device market in the world, but its contribution to the global market is less than 1.6 per cent. This contribution is also largely in the form of low-cost devices such as surgical gloves, urinary catheters and other disposable equipment that are manufactured and exported in large numbers. Yet expensive medical devices such as cardiac stents, dialysis machines and ventilators are imported at a significant cost making them expensive for the public to use.