In India, a new heart comes at a heavy price

Heart transplant surgery can save lives but costs between Rs18-25lakh for an adult in India at private hospitals. Government hospitals don’t offer heart transplants. My Medical Mantra understand from experts why the surgery and post-operative care continues to remain expensive in the country

80-yr-old undergoes complex heart surgery, discharged in 24 hours

In International Congestive Heart Failure (INTER-CHF) study in April 2017, an estimated 5.4 million heart failure patients reside in India and the number of heart failures is expected to grow further.

The study revealed that 46 per cent of heart failure patients die within one-year due to cardiac reason. Therefore, the need of the hour is to develop a comprehensive approach to identify patients with heart failure at an early stage to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment for improving their quality of life.

Dr. M. Srinivas Rao, Consultant, Care Hospitals, Hyderabad, “In India, Heart Failure is increasing at an epidemic proportion with over 5.4 million patients. The growing disease burden also particularly highlights concerns like early age of disease onset in the younger population, accelerated build-up and the associated high mortality rates. ” 

Given these statistics, it is understandable that there is a large gap between the recipients and the donors. However, one of the prime aspects is the affordability to get a heart. An adult heart transplant in a private hospital would range from 18 Lakhs to 25 Lakhs. Government hospitals in the country, don’t generally do heart transplants. Though, this doesn’t seem like a very plausible option for the common man. We ask experts why…

“Quite honestly, there are no two ways about the fact that heart transplants in India are not affordable. More than the operative costs, what really costs a fortune is the immunosupressants,” explained Dr Sandeep Attawar, Director of Heart and Lung at Gleneagles Global Hospitals.

One of the biggest challenges that transplant patients face is affording immunosuppressants, which have to be taken throughout the person’s lifetime. These drugs reduce the body’s reaction to foreign organs and lessen chances of the transplanted organ being rejected. First six months after the transplant, at least a sum of Rs 30,000 will be spent. Post which these will cost about Rs 15,000 a month.

“There are three methods of giving an immunosuppressant, however, the costs of these are not affordable. In the West, the government takes care of the healthcare because every citizen pays a systematic tax there. Here, less than 1 per cent of Indians pay taxes regularly. This means that the government cannot really take care of the health expenses,” added Dr Attawar.

Some private hospitals, to cut down on these costs, approach various trusts. During one such transplant, S Narayani, Zonal Director, Fortis Hospital, Mulund had said, “The aim has always been about making the treatment affordable. We give discounts to every transplant by associating with various trusts. Focus is always about saving lives, and not just on money.”