2 ply masks, 3 ply masks and hand sanitisers are under price control since March 21, 2020
The Maharashtra Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has written a letter to the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) with a request to cap the ceiling prices of N-95 masks, its equivalent masks and PPE kits.
Earlier, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India had declared that hand sanitisers and masks (2 ply, 3 ply surgical masks and N95 masks) as essential commodities (EC) under the EC Act, 1955 for prevention of hoarding, black marketing and profiteering of these items. Later, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, vide notification dated March 21, 2020, fixed the ceiling prices of 2 ply masks, 3 ply masks and hand sanitisers announcing that it will be effective till June 30, 2020, but N95 masks remained out of price control.
Maharashtra FDA’s letter to the NPPA mentioned that in the current situation of the COVID-19 outbreak, the requirement of PPE Kits, N-95 Mask and its equivalent mask have increased tremendously, and consumers are not aware of the exact MRP of the above items. So, in the interest of public health and availability at reasonable rates to ensure sufficient availability, it is necessary to control the prices of these products also, as in the market various types of N-95, its equivalent mask and PPE kits are available for sale at various prices.
JB Mantri, Joint Commissioner, State Controller Maharashtra and State Drug Controlling authority informed, “Presently, in the state, there are two leading players of N-95 masks; Venus and Magnum, with manufacturing facilities at Taloja and Vasai respectively. However, there are other players as well, due to a rise in demand for both these products the supply has increased significantly. But, it is noted that the MRP printed by some of the manufacturers is exorbitant, therefore common public, private doctors, health workers and paramedical staff in private hospitals are forced to pay the said higher printed prices. So, we have requested the NPPA, who is a price monitoring competent authority, to fix the price of N-95 masks and its equivalent masks as well as PPE kits to ensure affordability and availability.”
However, another State Drug Controller, who wished to remain anonymous, stated, “We do not see any exorbitant prices being charged for N-95 masks in the market. In fact, we do not even see any problem in the demand and supply curve, therefore it shouldn’t be considered for a price cap.” He justifies that there are a limited number of manufacturers involved in manufacturing of N-95 masks and its equivalent masks in the country. Bringing the product under the price control regime can lead to a shortage of product in the market.”
Earlier, the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India vide order no F. No 8/ 4 /2020- R&D dated 24.03.2020 had appointed Nodal Officers to regulate the production, quality and distribution of all types of medical protective textiles and supply of masks, melt-blown fabrics and other textiles supplies to combat COVID-19.
In the retail market, the price of N-95 masks varies between Rs 200-300. Whereas, as per Government guidelines it is to be given in the price range of Rs 50 – 90.