Following the directive from the national drug price regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to the manufacturers and suppliers of N-95 masks to sell them at reasonable prices to curb black marketing, the Gujarat government has tied up with 18,000 plus Amul stores in the state to sell N-95 masks at an affordable price of Rs. 65 per piece.
The NPPA had recently directed manufacturers, importers and suppliers of N-95 masks to maintain parity in prices for non-government procurements and make available the same at reasonable prices to curb black marketing.
“Seeing the current surge in demand, Amul stores are today selling N-95 masks at a reasonable rate of Rs. 65 per piece. There have been reports that it is being exorbitantly priced at above Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 per piece in the country. Motivated with the initiative taken by Gujarat government to make N-95 masks reasonably priced, pharmacy associations have also come forward to sell masks at affordable prices,” informed Gujarat FDCA Commissioner Dr H G Koshia.
Maharashtra Food and Drug Control Administration (FDCA) had submitted proposal to the ministry of consumer affairs, food & public distribution dated March 20, 2020 to fix the ceiling price for masks (2 ply and 3 ply surgical masks and N-95 masks). Subsequent to which, the ministry of consumer affairs vide notification dated March 21, 2020 fixed the ceiling prices of 2 ply mask and 3 ply mask to be effective till June 30, 2020. As per a government notification, the retail prices of 3 ply surgical mask which contains a layer of melt blown non-woven fabric shall not be more than Rs. 16 per piece. The notification will remain in force until June 30, 2020. However, ceiling price of N-95 mask has not yet been capped.
Union health ministry enacted the Disaster Management Act (DMA), 2005 with effect from March 13, 2020 throughout the country and directed all States/UTs to take steps to ensure sufficient availability of surgical and protective mask at prices not exceeding the maximum retail prices (MRP) printed on it. The ministry of consumer affairs, food & public distribution also declared hand sanitizers and masks (2 ply and 3 ply surgical masks and N-95 masks) as an essential commodity under the Essential Commodities (EC) Act, 1955 for prevention of hoarding, black marketing and profiteering of these items.
Maharashtra FDA Commissioner Arun Unhale had also written to NPPA to fix the ceiling prices of N-95 mask, its equivalent mask and PPE kits on top priority to overcome the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
In the current situation of COVID-19 outbreak, consumers are not aware about the exact MRP of these products and price printed by manufacturer is exorbitant and common public, private doctors, health workers and paramedical staff in private hospitals are forced to pay the said higher printed prices.