Govt to bring face masks under price control

The compelling reason to bring masks under price control is that manufacturers are yet to register themselves on the online Sugam medical device portal

Mask Lady
Picture: Pixabay

The Maharashtra government is planning to bring face masks under price control amidst reports of indiscriminate pricing of masks in the retail supply chains as well as through e-commerce platforms.  

The Maharashtra government’s move in this regard comes in the backdrop of the fact that the state Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had detected several cases of overpricing of N95 masks by the manufacturers in the recent months. In its crackdown on cases of overpricing of N95 masks, the state FDA detected over 20 new cases of mask overcharging by the manufacturers.  

According to official sources, the compelling reason to bring masks under price control is that manufacturers are yet to register themselves on the online Sugam medical device portal, as per Union health ministry’s directive. The state government will soon come out with the decision to cap prices of face masks also in view of the increase in its demand as people at homes and healthcare settings are supposed to wear masks as per WHO, union health ministry and Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

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Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) had earlier asked manufacturers to voluntarily get registered on the CDSCO medical device online portal – to monitor quality of masks in the country.

The ministry of consumer affairs vide its notification dated March 13, 2020 with a view to regulate the production, quality, distribution, logistics of masks (2 ply and 3 ply surgical masks and N95 masks) declared them as essential commodities and subsequently fixed the retail prices to a maximum of Rs. 10 for 3 ply mask and Rs. 8 for 2 ply mask. Government had notified an order under the Essential Commodities (EC) Act to declare these items as essential commodities up to June 30, 2020, by amending the schedule of the EC Act 1955,” the consumer affairs ministry had said in a statement.

The decision would empower the government and States/UTs to regulate production, quality and distribution of masks for smooth sale and availability of these items. It will enhance the availability of masks to the general people at reasonable prices or maximum retail price (MRP), the ministry stated.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the significance of wearing a face mask to prevent transmission of the virus from one another, Cofsils, a brand under Cipla Health Ltd, recently launched single-use disposable face mask at affordable price that provides three levels of protection against harmful viruses and bacteria. The product is Center for International Regulatory Assistance (CITRA) certified and costs Rs. 16 per mask.

According to reports from Maharashtra FDA vigilance department, stocks of N95 masks were being sold at exorbitant prices in several pockets of Mumbai like Andheri and Ghatkopar. NPPA had also recently issued a list of price reduction in N95 masks by four major N95 mask manufacturers, namely Venus Safety and Health Pvt Ltd, Magnum Health and Safety, Yash Care Life Sciences and Joseph Leslie & Co.

The national drug price regulator also shared the revised MRPs reported by these manufacturers of N95 masks with the state drug controllers (SDCs). The list indicates that the makers of N95 masks reduced the cost of their products up to 47 per cent after NPPA issued an advisory on May 21, 2020 recommending manufacturers to voluntarily lower prices.

Raids on illegal sale of N95 masks at several premises in Mumbai were conducted under the guidance of Rajendra B Shingne, Maharashtra FDA Minister, in consultation with A B Unhale, commissioner, Maharashtra FDA, Sunil Bhardwaj, Maharashtra FDA joint commissioner (vigilance). Maharashtra FDA has also appealed to the people to contact the toll free number 1800 222 365 for reporting black marketing of N95 masks among other essential products.

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