Maharashtra govt to cap prices of face masks

The state government move to fix prices of masks comes close on the heels of raids conducted on illegal sale of N95 masks at several premises in Mumbai

Mask Lady
Picture: Piaxabay

Last Updated on October 10, 2020 by The Health Master

The Maharashtra government will soon fix prices of face masks based on Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s report on N95 masks being sold at exorbitant prices.

The Maharashtra FDA report on N95 masks has been submitted to the state health ministry’s expert committee constituted to study manufacturing cost and to come out with ceiling prices for N95 masks.

The state government move to fix prices of masks comes close on the heels of raids conducted on illegal sale of N95 masks at several premises in Mumbai under the guidance of Rajendra B Shingne, Maharashtra FDA Minister, in consultation with A B Unhale, commissioner, Maharashtra FDA, and Sunil Bhardwaj, Maharashtra FDA joint commissioner (vigilance).

In view of the increase in demand of masks and amidst reports of indiscriminate pricing of masks in the retail supply chain, an expert panel, headed by state health insurance CEO Dr Sudhakar Shinde, was formed on July 31, 2020 to study manufacturing cost of masks in consultation with two major mask manufacturers, Venus Health and Safety Pvt Ltd and Magnum Health and Safety Pvt Ltd.

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Based on the panel report, it was revealed that there were violations in sale and manufacture of face masks during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic under Essential Commodities (EC) Act, 1955, Legal Metrology Act, 2009, and Prevention of Black Marketing and the Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980. Besides this, according to officials, 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.

People at homes and healthcare settings are supposed to wear masks as per WHO, union health ministry and Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. 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.

Maharashtra health ministry committee has calculated a net profit of 45 per cent over production cost to provide adequate profit in the supply chain to supplier, distributor and retailer. Besides that, hospitals can buy masks at a 30 per cent lower rate than the market price.

In its report, the panel has advised the state government to cap rates of N-95 masks between Rs 19 and Rs 45, depending on the categories, to bring down their rates to one-tenth the current market price. Cost for two-ply masks, it said, should be capped at Rs 3 and three-ply mask at Rs 4. A doctor’s kit, the panel’s report said, should be capped at Rs 127 and a filtering face piece (FFP) mask at Rs 12.

Currently, the rate of a three-ply melt-blown mask is anywhere between Rs 20 and Rs 40 in the market, and an FFP mask around Rs 200-600.

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