Major manufacturers and importers have slashed prices of N-95 masks, a respiratory protective device capable of filtering airborne particles including coronavirus, by up to 47 per after National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) stepped in to ensure its availability at affordable rates in the country, the government said on Monday.
Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers in a press note said that other manufacturers and importers of N-95 Masks are expected to follow the advice of the government and roll down the prices in the larger public interest.
N-95 masks were earlier being sold in the market for Rs 150 to 300 per unit, but prices have been reduced after the advisory by the NPPA.
In wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the central government had notified N-95 masks as an essential commodity under Essential Commodities Act, 1955 on March 13, 2020. As a result, its hoarding and black-marketing is a punishable offence under the Act.
In a bid to keep a check on hoarding and black-marketing of N-95 masks, NPPA had directed all states and union territories in exercise of powers conferred under National Disaster Management Act, 2005 to ensure sufficient availability of surgical and protective masks, hand sanitisers and gloves at prices not exceeding the maximum retail price printed on the pack size, the ministry said.
On grievances regarding black-marketing of N-95 Masks, the NPPA has directed State Drug Controllers and Food & Drug Administrations (FDA) of all state governments to take appropriate action.
In response to a plea on introducing a price cap on N-95 masks, the NPPA has submitted before the Bombay High Court that it is looking at mismatch in the demand-supply of the protective device in the country and has advised manufacturers, importers and suppliers to cut prices voluntarily, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, NPPA has denied a media report alleging that the regulator approvingly cited a price that is more than three times the government procurement rate for the masks. The government procurement rate quoted in the news clipping is fallacious, deceptive and misleading, the ministry said.
By Chitranjan Kumar