COVID-19: Pricing of N95 Masks being Investigated, after Complaint
The Maharashtra food and drug administration (FDA) has conducted investigations on the black marketing of N95 masks only to find out that there is no fixed price for these life-saving masks. A letter from joint commissioner of FDA points out that the Union government has not formulated any policy for the price of N95 mask. In other words, this means there is no maximum retail price (MRP) for the N95 mask that are in huge demand due to coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 
 
Activist Anjali Damania, who heads an NGO, Voice of Indian Taxpayers, had written a letter complaining to the state FDA along with the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) in this regard and now it appears, that the FDA has taken some action in response to the complaint.
 
A few days ago Moneylife had reported on the pricing scam of N95 masks and how the government needed to step in to fix prices and put an end to black market pricing of N95 masks. 
 
A response letter from JN Mantri, joint commissioner of Maharashtra FDA, explains that an investigation was carried out and reports the findings against each company investigated. One of the companies – ‘Science House’, and its four godown premises were investigated and found to “possess small quantity of masks manufactured by 3M and Venus.” This company failed to produce any receipts for the purchase of these masks giving an excuse of it being under lockdown and having no access to the sales records.
 
There was also a similar investigation carried out at Pari Enterprises to reveal that the company had purchased 5000 N95 masks at a rate of Rs205 plus GST per piece. The invoice provided by this company made no mention of the MRP of these masks and the investigators were also unable to deduce the same from their inspection. In their response to the complaint, the FDA reports that even the manufacturer – Venus, has failed to mention the MRP of its V-4420 masks in their product images or videos.
 
The letter further mentions that a visit was made to the manufacturing plant of Venus Safety and Health for an inspection on 11 May 2020, and a note explaining their findings has been provided from the Assistant Commissioner, FDA, Raigad. This note lists down the prices (as of 13 May 2020) that the company offers for its products to non-state, state and central purchasers. At first glance, it is clear that there is no clear fixed MRP in place. The note concludes saying, “til date Central Government do not formulate any policy regarding the price of mask N95.”
 
The joint Commissioner’s response to Ms Damania’s complaint also includes the prices currently being offered by various manufacturers namely, Magnum (Rs250), Venus (Rs180) and 3M (Rs121 or Rs146 depending on the model no.) of N95 masks. The commissioner reinforces in his letter that while investigation in this matter is being carried out, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority should expedite the pricing matter on top priority. 
 

 

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