The Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as part of major crackdown on rampant cases of overpricing of N95 masks, has conducted over 1,000 inspections in the month of June and raided premises of establishments selling reputed brand of N95 masks at higher rates despite price control. Brands include Venus, Magnum and 3M, among others.
The Maharashtra FDAs action is based on the directive issued by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) which had recently urged all state drug controllers to ensure availability of N-95 masks at the revised MRPs as per price control compliance. It had also asked manufacturers, importers and suppliers of the N-95 masks to maintain parity in prices for non-government procurement and make them available at reasonable prices.
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. A case has also been registered at Sakinaka Police Station under the Essential Commodities (EC) Act for further investigation in which material worth over four lakh was seized.
“We have increased inspections in the city in the wake of vigilance reports and the directives from National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to enforce price control and curb black marketing of N95 masks at the earliest,” said J B Mantri, Maharashtra FDA joint commissioner, head quarters (HQ) and state drug control authority.
NPPA had also recently issued a list of price reduction in N-95 masks by four major N-95 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 N-95 masks with the state drug controllers (SDCs). The list indicates that the makers of N-95 masks reduced the cost of their products, some even up to 47 per cent, after NPPA issued an advisory on May 21, 2020 recommending manufacturers to voluntarily lower prices.
The reported lowered MRPs of various grades of N-95 masks of the four manufacturers ranges from the earlier MRP of Rs. 160 to current Rs. 95, from the earlier Rs. 195 to current Rs. 125, from Rs. 175 to current Rs. 105, from Rs. 225 to current Rs. 135, from Rs. 200 to Rs. 130 and from Rs. 250 to Rs. 165 in case of Venus Safety, from Rs. 175 to current Rs 135 in case of Magnum, from Rs. 238 to Rs. 126 in the case of Yash Care and in case of Joseph Leslie the revised MRP is Rs. 140 from the earlier Rs. 150.
Raids on illegal sale of N95 masks at several premises in Mumbai was led under the guidance of Rajendra B Shingne, Food And Drug Administration Minister, Government of Maharashtra in consultation with A B Unhale, commissioner, Maharashtra FDA, Sunil Bhardwaj, Maharashtra FDA joint commissioner (Vigilance). State FDA Intelligence Department (Drugs), Brihan Mumbai Division and Sakinaka Police jointly conducted these inspections with assistant commissioner Rokade, drug inspectors Nandekar, Shrigadevar and Rathod. Maharashtra FDA commissioner (Vigilance) Sunil Bhardwaj 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.