Amidst reports of black marketing and hoarding of medical oxygen across the country, the Maharashtra FDA officials have maintained that there is adequate quantity of medical oxygen available in the state. There is a production of 1,100 metric tonnes (MT) of oxygen per day with the daily consumption of 850 metric tonnes.
The number of licensed manufacturers has also increased from 73 during pre-COVID-19 period to 103 as of today which is catering to the 1,069 hospitals in the state.The Maharashtra government had also recently appointed 104 nodal officers from Maharashtra FDA to monitor stock and supply of medical oxygen by 26 manufacturers and 78 oxygen refillers in the state.
Earlier, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) had issued a directive to keep strict vigil on medical oxygen stock and supply and take apt action under the provisions of Drugs and Cosmetics (D&C) Act, 1940 and Essential Commodities (EC) Act, 1955 to prevent black marketing and hoarding of medical oxygen.
Maharashtra FDA has also initiated state wide inspections of premises of medical oxygen manufacturers to ensure that 80 per cent of the oxygen is produced and supplied for COVID-19 treatment.
Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan recently stated that there is no shortage of oxygen supply at the national level and states need to monitor oxygen inventory mechanisms of hospitals so that replenishment can be done in a timely manner.
The health secretary added that the country’s current daily capacity of oxygen production as on date is more than 6,900 metric tonnes and around 2,800 metric tonnes of oxygen are required for COVID-19 and non-COVID health use, while around 2,200 metric tonnes are used up for industrial purposes.
Meanwhile, NPPA has also brought liquid medical oxygen (LMO) under price control for next six months. As per sources, demand for medical oxygen has gone up almost four times, from 750 MT per day to 2,800 MT in the wake of COVID-19 management.
As per the notification issued by the NPPA, medical oxygen’s price has been fixed at Rs.15.22 per cubic meter (exclusive of GST) at manufactures’ end and its price at fillers’ end has been fixed at Rs. 25.71 per cubic meter, subject to transportation cost fixation at state level.
The state drug regulator recently sent across a directive to all the industrial gas manufacturers in the state to produce medical grade oxygen to cater to the growing demand for treating critically ill COVID-19 patients in the country.
Maharashtra FDA has outlined a plan to help manufacturers take up production of medical oxygen on war footing.
Due to excess demand, delivery through cylinders has increased from 11% pre-COVID to 50% of current oxygen supply. It is therefore imperative to cap the price of LMO to ensure uninterrupted availability of medical oxygen through cylinders to the hospitals and consumers.
The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) had earlier directed state licensing authorities (SLAs) to urgently grant permission to manufacturers of industrial oxygen to manufacture medical oxygen in the light of COVID-19 outbreak.
The state drug regulator had recently met with the Union commerce ministry to discuss the availability of medical grade oxygen and cylinders and is in the process of collecting the data on the same besides the storage capacity of oxygen with the existing producers. Union ministry of commerce and industry and the Central Drug Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) regulate the medical gases in India.