The Government has notified N-95 masks of an essential commodity under the Essential Commodities Act of 1955, by the Government vide Notification dated 13 March 2020. Thus, hoarding, black-marketing of the essential commodity is a punishable offense under the Act. To keep a check on the hoarding, black-marketing of the essential commodity, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) in exercise of the powers conferred under National Disaster Management Act, 2005 had directed all States or UT Governments to ensure sufficient availability of surgical and protective masks, hand sanitizers and gloves at prices not exceeding the maximum retail price printed on the pack size vide orders dated 13 March 2020.
Grievances have been received regarding hoarding, black-marketing, and differential higher pricing of N-95 masks. In this context, NPPA has directed State Drug Controllers or Food & Drug Administrations of all State and UT Governments to take appropriate actions. As reported, raids have been conducted by few SDCs or FDAs and appropriate action is being taken against the hoarders and black-marketers of the essential commodity. A PIL has also been filed before Hon’ble High Court of Bombay to bringing price cap on the N-95 masks by the Government.
The Government is striving to ensure an uninterrupted supply of N-95 masks in adequate quantity in the country. For this, the Government is procuring the largest chunk of the N-95 Masks directly from the manufacturers, importers and suppliers at bulk rates. To address the issue of higher prices of the N-95 masks, NPPA intervened to bring down the prices. In this regard, to ensure the availability of N-95 masks at affordable prices in the country, NPPA issued an Advisory on 21 May 2020 to all the manufacturers, importers and suppliers of the N-95 masks to maintain parity in prices for non-government procurements and to make available the same at reasonable prices. Further, NPPA submitted before Hon’ble High Court of Bombay on the plea of bringing price cap on the N-95 masks that looking to the mismatch in the demand-supply of N-95 masks in the country, NPPA advised manufacturers, importers and suppliers to bring down the prices voluntarily.
Meanwhile, NPPA denies the news item appeared in media, alleging that NPPA approvingly cited a price that is more than three times the government procurement rate for the masks. According to the press note, the Government procurement rate quoted in the news clipping is fallacious, deceptive, and misleading.
After issuing such an advisory, major manufacturers and importers of N-95 masks have reduced their prices significantly to 47% leading to the availability of N-95 masks in the country at affordable prices.