On June 8, the Tamil Nadu government had declared a maximum retail price for 15 essential items like face masks, shields, sanitisers, PPEs and surgical mask.

A medical store in Chennai
news Coronavirus Thursday, June 24, 2021 - 16:17

Pharmacists in Tamil Nadu have put the procurement and distribution of essential surgical items on the back burner. Pharmacies in the state have been removing medical items from the shelves, while many are yet to place an order for the next stock as they don’t want to sell the existing stock at a lower MRP (maximum retail price) and incur losses.
This comes after the Tamil Nadu government declared 15 medical items (including surgical masks, PPE kits and sanitisers) as essential commodities and capped their prices on June 8 this year. While the Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association welcomed the maximum retail price fixed by the government, they also demanded that the state procure and distribute the essential items to the retailers to ensure quality and fixed price by manufacturers.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tamil Nadu government had declared a maximum retail price for 15 essential items like face masks, shields, sanitisers, PPEs and surgical mask. The state government fixed the maximum retail price for personal protective equipment or PPE kits at Rs 273; 200 ml of hand sanitisers at Rs 11; non-rebreather mask at Rs 80; oxygen mask at Rs 54; and N95 mask at Rs 22. However, many people have been complaining that pharmacists are removing the products off the shelves or selling them at higher MRP since they were incurring losses on items like N95 masks, which they procured at higher rates.

According to pharmacists, they are facing a challenge because of the existing stock. “We had procured our existing stock at a higher price and selling them at MRP fixed by the government will lead to losses. The Tamil Nadu Health Minister told us to not think about profit during the pandemic, but we are worried about the loss,” said A Bhaaskaran, the owner of VV Medical Agencies, a supplier and distributor of pharmaceutical items in Trichy.

“We were not even given a breather to sell the existing items since the June 8 order was implemented the next day. So procurement of surgical items will take some more time since there is existing stock and lesser demand due to decreasing coronavirus cases,” he said.

K Manoharan, who runs Thillai Medicals in Trichy, said that pharmacists are facing difficulty especially in selling N95 masks. “Hand sanitisers, surgical masks, face shields etc started coming at a lower price tag even earlier. With the variation in materials, these items were sold at a price that will give us a minimum profit during the pandemic,” said Manoharan, who is also the president of Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association. 

“However, now, N95 masks cannot be sold at Rs 22 since they were originally produced for Rs 50 to Rs 100 per piece. We procured them at a much higher cost and are selling them for a loss since there is no return policy,” he said, explaining why they have not taken fresh stock from manufactures.

According to Manoharan, the government’s decision to fix an MRP has also led to a loss of at least Rs 30 crore.

Recently, Tamil Nadu Chemists and Druggists Association wrote to the state government, urging it to provide relief. “The state government did not include or consult with any of the representatives while the decision to fix MRP was taken. So, at least now, they should procure and distribute these medical items to retailers so that the quality and apt pricing is ensured,” said Manoharan. The Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation Limited, a government undertaking, procures masks at a lesser price than the new MRP.

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