You need clear guidelines to counter speculation and low-quality kits

MUMBAI: As the country is already recovering from the pandemic, patients and consumers are now expressing concern about unethical practices, such as price increases and the sale of substandard and personal protective equipment (). N95 prices have increased nearly four-fold, while different prices are being charged for PPE across the country, and its quality is also suspect. Industry experts have also said that false and false certification is rampant and that manufacturers flying by at night have appeared in the absence of clear product specifications and monitoring by government .

Prices of surgical masks were capped by the government in March to plug overcharging, while N95 masks were not included in the notification.

With the exception of masks, there are no clear or uniform guidelines on the specification of protective equipment for health workers, police personnel, and sanitation workers, causing some to purchase substandard kits from manufacturers. doubtful.

“The Union health ministry in ‘Rational Use of PPEs’ has laid down guidelines only for a few categories of healthcare workers, while other organisations are required to use them as per hospital infection control policy, hence, we request government to provide standard guidelines for each category of workers,” Dr Sanjiiiv, chairman, PWMAI (Preventive Wear Manufacturers’ Association of India ) told TOI, adding that this is leading to confusion.

There is also a demand for clear national standards that will be established by the Indian Standards Office for the specification of each category/product of PPE so that MRP can be limited. To protect consumers, the MRP of PPE and other relevant medical devices for Covid should be limited to a reasonable level. We suggest an MRP of approximately four times the ex-factory price or the import price. It is difficult to limit EPP prices in the absence of clear BIS standards, as these have to be correlated with a defined product specification/category, so it is imperative that BIS publish these standards after due consultation with the parties. Interested, Rajiv Nath, AiMeD coordinating forum, said the body of the home medical device industry.

There has been a proliferation of PPE manufacturers, many of whom are new entrants trying to take advantage of the situation caused by the pandemic and operating without the necessary quality compliance. This has also led to a market of sellers with outrageous quotes for EPP components, Malini Aisola, co-coordinator of the All India Drug Action Network, told TOI.

The price of a PPE kit by state-owned HLL Lifecare, which is designated as a single-window procurement agency for Central government hospitals, is around Rs 1,100. However, kits are being sold for as low as Rs 250 in the private sector but these kits are suspected to be substandard and without a proper barrier to protect against microbes and fluids, an industry expert said. In certain cases, patients are being billed as high as Rs 1,500-2,000 for PPE kits, by hospitals.

“Most private hospitals are billing patients for PPE, and charges can vary widely, depending on the treatment and the hospital. Even patients, whose treatment is covered by Ayushman Bharat, are forced to pay for PPE out of pocket. For example, if a patient, covered by dialysis under Ayushman Bharat, is asked to pay Rs 170 for PPE each time they undergo dialysis, as a private hospital in Jaipur was doing, the patient ends up paying Rs 1,360 per month , considering that you would need this treatment at least twice a week. Rajasthan recently issued an order advising private hospitals to refrain from charging patients extra, apart from what they are entitled to according to the package fees set under the insurance scheme. However, in the absence of monitoring, how much we will have to implement this order, we will have to see it, says Chhaya Pachauli, director of Prayas and member Jan Swasthya Abhiyan.

Rama Venugopal executive director, Value Added Corporate Services, who has experience in industry’s regulatory requirements said that the market is rampant with fraudulent and sub-standard products, with huge markups and price fluctuations, hence government inspectors should monitor and visit these units. Dr Sameer Agarwal , president of Practicing Pathologists Society, Rajasthan said that there is a huge mark-up in prices of N95 masks, which are now being sold around Rs 250-300 a piece, with GST being charged anywhere between 5%-18%.

The Supreme Court recently asked the Center to provide PPE kits to healthcare workers working in non-Covid treatment areas.