Express News Service
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A customer walking into any of the medical shops in the capital city is sure to wonder whether the pharmacists live in a different state. Despite the government capping the prices of items needed for Covid prevention and treatment, you will be charged the same exorbitant prices as earlier. An N95 mask is being sold at a price as high as Rs 80 in the city even though the government capped its price at Rs 22.
Were you to ask for a bill, you will be promptly denied one, citing reasons that range from issues with GST to lack of the item code for billing. And some pharmacists will be upfront and tell you that they cannot issue the bill as the prices charged are against the new rule. TNIE found this out after visiting 10 medical shops.
On May 14, the Kerala government issued an order under the Kerala Essential Articles Control Act, 1986, declaring 15 items used in Covid prevention and treatment as essential articles and fixed the maximum retail prices to make them affordable for the comman man. Despite the order, the medical shops still levy the same exorbitant rates for articles including masks, gloves and sanitisers.
While the price of N95 masks ranges fromRs 40 to Rs 80, that of the triple-layer masks ranges from Rs 5 to Rs 10 depending on the chemist’s whim.
The capped price of N95 mask is Rs 22 and that of the triple-layer mask is Rs 3.90. Even as the health advisories mandate the wearing of double masks for protection against the new Covid-19 variants, the overcharging is yet another economic burden on the general public.
Chemists cite reasons from lack of availability of masks at the capped prices in the market to quality issues. A shortage of masks is witnessed in some of the medical shops with some sending back the procured masks which could not be sold at the revised rates.
“We don’t have the triple-layer mask and are awaiting the new batch at the revised price. The N95 mask which was earlier sold at Rs 50 is now being sold at Rs 22,” said a staffer at the pharmacy run by a major private hospital in Kuravankonam. This chemist shop is one among the rare ones that sell good quality N95 mask as per the new revised price.
Except at the Karunya shops and very few private medical shops, the prices of the Covid items are still sky high. When customers question the chemists about the high price, they advise the latter to wash the triple-layer masks and reuse them. Almost all shops denied having masks at the government fixed prices. “We don’t have the masks at those rates. If the government gives the masks at those rates, we can make them available. Moreover, the quality of the masks will be an issue as only low-quality masks will be available at these cheap rates,” said a chemist at a shop in Sasthamangalam in the capital.
Govt fixed prices
PPE kit 273
N95 mask 22
Triple-layer mask 3.90
Face shield 21
Apron (disposable) 12
Surgical gown 65
Examination gloves (pair) 5.75
Hand sanitiser (500ml) 192
Hand sanitiser (200ml) 98
Hand sanitiser (100ml) 55
Sterile gloves (pair) 15
NRB mask 80
Oxygen mask 54
Flowmeter with humidifier 1,520
Fingertip pulse oximeter 1,500