As the demand for pulse oximeters and oxygen concentrators surge in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has directed manufacturers and importers of these products to submit pricing data. The move aims to ensure that people seeking to buy these items at this time are not fleeced in the process.
As per some industry executives, there have been instances of increases in the prices of these products due to a hike in demand and an occasional shortage in supply. Stating that the maximum retail prices (MRP) of medical devices cannot be increased more than 10 per cent in a year, NPPA sought information on the MRP details of pulse oximeters and oxygen concentrators, according to a copy of the notification that The Indian Express has viewed.
This was “in order to monitor the price movements of critical medical equipment required in clinical management of COVID-19,” stated the notification dated June 29.
In case firms are found not to be complying with the pricing regulations for their products, NPPA may initiate action against them for violation, according to the notification.
In the last three months, there has been a growing demand for these products, according to various segments of the industry.
For instance, between May-end and June 25, online marketplace Flipkart witnessed a nearly 12-time increase in demand for pulse oximeters. Demand for other products like thermometers, too, has gone up 10 times, and there has also been a “significant” increase in the purchase of thermal scanners as well, “as people look at enhanced safety measures,” said a Flipkart spokesperson.
“The demand for pulse oximeters is higher from states where the pandemic has hit hardest, like Maharashtra, Delhi-NCR, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat,” said Anubhav Suri, head of Morepen Laboratories’ medical devices division.
“We sold around 15,000 fingertip pulse oximeters in the last month alone, and this is almost four times our usual monthly sales,” said Tarun Arora, director of Infinity Mediquip India, which sells the ‘Infi’ brand of fingertip pulse oximeters in the country. However, Mediquip, which imports these fingertip pulse oximeters from China, was unable to cater to the total demand for the product, especially when clearance of consignments from the neighbouring country was delayed at ports here.
Around 3,000 units of these fingertip pulse oximeters were stalled at the Delhi port since June 23, said Arora. This prompted him to keep an additional 3,000 that was to come from Hong Kong on standby until the issue was sorted here, he said.
“I’ve been told that the clearances will begin from today,” he added.
While fingertip pulse oximeters usually have MRPs of around Rs 4,000, they are usually sold for around half the price, said an industry executive on condition of anonymity. “During the pandemic, though, with some shortages being observed, there was a multifold increase in the retail prices. Wholesale prices were also hiked up 10-20 per cent,” said the executive.
Oxygen concentrators, which are usually priced at Rs 45,000 to Rs 65,000, have also seen hikes in wholesale and retail prices, according to the executive.
“Wholesale prices of brands that were around Rs 25,000-30,000 are now no less than Rs 40,000-60,000. Retail prices are now easily Rs 50,000 or more, depending on the brand,” they said.
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