RM1 Ceiling Price May Cause Shoddy Face Mask Production: Pharmacists

Pharmacist groups say face mask costs are higher in East Malaysia because of expensive sea freight and air cargo.

KUALA LUMPUR, August 14 — Pharmacist groups have warned the government that dropping the retail ceiling price of face masks to RM1 from RM1.50 could lead to the production of substandard products.

The Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS), Sarawak Pharmaceutical Society, and Sabah Pharmaceutical Society said community pharmacies are now forced to sell face masks at a loss with the sudden 33 per cent reduction of the ceiling price, as they keep a large stock of good medical-grade masks that were purchased at a higher cost.

“Further, by reducing the ceiling price drastically to RM1 or lower, it may inadvertently encourage the production of substandard face masks, thus defeating the purpose of providing vital protection to the rakyat,” the pharmacist groups said in a statement.

The government gazetted on August 11 the new maximum retail price of RM1 per unit (RM50 per box) and the maximum wholesale price of 95 sen per unit (RM47.50 per box) for three-ply surgical and medical masks. The new ceiling prices — a reduction from RM1.50 and RM1.45 for retail and wholesale respectively — will take effect tomorrow on August 15.

“We would like to urge the government to take into consideration the extra logistical costs of bringing the medical grade face masks over to Sabah and Sarawak. With sea freights and air cargo volume still expensive, the cost is always higher in East Malaysia,” the pharmacist groups said.

They also told the government to consider setting different ceiling prices for different grades of three-ply masks instead of a blanket price for all medical masks, pointing out that the cost of manufacturing a medical grade three-ply mask is much higher.

“The medical grade masks, which are only used by our health care professionals at the frontline settings, have much better bacterial and viral filtration compared to non-medical grade face masks. Medical grade masks will be 95 per cent above filtration compared to non-medical grade,which will be merely 65 per cent to 80 per cent,” said the three pharmacist groups.

“The government should also consider reinforcing the requirements of newly manufactured face masks being registered with the Medical Device Authority (MDA) now that face mask manufacturing has resumed normally to prevent subpar imports.”

The pharmacist groups told the government to consider subsiding face masks for the bottom 40 per cent (B40), instead of legislating ceiling prices.

“Our community pharmacies are ever ready to assist in the distribution to ensure the free or subsidised face masks reach those that truly need them.”

They also reminded the public to avoid buying face masks from online platforms or any shops as the quality of products is not guaranteed.

The new legislated ceiling prices for face masks, which was announced by Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi in Parliament on August 11, come even as the government has made wearing face masks mandatory in crowded public areas amid the Covid-19 outbreak, punishing violations with a maximum RM1,000 fine. Lawmakers say free face masks should be provided to low-income people.

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