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Will fix formula for pricing of oxygen concentrators in 7 days, Modi govt tells Delhi HC

The Centre’s affidavit was filed on a plea by Delhi resident Manisha Chauhan, who has raised issues of hoarding and black marketing of medicines and medical equipment.

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New Delhi: Amid confusion and speculation over the regulation of prices of oxygen concentrators, the Narendra Modi government told the Delhi High Court Thursday that it has begun the process for fixing the formula for pricing of oxygen concentrators.

In an affidavit filed in the court, the Centre said that the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) held a meeting in this regard with industry stakeholders Wednesday, and is expected to arrive at a decision in 7 days.

“The NPPA has initiated the process for fixing the formula for pricing of oxygen concentrators keeping in mind the observations of this Hon’ble Court. This formula would be arrived at after due consultation with the manufacturers/importers and other stakeholders,” it said.

The affidavit was filed on a plea by Delhi resident Manisha Chauhan, who has raised issues of hoarding and black marketing of medicines and medical equipment required for Covid-19 treatment.

The submissions assume significant in light of the defence being taken by Delhi-based businessman Navneet Kalra — arrested in the oxygen concentrator hoarding and black marketing case — who has been contending that the allegations against him do not hold water as oxygen concentrators and thermal scanners have not been declared as ‘essential commodities’ under the law.


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Are oxygen concentrators essential commodities?

During the last hearing in the case on 17 May, Chauhan’s lawyer, Advocate Sanjeev Sagar had claimed that the central government had not issued a notification under the Essential Commodities Act 1955 to declare oxygen concentrators as an essential commodity.

Amicus curiae senior advocate Rajshekhar Rao, however, had then submitted that according to him, oxygen concentrators, flowmeters and oximeters are “squarely covered” by the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act.

To this end, Rao had pointed out that the schedule of the Essential Commodities Act includes ‘drugs’ and that the medical devices also fall within the definition of a ‘drug’. Additionally, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had in February last year notified several devices as ‘medical devices’ and that the NPPA had on 31 March last year clarified that all medical devices would from now on be governed by provisions of the Drug (Price Control) Order, 2013 (DPCO), issued under Essential Commodities Act.

However, with regard to the regulation of their price, the Modi government had told the Delhi High Court that it is not inclined to fix any ceiling price or MRP for medical devices such as oxygen concentrators, asserting that this would have an adverse impact on the availability of oxygen concentrators in the market.

During the hearing, a bench comprising Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh was told that fixing MRP for such medical devices would deter their imports into the country since there is a global shortage and high demand internationally for these devices.

“It is further argued that the prices of such Medical Devices keep fluctuating, and consequently it may not be possible to cap the prices of such Medical Devices by fixing either the ceiling price or MRP,” the court order had noted.

The bench had then asked the Modi government to consider these aspects and report back to it. The affidavit was filed Thursday in response to this order.


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