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India caps prices of medical oxygen amid rising COVID cases

by Raju Vernekar
0 comment 3 minutes read

IT Correspondent
New Delhi, Oct 2:

In view of the increased demand for treating Covid-19 patients, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), which regulates drug prices in the country, has capped the prices of medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders over complaints of black marketing and hoarding,  
The price, at present, has been capped for a period of six months, to ensure the availability of medical oxygen at reasonable prices, since many states are dependent on medical oxygen supply from other states. 
As a result, the ex-factory price of liquid medical oxygen at the manufacturers’ end has been capped at Rs15.22 per cubic metre, exclusive of GST and the ex-factory cost of medical oxygen cylinder at the filler end has been capped at Rs25.71 per cubic metre, exclusive of GST. 
“As of now, there is no supply shortage. However, since major oxygen manufactures in the country are not equitably distributed, it is pertinent to take proactive measures to ensure there is no shortage in future, given the increasing demand for the oxygen, a senior government official said. 
For example, Delhi, which does not have an oxygen manufacturing unit gets its supply from Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand. Punjab gets its supply from Haryana, Madhya Pradesh from Rajasthan, Gujarat from Maharashtra; while Andhra Pradesh and Telangana get most of their supplies from Karnataka. 
The demand for medical oxygen has gone up almost four times, from 750 metric tonnes per day to 2,800 metric tonnes daily, causing a strain across the production and supply chain. “The supply of medical oxygen through cylinders has increased from 10% to around 50%. Price regulation at this end is imperative for the continued availability of medical oxygen across the country,” the Union ministry of chemicals and fertilisers said in a statement. 
Adequate and uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen is an important pre-requisite for managing moderate and severe cases of Covid-19, with about 6% of the Covid-19 patients, including those in intensive care units (ICUs) and on mechanical ventilators, require oxygen therapy at any given time.
 The Centre has also constituted an inter-ministerial empowered committee to take measures, including setting up a control room to monitor supply and demand of oxygen on a real-time basis, to ensure availability. The committee comprises members from the Union health ministry, department for promotion of industry and internal trade, department of pharmaceuticals and ministry of textiles, among others.
 The measures taken by the committee include the provision for a 24×7 green corridor for movement of liquid medical oxygen tankers between states, so that there is an “unrestricted and unhindered” movement of tankers. The entry of heavy vehicles ferrying the tankers into the city limits during the day has also been permitted, to cut down on turnaround time. 
States have also been advised to ensure facility-wise or hospital-wise oxygen inventory management and advance planning, for timely replenishment so that there is continuous availability. Also, micro-level planning is to be done to maintain oxygen pipelines and oxygen manufacturing units, so that there is no leakage of oxygen.

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