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Mask makers make hay

No stock of N95 variety in market

THE mask manufacturers seem to be making the most of the H1N1 influenza panic, exasperated by the death of an infected woman in the State.

The basic triple layered mask, which was being sold at Rs 7, is now priced between Rs 10 and Rs 30, while the N95 masks, which are used by doctors to take the throat swabs of infected H1N1 patients, is priced at Rs 600. To add to this, many chemists and pharmacists are turning away customers asking for N95 masks, as they don’t have the stock. In fact, some don’t even have a reserve of the basic three layered masks.

Completely dry
According to Panchsheela Pharma on Brigade Road, there are no N95 masks or sanitisers being supplied in the market. “Actually, the market is completely dry.

There are no sanitisers. In fact, we have only ordered for 50 pieces of N95 masks as it’s too costly,” said one of the shop owners Kishore Kumar. As for the other masks, he revealed that they were selling like hot cakes.

He said that the stock of triple layer masks (Rs 170) arrived on Wednesday morning at his shop and on Thursday afternoon he only had six or seven masks left. As for the double layer masks (Rs 160), he sold all the 100 pieces within 24 hours, while more than 750 pieces of disposable surgical masks (Rs 10) were sold within a span of  two days. Even Apollo Pharmacy said that the N95 are not available in the market.

Sri Raghavendra Medicals near Shivajinagar bus stand did not have stock of any kind of masks. Guru, the shop owner, said, “I had stock of N 95 masks till last week, but presently, I don’t have any.” He hopes to get more masks by next week.

No stock
At Geetha Pharma, Chemist and Druggist, opposite Lady Curzon and Bowring Hospital, a man enquired about the mask and person at the counter said he didn’t have stock of any masks, let alone N95. Sagar Medicals, another store in the vicinity had the same story to tell. Though they had the triple layered mask costing Rs 10, they did not have stock of N95 and weren’t sure whether they would be stocking it too.

In fact, one of the drug stores revealed that the companies making N95 masks were creating an artificial scarcity. According to Dr Bikas Kumar Das, a doctor practising at Koramangala, a general disposable surgical mask would suffice as it would lessen the spread of contamination. Even a triple layer white coloured mask was selling at Rs 250 while its actual price was Rs 125. The 3M manufactured masks were being sold at Rs 750 much above its actual cost of Rs 249.

(Published in Deccan Herald in 2009)


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