PETALING JAYA, Aug 14: Three organisations representing pharmacies in the country have criticised the government for the sudden move to reduce the price of 3-ply face masks to RM1 from the previous ceiling price of RM1.50, which was later reduced to RM1.20, with effect from Saturday.
Aside from the lack of any grace period for the price reduction to take effect, the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society, the Sarawak Pharmaceutical Society and the Sabah Pharmaceutical Society also questioned the lack of consultation with stakeholders, namely their member pharmacies selling the masks.
“Such decisions have far-reaching consequences, especially when there are many grades of face masks currently sold in the market.
“The medical grade masks which are only used by healthcare professionals at the frontline have much better bacterial and viral filtration compared to non-medical grade face masks.
“Hence, the cost of manufacturing for a medical grade 3-ply face mask is much higher,” the societies said in a statement.
They said that medical grade 3-ply face masks have filtration levels above 95% compared with non-medical grade which merely have 65% to 80%.
They urged the government to set ceiling prices for each grade of 3-ply face masks, and not one blanket price for all grades of 3-ply face masks.
“Alternatively, the government can consider subsidising face masks for the B40 group of Malaysians instead of forcefully decreasing the ceiling price,” they said.
The societies also warned of the potential for sub-standard 3-ply face masks to flood the market now with the reduction in the ceiling price.
“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,” they said.
The Sarawak and Sabah societies also highlighted the “extra logistical costs” of transporting the 3-ply face masks to their respective states.
“With sea freights and air cargo volume still expensive, the cost is always higher in East Malaysia,” they said.
Making an appeal on behalf of their community of pharmacies, the societies said the existing stock of 3-ply face masks would now have to be sold at a loss as they were purchased at a higher price and at large amounts to keep up with the demand all these months.