Pharmacists upset over revised ceiling price of face masks

The Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) is up in arms over the government’s sudden decision to lower the ceiling price of face masks from RM2 to RM1.50.

The society claims there was no reasonable notice or consultation with key stakeholders before Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s announcement yesterday.

Ismail Sabri said the decision was made after the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry was told by the government to do so.

MPS president Amrahi Buang said the decision was “highly unjust to community pharmacists who have done their national duty and remained open during this crisis to serve the rakyat”.

“The government’s announcement on March 21 that the ceiling price of 3-Ply Medical Grade Face Masks was capped at RM2.00 had spurred many pharmacies to initiate orders of face masks. However, just after nine days this ceiling price has been revised yet again, and this sudden change will cause widespread hardship among pharmacies, importers, wholesalers and manufactures nationwide,” Amrahi said in a statement today.

“We do believe the government is fully aware that the masks cannot be obtained at RM0.80 and hence had increased the price to RM2. This decision had at least allowed some masks to be imported/manufactured and made available for sale to the rakyat. However, with this reduction, we are afraid it will again dry up the supply of face masks as even the local manufacturers are frustrated over this move.”

He said MPS firmly opposed the new price which takes effect tomorrow.

“We request that the government either subsidises the pharmacies that will incur losses or give them a deferment of one month to clear stocks. Invoices can be provided with dates of purchase as evidence if required.”

He added market analysis and feedback showed that when the ceiling price was raised to RM2, many community pharmacies placed orders for face masks and that the cost price was slightly lower than RM2.

Many had either paid in full or placed 50 per cent deposits for stocks which are only due to arrive next month.

The reduction of the ceiling price to RM1.50 caught community pharmacies by surprise and leaves them with no avenue to clear their existing stocks, he said.

“Despite the removal of import and sales taxes, in states like Sabah and Sarawak, the cost is still high due to transportation charges. Therefore, many pharmacies in these states are receiving the face masks at a higher price of RM1.90.”

He said the notice period for the adjustment of ceiling price is too short and urged the government to announce a longer adjustment period of at least one month so that pharmacies can clear their stocks.

He cautioned that the short notice will cause a new shortage as many community pharmacies will no longer be able to sell the masks.

“This situation will only benefit black market sales of face masks at higher prices where the ceiling price is difficult to enforce. The ministry has been vigilant in checking community pharmacies, even when they did not have stocks but we fail to understand why no action is taken against online sellers who sell above the ceiling price,” Amrahi added.