JMI Hospital Requisite Manufacturing Ltd has received approval of the Directorate General of the Drug Administration (DGDA) for manufacturing its KN-95 respirators and the company is going to launch the product soon.
The first ever approval in mid-December for producing such high quality masks, following multiple international tests, has enabled the company to cater to most of the local market demand for high end respirators, which is completely import dependent now.
Currently the company is capable of making 40,000 KN-95 masks in a 12-hour shift at its Munshiganj facility, which is enough to cater the health professionals on Covid-19 frontline across Bangladesh, said Abhijit Paul, the business development head at
Experts said not everyone needs KN-95 masks as it is only required for those who directly come in contact with Covid-19 patients.
"We can double the output by working at night if Bangladesh demands more to tackle the pandemic," he said, adding that, "We are also ready to set up new production lines to manifold the production if the situation demands."
Currently there are around 2 lakh health workers including doctors, and nurses and much less than half of them are directly exposed to the novel coronavirus at the workplace.
JMI said the government allowed the company to price each of the KN-95 standard masks called the "JMI Respirators" at Tk86.2 at the factory gate, while its maximum retail price would be Tk100.
The JMI Respirator
JMI, the leading medical equipment and accessories manufacturing group in Bangladesh, had been importing surgical and other types of masks and gloves for the local market.
After the outbreak of Covid-19 at the beginning of this year, they set up mask manufacturing lines in collaboration with Chinese company Liz Fashion.
JMI opted to follow Chinese guideline "GB 2626-2006" for manufacturing KN-95 standard masks and the company added another additional layer to the mandatory four layers the standard demands.
SGS, one of the leading testing firms, helped JMI to get its necessary test reports for DGDA approval. The company also entered into a memorandum of understanding with Intertek, another testing firm for supporting its future endeavour.
While talking to The Business Standard, Abhijit Paul expressed his confidence that any health authority across the world accepting the Chinese standard would find JMI Respirator a safe product.
His team has been in talks with a number of foreign buyers interested to import JMI Respirators.
"However, our primary goal is to substitute the imports to the country. Let us see what happens later," said Paul.
The N95 and KN-95
N95 is the pioneering specialty mask originally designed and manufactured by American company 3M.
It prevents the entrance of extremely small airborne particles, bacteria and viruses to human lungs.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the United States of America has its widely accepted guideline for the standard of N95 respirators that ensures at least 95 percent protection from unwanted micro particles and germs.
Other accreditation or standard agencies from different corners of the world have had their own guidelines for the specialty masks believed to be of almost similar effectiveness. KN95 is one of those by China and it is being widely accepted by an
increasing number of countries due to its safety with affordability.
The JMI Group, in partnership with Japanese medical equipment multinational Nipro, pioneered the manufacturing of medical accessories in Bangladesh in the late 1990s.
The partnership already has extended in the area of drugs and dozens of types of medical equipment, and they are exporting some of those to over 30 countries including the European ones.
JMI's name is associated with Bangladesh's story of self-sufficiency in high quality syringes and the company is exporting Covid-19 vaccine syringes alongside catering to the local demand.
However, JMI was embroiled in a controversy this year over supplying normal masks packed in paper boxes labelled as N95.
Both the procurement office of the Directorate General of Health Services and the company claimed that the incident was a mistake.
However, the issue is under investigation now, while the company is continuing its pioneering work to introduce new medical accessories and equipment.