The pharmaceutical industry contradicts the Ministry of Health

Despite repeated government denials, severe restrictions hampered the full range of imports, including medicines. Days after the Ministry of Health denied the unavailability of drugs in the market, the Sri Lankan Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry said there was a shortage due to the worsening foreign exchange crisis .

In a statement on Thursday (13), the group, while stating that it imports around 80% of the drugs into the country, said the public had raised two issues. They are; ‘Will there be a shortage of medicines in the near future in the country and if so, should they stockpile their regular medicines? and will the price of drugs increase along with all the other products on the market? »

The grouping warned that the industry was at risk of collapsing as it could not continue due to the continued depreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee against the US dollar. It reminded the government that it was the only importer subject to price controls.

Here is the text of the statement issued by the supreme body: “At least some sections of the public should be aware that there are shortages of certain drugs, even at the present time. This is due to many reasons, but the main one is the foreign currency crisis in the country, which makes it difficult for banks to facilitate payments through Letters of Credit (LC). Currently, banks, both public and private, only allow pharmaceutical importers to open LCs when they have enough dollars to securely guarantee payment for imports. Although medicines are given some priority, there are other items such as essential foodstuffs, petroleum products, fertilizers, etc., which the government should also give priority to. The result is that the importation of medicines is now done on the availability of foreign exchange and not on the needs of the country or its patients. In this situation, it is inevitable that there will be more and more drug shortages as the currency crisis worsens.

“With regard to the storage of drugs beyond the usual treatment regimen by patients, it is not advisable to do so for long periods of time because these products must be stored under strict conditions specified by the manufacturers. It is doubtful that such conditions can be sustained in an average household. In addition, bulk or panic buying by the affluent can deprive the less capable segment of the population of access to the medicines they need to lead a healthy life.

“As an industry, we will do everything we can to keep the supply of medicines available without interruption, as we are fully aware of the implications of not doing so. In this regard, we sincerely hope that the authorities concerned will give us priority in establishing LCs on time.

“Currently, drugs are the only product on the market with price controls in Sri Lanka. This makes it nearly impossible for companies to continue selling the drugs at the same price as the US dollar continues to appreciate over time. On top of that, global supply chain disruptions, rising raw material and freight costs make it impossible to deliver quality medicines as everyone would understand.

“It will also be catastrophic if the dollar is allowed to float meaning that all drugs will have to be sold at a loss and as such the whole industry will collapse in the face of such a threat where importation would stop. obviously because the import cost will be higher than the approved prices.

“There is no solution to this dilemma but to remove drug price controls and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism that will tie drug prices to the dollar, inflation and direct costs. such as raw materials, fuel and transport costs, which make the importation and marketing of medicines viable.As difficult as it may seem, the authorities will have to choose between having paid medicines and not having them at all.

“As an ethically responsible industry, we have already sought court intervention to establish a transparent pricing mechanism for pharmaceuticals and medical devices that is fair to all. Such a mechanism may be the only salvation for the industry and the patients of the country and it is in everyone’s interest if the process is expedited by the relevant government authorities.

We would like to solemnly promise the public that we will do everything possible to ensure that the price of medicines is fair and equitable. SLCPI members have an outstanding track record of maintaining an uninterrupted supply of effective, safe, quality medicines at globally competitive prices for many decades while supporting continuing medical education nationwide.