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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Pharma renews dollar plea as meds run low – The Morning

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  • State Ministry requests sufficient funds from Treasury
  • $ 25-30 m needed monthly for pharma imports
  • Importers complain of delay in banks issuing LCs

By Imesh Ranasinghe

The State Ministry of Drug Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals has requested sufficient dollars from the Treasury to import essential pharmaceutical products required for the next three to six months, Ministry Secretary Dr. Saman Rathnayake said.

Priority has been given to medicines required for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and other medicines which are currently in low stock in the country, he said. However, he did not reveal the amount of dollars they had requested from the Treasury for the imports.

On Wednesday (2), the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) said that there was a 5% shortage of medicine in the country while the remaining stocks were sufficient for another six weeks to two months.

The SLCPI said that it required $ 25-30 million monthly to import the required pharmaceutical products to Sri Lanka and added that medicines for fever and high blood pressure were not available in the market at present.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business, State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) General Manager K.M.D.R. Dassanayake said that even though banks had been asked to prioritise health imports, there was a delay in Letter of Credit (LC) applications being processed.

He said the SPC had also submitted the required medicines on the list compiled by the State Ministry, for which dollars had been requested from the Treasury, adding that all the requirements of the SPC, the State Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC), and private companies had been included in the list sent to the Treasury.

All-Island Private Pharmacy Owners Association President Chandika Gankanda said that the pharmacies were providing people with substitute brands for brands that were not available in the country at present and added that if this situation were to continue, people would face a huge medicine shortage.

“If the Government does not do anything soon, then there will be queues for medicine in the future like the queues for fuel and other essential commodities in the country,” he said.

He stressed that medicines offered by the SPC were in short supply in the market.

Currently, Sri Lanka imports almost 85% of its pharmaceutical demands from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, France, and the US while the rest is supplied by local manufacturers.

Central Bank statistics show that in 2021, there was an approximately 48% increase to $ 882 million in medical and pharmaceutical imports to Sri Lanka when compared to 2020’s $ 595 million, mainly due to the import of Covid-19 vaccines and tests. In December 2021, medical and pharmaceutical imports amounted to $ 128 million.



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