Drug price slash helps Sri Lanka improve people’s health: WHO

ECONOMYNEXT, Sri Lanka’s drastic reduction in the price of nearly 50 medicines used to treat heart disease, diabetes and other common ailments has led to a substantial improvement in the health of its people, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in its latest report.

The world body noted that Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne’s move to transform pricing of essential drugs since October last year has had an "enormous impact on the health of the population."

"Sri Lanka’s pharmaceutical market is estimated to be worth USD $ 400 million per year," the WHO noted in its latest report on the island. "The regulation of the pricing of these medicines has an enormous impact on the health of the population."

It said reducing prices was a major achievement in safeguarding patients’ rights to access affordable medicine in the country of 21 million people.

Prices of some of the most commonly used medication for cholesterol control, high blood pressure and diabetes dropped by over 50 percent since the minister brought in upper limits for 48 medicines from October last year.

"Sri Lanka’s successful regulation of pharmaceutical prices shows how evidence based policies can protect patients’ rights, reduce out of pocket expenditure, ensure affordable access to quality assured medicines and advance the principles of Universal Health Coverage," the WHO said.

However, the WHO warned that vigilance was required to ensure that there was no unethical drug promotion by pharmaceutical companies.

"Many factors distort demand and push up drug prices," the WHO said. "These include: unethical drug promotion; lack of consumer awareness on generic brands; lack of monitoring of overcharging; irrational selection and use of medicines and; unreliable supply systems."

The WHO said it will continue to support the government of Sri Lanka in its efforts to make medicines more affordable for its people.

The  full report can be accessed at http://www.searo.who.int/srilanka/documents/affordable_essential_medicines_policy_brief.pdf?ua=1

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