Health Minister promises transparent drug price control formula


By Don Asoka Wijewardena 

Health and Indigenous Medicine Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne addressing a seminar on the new National Medicinal Drugs and Cosmetics Devices Regulatory Act for journalists yesterday stressed that a transparent price control formula for all kinds of drugs would come into effect soon.

 Minister Senaratne pointed out that the new Act also would encourage local investors to manufacture all kinds of drugs required by the country so that a substantial amount of foreign exchange could be saved. Around 10,000 kinds of drugs and pharmaceuticals were imported by Sri Lanka at present. But the new Act embodied regulations to restrict such huge importation.

 He said multinational drug companies were in the habit of offering inducements to doctors to gain many advantages. They also had been offering monetary rewards and foreign tours to doctors to promote their products. But the new Act stipulated that no doctor could prescribe drugs by brand names. They were required to prescribe drugs only by generic names.

 Prof. Palitha Abeykoon said that many drug companies had been maintaining drug monopoly by selling drugs only by their product names.  Doctors were being hired to promote the brand names of the drugs. But most patients could not afford to buy those expensive drugs and only the rich class could afford them.

 Health Secretary Dr D.M.R.B. Dissanayaka said the State Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) had been manufacturing around 40 kinds of drugs needed by hospitals. The new Act had prioritized to increase the production capacity gradually. The expected goal of the new Act was to manufacture all kinds of drugs needed by the hospitals in the near future. Even late Prof. Senaka Bibile had recommended the manufacture of drugs locally.

 All Ceylon Medical Officers’ Association (ACMOA) General Secretary Dr. Jayantha Bandara when contacted said that the ACMOA was of the view that many sales representatives employed by various drugs companies to push their products would lose their jobs because they were instructed to promote the products only by brand names. The other was that the doctors’ patients’ and the people’s choice to buy a drug was restricted by the new Act. The new Act had stipulated that the doctors were required to prescribe drugs only by generic names.

 Dr. Bandara pointed out that Prof. Bibile had never recommended allowing the private sector involvement in the import of drugs. But the new Act had encouraged the private sector to import drugs by investing 50 per cent. And also there was no Quality Assurance Laboratory in Sri Lanka to check the quality, safety and efficacy of the drugs imported to the country.

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