Polls chief’s intervention sought to stop formation of Drug Regulatory Authority


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Government Medical Officers’ Forum (GMOF) has sought Election Commissi oner Mahinda Deshapriya’s immediate intervention to thwart the Health Ministry moving to establish a Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA) in violation of the Parliamentary Election law. The DRA is formed in accordance with the new National Medicinal Drug, Devices and Cosmetic Authority policy.

GMOF Secretary Dr Jayantha Abeyratne yesterday told The Island that new appointments as well as transfers couldn’t be made in the wake of President  Maithripala Sirisena calling for fresh parliamentary elections.

Dr Rukshan Bellana heads the GMOF at logger heads with the ministry over several contentious issues.

Responding to GMOF’s written complaint, the Elections Commissioner Deshapriya, too, has confirmed that such appointments couldn’t be made though there was no issue in case appointments were made within the health department. The Elections Secretariat has raised GMOF’s concerns with Health Secretary Dr D.M.R.B. Dissanayake and Director General of Health Services Dr Palitha Maheepala.

The Elections Secretariat confirmed receiving GMOF’s letter and follow-up action taken by the Secretariat

Dr Abeyratne alleged that in spite of the Elections Secretariat taking it up, the health ministry was going ahead with planned appointments today (July 2). The GMOF spokesperson said that Prof. Lal Jayakody and Prof. Crishantha Weerasooriya would receive appointments as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DRA.

They are in their 60s and currently with the University of Colombo, with Prof. Weerasooriya nearing 70.

Acknowledging that the duo had the required qualifications, Dr Abeyratne alleged that qualified pharmacologists were deprived of an opportunity to join the proposed DRA. Alleging that Messrs Jayakody and Weerasooriya had been handpicked by Health Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne, Dr Abeyratne said that no one should be allowed to take unilateral decisions.

Dr Abeyratne pointed out that Prof. Jayakody and Prof. Weerasooriya had been with the high level; Technical Advisory Committee as well as Drug Evaluation subcommittee for many years, therefore there could be a conflict of interests. The spokesperson said that a major industry player, namely Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) had strongly objected to the two appointments on the basis that they were well over the retirement age.

However, the Health ministry yesterday said that Minister Dr Senaratne was scheduled to participate in an official function today (July 2) at the DRA auditorium near Central Hospital. The Health Ministry media unit said that the event would take place as planned.

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