NMRA refuses to budge on pharmaceutical pricing despite Chamber pressure

Despite repeated requests by the pharmaceutical industry, the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) ruled out the possibility of any immediate upward revision of the prices of pharmaceutical drugs last week, saying the prevailing price regulation is ‘absolutely fair.’
With the Rupee hovering in the high 160s against the US Dollar, Sri Lanka Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) has repeatedly called for a depreciation-linked pricing formula for the survival of the industry, given that over 85% of all pharmaceuticals are imported and hugely impacted by the depreciation.
“The absence of a viable pricing mechanism has forced different stakeholders of the industry – importers, manufacturers and retailers – to absorb huge exchange losses,” SLCPI reiterated in a statement on Wednesday.
However, speaking to The Morning Business, National Medicine Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Chairman Prof. Asitha de Silva said that while the current pricing may be eating into the profits of the industry, the profit margins are still adequate.
“Profits are being eroded, pretty sure about that, but if they’re not breaking even. they will not sell anything in this country. Nobody’s going to sell anything in the commercial world at a loss.”
However, de Silva stopped short of ruling out future price hikes, pointing to the price increase effected by the Ministry of Health in increasing the price of drugs by 5% at the beginning of 2018.
“… early this year an increase of 5% was allowed. But, the principal of regulating prices is here to stay, and will be implemented aggressively.”
He added that even the World Health Organisation (WHO) had commended the price regulations in Sri Lanka.
“Look at the WHO 2017 website. Look at the 2017 annual report. It says the single biggest victory for patients in this country has been the price regulation.”
Since March 2014, when all pharmaceuticals products were gazetted as essential items, prices of most drugs have remained unchanged, despite the devaluation of the rupee from 130 to currently-pushing 170 against the dollar. The NMRA has only allowed a 5% rise in drugs, despite steep currency depreciation during this period.