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Medicine prices hiked without price controls: National Organisation for the Protection of Patient Rights

  • Patient protection group alleges pharmacies jacking up prices  

BY Dinitha Rathnayake

Medicine prices in Sri Lanka have risen over the past two weeks as there is no control over the price of certain drugs at present, according to National Organisation for the Protection of Patient Rights Chairman Dhammika Edirisinghe.

Speaking to The Morning, he blamed the alleged unavailability of such in hospitals as well as pharmacies, charging varied and exorbitant prices. 

“The present situation is worse than we think. Most of the people are unable to take their medicines from the hospitals. The medicines which were provided by hospitals are no longer there. Most of the patients are encouraged to buy them from pharmacies where they cannot afford.”

As per Edirisinghe, certain medicines have a controlled price while some don’t.

“The National Medicines Regulatory Authority has hiked controlled drug prices by about 9% recently as the rupee collapsed to historic lows with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka printing money to control interest rates and finance the budget deficit. We totally understand that, but the pharmacies are not regulating at the moment and they sell medicines at different prices.”

He said that this was their personal experience where most of the pharmacies sell drugs at different prices including vitamin C.

Prices of 60 widely used drugs and some other medical items were fixed in 2019.

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said in a Tweet that the prices were last raised when the rupee was at Rs. 176 against the US dollar, but that the rupee is now at Rs. 210. He said that prices had to be raised in order to keep supply.

Attempts to reach Rambukwella and the Medical Supplies Division Deputy Director General were futile.