News

Medicine shortage: Critical meeting to secure $ 132 m for imports

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

A crucial meeting between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella and Treasury Secretary S.R Attygalle will be held tomorrow (24) to discuss the allocation of funds for the country’s pharmaceutical needs for the next six months, The Sunday Morning learns. 

The total estimated fund requirement to import the required pharmaceutical products for the next six months is $ 132 million, it is learnt. As of now, the Health Ministry has received a total of $16.8 million to import the essential medicines that are currently in short supply. 

According to the State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC), the State banks have already opened Letters of Credit (LCs), allowing the imports to arrive in the country. It is learnt that the allocations have been made based on the priority list prepared by the SPC. 

Health Minister Rambukwella told The Sunday Morning that the Treasury had allocated $ 16.8 million to import essential medicines that were in short supply and the amount had only been allocated for the next two quarters. “The money came directly from the Treasury,” he added. 

According to the Minister, he is planning to hold discussions to evaluate possibilities of securing credit lines from India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and China to bring down essential medicines through the Sri Lankan missions in respective countries. 

“But as of now this necessity has not arisen,” he said, adding that the decision on whether to go ahead with seeking credit lines would be taken following the meeting to be held with the President and the Treasury Secretary tomorrow. 

An acute shortage of essential drugs has been reported around the country, with pharmaceutical companies struggling to secure the necessary imports. 

All Ceylon Private Pharmacy Owners’ Association (ACPPOA) President Chandika Gankanda told The Sunday Morning that stocks of most essential medicines had now run out and pharmacies were yet to be given an exact date for the arrivals. 

SPC General Manager Dinusha Dassanayake said the State banks had already opened LCs based on the funds received by the Treasury and the necessary stocks would arrive soon. 

“Usually it takes around up to two months to bring down the necessary products to Sri Lanka, but on special occasions such as this we tell them to make arrangements to send the stocks immediately,” he explained. 

State Ministry of Production, Supply, and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Secretary Dr. R.M.S.K. Ratnayake told The Sunday Morning that a discussion had been held with the relevant stakeholders and a list of dates from which the respective stocks of the drug would be in short supply had been prepared and based on the priority list, the Government would release necessary funds.