Pharmaceutical shortage: 49 essential meds in short supply


  • Vital life-saving medication in stock: Rambkuwella
  • Nearly $ 500 m worth of funding pledged
  • Can’t rely on Govt.: Med. practitioners


By Aazam Ameen


Forty-nine essential medications required for the treatment of patients are in short supply, The Sunday Morning learns.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that this shortage would only exist till August.

“We have to manage for the next six weeks. From August, we will have all the medicines required,” he said. 

According to the Health Ministry, there are 654 essential medications required to treat patients in Sri Lanka, and only 49 of them are currently in short supply. 

Minister Rambukwella said that the earlier shortage of 14 ‘life-saving vital medications’ had also been addressed, with adequate stocks now secured.

In terms of bridging the gap of the 49 medicines that are currently in short supply, Rambukwella detailed that tenders to procure such stocks had been placed. “Tenders have been placed. It is done on a quarterly basis as we have to be mindful about expiry dates,” he said.

With regard to the financial assistance provided to Sri Lanka for pharmaceutical procurement by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, Rambukwella stated that the assistance was well above what was required by Sri Lanka. “The Health Ministry requirement stands at about $ 260 million per year. So far, I have got almost $ 500 million in assistance,” he said.  

“I must stress that the stability of the availability is currently largely based on goodwill donations by other governments, institutions, groups, and individuals, for which I am deeply grateful. I hope their generosity continues as it is integral to the country’s survival,” the Minister stated in a tweet, and thanked donors for helping Sri Lanka in its time of need.

Meanwhile, Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) President and Consultant Paediatrician Dr. LakKumar Fernando told The Sunday Morning that doctors were still facing drug shortages while conducting their duties on a daily basis. 

“For example, the College of Paediatricians has a WhatsApp group where doctors send messages of the drugs they need and requests are made to fulfil them,” he said, explaining that medical practitioners were using all avenues available to them to source medicines. 

According to Dr. Fernando, doctors are making a lot of effort in a personal capacity to get down required medicines.

“We cannot rely on the Government. If you are short of paper and pencils, you will ask your friend for them and take down your notes. This is what we are doing now. A lot of the shortages are overcome at a personal level,” he said. 

25,000 vials of anti-rabies jabs procured

As of last Wednesday (22), 25,000 vials of the anti-rabies injections had been procured from India, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella stated in a tweet. He added that by August of this year, China would grant Sri Lanka 100,000 vials of the same.

“This will further solidify the position that all 14 vital medicines will be readily available for the public,” he said.

Meanwhile, the National Poisons Information Centre said last Thursday (23) that there was no shortage of antivenom for snake bite victims.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, the centre said that drugs were still available for snake bites, adding however that they were not aware of the current storage statistics.

A source from the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL) also said that they were treating snake bites, as patients were being admitted to the hospital with such injuries.