Rajitha slams Health Ministry over drug prices

  • Claims importers setting prices

BY Buddhika Samaraweera


Former Health Minister and incumbent Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Opposition MP Dr. Rajitha Senarathne claimed that due to the careless demeanor of the Ministry of Health, a situation has now been created where the prices of pharmaceutical drugs are determined according to the wishes of drug importers.

Speaking to the media, he said: “The prices of pharmaceutical drugs are very high at present. The main reason for this is that the drug market is functioning as required by drug importers. The Ministry has no understanding of how to control it. As the Ministry doesn’t know how to control drug prices, and to make a formula to determine the prices, the importers decide on the prices as they want.”

When the media queried about the prevailing shortage of drugs in the country, he said that it is now in a “very dangerous” situation, adding that there has never been such a shortage of drugs in history. During his tenure as the Health Minister in the previous United National Front-led Government, he said that it was possible to eliminate the drug shortage, particularly with the use of a software developed for the maintenance of records.

“The latest situation regarding the drug shortage is that certain drugs are not available even in the private sector. Some life-saving drugs are unavailable in both Government and private sectors. Thus, the lives of the patients are at imminent risk. The other point is the shortage of essential drugs. People will live if they continue to take such drugs, and when they are not available, what will befall the patients is death,” claimed Dr. Senarathne.

Given the prevailing shortage of foreign exchange reserves in the country, the value of the Sri Lankan rupee has fallen significantly compared to the US dollar. Due to this fact and difficulties faced by the relevant importers in issuing letters of credit for the importation of drugs, the prices of drugs and other medical equipment have increased rapidly in the last few months. In addition, it is reported that there is a lack of a number of drugs and other medical equipment, within both Government and private hospitals.

Meanwhile, the Ministry recently stated that compared to the last few months, the stocks of pharmaceutical drugs and other medical equipment in the country is at a satisfactory level, but that it will take at least another year for such stocks to return to the standard level maintained before the emergence of the prevailing crisis. The Ministry also stated that policy decisions should be made based on factors such as providing tax concessions, removing certain import limits, and dealing with donors, in order to mitigate the impact that the rising prices of drugs and medical equipment have on the people.