Health in bloody mess: Who’s blocking the medicinal drugs bill? - Editorial

2 May 2014 04:19 am - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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One aspect of the bloody mess and the blood-sucking frauds in the private health sector was exposed on Wednesday in a Daily Mirror report which revealed that some private hospitals which obtain blood virtually free from the National Blood Transfusion Unit (NBTU) charge as much as Rs. 50,000 for a pint of blood given to a patient.
NBTU Director Dr. Anil Dissanayaka said blood was given free to private hospitals but they had to pay only between Rs.750 and Rs.1,500 for a sachet of blood which has been tested. In a bid to curb this bloody racket the Health Ministry is drawing up regulations for a Blood Transfusion Act to regulate blood transfusion and end the illegal and unethical blood business by some private hospitals.

Though the private hospitals’ regulatory and monitoring authority has been in existence for the past few years it appears to be doing little to curb such rackets and even the five-star rates that are plundered from patients ranging from high and increasing consultation fees to nursing charges of up to Rs.10,000 a day for warded patients and service charges of up to 50 per cent for injections or medicinal drugs given to warded patients.

One important step to restore a patient-friendly health service is the National Medicinal Drugs Policy (NMDP) based on the essential medicines concept of Prof. Senaka Bibile. After extensive consultations among all stakeholders, the World Health Organisation’s drug policy expert Prof. Krishantha Weerasuriya submitted the NMDP to the Health Ministry as far back as July 2005 and it was approved by the Cabinet in October 2005. Since then for about nine years there were delays and dilly-dallying, deception and the disappearance of the legislation. After years of broken promises, Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena, to mark Health Day on March 11, finally presented the draft legislation to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

But again seven weeks have passed by, the draft bill has been given to all ministers but for some undisclosed reasons it has still not been approved. Some insiders say that though most of the ministers are in favour of the legislation, a VVIP is not in favour and therefore millions of people may be denied their human right to obtain quality medicinal drugs at affordable prices. Health rights groups say even this draft legislation appears to have been diluted possibly because of pressure from transnational pharmaceutical corporations which are known to give millions of dollars to top politicians, officials and tragically even to some medical consultants so that the TNCs could continue to make millions of dollars in profits at the expense of suffering patients.

A vital factor in the comprehensive draft submitted by Prof. Weerasuriya was that about 15,000 varieties of drugs now registered for import should be reduced to about 1,000 in line with Prof Bibile’s essential medicines concept. The newly set up Drugs Regulatory Authority should review and re-register all drugs on the basis of five factors—quality, safety, efficacy, the cost of the drug and the need for it. A representative of the Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industries told a seminar on Tuesday the TNCs were opposed to the last two factors—the cost of the drug or the affordability and the need for it. If the Rajapaksa regime for whatever reason gives into the demands of these TNCs, it would be a serious violation of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and a betrayal of the people because western-based TNCs would be able to run or influence the health sector in Sri Lanka.
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  • malij Friday, 02 May 2014 02:09 PM

    Wanted: A journalist brave enough to expose the people who are blocking the bill. He will be a national hero.

    kith udugama Friday, 02 May 2014 09:21 AM

    Legal draftsman ???????


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