With health action groups and the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation making plans to mark the Senaka Bibile Commemoration Day later this month, the Health Minister announced over the weekend he had banned the import of medicinal drugs and other items from four Indian companies because they had been supplying sub-standard drugs for the past few years.
According to reports, the biggest offender among these companies has been supplying as many as 84 varieties of sub-standard drugs. Among the banned drugs are varieties of the widely-used antibiotic Amoxicilin and Paracetamol. There is likely to be a shortage of the banned drugs until fresh stocks are imported from Bangladesh or other countries where the prices are higher.
The Cosmetics Devices and Drug Regulatory Authority Chairman Dr. Hemantha Beneragama said the Quality Assurance Laboratory had tested these drugs and found them to be sub-standard. The question raised by health action groups was who was responsible for the import of tens of thousands of these sub-standard drugs and why their quality was not tested before they were imported and given to unsuspecting patients.
National Health Services Trade Union Alliance President Saman Ratnapriya summed up the views of the People’s Movement for the Rights of Patients (PMRP) and other health action groups when he said the Health Ministry’s action was too little and too late.
Health action groups say not 122 but even up to 10 times that number of drugs imported to Sri Lanka may be sub-standard or ever counterfeit because the Drug Quality Assurance Laboratory here does not have the technological or human resources to check the quality of about 15,000 varieties of drugs registered for import to Sri Lanka.
As far back as October 2005, the Cabinet approved a National Medicinal Drugs Policy (NMDP) based on Professor Bibile’s Essential Medicines Concept. In terms of this concept, the number of drugs being imported could be reduced to about 1000 so that quality drugs could be made available to the people at affordable prices, while Sri Lanka could save hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable foreign exchange by stopping the import of thousands of varieties of non-essential drugs.
Despite promises in the highly-publicised and widely-praised Mahinda Chinthanaya and repeated assurances by two Health Ministers, regulations for the implementation of the NMDP have still not been presented in Parliament. Late last year Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena told a mysterious story about the draft bill for the NMDP “disappearing” from the Legal Draftsman’s office. A senior officer of the department, however, told a different story, indicating that someone at the Health Ministry might be responsible for the disappearance. The Minister then appointed a new committee to work out a new draft and submit it to the Attorney General’s Department. Heath action groups say they would not be surprised if someone claimed the draft has disappeared from the Attorney General’s Department also, though the Minister told a news conference on Monday the bill would be presented later this year. A clue to this mystery might be the well-known secret of the big role being played by trans-national drug corporations who are alleged to be throwing millions around in an attempt to sabotage or sideline the NMDP. If the Rajapaksa regime wants to allow the TNCs to run the life or death health services of this country, then the patients may face a death penalty for someone else’s crime.
srinath.gunaratne Thursday, 19 September 2013 11:10 AM
Why do not you do a proper journalistic investigation into what happened to the old draft? As far as I remember Minister told, the legal draftsman took home the bill and got it deleted, They all sound fishy
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