By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
The inability of government institutions to be proactive in the face of increased exchange rates is causing a shortage of pharmaceutical supplies in Sri Lanka, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) Import Section said.
“Some of the institutions, instead of facilitating trade, have become a burden. For example, in the pharmaceuticals, the importers deal with foreign currency, and when they want to market them, they can’t increase the prices to pass on the devaluation of the currency,” CCC Import Section Committee Member Sanjeeva Samaranayake said.
All pharmaceutical products in the country are subjected to price controls under the Consumer Affairs Authority Act.
Samaranayake noted that due to the losses sustained by the importers, a few have already stopped importing certain products, while others are importing lesser volumes.
“So, when the currency depreciates, they should adjust these, because pharmaceutical importers will not import and the patients will suffer,” Samaranayake said.
He also said that the National Medicine Regulation Authority (NMRA), which was set up in April after the National Medicinal Drug Policy was passed in parliament, is not accepting the latest drugs developed and accepted in the international market.
“The NMRA is good for the country, but it isn’t geared well. It isn’t accepting new products. Government authorities should be efficient and not put red tape and need more transparency,” Samaranayake said.
He said that prior to the establishment of the NMRA, the government had allowed the importation of drugs approved in countries such as the US, EU, Japan and Australia.
Samaranayake said that the government should discuss potential ramifications with all stakeholders prior to implementing regulations.
“The government should take responsibility for the actions they take. When they control selling prices and devalue the currency, margins will erode... In an import-driven economy like us, these products are needed to maintain the country’s lifestyle,” CCC Import Section Chairman Dinesh de Silva said.
Recently, CIC Holdings PLC restarted its local pharmaceuticals production to supply the