Transnational medicinal drugs corporations, during the past few decades of the globalised capitalist market economic system, are known to have emerged as one of the world’s biggest businesses, making as much profit if not more than the arms and agro-chemical industries. The eminent and patient-friendly physician Professor Carlo Fonseka, now the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Medical Council, often speaks at awareness seminars on the topic, “The truth about transnational drug companies, how they are deceiving us, and what we could do about it.”
What was largely a well-known and well-kept secret blazed into world headlines when China said a well-known British-based transnational drug company had offered a staggering US$500 million (more than Rs.6,500 million) as bribes to health officials and doctors. It was a bitter pill for the TNC which operates in most countries including Sri Lanka, and is now known to be mainly targeting the emerging market of China with its population of about 1.3 billion. Police say the staff of the TNC offered Government officials and doctors bribes and took kick-backs from travel agencies to organise conferences, some of which were fake.
China’s Commerce Ministry spokesman Shen Danyang said the Chinese Government firmly opposed business corruption in any form. Any company, be it domestic or foreign, would be punished by law.
Business analysts said Chinese authorities were also investigating other transnational drugs corporations which were alleged to have given bribes to doctors who were susceptible to such temptations because they were paid low salaries. They said the TNCs were likely to reduce prices of drugs as a compromise because their investments in the huge Chinese market ran into billions of dollars.
The shameful corruption scandal in China needs to open the eyes of government leaders and health officials in Sri Lanka to the urgency of introducing legislation for a National Medicinal Drugs Policy (NMDP) based on Prof. Senaka Bibile’s Essential Medicines Concept. A comprehensive draft for an NMDP – through which quality drugs could be made available to the people at affordable prices – had been handed over to the Government as far back as July 2005 by the World Health Organisation’s drugs policy expert Professor Krishantha Weerasooriya. He worked out the NMDP after several rounds of discussions with all stakeholders including the People’s Movement for the Rights of Patients (PMRP). The NMDP was approved by the Cabinet in October 2005, and since then the President and two Health Ministers have been promising to implement it soon, but that ‘soon’ has dragged or for eight years. Health action groups here are expressing concern that something like the corruption scandal in China may be one of the reasons for the mysterious delay. Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena said recently he wanted to introduce the legislation for the NMDP this year and had asked the Legal Draftswoman to work out the draft. But strange things are happening for reasons which might include the China factor because the Minister said recently the draft had disappeared. Health Rights groups say the word ‘disappeared’ may have been another way of saying the regime does not want it.
But millions of people need it urgently. We urge the Government to reject the neo-colonial economic strategies of the TNCs and to act fast to introduce legislation to reduce the number of expensive drugs being imported, impose quality control and take steps to end corruption involving health officials and medical personnel.
Oh no shock dismay Chinese doctors been corrupted by multinationals be warned Sri Lankans doctors are compassionate and honest they do good for the people and impossible to corrupt just like our politicians. Any more advice to CJ from Doc Fonseka.
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