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Editorial - Don’t play with the lives of people

11 June 2012 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The Senior State Counsel -- apparently not properly briefed on the vested interests involved in the issue – had time and again told the Supreme Court the Bill to implement the National Medicinal Drugs Policy (NMDP) would be presented soon. But the ‘soon’ dragged on and last Wednesday the Supreme Court banged its gavel and directed the Health Minister to act fast and present the Bill which has provisions to provide quality drugs to all people at affordable prices.

The Supreme Court said the Bill was in the national interest and the Government should not delay it any further. Its order, hailed by health action groups as a major victory for millions of people comes at a time when drug prices are soaring because the value of the rupee is dropping. Furthermore, with some 15,000 varieties of drugs registered for import, there is little or no quality control and patients may be paying about Rs.100 for a counterfeit antibiotic which contains wheat flour. In terms of the draft NMDP which was approved by the Cabinet almost seven years ago, a National Medicinal Drugs Regulatory Authority (NMDRA) will be appointed to review of the registered drugs and import only about 1,000 varieties in line with Professor Senaka Bibile’s Essential Medicines Concept. The NMDRA in the review the drugs will take five factors into consideration – quality, efficacy, safety, the cost of the drug and the need for it. When this works out effectively, not only will people get quality drugs at affordable prices, Sri Lanka will save millions of dollars in foreign exchange by stopping the import of non-essential drugs which come under highly-expensive brand names.



 With so many benefits for the people and the Government, why was the NMDP delayed for so long till the SC issued a directive to the Minister? The reasons are many, but patients’ rights groups believe that vested interests adopted deceptive tactics to delay the Bill. Last month Minister Tissa Vitharana who heads a parliamentary select committee on health, accused the Legal Draftsman’s Department of delaying the draft. Then there was the outrageous claim that the former Legal Draftsman had taken the draft home and lost it. These officials must realize that they are playing with the lives of millions of people. It is alleged the at the Health Ministry, at the Legal Draftsman’s Department and tragically even in medical circles vested interests threw in millions in a desperate bid to block or undermine the NMDP. The government needs to realise that allowing these foreign vested interests to block a Bill that will bring immense benefits to millions of Sri Lankans and generations to come is a violation of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. We hope that before the next date set by the SC, the Government will present this Bill in Parliament and implement it.
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