We congratulate Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena on his latest pledge that the National Medicinal Drugs Policy (NMDP), based on Professor Senaka Bibile’s essential medicines concept, will be implemented by the end of this year.
In a hard-hitting speech on Monday to mark World No-Tobacco Day, the Minister said the high and the mighty or even demons or evil forces were trying to sabotage the NMDP and prevent him from introducing legislation in Parliament. But he pledged he was not afraid and would not bow to these powerful evil forces and would go ahead with the NMDP as a first step towards restoring a health service where the well-being of some 21 million Sri Lankans is given top priority.
Minister Sirisena known to be a sincere servant- minister who works with commitment for the well-being of the rural and poor people specially, said the delay in presenting the NMDP was mainly due to sabotage by vested interests. He said such vested interests were also trying to prevent him from implementing anti-alcohol and anti-tobacco legislation, including the printing of pictorial warnings on packets of cigarettes. But he pledged he would not give in to these demon mafias and would go ahead with the legislation for the NMDP and to curb the use of alcohol and tobacco.
According to pharmacologists, about 15,000 varieties of medicinal drugs have been registered in Sri Lanka for import and prescription. This is thought to be a world record in terms of our population. For instance Briton, which is known to have one of the best national health services, allows the prescription of only about five varieties of the widely-used anti-biotic amoxicillin. But in Sri Lanka about hundred varieties of this drug including some of the most expensive brand names, have been registered. As a result there is little or no quality control or post-marketing surveillance and Sri Lanka wastes hundreds of millions of dollars every year for the import of thousands of varieties of non-essential though highly-expensive drugs.
" According to pharmacologists, about 15,000 varieties of medicinal drugs have been registered in Sri Lanka for import and prescription "
Not only Britain, India also has in recent weeks implemented some progressive and effective steps to provide quality drugs to the people at affordable prices. India on May 17 announced it would implement regulations to bring down prices of essential medicines, increase the number of drugs under price control and alter the way the government regulates prices in the domestic market. The new regulations will replace an 18-year-old price control order and will come into effect by the end of next month. Transnational drug corporations and others selling medicines above the government-mandated ceiling rates will have to slash prices to conform to the new rules, but those selling drugs below the ceiling price will not be allowed to raise prices. The Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, an industry body that represents big Indian drug makers, said its analysis of 270 medicines showed that prices would fall by more than 20 percent for half of the drugs. The maximum price reduction could be as high as 88 percent for alprazolam, a psychotherapeutic drug, and clopidogrel tablet, a cardiovascular drug.
Sri Lanka’s State Pharmaceuticals Corporation imports hundreds of drugs from India and we hope the price reduction there will bring much relief to the people of Sri Lanka along with the implementation of the much-delayed and much-awaited NMDP.