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Pharma Chamber warns of disastrous medicine shortages

13 January 2022 08:00 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • Says importing of medicine to SL is now done on availability of foreign currency and not on needs of the country or patients
  • “It is inevitable that there will be shortages of more and more medicines as the foreign exchange crisis deepens”- SLCPI statement
  • Urges authorities to give pharma importers them priority to establish LCs
  • Points out medicine is the only commodity now under price controls
  • Calls for removal of such controls given the appreciation of the USD, supply side constraints, and increased freight charges etc.
  • “As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

Sri Lanka Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) today said the importing of medicines to Sri Lanka is now done on the availability of foreign currency and not on the needs of the country or its patients.

Issuing a statement to media, SLCPI said banks, both state and private sector, allow the pharmaceutical importers to open LC’s only when they have sufficient dollars to safely guarantee payment for the imports.

“Although medicines are given certain priority, there are other items such as essential food items, petroleum products, fertilizer etc., that have to be given priority as well by the government,” the statement said.

“In this situation, it is inevitable that there will be shortages of more and more medicines as the foreign exchange crisis deepens,” it added.

SLCPI affirmed it will do its utmost to keep the supplies of medicines available uninterrupted, since it fully realizes the implications of failing to do so.

“In this regard, we earnestly hope that the authorities concerned will give us priority in establishing LC’s on time,” the statement noted.

SLCPI also urged the public not to stockpile excessive amounts of medicines, as most households don't have the required conditions to store medicines for a long period of time, and such stockpiling by the affluent could deprive others from getting the required medicines.

Meanwhile, on the pricing, SLCPI pointed out that pharmaceuticals are the only commodity in the market that is under price control in Sri Lanka.

“This is making it nearly impossible for the companies to keep selling the medicines at the same price when the US dollar continues to appreciate over time.

On top of this, the global supply chain disruptions, increase in raw material costs and freight make it impossible to supply quality medicine as anyone would understand,” the statement noted.

SLCPI also expressed its apprehension towards any move towards a floating exchange rate, as suggested by some quarters, calling it will be catastrophic.

“It will be also catastrophic in the event if the dollar is allowed to float, which will mean that all medicines will have to be sold at a loss and as such, the entire industry will collapse in the face of such a threat where the importation would obviously stop as the cost of importation will be higher than the approved prices.”

“There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will make the importing and marketing of medicines viable.

As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all,” the statement added.

SLCPI said it has already sought the intervention of the courts to bring about a transparent pricing mechanism for pharmaceuticals and medical devices that is fair to all.

“Such a mechanism may be the only salvation for the industry and the patients of the country and it is in the best interest of all concerned if the process is expedited by the authorities concerned by the government,” the statement noted.

SLCPI is the apex pharmaceutical body in the country representing the industry that import more than 80% of the country’s medicine requirement.

 

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