In the context of rising prices of all consumer products and the limited availability of most, the people are faced with a scarcity of medicines and the price of medicines go up in conjunction with all the other products in the market, local market sources claimed.
At least some sections of the public are aware that there are shortages of some medicines even at present.
This was due to many reasons but the foremost of these is the foreign currency crisis in the country which makes it difficult for banks to facilitate the payments through Letters of credit (LC’s), Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry announced.
At present, banks, both state and private sector, allows the Pharma Importers to open LC’s only when they have sufficient dollars to safely guarantee payment for the imports, it added.
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 result is that importing of medicines is now done on the availability of foreign currency and not on the needs of the country or its patients. In this situation, it is inevitable that there will be shortages of more and more medicines as the foreign exchange crisis deepens.
As for stocking medicines in excess of the usual treatment regime by patients, it is not advisable to do so for long periods since these products have to be stored under strict conditions specified by the manufacturers.
Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry has pledged that it will do utmost to keep the supplies of medicines available uninterrupted, since thy fully realize the implications of failing to do so.
In this regard, they earnestly hope that the authorities concerned will give us priority in establishing LC’s on time.
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 other than removing the price control of medicines and implementing 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 Pharmaceutical Industry chamber has already sought the intervention of the courts in order to bring about a transparent pricing mechanism for Pharmaceuticals & 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.