Sri Lanka is facing medicinal drug shortages due to unfavourable internal price controls and a worsening forex crisis making it difficult for pharmacies countrywide to purchase pharmaceuticals.
This crisis has led to acute scarcity of 5 percent of medicines registered with the National Medicines Regulatory Authority which includes paracetamol and drugs for diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.
The Sri Lanka Chamber of Pharmaceuticals industry (SLCPI) revealed that banks are reluctant to open letters of credit to import drugs.
“There are around 7300 medicines registered with National Medicines Regulatory Authority and according to the retailers currently there is a shortage about 5 percent of those medicines in the market,” Sanjiva Wijesekera President of the Sri Lanka Chamber of Pharmaceuticals Industry said.
“Paracetamol, drugs for diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol are some of the medicines that are short in the market currently.” he added.
The SLCPI said that private sector importers need USD $25-$30 million dollars a month to import the necessary medicines to the country. A
Adrian Basnayake, the Past President and Council member of the SLCPI said, the commercial banks are refusing to issue letters of credit for the importers and asks the importers to buy dollar from exporters through at much higher rate.
In the wake of the decision by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) to devalue the rupee against the US dollar to Rs. 230, the mainline medicine manufacturing companies and importers, have stopped supplying medicine to pharmacies from yesterday, All-Island Private Pharmacy Owners’ Association (ACPPOA) President Chandika Gankanda said.
He noted that the pharmaceutical companies and importers have already stopped supplying even from their existing stocks to pharmacies.
He said most of the medicinal drugs were imported on credit. Therefore, the manufacturers or importers will incur a huge loss when selling them in the local market at a low cost, Gankanda said.
“With the current dollar crunch in the country, the manufacturers and importers are unable to manufacture or import the required medicines as they are higher in price.
If some of the drugs they import are subject to price control, they cannot sell them in the local market. Most of the drugs are sold at controlled prices, “he said.
A decision will be taken to increase the selling prices of medicine through the local pharmacies. However, the mainline pharmaceutical manufacturing companies and importers have stopped the distribution of medicinal drugs until the final decision of increasing the selling price of medicines or until the official gazette notification is published, “ACPPOA President said.
Therefore, the ACPPOA requested all pharmacy owners to issue their existing stock of medicines sparingly while explaining the situation to their consumers.
Gankanda added that if the country run out of medicines, it would be another major issue other than the fuel and milk powder shortages in the country.