Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena has given a firm assurance that Prof. Senaka Bibile’s National Medicinal Drugs Policy (NMDP) will be implemented soon so that all people will have access to quality drugs at affordable prices.
Addressing the annual Senaka Bibile commemoration meeting organized by the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation and the State Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Corporation, the Minister said such commemoration meetings had been held for 33 years but little or nothing had been done to implement Prof. Bibile’s essential medicines concept which could bring immense benefits to millions of people.
Mr. Sirisena told the packed audience at the BMICH that for the past five months as Health Minister he had closely studied the crisis relating to the high prices or the low quality of drugs and was convinced that the solution was the implementation of Prof. Bibile’s National Medicinal Drugs Policy.
He publicly pledged that instead of holding more commemoration meetings, he would take action soon to present legislation in Parliament and effectively implement Prof. Bibile’s essential medicines concept.
Making the keynote speech at this meeting, Pharmacology Professor Geetha Fernando made the shocking disclosure that as many as 15,800 varieties of drugs under various brand names had been registered for import, prescription and sale in Sri Lanka.
She said these included more than 180 varieties of Paracetamol, about 250 varieties of the widely used antibiotic Amoxiline and a similar number of varieties of the painkiller Diclofenac. Prof. Fernando, a veteran and widely respected pharmacologist, said thousands of varieties of drugs were being imported to Sri Lanka by transnational companies without proper checks on how and where they have been manufactured.
She said she believed some of the documents submitted by these companies to guarantee the quality of the imported drugs were questionable if not fraudulent.
A spokesman for the People’s Movement for the Rights of Patients (PMRP) said that under the draft national medicinal drugs policy approved by the cabinet in 2005 but yet not implemented, despite several promises by the former Health Minister, an independent national drug regulatory authority would be set up to review and re-register all imported drugs based on five factors -- quality, efficacy, safety, the cost of the drug and the need for it.