Local drug manufacturers are up in arms against a move by the State Ministry of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals to renege on an agreement with them and has sought the intervention of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resolve this issue. They caution that such an arbitrary decision may create a severe shortage of locally [...]

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SLPMA wants President to intervene to protect the local drug manufacturing industry

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Local drug manufacturers are up in arms against a move by the State Ministry of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals to renege on an agreement with them and has sought the intervention of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resolve this issue.

They caution that such an arbitrary decision may create a severe shortage of locally manufactured drugs in the state hospitals, which are the main consumers of these drugs.

The Sri Lanka Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association (SLPMA) has written to President Rajapaksa on March 12 that a decision by the State Ministry, implemented through the State Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC), to disregard the government’s Guaranteed Buy Back Agreement (GBBA) would have a severe adverse impact on the local industry.

It would hinder the attainment of self-sufficiency in pharmaceutical production by 2025, to provide affordable, high-quality essential drugs to the people, an SLPMA spokesperson said.

This situation has stemmed from a decision by the State Ministry to act outside GBBA and “treat with favour” so-called joint ventures with affiliations to large foreign holdings, the Sunday Times understands. This will also aid the funnelling out of foreign exchange due to their foreign links, to the detriment of Sri Lanka.

While urging the President to intervene to protect the local drug manufacturing industry, the SLPMA has also written to Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi and State Minister Channa Jayasumana.

Giving the backdrop, the SLPMA spokesperson said that in the 1950s, all the drugs that Sri Lanka required were imported by multinational companies. Then in the 2000s, the authorities focused on local manufacture of drugs and until 2014, around 25 basic drugs (including anti-diabetic and cardiovascular medications) were produced here. This was still less than 5% of the country’s requirements.

Then the government of the day (that of President Mahinda Rajapaksa) set about increasing the local production of drugs to cover 50% of the requirement by 2025. With such a boost, the local manufacturers who closely studied what was happening in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, had signed the GBBA with the Medical Supplies Division (MSD) and are currently producing 93 essential drugs under the GBBA.

Ten local companies are signatories to the GBBA, while many more local investors are setting up plants to take up this crucial initiative.

“We meet the needs of over 15% of the local requirement for pharmaceuticals, accounting for 25% of requirements of state hospitals,” the SLPMA spokesperson said, adding that by the stroke of a pen this situation has been changed.

The SLPMA does not know why this sudden change has taken place.

Attempts by the Sunday Times to contact the SPMC proved futile.

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