Pharma industry sets the record straight on medicine shortages in Sri Lanka

  • The Chamber confirms current shortages in essential medicines
  • Notes that unrealistic price regulations have hindered the importation of drugs
  • Dollar shortages in banks have further delayed imports

At a press conference held on the 2nd of March, the Sri Lanka Chamber of the
Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) addressed concerns over the shortage of essential medicines amidst
the country’s ongoing economic crisis.
SLCPI officials confirmed current shortages in essential medicines and raised their deep concerns
over supplies moving forward, including lifesaving drugs.
While the pharmaceutical industry has been affected by global issues such as logistics challenges, cost
escalation of raw materials and inflation and Sri Lanka is not an exception to these challenges.
Industry officials identified three key factors affecting the current shortage of essential medicines in
Sri Lanka.

Unrealistic price regulations
The pharmaceutical industry noted that they are currently unable to sustain supplies of essential
medicines due to unrealistic price regulations set by the National Medicines Regulatory Authority
(NMRA). All essential drugs are under price control since October 2016, without a pricing
“A sustainable pricing mechanism will help adjust for key input costs changes such as the exchange
rate, fuel costs, interest and inflation. The NMRA has been requested by the court to establish a
price mechanism that is sustainable both to the industry and the patient. This has not happened yet”,
SLCPI noted.
The industry further noted that there is undue delay at the NMRA in 1) granting the re-registration
of products which have been available in the market for a considerable period, and 2) new product
registrations. With regulatory fees increasing by an average of 11-fold, the service of the regulator is
below expectation.
“There is a severe delay in processing the documents for granting product registration approvals and
import licenses”, SLCPI stated.

Dollar shortage
“85% of pharmaceutical products are imported, and these imports are paid for by US dollars. The
current US dollar shortage in the country has increased the difficulty of importing essential
medicines. In addition to this, companies have been unable to pay their dues. As a result, suppliers
are no longer interested in supplying to Sri Lanka”, stressed SLCPI.

The situation is further worsened as banks find it difficult to honour the Letters of Credit (L/Cs) that
are opened to import drugs. Bank delays in opening the L/Cs until there are sufficient dollars has
resulted in shipments being scheduled according to the availability of dollars and not according to the
needs of the patients, the industry warned.
The well-being of our patients is our priority. During the pandemic, we demonstrated this by
ensuring continuous supplies in trying circumstances. We are prepared to work with the
government and engage with relevant stakeholders to secure Sri Lanka’s immediate requirements for
medicines and prevent medicine shortages, but solutions to dollar shortages and more importantly
acceptable pricing mechanism as well as immediately ironing out NMRA red tape for registrations
are prerequisites.” SLCPI stated.

About SLCPI:
SLCPI serves as the representative of over 60 members who account for more than 80% of the
private pharmaceutical industry, spanning manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers. These
stakeholders supply Sri Lankan patients with 1200 molecules from 435 manufacturers from across
the world.
For media inquiries for the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry, please contact:
Cathrina Chang | | T: 0117444166; Ext: 103 / M: +94766324354

Sanjiva Wijesekera – President, SLCPI
Prathaban – Senior Vice President, SLCPI
Adrian Basnayake – Past President/Council member, SLCPI
Left to right: Dinesh Athapaththu – Treasurer (SLCPI), Azam Jaward – Vice President (SLCPI),
M. Prathaban – Senior Vice President (SLCPI), Sanjiva Wijesekera – President (SLCPI), Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson – Immediate Past President (SLCPI), Adrian Basnayake – Past President/Council member (SLCPI) , Jude Fernando – Managing Director, Hemas Pharmaceuticals PVT. Ltd.

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