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Ensuring sustainability in the pharma industry: key focus for 2021 says slcpi



The Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) reiterated their commitment towards ensuring the availability of efficacious, safe and good quality medicines to the general public, in the incoming year. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the country into lockdown earlier this year, many industries, including pharmaceuticals, found themselves facing multiple challenges, which inevitably turned into valuable lessons for the year ahead.

Member companies of SLCPI were forced to act quickly to ensure the uninterrupted supply of medicine. They witnessed their business models change in real-time and at an unprecedented pace, which prompted the collaboration of various stakeholders to ensure that patients were always given priority.

From supply chain disruptions to the adaptation of new technology, SLCPI as an organisation is fully geared to face the year ahead and has identified several key areas that are seen as essential if the industry remains sustainable in the long run.

Creating a resilient supply chain

Locally and globally, one of the biggest lessons learnt during the pandemic for pharma-companies was managing pharmaceutical supply chain disruptions in response to COVID-19. With sudden changes to air routes and temporary interruptions to sea freight earlier this year, many companies had to formulate contingency plans to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medicine to the market. SLCPI member companies were quick to respond with critical adjustments made to its business processes, which resulted in a more agile and patient-centric supply chain.

Establishing effective communication across all departments; reaching out to principals from the very start of the lockdown to ensure that there was adequate inventory; and, working closely with government authorities was an essential element in creating a resilient supply chain.

Throughout this process, priority was given to patients’ with NCDs’ and essential medicine. SLCPI is thankful for members who worked tirelessly to ensure that adequate stocks of essential medicines were made available to patients and hospitals.

Towards sustainable pricing

Another top priority for the Chamber in the coming year is the implementation of a fair pricing mechanism, to ensure the availability of efficacious, safe and good quality medicines, medical devices and borderline products to the general public.

At present, the government and regulators depend on ad-hoc price controls on medicine and pharmaceuticals to keep prices in check. This mechanism has proven to be unsustainable in the long run.

Presently, the National Medicine Regulatory Authority of Sri Lanka (NMRA) has imposed a price ceiling on 73 molecules with the intention of making these medicines more affordable and accessible to patients.

The lack of a proper mechanism for the regulation of prices along with high regulatory fees has only negatively impacted the industry, which is already burdened by fragile market conditions owing to COVID-19 and a depreciating rupee, making importing drugs more expensive.

“What we need right now is a rational mechanism that is simple & workable. Pharmaceutical poricing is complex as we are dealing with medicines, patients and the country’s healthcare needs. It is essential to take a collaborative approach between the industry and regulators on the best way forward” stressed SLCPI Vice President Sanjiva Wijesekera.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that strong pharmaceutical pricing policies in countries can improve pharmaceutical products’ affordability when carefully planned, carried out, and regularly checked and revised according to changing conditions (WHO guideline on country pharmaceutical pricing policies, 2020).

Essential to the Pharma Industry’s sustainability is the implementation of an ethics framework, to maintain standards and uniformity in the industry. The Chamber recognises the need for self-regulation, which is pivotal to address non-ethical practices in the healthcare industry. SLCPI is committed to working with stakeholders within the medical fraternity to promote ethical marketing, prescribing medicines, and creating awareness on a subject that impacts the image of the healthcare industry as a whole.

Over the years, SLCPI has hosted workshops and courses to promote ethical pharmaceutical practices among pharmaceutical representatives to ensure they are well trained on the rules, regulations and industry codes. Meanwhile, several SLCPI member companies have gone as far as to provide training to pharmacists on dispensing medicines to customers.

“The focus in the year ahead is to work with doctors and healthcare professionals to standardise the behaviour of medical representatives, minimise complaints received by hospitals and collaborate with governmental partners to implement and action, an ethics framework,” said SLCPI Vice President Sanjiva Wijesekera.

COVID – 19 has been a defining year for the industry, forcing companies in all sectors to accelerate the digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interaction and their internal operations by three to four years (Mckinsey, 2020).

What does the future hold?

Vice President of SLCPI Sanjiva Wijesekera says that emerging technologies are transforming the pharmaceutical sector, and members are integrating new technology in their day to day operations.

“The pharma industry is striving to maintain a balance between the need for novel medicinal drugs, improved operational efficiencies, and innovation in areas such as precision medicine, wearables, and digital therapeutics—all of which can directly impact the pharma value chain,” said SLCPI Vice President Sanjiva Wijesekera.

With a rapidly ageing population and rise in non-communicable diseases (NCD) in Sri Lanka, the demand for pharmaceuticals and medical care too is increasing.

“SLCPI is committed to its vision of making available quality medicines for all Sri Lankans, and we need to enhance our systems to ensure that we make this possible. At a consumer level, there is also more that can be done to educate the public about the impact that their lifestyle choices can have on the quality of life. By adopting a holistic strategy that addresses all stakeholders, I believe that we can arrive at a truly progressive outcome for all,” Wijesekera added.

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DFCC Bank facilitates the continued growth of Sri Lankan SMEs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic



The unprecedented surfacing of the COVID-19 pandemic has left a lasting scar on the global population and economy. With no precise warning on the horizon, businesses everywhere were thrown into the deep end, and survival seemed uncertain during the peak of the pandemic. In Sri Lanka, a nation where SMEs form the integral backbone of the economy, the ill effects have been taking a heavy toll on businesses both fiscally and mentally.

However, we as Sri Lankans are resilient at our core, and with the integral support of frontline workers, officials, and essential services such as our banking partners, we set forth on a journey to assess, adapt and survive. One such story about perseverance through a valuable relationship comes from K.S.K. Menan of Star Food Store (Pvt) Ltd, and his trusted banking partner, DFCC Bank.

Emerging from humble beginnings, Menan’s story is one that inspires patriotism, and reaffirms the importance of giving back to your motherland. As a self-made entrepreneur, Menan was successfully engaged with the departmental store industry in the United Kingdom, when one day, he decided to leave everything there and come back to his home, Sri Lanka. He was on a mission to give back to the country that had given him so much, and that led to the birth of ‘Star Food Store’ in Kokkuvil, a supermarket equipped with all the necessary household essentials. DFCC Bank had been by his side throughout the entire journey until the opening of his outlet, and even more when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“When Imoved back to Sri Lanka in 2016, the very first account I opened was with DFCC Bank, and with their support, I was able to open the first‘Star Food Store’ in November 2019. However, when COVID-19 struck, everything came to halt. When restrictions were relaxed, I faced multiple problems with bringing things back to how they were. DFCC Bank stepped in and gave me overdraft facilities, helped clear my cheques, and provided additional funds at a low interest rate”.

Today, Menan has been able to open a second Star Food Store outlet at Achchuveli in August 2020, and a third at Idaikkadu in February 2021. He states that expansion is the last thing most businesses consider during this turbulent time, however, the X factor that has allowed him to do this is his banking partner.

“The confidence an entrepreneur gains with the right banking partner is immeasurable, and I have been able to find that with DFCC Bank. They have always gone out of the way to ensure my venture’s continuity, from sending someone from the branch immediately if there is an issue with the card machine during business hours, or even understanding that loose change is important for a supermarket and sending bags of coins from the Colombo branch for business use. I now have plans of constructing a state-of-the-art shopping complex in Jaffna, and look forward to working with DFCC on this project”.

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Covid-19 third wave fears dampen stock market



By Hiran H.Senewiratne 

The CSE witnessed a steep decline following worries over the possible outbreak of a  Covid 19 third wave in the country and the continuation of selling pressure for certain stocks in the market, stock market analysts said.

CSE investors worried over 52 new cases being detected in two retail stores at Pamunuwa and at a state bank in Colombo at the end of the April holidays. Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry warned of a possible surge in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks, market analysts said.

  Consequently, the All Share Price Index declined by 2.9 percent and S and P SL20 dropped by three percent. Major companies sought after by investors negatively contributed to both indices during the day. According to  market analysts,  these companies  were:  LOLC (27 negative points),  Expolanka (19 negative points), Vallibel One (12 negative points), Hayleys (11 negative points) and JKH (10 negative points).

All Share Price Index went down by 198.39 points and S and P SL20 down by 93.89 points. Turnover stood at Rs. 3.7 billion with a single crossing. The crossing was reported in Ceylon Cold Stores (CIS), which crossed 60000 shares to the tune of Rs. 35.4 million, its shares traded at Rs. 594. 

In the retail market, five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were: Browns Investments Rs. 717.6 million (114 million shares traded), Expolanka Rs. 480 million (9.8 million shares traded), Hayleys Rs. 392 million (five million shares traded), Dipped Products Rs. 389 million (6.9 million shares traded) and LOLC Rs. 193 million (587,000 shares traded). During the day 197 million share volumes changed hands in 31305 transactions.  

Sri Lanka rupee quoted firmer around 192/194 levels to the US dollar in the spot market on Tuesday, while bond yields slightly eased, dealers said. Sri Lanka rupee last closed at 194/198 levels to the US dollar in the spot market on Monday. The Central Banks Telegraph Transfer rates stand at 187.93/191.97 levels below the spot rates on Monday.

Sri Lanka’s rupee has come under pressure amid money printing and low-interest rates, despite the worst import controls since the 1970s, observers said.

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SAT launches F5 portfolio to deliver secure digital experiences



(At left) : Edgar Dias, Regional Vice President of Channels and Partnerships, Asia Pacific, F5. (At right) : Sanjaya Padmaperuma, CEO of SAT.

South Asian Technologies (Pvt) Ltd, announces its appointment to be a distributor for F5 within Sri Lanka and Maldives to deliver secure digital experience to enterprises.

The cutting-edge technology is a portal for delivering applications and data with greater agility, security, availability, performance, and scalability.

F5’s portfolio of automation, security, performance, and insight capabilities empowers customers to create, secure, and operate adaptive applications that reduce costs, improve operations, and better protect users.

“With the increasing necessity for digitalisation in the workspace, now more than ever, organisations need proven solutions to help secure their businesses. Adding F5 to our existing portfolio gives South Asian Technologies, a more omniscient opportunity to equip our partners and customers with best-in-class application security and delivery solutions. As F5 enables adaptive applications, the SAT team is ecstatic at the prospect of securing our clientele with robust security offerings that have a proven history with Fortune 500 companies across the globe,” said Sanjaya Padmaperuma, CEO of SAT.

Every company today is in the digital experience business. In the wake of COVID-19, customer expectations are higher than ever, as the experiences garnered are the primary way that people interact and transact with just about every organisation at present.

F5 helps organisations deliver and secure the premium digital facilities that customers demand by enabling adaptive applications which, like living organisms, will naturally adapt based on their environment – growing, shrinking, defending, and healing themselves.

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