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

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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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Sampath Bank continues to partner Central Bank on promoting QR payments

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Sampath Bank PLC joined hands with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) yet again to raise awareness and increase acceptance and usage of LANKAQR, the common Quick Response (QR) code standard for the country that was introduced in 2020.

Encouraging consumers to adopt LANKAQR for their day to day transactions, Sampath Bank held a 2-day promotional drive at one of Colombo’s latest outdoor dining destinations, Dining Capsule at Baladaksha Mawatha, near Galle Face Green on the 23rd and 24th of January.

Dharmasri Kumaratunga, Director – Payments and Settlements, Central Bank of Sri Lanka; Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank PLC; and Tharaka Ranwala, Head of Operations and Group Chief Marketing Officer, Sampath Bank PLC, took part in the ceremonial launch of this initiative together with other senior representatives.

The Bank offered 25% cash back on payments made with the LANKAQR-enabled Sampath WePay digital payments mobile application at Dunhinda Colombo, Roots, Grand Monarch, Street Wok, Lavinia, Spice Junction, Giovanni’s Pizza al Taglio and BoxBar outlets at the Dining Capsule during this period.

“Offering greater convenience and security, technology continues to transform the way we conduct our day to day transactions. This is becoming increasingly true in Sri Lanka too, where consumers and businesses are actively adopting digital payments,” said Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank PLC. “At Sampath Bank we have always focused on leveraging emerging technologies and delivering market relevant solutions that add value to our customers around the island. In line with this, we are delighted to partner with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka on driving the acceptance and usage of LANKAQR.”

“Across Sri Lanka, a growing number of merchants and consumers are getting on board the LANKAQR ecosystem and beginning to appreciate the value offered by QR based payments. We are witnessing this phenomenon with Sampath WePay, the secure, one stop digital wallet from Sampath Bank that allows users to store all types of financial instruments from any bank and carry out a wide range of real-time online transactions.

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Taking cashless transactions across the country

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The Central Bank of Sri Lanka in coordination with leading financial institutions and telcos in the country set in motion the ‘Rata Purama LANKAQR’ promotional campaign with a monumental event on January, 23. The ‘Rata Purama LANKAQR’ initiative represents the second phase of an island-wide campaign commenced late last year to introduce LANKAQR as the standard for mobile phone and digital payments countrywide, in moving towards a cashless and digitally-savvy society plus greater financial inclusion across Sri Lanka.

Held at Diyatha Uyana, Battaramulla, the event was graced by the Chief Guest, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ms. Yvette Fernando, Deputy Governor CBSL and the chairperson of the National Payments Council, D. Kumaratunge, Director Payments and Settlements – CBSL, and Thilak Piyadigama, chairman – CBSL appointed LANKAQR Committee/CEO SDB bank, among other distinguished guests.

The Colombo-leg of the LANKAQR national campaign, drawing on the participation of numerous high-profile guests plus the island’s top banks and financial institutions, aimed to advance the program’s overall vision of promoting digital transactions as the new norm and included city-wide promotions, covering major commercial locations in and around the city.

Developed by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, LANKAQR is a common Quick Response (QR) code standard, and its adoption by most major financial institutions in Sri Lanka is a progressive step on the path to Sri Lankans fully embracing a future that is inevitably digital, gradually leading to an entirely cashless mode of transaction.

The LANKAQR system will allow banks, financial institutions and telcos, through their digital payment apps and platforms, to facilitate fast, secure and low cost digital payments to any merchant or service provider. LANKAQR provides customers with a mechanism for payment for all their needs ranging from groceries, healthcare to utilities, and even the purchase of goods from street-side vendors, directly from their bank account through the use of any LANKAQR-compliant mobile payment app.

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SLT-MOBITEL gives ‘Power to Your Dreams’ with special connectivity offers

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SLT-MOBITEL is all set to launch the ‘Power to Your Dreams – සිහිනයට සවියක්’ campaign to provide the latest connectivity solutions to microbusinesses on the of January, 25 the company announced recently. This program will provide ICT solutions packages encompassing products and services essential for microbusinesses, at maximum affordability.

Understanding the connectivity needs of the microbusiness segment, the promotion provides them solutions that fulfil their requirements. Accordingly, communication, business networking, cloud technology, entertainment & IoT, communications devices and business infrastructure services for various market segments within the microbusiness ecosystem is provided utilising SLT-MOBITEL products and services such as voice & mobile telephony, 4G LTE, SLT Broadband, SLT Fibre and Peo TV services.

Speaking on the planned promotion, Sanjeewa Jayamaha, General Manager – SME Business Development, Sri Lanka Telecom stated, “Microbusinesses are the bedrock of Sri Lanka’s economic activity, supporting day to day transactions for millions of people. It is vitally important that they receive the full benefit of the connectivity solutions offered by the national ICT solutions provider, Sri Lankan Telecom. The brand unification of SLT-MOBITEL means now we can offer a full bouquet of products and services to our clients. This promotion will ensure that microbusinesses from various segments can now access the connectivity solutions most important for their businesses to thrive.”

Microbusinesses operating in entertainment and leisure, fashion and beauty, daily essentials, medical and health care, education, special occasion services, financial services, e-commerce and software development, professional services, construction support and transportation and delivery services will be able to benefit from bespoke packages crafted by SLT-MOBITEL with their specific industry needs taken into consideration.

 

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