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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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Softlogic Life’s FY22 results grows to LKR 23 Bn GWP amidst tough macroeconomic challenges



Softlogic Life recorded a superior full year performance in a crisis-affected business landscape, posting Gross Written Premium (GWP) of Rs. 23,083 million for the year ended 31 December 2022 with an increase in top-line growth of 15% compared to the corresponding period of last year. The Company has stood firmly with its policyholders in the face of the tough macroeconomic conditions, paying claims of Rs 8,264 million for the period.

During the period in review, Softlogic Life’s market share is at 16.87%, in comparison to 16.08% as of 31 December 2021. The market share increase continues to rank Softlogic Life as the second-largest in the life insurance market, overtaking much older players to establish strong growth momentum. Compared to the estimated Industry GWP growth, which was 9.6% during 2022, Softlogic Life recorded GWP growth of 15%.

The company reported a 10-year Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 28% of GWP, while the industry 10-year GWP CAGR growth was at 14%. Softlogic Life also notes that its contribution to increasing insurance penetration in the country has increased during the period in review with 133,872 policies issued, insuring more than 1.5 million Sri Lankan lives.

Profit after tax (PAT) for the period in review rose to Rs. 2,683 million, an increase of 27% YoY. Profit before tax (PBT) grew by 36% compared to last year at growth of Rs. 1,065 million. The company’s operating expense ratio remained at 22% irrespective of the inflation hike during 2022 as a result of prudent and efficient expense management initiatives adopted. Furthermore, Softlogic Life maintained a healthy Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) of 287%, well above the regulatory CAR requirement of 120%.

The company recorded impressive Return on Equity of 25% and Earning per share of LKR 7.15 after providing one off provision for impairment. Recurring Earning per share for the year 2022 increased to LKR 12.85 from LKR 5.61 per share.

Commenting on the financial performance of the Company, Ashok Pathirage, Chairman of Softlogic Life Insurance PLC, stated, “Despite numerous challenges in a tough business landscape, we have performed well to maintain our position as the second-largest life insurance company in Sri Lanka, growing our market share further to 16.87% by the end of 2022. These accomplishments were facilitated by the strategies we deployed and the strong execution of those strategies that have enabled the Company to sustain momentum in spite of the prevailing macro challenges.”

Since its inception, Softlogic Life has been striving to improve the quality of life of Sri Lankans through relevant disruptive innovations and digitalization. Industry-first innovations such as one-day automated claims settlement, hospitalization claim settlement, 100% digitalized sales platform, automatic policy issuance and mobile based micro products has helped the company to deliver a superior customer experience, which has been instrumental in enhancing its competitive position.

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Foreign investors bullish and local counterparts bearish at CSE; year-to-date net foreign inflows hit Rs. 2 billion



By Hiran H. Senewiratne

Foreigners remained bullish on Sri Lanka’s listed equities as year-to-date net foreign inflows crossed the Rs. 2 billion mark, while local investors appeared bearish at the CSE yesterday.

JKH was the major driver for foreign inflows to reach more than Rs two billion, without any specific reason, since last week, market analysts said. However, shares fell in mid-day trade over the need for further positivity on the International Monetary Fund loan being secured, an analyst said.

Both indices moved downwards. The ASPI fell by 125.28 points, while the most liquid S&P SL20 fell 43.82 points. Turnover stood at Rs 2.2 billion with four crossings. Those crossings reported in Lanka Tiles, which crossed 1.2 million shares to the tune of Rs 54 million, its shares traded at Rs 45, JKH 300,000 shares crossed for Rs 43.65 million, its shares traded at Rs 145.50, HNB 468,000 shares crossed to the tune of Rs 43.3 million, its shares traded at Rs. 92.50 and Chevron Lubricants 200,000 shares crossed for Rs 24.1 million, its shares fetched Rs 107.

In the retail market, seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, JKH Rs 721 million (4.9 million shares traded), Aitken Spence Rs 302 million (two million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 126 million (664,000 shares traded), Softlogic Capital PLC Rs 91 million (5.6 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 82.1 million (13.5 million shares traded), Softlogic Life Insurance Rs 63.3 million (512,000 shares traded) and Tokyo Cement (Non- Voting) Rs 49.1 million (1.45 million shares traded). During the day 56.2 million share volumes changed hands in 14000 transactions.

“The overall market was pulled down because the market ran on banking shares in the past sessions, but news on domestic debt restructuring moved the market into the red yesterday, an analyst said.

Any domestic debt restructuring will be part of a negotiation process with creditors, which will take place after a program with the International Monetary Fund is in place, Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe said.

First, financial assurances from bi-lateral creditors have to be received to qualify for the IMF program.

It is said high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in Expolanka Holdings, JKH and Sampath Bank. Mixed interest was observed in Aitken Spence, Sri Lanka Telecom and Lanka IOC, while retail interest was noted in Browns Investments, LOLC Finance and Ex-Pack Corrugated Cartons.

It said the Capital Goods sector was the top contributor to the market turnover (due to JKH and Aitken Spence), while the sector index gained 0.19 per cent. The share price of JKH gained 75 cents to reach Rs. 145.50. The share price of Aitken Spence closed flat at Rs. 150.

The Transportation sector was the second highest contributor to the market turnover (due to Expolanka Holdings), while the sector index increased by 1.02 per cent. The share price of Expolanka Holdings increased by Rs. 2 to Rs. 194.

Yesterday, the Central Bank announced the US dollar buying rate as Rs 359.99 and selling rate as Rs 370.18.

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Japanese State Minister of Foreign Affairs visits Port of Colombo



SLPA Chairman Keith D. Bernard presents a token of appreciation to Japanese State Minister of Foreign Affairs - TAKEI Shunsuke. SLPA vice chairman - Gayan Algewattege, SLPA managing director - Susatha Abeysiriwardena and harbour master capt. Nirmal Silva were present.

Japanese State Minister of Foreign Affairs TAKEI Shunsuke visited the Port of Colombo to learn about the ongoing developments in the Port of Colombo. The visit took place on 03rd February 2023. During the visit the Japanese State Minister of Foreign Affairs also met with the Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) – Keith D. Bernard and other higher officials at the main control tower of the Port.

The Chairman of SLPA explained to the Japanese state minister of foreign affairs of the progress of the developments of the East Container Terminal (ECT), the West Container Terminal and the North Port Development Project. The SLPA Chairman thanked the Japanese Government and the people of Japan for the invaluable support extended by them for development of Port sector in Sri Lanka, particularly towards the Jaya Container Terminal and the developments at the Port of Trincomalee.

The high level Japanese delegation at the Port of Colombo also comprised MIZUKOSHI Hideaki – Japanese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, TUTSUMI Tarou – Director, Southwest Asian Division, ANDO Toshiaki – Executive Assistant to the state minister of foreign affairs, TOKITA Yuji – director, second country assistance planning department, IWASE Kichiro – assistant to minister /director-general Southeast and Southwest Asian Affairs Department, MATSUYAMA Miina – third secretary, Embassy of Japan in India, KATSUKI Kotaro – Minister Embassy of Japan in Sri Lanka and OZAKI Takeshi, first secretary – Embassy of Japan in Sri Lanka.

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