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Pharma industry seeks 18% price increase

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Talks likely between NMRA and SLCPI

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) has reiterated its call for a price revision in the wake of further deterioration of the dollar supply. About 85% of pharmaceutical products are imported.

Minister Rambukwella turned down SLCPI request during talks with a delegation from the outfit in January this year. However, the SLCPI had taken up the issue again close on the heels of the adjustment of the price of paracetamol, a spokesperson for the grouping told The Island.

“We expect an urgent upward price adjustment of 18% on all price controlled products in terms of a written request made to the Chairman of the pricing committee of the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) on Sept.01, 2021,” the spokesperson said.

“Paracetamol is widely used to treat symptoms of the Omicron variant and Dengue, both of which are growing health concerns in the country. An increase in the controlled price makes it possible for importers and local manufacturers to ensure that the drugs do not go out of stock in pharmacies,” the spokesperson said. It will now cost Rs. 2.30 per tablet, up from Rs. 1.71 – a 35% increase.

The Island yesterday (09) sought the NMRA’s response to SLCPI’s written request. A senior spokesperson for NMRA told The Island that though the request made by SLCPI had been turned down earlier, they were prepared to discuss the issue at hand now . The depreciation of the Rupee has compelled NMRA to review the pricing formula.

The yahapalana government imposed price controls on all essential drugs in October 2016.

The SLCPI, in a recent statement explained the deepening forex crisis. “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has warned that unless necessary price adjustments were done immediately lifesaving drugs wouldn’t be available in the market.

SLCPI represents about 60 enterprises which accounted for more than 80% of the private pharmaceutical industry, spanning manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers.

Medicine remained the only items on price control after the current dispensation abolished price controls on an entire range of local and imported essential food and other requirements, including petroleum products.

Sources said that since the SLCPI’s request made in Sept 2021, the situation has taken a drastic turn with the growing shortage of almost all imported items due to cash flow problems.

The Island learns that a meeting between the NMRA and SLCPI was likely to discuss ways and means of addressing the issues at hand. Contrary to various claims, reports and speculation Sri Lanka largely depend on imports therefore revision of pricing formula couldn’t be delayed further.

Sources pointed out that the Central Bank devalued Rupee on Monday (7) setting an exchange rate limit of Rs 230 per USD as the situation deteriorated further against the backdrop of volatile crude oil market caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.



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Speaker proposes how to steer SL out of crisis

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena has handed over a set of proposals to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, spelling out how to resolve country’s economic crisis.The proposals made by the Speaker pertain to a number of important sectors and highlight the importance of providing relief to low income groups.

The Speaker has said Sri Lankans working or doing business overseas or foreign investors depositing USD 100,000 with the Central Bank for a period of two years should be paid a 10% interest per annum in Sri Lankan rupees and allowed to credit the interest to any account preferred by the depositor. He also proposes that the government issue a vehicle import licence worth USD 25,000, six months after an individual makes a fixed deposit while also allowing him to pay a standard tax of USD 10,000 to the government for that vehicle.Speaker Abeywardena has proposed how to reduce energy costs, release adequate stocks of LP gas to the market, boost domestic production food production, stabilise the banking system.

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MR had not decided to resign on 09 May, says Weerasekra

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP MP Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera says Prime Minster Mahinda Rajapaksa had not decided to resign on 09 May 09 although the SLPP MPs had been asked to bring supporters to Temple Trees for a meeting.Weerasekera said so when The Island asked him why he had skipped the Temple Trees meeting.One-time Public Security Minister said that the then PM Rajapaksa had, during a conversation with him on 08 May had denied reports that the latter was planning to resign the following day. MP Namal Rajapaksa, however, had asked a group of MPs and others to bring supporters to express support for the PM, MP Weerasekera said.

Weerasekera said he had been among those contacted by MP Namal Rajapaksa.The former Navy Chief of Staff said that the failure on the part of law enforcement authorities and the military to respond swiftly and decisively to a threat of breach of law and order had led to a disaster at time global attention was on Sri Lanka due to the deteriorating financial situation.MP Weerasekera questioned why police had refrained from firing at least once into the air when mobs arrived at some MPs’ houses, which were destroyed. For over 48 hours mobs had ruled the country, the MP alleged, demanding an explanation why shoot-on-sight orders had not been issued as soon as mobs started to attack MPs’ houses.MP Weerasekera said that serious accusations made by SLPP members, particularly Wimal Weerawansa, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana and Mahindananda Aluthgamage couldn’t be ignored. They accused some sections of the SLPP of conspiring to unleash violence and the police and the armed forces turning a blind eye to countrywide retaliatory attacks.

Newly-appointed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles said that he would order a thorough probe into the May 09 incidents. Minister Alles said so when The Island asked him what he would do against the backdrop of allegations of the police facilitating attacks on protesting public in the Kollupitiya and Fort police areas.MPs, Weerawansa and Dr. Ramesh Pathirana alleged in Parliament that Maj. Gen. Jagath Alwis, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration and C. D. Wickremaratne, Inspector General of Police prevented Deshabandu Tennakoon, Senior DIG, Colombo from mob attacks on the protesting public.

Former Minister Weerasekera said that the government, the SLPP and the police should come clean on this matter. MP Weerasekera said that the government mishandled the challenge posed by those who cleverly exploited the economic crisis. “Perhaps one of the major blunders was allowing the public to block roads. Now, it has become a style. Interested parties also exploit the media and social media. The government seems clueless,” MP Weerasekera said, urging the government to review the developments.MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage, too, told The Island, the top SLPP leadership ignored repeated warnings. The former Agriculture Minister questioned whether those who had advised the Cabinet of Ministers chaired by the President deliberately deceived them.

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Lankan-born Cassandra elected to Australian Parliament

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She beat another candidate of Sri Lankan origin, Ranj Perera

Cassandra Fernando of Sri Lankan descent has been elected to the Australian Parliament.Cassandra, an advocate for essential workers and the Federal Labor Candidate for Holt.She migrated to Australia with her family when she was 11.She began working at Woolies Dandenong Plaza as a teenager. She now represents workers in the retail and fast food industries, fighting to improve their pay and conditions. She has also volunteered to tutor migrants and refugees from non-English speaking backgrounds so they can make the best of every opportunity.

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