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Shortage of medicines likely to exacerbate from Paracetamol to life-saving drugs: SLCPI

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From left: Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry Treasurer Dinesh Athapaththu, Vice President Azam Jaward, Senior Vice President M. Prathaban, President Sanjiva Wijesekera, Immediate Past President Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson, Council Members Adrian Basnayake and Jude Fernando

by Sanath Nanayakkare

The current shortage of Paracetamol and Panadol in the market could aggravate to a situation where life-saving drugs would not be available to patients in a few months, Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) warned yesterday.

“This could happen if the US dollar shortage is not properly addressed and a realistic pricing formula for imported medicines is not introduced forthwith by the authorities,” they said.

“At present, the shortage of medicines is about 5%. One might say it is small or unimportant as to be not worth considering. But in 4-6 weeks from now it could increase to about 25%,” they warned.

SLCPI made these comments at a press briefing held at Taj Samudra Colombo.

“We have a fear. We want to update the general public of Sri Lanka on the current situation with regard to medicine imports because what is on the horizons is not good. Delays at the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), the unrealistic price mechanism and the dollar crisis are biting our industry. The dollar crisis is common to every industry, but we also have a serious problem as medicine importers. Until last month, we didn’t have a major crisis. But this month and in the last two weeks, the banks have been advised to prioritise allocation of dollars for fuel purchases and it appears that medicine imports have received de-prioritisation on the list of essential imports. If this trend continues, we will have a serious problem in even importing life-saving drugs. At the moment, it is under control. We have to inform the general public of the evolving situation,” Azam Jaward, Vice President, SLCPI said.

“The last price increase on drugs was allowed in August 2021 when the USD was trading at Rs. 194. Now the dollar has incresed to Rs. 203 which is the ‘published rate’ by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, but unfortunately there is no mechanism to address the current disparity in the exchange rate. We need asustainable pricing mechanism which addresses the exchange rate, freight rate, current global prices, inflation, cost of fuel etc,” they said.

“Our industry is quite energy-driven. Some drugs need to be stored in temperatures between 2- 8 Celsius. Some need -20 Celsius. If we don’t have electricity, we face big issues. We have to run generators and multiple storage facilities. At present, we are managing it. But all of this depends on the availability of fuel. To run a generator for 7-8 hours a day, we need 2,000 litres of diesel per day,” they said.

“The NMRA charges dollars from us to register a product. They adjust it monthly based on the change of the exchange rate. The government has a fee- charging mechanism based on the US dollar. Then why don’t they do the same for drugs that are imported for sale? These are two conflicting policies,” they argued.

“We don’t need a price increase. Just amend the prices relative to the value of the dollar. For this we need an intervention by the Central Bank. If we can obtain a monthly allocation of USD 25-30 million per month, we believe that we can supply essential drugs to the general public without any disruption,” they said.

“We have had discussions with the authorities on these matters and we have submitted these facts for them to consider, but we have not yet achieved any results other than discussions.There is undue delay at the NMRA in granting the re-registration of products which have been available in the market for a considerable period, and new product registrations. With regulatory fees increasing by an average of 11-fold, the service of the regulator is below expectation,” they said.

Some excerpts of the SLCPI press statement are reproduced below.

“Over 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.”

“The situation is further worsened as banks find it difficult to honour the Letters of Credit (LCs) that are opened to import drugs. Banks delay opening the LCs until there are sufficient dollars. This has resulted in shipments being scheduled according to the availability of dollars and not according to the needs of the patients.”

acceptable pricing mechanism as well as immediately ironing out NMRA red tape for registrations are prerequisites for resolving this crisis.”

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 1,200 molecules from 435 manufacturers from across the world.

SLCPI told The Island that banks ask them to purchase dollars from exporters to finance their medicine imports, but when they reach exporters to buy their dollars, they ask Rs. 245 per US dollar which is the price in the gray market. “So, how can we buy dollars from them and import and sell at controlled prices?” they said.



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CSE Director Board appoints new chairman

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The Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) Dumith Fernando who has served in this role since July 01, 2020, has informed the Board of his intention to retire by rotation on June 23, 2022 at the conclusion of his current term as a Director. Subsequently, at its regular monthly board meeting held on May 19th, 2022, the Board of the CSE has elected Director Dilshan Wirasekara to succeed Fernando as Chairman with effect from June 24th, 2022. Wirasekara is currently Director and Chief Executive Officer of First Capital Holdings PLC.According to the Articles of Association of the CSE, it’s Chair is chosen from among the five Directors elected by the members of the CSE. The appointment of Wirasekara is in line with the CSE’s normal board succession practice.

The outgoing Chairman Fernando said that “We are very pleased with the advancement of the CSE in the last 2 years. The market has set records across capital raising, trading volumes and participation alongside significant wealth creation for investors. The CSE is also financially stronger than it has ever been, and I am pleased to hand over my role following the institution’s highest-ever profitability and capital reserves position. Credit for this is due to my fellow board members, management and staff as well as all those stakeholders who collaborated with us including our regulator the Securities & Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka and the stock broking and investor communities.”

Commenting on the appointment of his successor, he further stated “I have had the pleasure of serving as a Director with Dilshan for five years where he has been a critical and energetic member of the board. The board and I have full confidence that he will continue to work with all stakeholders to build on our recent efforts to transform into a modern-day multi-product exchange. I look forward to supporting Dilshan over the next few weeks to ensure a smooth transition.”Wirasekara thanked both the outgoing chairman for his leadership of the CSE over the last 2 years and the CSE Board for the confidence placed in him. He further stated, “I hope to continue the good progress at the CSE and look forward to working with the Board and the CSE team together with the regulator and the industry to advance our ambitious capital market development plans.”

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SLIM Research Bureau embarks on a mission to promote fair trade in Sri Lanka

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As corporates and consumers globally are shifting towards best practices such as sustainability, inclusivity, and most importantly, equality to all, “fairness” has become a significant part of how business and buyer decisions are made.With this in mind, SLIM Research Bureau, the research arm associated with the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM), recently signed an agreement with Fairtrade NAPP at SLIM Home, in aspiration of promoting fair trade and consumption of fairly traded products in the local market of Sri Lanka.Through this collaboration, SLIM Research Bureau and Fairtrade intends to launch a project – named “SRI-PROM” funded by AICS, the Italian Agency for Development Co-operation, and supported by Fairtrade Italy – that aims to contribute to the social and economic strengthening of rural areas in Sri Lanka, through the development of much more profitable eco-sustainable supply chains for small farmers.

Commenting on the partnership, SLIM President Mr. Nuwan Gamage stated: “SLIM is thrilled to enter into this milestone partnership with Fairtrade NAPP to instil globally accepted best practices within the corporate circle that help achieve fair, equitable trade relationships. The project will be the first step in inviting businesses across industries to become a trailblazer that sets an example both in Sri Lanka and around the world. We look forward to expand these efforts further in the days to come.”The modern concept of fair trade refers to the ethical and sustainable sourcing of products, where workers and farmers at the foundational level of supply and value chains are treated fairly. This, in turn, offers consumers a powerful opportunity to reduce poverty through their purchases.

Fairtrade International Programme Consultant for Sri Lanka, Standards Committee Chair, and Oversight Committee Asia-Pacific Representative Mrs. Iresha Sanjeewanie noted: “Fairtrade takes a 360-degree approach to address a number of different issues and developmental challenges faced by small-scale producers and workers. Though Fairtrade Standards are a glum eye-opener into the implications of unfair trade, in a broader sense, it advocates reform-oriented research and pushes to raise the bar in trade.”

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Bank of Ceylon sponsors Annual Sand Paving Ceremony at Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Temple Anuradhapura

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Invoking the blessings of the sacred “Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi” situated in the historic city of Anuradhapura, on the country and on all its citizens, for peace, harmony and prosperity, the Bank of Ceylon conducted its annual ceremony of strewing fresh sand which is known as “weli Athirime Pinkama” in “Uda Maluwa” recently.

The ceremony took place with the participation of the Bank’s General Manager K.E.D. Sumanasiri, DGM Corporate and Offshore Banking Priyal Silva, DGM Human Resource Dhamma Wijeyawardhene, DGM Branch operations and Development Banking Nilantha Meneripitiyage, AGM North Central Province Mahinda Bandara, AGM Marketing Aruna Hettiarachchi, AGM North Western Mrs.Ruchindra Perera and other staff members. The event was organized by the Bank’s Assistant General Manager North Central Province (NCP) G.K.G. Mahinda Bandara and staff members of the NCP province with the guidance of the Atamasthanadipathi of Anuradhapura, the Most Venerable Dr. Pallegama Siriniwasa Thero.

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