Sri Lanka faces a shortage of essential drugs; Experts warn of health crisis

ECONOMYNEXT- Public hospitals in Sri Lanka are running short of essential drugs and medical equipment as the shortage threatens a major health crisis due to a possible collapse in the drug supply chain, a health sector union has said. health.

Sri Lanka imports 80% of its medicines, but a severe shortage of dollars due to the current economic crisis has led to a shortage of essential medicines and importers are struggling to meet demand in the country.

The Ministry of Health is also facing difficulties in importing necessary drugs, creating a shortage of drugs in public hospitals and pharmacies, forcing hospitals to limit drugs only for immediate and essential cases.

Indika Rathanayaka, North West head of the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), a doctors’ union, told reporters on Wednesday (06) that current stocks at most hospitals will only last for two weeks.

“We saw this problem a month ago. Within a month, if this is not resolved, we are also heading for a health crisis in the country,” Rathanayaka said.

Due to the shortage of gas and fuel, the government allocated the remaining dollars to obtain fuel, which caused commercial banks to refuse requests from drug importers to open letters of credit to import drugs.

India has extended a US$1 billion line of credit, including US$200 million for essential drugs from Indian suppliers, Sri Lankan government officials have said.

Tenders have been issued to Indian suppliers by the State Pharmaceutical Corporation for a list of essential medical supplies given by the Medical Supplies Division of the
Ministry of Health, officials say.

According to the Minister of State for Pharmaceutical Production, Supply and Regulation, Channa Jayasumana, Sri Lanka currently needs 1,500 drugs and 3,000 surgical/medical equipment.
for public hospitals.

Due to the lack of medicines, several hospitals are forced to postpone or limit the number of operations.

India’s line of credit only allows the government to buy drugs and leaves private drug suppliers struggling to import essential drugs.

An industry representative told EconomyNext that the supply of private sector drugs to the market has fallen by more than 30% due to the shortage of dollars.

“The situation is much worse now than when we explained it earlier this month,” the source told EconomyNext.

“Banks do not accept any LC requests and request credit for up to 180 days for LCs and documents against acceptance documents.”

“In the absence of any forward booking mechanism, who knows what the Rupee will be against the USD in 180 days? How do you value your shipments?”

The more than 50% depreciation of the rupiah has also weighed on drug imports now that drug prices have risen nearly 30% since the central bank authorized the depreciation.

A health official said the treasury had released 65 billion rupees to buy drugs and medical equipment, but the government needed an additional 15 million rupees to deal with escalating prices after the rupee fell .

“The ministry has sent a request to the World Health Organization and other international health organizations to assist them in securing essential medicines for the country,” said Saman Rathnayaka, Secretary to the Minister of State for Health. pharmaceutical production, to the private company Derena (Colombo/April 6/2022)