|Patient’s rights group to meet MR
With no drug policy, cartels stand to
By Carol Aloysius
A delegation from The People’s Movement for the
Rights of Patients (PMRP), hopes to meet President
Mahinda Rajapaksa to persuade him to implement the
much delayed and long overdue National Medicinal
Drugs Policy (NMDP) aimed at providing quality,
affordable drugs for all.
Speaking at the inauguration of the first Dr K.
Balasubramanium lecture at the Centre for Religious
Studies Saturday, Prof. Tuley de Silva, Past
President of the Pharmaceuticals Society of Sri
Lanka said that meeting the President would be their
final option in getting this long overdue piece of
legislation implemented .
“We are not doing this as a personal favour for us.
We are simply trying to help the public to get the
best quality drugs at an affordable price which will
also save the country of a great deal of valuable
foreign exchange”, Louis Benedict , President of the
Prof. Carlo Fonseka, Former Dean, Medical Faculty,
University of Kelaniya, said the NMDP was originally
conceived by the late Prof. Seneka Bibile, head of
the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation, and modelled
on his essential medicines concept. “Although it is
now implemented in over a hundred countries, sadly,
our own country has still to implement it”, he
observed. He said that after Prof. Bibile’s death,
Dr K. Balasubramanium, had taken on the role or
pushing for the patient friendly legislation in Sri
Lanka and at international fora.
In 2005, the latter had led a PMRP delegation in
discussions among stakeholders to work out a
comprehensive draft for the NMDP. This draft was
approved by the Cabinet in 2005 but not implemented
despite repeated promises of two previous health
ministers. This led the PMRP to file a fundamental
rights case in the Supreme Court.
He added that the implementation of the NMPD was one
of the promises in the Mahinda Chintanaya for the
Presidential elections in 2005 and last year.
Legislation to implement had been approved by a
Cabinet of Ministers in 2007.
Yet four years later they were no closer to their
goal. He noted that, “the present Health Minister
Maithrapala Sirisena seems much more favourable
towards implementing the Act. However, he too is
procrastinating for some reason. He told us he would
be implementing it in January this year. When we
reminded him he said he would implement it in July,
and then August. Now it is almost September and he
says he hopes to implement it by the end of the
year. But although the Minister is willing to
implement it, he will probably be restrained by Drug
cartels who stand to profit by not implementing the
NMPD.”, Benedict said.
Benedict noted that Sri Lanka only needed around a
thousand essential drugs although over 9,000 drugs
were being imported to the country each year.
“We have over 100 varieties of Amoxycillin alone,
when a doctor needs only about 3-4 brands to choose
from for his patients. So why get down so many
brands?”, Prof. de Silva asked. He pointed out that
many doctors were still prescribing drugs under
brand names which were much costlier than drugs
under generic names although quality wise both were
practically the same.
“If we implement the NMPD, it will also save the
country millions of rupees in foreign exchange now
spent on transnational drug companies and other
vested interests. We hope to send a delegation to
meet the President soon to discuss and convince him.
He should resolve this long standing issue quickly.”