President Ranil Wickremesinghe Proposes Transparent Drug Access and Overhaul of Pharmaceutical Sector
During a recent meeting with Health Minister, Health officials, and Finance Ministry officials, President Ranil Wickremesinghe underscored the significance of ensuring timely access to medication and promoting transparency within Sri Lanka’s pharmaceutical sector. The President put forth a proposal to establish websites managed by the Health Ministry, providing real-time information about the availability of drugs across the country, including specific quantities in each hospital, which will be updated daily. To streamline the distribution process, a networking system will be implemented, facilitating the transfer of drugs between hospitals and bypassing bureaucratic hurdles.
President Wickremesinghe emphasized the importance of transparency, stating, “Let’s be transparent in what every hospital has. It will be very important, as you say, the transparency of it. Then the people can’t come and complain if things are available.”
Acknowledging the challenges arising from current procedures that lead to drug shortages, the President directed the Health Ministry to expedite the approval process for drugs endorsed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other countries. Additionally, he called for amendments to the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Act to enable swift action and overcome obstacles in drug procurement.
During the meeting, various other issues were addressed, including the extension of the retirement age for doctors, consideration of Arts Stream candidates in nursing recruitment, budget allocations, and the need for fully equipped medical facilities. The President stressed the importance of utilizing existing resources effectively and promoting accountability.
Discussions also took place regarding outstanding payments and service agreements for medical equipment. A plan was devised to ensure timely payments and prevent the diversion of funds for other purposes, emphasizing the need for proper documentation and financial transparency.
The effectiveness and necessity of the NMRA came under scrutiny, leading to the appointment of a team of experts to assess its activities and provide recommendations within two weeks. The President suggested the possibility of directly ordering FDA and UK-approved drugs without going through the NMRA process, proposing an amendment to expedite the approval of such drugs.
Efforts were also made to address medical personnel who have not yet registered with the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC), with plans to amend regulations in the next two weeks. The meeting also highlighted the need to review procurement processes within the health sector to reduce government expenditure, with the President encouraging prompt decision-making and consulting the Attorney General for necessary actions and regulation amendments.
Overall, the meeting emphasized the intention to streamline processes, improve efficiency, and tackle the challenges faced by the NMRA and the healthcare sector as a whole.