Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said while expressing his protest and disappointment over the exorbitant price of medicinal drugs in the market despite sharp and steady depreciation of the dollar against the rupee admitted that the government or the health ministry were helpless to do anything about it.

Addressing a news briefing at the Information Department, Minister Rambukwella said importers, distributors and pharmacists have failed to pass the benefit of the appreciation of the rupee against the dollar to consumers and prices of drugs, other pharmaceutical products and medical equipment are at the same level that prevailed when the dollar was changed above Rs. 360.

Minister Rambukwella said the drug prices are determined by the market forces.

“The government or the Health Minister are not in a position to control drug prices or to introduce a price formula for pharmaceutical products because the government has adopted an open market economy or free market economy. That is why we have let the prices of essential commodities including drugs to be decided by the market forces,” Minister Rambukwella emphasized.

However, drugs are sold by the government owned Osusala’ at the lowest price possible. Any consumer is free to take legal action against private pharmacies if found that drugs are sold at excessively high prices in comparison to Osusala prices. Therefore, the media has a big role to play in this regard.

“The media must expose unfair prices charged by private pharmacies for drugs,” he noted.

Lamenting that the media exposure of health related issues in many instances are malicious, half-truths or fabrications, Minister Dr. Keheliya Rambukwella said the Health Ministry has taken steps to reduce the price of 60 essential medicinal drugs effective from 15.06.23 as those drugs are manufactured by the State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) and the price of them are fixed by a price formula introduced by the National Medicine Regulatory Authority (NMRA).

Considering the depreciation of Sri Lanka rupee against the US dollar, the Ministry of Health has given consent to escalate the maximum retail price of medicines up to 97% in several instances in the past to importers, distributors and pharmacists.

As a result of the appreciation of the rupee and economic stabilization programme implemented by the government, the value of the US dollar has considerably declined. Accordingly, the NMRA has decided to reduce the maximum retail price of 60 medicines by 16% with effect from 15.06.2023 and review the price of medicines every three months,’ Minister Rambukwella said.

source daily mirror