COLOMBO: Sri Lankan doctors set off alarm bells on Wednesday over a critical shortage of essential pharmaceuticals and the entry of poor-quality drugs into the country’s crisis-ridden market.
When the island nation of 22 million people plunged into its worst financial crisis in decades and defaulted on foreign debt repayments last year, the Sri Lankan public health system also bore the brunt as healthcare facilities ran out of vital supplies and medicines.
Though the country is starting to emerge from its economic struggle after securing a $2.9 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund, many essential pharmaceuticals are again running out, the Sri Lanka Medical Association said.
“We are now experiencing a shortage of many essential pharmaceuticals, precipitated by the economic crisis and aggravated by gross mismanagement,” SLMA President Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne told Arab News on Wednesday.
Sri Lankan hospitals do not have an adequate supply of essential medicines and surgical supplies, Ariyaratne said.
He added that poor-quality medicines and quality failures have been reported “due to these medicines being hastily imported without proper evaluation and registration.”
Sri Lanka imports more than 80 percent of its medical supplies and was once lauded for its universal public healthcare system, which benefited its people through subsidized treatment, including medicine for serious illnesses. But the crisis has upended those critical services.
SLMA, one of the oldest organizations of medical professionals in Sri Lanka, called on President Ranil Wickremesinghe earlier this week for an “urgent intervention.”
In a letter to the president, the association chided the National Medicines Regulatory Authority for taking “regressive steps,” which they say are “jeopardizing the safety of the patients.”
The letter read: “We urge you to take urgent steps without any further delay.
“Medical professionals, as well as the general public, are losing faith in the quality and safety of the drugs, which will be guaranteed to have serious deleterious effects.”