ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s health sector priority is to make drugs available than making them at affordable price, Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said as the island nation’s economic crisis has hit the availability of drugs including some key essential and life-saving medicines.

The US dollar shortage has resulted in lower drug imports and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government has requested from bilateral donors and multilateral finding agencies to help the island nation from a possible looming drug shortage.

Rambukwella says many organizations have pledged around 500 million US dollars for medicines, though the island nation’s only has received part of the total pledges.

According to Rambukwella, the pledges include 73 million US dollars from the World Bank, 66 million from from the Asian Development Bank, 100 million US dollars from Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and 200 million US dollars from the ongoing Indian credit line.

However, many people have complained of expensive drugs after the rupee currency was allowed to depreciate by around 75 percent.

“We all are experiencing the impacts of forex issue. So it is not limited to a particular group of people or sector,” Rambukwella told a media briefing on Tuesday.

“As of now we have to move with that. I guess is a 10-15 percent of the population could turn into state health sector from the private sector due to forex issues.”

“Right now it is a question of availability. Having said that we will have look into some price controls subsequently. Right now the priority is given for availability than the affordability.”

Many individual hospitals and Government Medical Officers’ Association, a health sector trade union have complained of unavailability of some essential and life saving drugs.

Rambukwella said there could be some instances of drug shortages, but overall most of the drugs are available.

Many hospitals, however, have maintained and told patients that some drugs are not available as they were earlier. (Colombo/June 21/2022)