By Suresh Perera
Indian pharmaceutical companies are hesitant to set up manufacturing plants in Sri Lanka because of the absence of tariff protection, says Col. Chandra Jayaratne, Chairman, Citihealth Imports (Pvt) Ltd., the largest supplier of pharmaceuticals and surgical consumables to the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) and to all government hospitals in the country.
“Unlike in India, where procuring raw materials is just a telephone call away, in Sri Lanka there exists a tender procedure. This affects productivity. Companies manufacturing here cannot do well as they are already facing problems due to prices and costs”, he told a news conference at the Colombo Hilton to mark Citihealth’s eighth anniversary.
Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka the practice is to use brand names when prescribing drugs. Efforts are now being made to move towards the use of the generic name of drugs in Sri Lanka as in the United Kingdom where brand names are not permitted, Jayaratne noted.
He said when the prices of drugs climb, people tend to blame drug companies, which is not fair because such increases are primarily due to the parity rate of the US Dollar. Though prices of drugs in India are considered low, imports are calculated on the basis of internationally accepted currencies. Hence, the prices of drugs in Sri Lanka are basically tied to the US Dollar, Sterling Pound and Euro as the case may be.
“Tetanus is now almost totally eradicated in this country. Last year, only one case of neo-natal tetanus, which was earlier a serious problem, was reported from Sri Lanka”, he said.
Asked about the market for herbal drugs in Sri Lanka, Jayaratne said it’s not so developed as in India. Unlike in India, Western doctors in Sri Lanka don’t prescribe herbal drugs.
A Rs. 300 million company, Citihealth is a leading importer of human and veterinary pharmaceutical products and medical devices. As the local agent for six major Indian pharmaceutical companies, among the drugs imported by the company are HIV/AIDS medications, anti-asthmatic products, an oral drug for Thalassaemic patients and anti-tetanus vaccines.