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Cheap drugs vanish from market with price controls

Low price pharmaceuticals were no longer available in the market following a government intervention to reduce drug prices, health sources told yesterday.

Citing an example, a senior psychiatrist told The Island that ‘Imipramine’ a drug used to treat patients suffering from depression has not been available in the market for two months.

He said the antidepressant drug which was also on the list of essential drugs, but patients now had to buy another drug at a higher price.

The senior doctor said a patient had earlier spent only Rs. 250 on ‘Imipramine’ a month, but now that patient had to spend more than Rs. 750 on the alternative per month.

He alleged that some companies did not import low price drugs.

"These drugs are not available even in State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) outlets," he said.

Chairman of the SPC Sarath Liyanage, contacted for comment, said his outfit would not allow drug shortages to be created.

He however said if a quality failure had been identified in some drug, it was removed from the market.

Liyanage said he would immediately look into the matter. "If ‘Imipramine’ has been unavailable in the market for two weeks, we will immediately import it," he said.

JVP Parliamentarian Dr Nalinda Jayatissa said it was normal for such a situation to arise when authorities forcibly reduced the prices of drugs.

He said the situation would worsen in the future and there was a danger of low quality drugs entering the market after remaining stocks were exhausted.

"We are still dependent imported drugs without taking any action to increase our production," Dr. Jayatissa said, adding that the drug companies would import low quality drugs.

He said a way out was to give a subsidy for pharmaceutical companies to sell their drugs at low prices.

"The government spends massive amounts on publicity stunts and if it cuts down on waste it would be able to solve most of its problems easily," Dr. Jayatissa said.
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