The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) warned that unscrupulous elements with vested interests are blaming the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) for the medicinal drug shortage in the country.
In a letter addressed to Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, AMS President and General Secretary, Drs. LakKumar Fernando and R. Gnanasekeram expressed grave concern regarding recent reports of intended “administrative restructuring” of the NMRA for the purpose of “establishing a system to import medicine bypassing the Authority.”
The duo on 31 May, warning that they too would not hesitate to take action if the independence and the autonomy of the NMRA were interfered with, said the Authority had been set up through an Act of Parliament (NMRA Act No. 5 of 2015) in 2015 to provide regulatory oversight for pharmaceuticals. It was set up as an apex body, independent of the Health Department, with the objective of improving availability of quality assured medicines and medical devices. The NMRA ensures professionalism and transparency in the regulatory process which is in line with global good regulatory practices and good governance, strongly encouraged, endorsed and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).
As a regulatory body, the NMRA has no role to play in the procurement of medicines. “As all of us are very well aware, the present drug shortage in the country is due to lack of foreign currency, where the main purchasing arm State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) and the Medical Supplies Division (MSD) could not place necessary orders on time and NMRA has no responsibility in this matter, the duo stressed,” they said.
Stressing that the allegations were baseless and unfounded, they alleged that these accusations were fabricated intentionally to destabilise the well-established regulatory system of medicines in the island.
“We are aware that the NMRA acted promptly and proactively in establishing a mechanism to accept donations of medicines in the present crisis. However, the support received from some of the directorates of the Health Ministry in this endeavour was not encouraging,” the two Unionists lamented.
Drs. Fernando and Gnanasekeram said it was important to note that interfering with the independence of the national medicines regulator was a regressive step, which would pave the way for undesirables to profit at the expense of the public who had already been hit hard by the spiralling economic downturn. “Many attempts have been made to meddle with the independence of the NMRA in the recent past at the behest of politicians and businesses with vested interests while continuing to do so will ultimately destroy the NMRA, compromising the safety and efficacy of medicines available to the public,” they warned.
The duo urged the Premier not to be misled, but to take meaningful action to solve the issue of drug shortage while strengthening the NMRA.