Drug price revision: Pharma companies comply but want more time | Sunday Observer

Drug price revision: Pharma companies comply but want more time

Following the National Medicinal Drug Authority (NMRA) warning that selling drugs above the maximum retail prices appearing in the recent gazette notification or raising them if below the minimum retail price, was a legal punishable offence, the Sunday Observer in a random survey found most leading pharmaceutical companies have fallen in line with the new prices.

“We have already submitted our lists to our distributors,” they said but admit that the time given for adjustments was too short.

“Most commonly used drugs come under various brands. It takes time to revise and fix a price in between the maximum and minimum retail prices for so many brands of the same drug,” an unnamed spokesman for a leading pharmaceutical firm told the Sunday Observer. Some companies also admitted that the sudden slashing of prices had caused financial problems and had forced them to supply drugs on credit notes temporarily.

One leading pharmaceutical company when contacted said they had still not made up their list.

“The management has not yet decided. We will probably be informed this week”, a spokesman of a drug store at Duplication Road, Kollupitiya said. “We will probably be deciding on the new prices soon.”

Meanwhile several leading pharmacies told the Sunday Observer they had promptly revised their prices following the notification and had hung up the list of drugs according to the new price schedule and had hung up their new price list prominently for patients to view them easily.

Welcoming the decision to give affordable quality drugs to all, a spokesperson of Union Chemists, Deans Road said, “All of our six outlets, at Kalubowila, Narahenpitiya, Kollupitiya and Wattala including our Head office at Union Place are now selling the 48 essential drugs at their reduced rates.”

Citing examples, the spokesperson said, “Our diabetic tablets now sell from Rs 4 upwards depending on the brand, Pressure tablets (Losartan) Rs 2 upwards, and Cholesterol tablets from Rs 11.15 and upwards according to their strength.

Heart tablets vary according to the brand prescribed by the doctor. W have however not exceeded the maximum rates”.

The spokesperson also said that a card of paracetamol which earlier cost Rs 36 for twelve tablets was now selling at Rs 15/60 according to the revised prices. Osu Sala sources said they were well stocked with essential drugs. Medical Supplies Division sources said if an expensive drug for heart or any other condition was needed urgently and it was unavailable it would be imported without delay. “ However hospitals must inform us these drugs are not available in time “, a spokesman emphasised.

While most drug outlets at supermarkets and leading supermarkets said they had revised their prices, some members of the public complained that they although cheaper brands were available for the same drug, certain drug outlets first offered them the higher priced brand.“Fortunately, we now know the prices after some papers carried the list.

So I always ask for the cheaper brand citing the price. But some of these outlets tell me they don’t have the cheaper brands either. So what do I do?,” a patient complained. He said he was asked to complain to the Consumer Affairs Authority but the line was constantly engaged.

The Sunday Observer survey also found that certain pharmacies had not yet hung up their price list and were also selling their old stocks at former prices offering a small discount of 2-5% to takers.

“This is illegal and must be stopped,” NMRA Director General Dr. Kamal Jayasinghe said.

Since the Consumer Affairs Authority had allegedly been entrusted with the task of monitoring the prices of the drugs to their hands, the Sunday Observer tried to contact them several times. However their phones remained switched off. 


What is not published in the news report is that the companies supplying the drugs have to take back the existing drugs, mark the new prices and redistribute it to the sales outlets (pharmacies). Is it practical to be done overnight? Those who are imposing these laws must consider the practicality of implementing these laws. Good journalism is not repeating what the authorities say, but to do its own investigation before publishing.