National Medicines Regulatory Authority Act debate:

Money given to multinational companies on pretext of providing free health: Rajitha

On the pretext of providing free health, money had been given to multinational companies and laws updated for the benefit of a chosen few. There was also a huge tender scam in supplying drugs. Five specialist committees were appointed for the regulation of drugs. But from next year, measures have been taken to produce 85% of the drug requirements within the country and the government was able to make health services a completely free service, said Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne.

He said so at the commencement of the debate on the regulations under the National Medicines Regulatory Authority Act, in Parliament yesterday.

Presenting two regulations of the National Medicines Regulatory Authority with regard to the pricing of medical devices such as intraocular lenses, he explained the reasons that the prices had to be increased. Senaratne said since registration in 2009, for the past eight years, there had not been any increase in the prices of medical devices. “Moreover, this institution is no longer a State institution and it's now a private institution under the new national drugs policy. Hence the salaries should be paid by the Authority itself. There are also specialised committees appointed and these committees need to be paid unlike in the past where these were free. However, if you take the increase in prices, this is the lowest in the region. What we expect through the increase in these charges is a better service. One is that in the past, due to the low charges, one representative registers many types of drugs, sometimes the same drug under various brands and

varying in price. Then he deals solely with the highest priced brand and he presents that to the government too. This has paved the way for many unnecessary drugs to be imported to the country. Now we have made the registration simple and it could be done online and through the data processing system. We have also appointed five specialist committees comprising specialist doctors,” he said.

The Health Minister said there has also been a huge reduction in around 300 medicines. This had an impact in the market. He said he had tried to regulate the prices of expensive medicines, but did not interfere in the scientific aspect.

“We have also reduced the price of intraocular lenses and all state hospitals are provided with these lenses free of charge. We have also reduced the price of stents. Around 150,000 patients died due to their inability to spend for their medical facilities. They did not have free health services. Now we have changed that and we have spent up to 1.8 million and we are ready to spend even more. Earlier, there was a limit on allocations for cancer patients and once a patient reaches that limit, he is simply put on pain killers and he feels he is dying due to his illness,” he said, adding that now no patient is deprived of the opportunity to receive treatment.

He said there was also a great tender fraud and the drug companies monopolised the medical sector. Next to the weapons mafia, the next in the world is the medicines mafia. But he said now the government has changed all that and created a huge difference in the health sector that is beneficial to the patients.

Senaratne noted that not a single company reacted when the prices of intraocular lenses was reduced. “We have used scientific methods and we were assisted by the Customs as well. We were able to do so much because we had a strong National Medicines Regulatory Authority.

We have now signed 38 agreements with regard to manufacturing of medicines within the country. By next year, we anticipate to produce 85% of the requirement of medicines within the country. We also intend to regulate authority for both foreign and local indigenous medicines. We will also introduce price regulations on private hospitals in future too,” said Minister Senaratne.

The Import Export (Control) Act and the National Medicines Regulatory Authority Act were debated in Parliament yesterday.

Tele Drama industry, artistes facing hardships: Alagiyawanna

Due to foreign Tele dramas and films being telecast on local channels, local Tele dramas and artistes are facing a huge challenge. Hence, proper laws and standards should be implemented, said Deputy Media Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna.

The Deputy Minister said so in Parliament yesterday, in response to a question raised by JVP- MP Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa regarding issues faced by the local Tele Drama industry.

“Due to foreign Tele dramas being telecast on local channels, local Tele dramas and artistes are facing a huge challenge. Through taxes so far Rs. 1.5 billion is being collected. Discussions also have been held with several parties in the Tele drama field. However, there are no standards set for Tele dramas and proper laws in this regard are required. However, even through the new Budget, taxes should be imposed in a manner that is fair to all. The taxes were imposed since 2006 but there are irregularities and discrepancies. All these will be addressed and rectified,” the Minister said.

By the imposition of taxes on foreign films Rs. 36.5 million was earned in revenue in 2016. The income derived through taxes imposed on foreign tele dramas in 2015 was Rs. 89.4 million while in 2016, Rs. 124.1 million was earned.

'Govt. has adopted a people centric health policy, not one that favours doctors'

The Government has adopted a people centric health policy and not one that favours doctors, said State Finance Minister Eran Wickremeratne.

He said so in Parliament yesterday, joining the debate on the National Medicines Regulatory Authority Act.

“We knew that there was a medicines mafia operative in this country. For years, medicines under different brand names were imported at exorbitant prices and the people had no choice other than to pay this price which greatly profited the medicine importers. However, from 1976 to 2017, nothing was done to address this issue. But the current Health Minister took a bold decision and implemented regulatory measures and consequently the prices of 48 medicines were reduced,” Minister Wickremeratne said.

However, he pointed out that the current government has brought in a drugs policy. “This is not a doctor centric policy, but a people centric policy. We have reduced the prices of intraocular lenses. Free education is given to all and doctors are obliged to provide their services to the people. This is free health service. No room should be given to destroy the faith people have on doctors and no one should be allowed to monopolise the medical field,” he said, adding that the emergency ambulance service will be implemented throughout the country.

Minister Wickremeratne said that health services should be made available to all without discrimination and called on all to join together in building a quality health service in this country.

70th Anniversary of Parliamentary sittings: Special sessions fixed for October 3

Speaker Karu Jayasuriya yesterday, announced that a special session had been fixed for October 3, 2017 to mark the 70th year anniversary since the introduction of the Parliamentary system in Sri Lanka.

The Speaker announced that the Parliamentary Business Committee had decided on Thursday, to hold extra parliamentary sittings on September 26 and on October 09 as well.

According to Parliament sources, the debate on the amendments to the Municipal, Urban Council and Pradeshiya Sabha Ordinances would be taken up on September 26, 2017. Sources also said that these amendments would be made to provide proper legal effect to Municipal and Pradeshiya Sabhas, the mixed electoral system introduced for local bodies recently.

Meanwhile sources also said that the session on October 09 would be held for debate on the interim report of the Steering Committee presented before the Constitutional Assembly on Thursday.

Parliament yesterday approved motions to hold special sessions.

Changes to power sector vital or people would face severe hardships :Niroshan

As a country when we consider the rapid economic development and social transformation, we should provide an uninterrupted power supply of a high standard, said State Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs Niroshan Perera in Parliament yesterday.

He pointed out that if changes were not made to the power network, we could face a severe crisis in the near future which could have dire consequences on the lives of the people. “If we were to keep postponing these issues and fail to invest in the power sector, it could affect the productivity and standard of the power sector paving the way for a massive power crisis.”

The minister said the power sector was constantly evolving, based on modern technology. “Hence, we need to focus on long term strategies that would be beneficial to the country. During the past, there was an electricity mafia in the country that was ruining the country’s economy. Some politicians and government officials were only concerned about their commissions and personal benefits, while trying to structure the power sector to suit their sinister motives,” he added.

Marine Drive will not affect S. Thomas' College play ground: Kiriella

The play ground of S Thomas' College Mount Lavinia would not be affected by the Colombo Marine Drive extension, said Highways and Higher Education Minister Lakshman Kiriella yesterday.

Minister Kiriella made this observation while tabling an answer in response to a question raised for oral answers by MP S M Marikar in the House.

"We will use modern technology and protect the play ground of S Thomas' College when constructing the Marine Drive is done," minister Kiriella said.

The minister said decisions whether to extend the drive from Dehiwala to Panadura would be made after a feasibility study. He said two consultation companies have been chosen to carry out the study.

(Daily News)

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