The government is planning to produce 50% of the country’s requirement of pharmaceuticals locally within the next three years, the President’s Media Division (PMD) said in a statement.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has stated that the objective is to provide high quality medicine to the public and the foreign market at affordable prices. All products are to be produced in accordance with the recommendations and standards of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Further, 85% of the country’s drug requirement is met through imports at an annual cost of Rs.130 billion. Producing pharmaceuticals locally will pave the way to save Rs.60 billion annually, the President said.

The President made these remarks during a discussion held at the Presidential Secretariat on Thursday with regard to the plans of the State Ministry of Pharmaceutical Production, Supply and Regulation.

Sri Lanka is currently the largest importer of drugs in the Asian region, President Rajapaksa has stressed, while noting that it was high time to turn the tables and added that large scale local investors are willing to contribute to this effort.

An investment zone of 400 acres is to be established in the Hambantota Industrial Zone for manufacturing medicine targeting the global market. Another investment zone for local investors is to be established in a 100-acre land at Oyamaduwa, Anuradhapura.

As the government is committed to improving the public sector as well as promoting entrepreneurs in the private sector, the President made an open invitation to all the pharmaceutical importers to invest in manufacturing medicine locally.

Local pharmaceutical manufacturers absent!

However, conspicuous by its absence was the Sri Lanka Pharmaceutical Manufacturers’ Association (SLPMA), the premier organisation that consists of business enterprises that are already engaged in the development and manufacture of pharmaceuticals and medical devices in the country. Sources at the Presidential Secretariat confirmed that the SLPMA was not represented at the meeting.

The SLPMA is an affiliated trade association under the umbrella of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. As the representative body of local manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical products, SLPMA had hailed the move to establish a State Ministry for Pharmaceuticals by the newly elected government.