Drug shortages add to consumer woes after price revision | Sunday Observer

Drug shortages add to consumer woes after price revision

6 November, 2016

Following the revision of 48 essential drugs, many private pharmacies have begun turning away customers saying, certain commonly used drugs and vaccines were now unavailable in their stores/counters.

“I visited three private hospitals in search of the vaccine to immunize my 3 month old child against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, but, I was told their respective stores had run out of stocks.”, a young mother told the Sunday Observer, adding that even though she had to pay a steep fee in a private hospital, it was a more convenient option due to the long waiting queues for the same vaccine given free at state hospitals.

MMR under the brand name Priorix produced by GlaxoSmythe LTD is currently being sold for Rs 900 for 0.05 ml.

Influenza vaccine now in great demand due to the spread of colds and fevers islandwide, following the rains, is also available in limited stocks in private hospitals, while state hospitals say, it is administered to only high risk patients with lowered immunity systems, due to the high cost of importing the drug. Asked the price of an influenza vaccine, a private hospital drug store said, “We only have Vaxigrip which is imported from France. Our retail price is Rs 1,178/- for a vial although our wholesale price is Rs 1,024/-.” He said, it was necessary to sell it at a higher price than the wholesale price, in order to cover their importation costs. He also noted, while this drug does not come under the new drug price list, the prices of the 48 essential drugs had been revised.

Meanwhile, health officials denied rumours of a trial vaccine being experimented in a popular children’s hospital in Borella, stressing that no new vaccine would be added into the Expanded Immunization Programme until scientifically proven to be hundred percent safe. “ At present there is no such vaccine here”, an unnamed spokesperson from the Lady Ridgeway Hospital told the Sunday Observer, in a telephone interview.

A Private hospital when contacted also said, the vaccine was not available for purchase from local suppliers as yet. “All we have are certain brands of the influenza vaccine”, a spokesman for a private hospital drug store said.

NCD related drugs

Meanwhile, patients with non communicable chronic diseases such as, diabetes and hypertension have also complained that pharmacies in private hospitals had turned them away when they asked for a prescribed drug after being examined by a doctor in the hospital.”

They told us to come another day due to a temporary delay in replenishing their dried out stocks,” a patient told the Sunday Observer.

A leading drug supplier said, panadol was now selling at Rs 1/30 a tablet and Dionil used by diabetic patients was being sold at Rs 2/20 a tablet, according to the reduced price schedule. Losarton used for high blood pressure was selling at Rs 10/30 (maximum price) per tablet., while the cholesterol tablet Zaarc was being sold at Rs 10/30 per tablet.

Augmentene, a popular antibiotic was priced at Rs 71 per tablet.

Asked why the list of new prices of the 48 essential drugs had not yet been hung up in a leading private pharmacy in Duplication Road which this writer visited, the manager’s response was, “We have over 120 suppliers.

Most of them have printed their old prices on one side and the revised prices on the other side of the drugs so that the public can see both prices before they purchase the drug. However, we will hang up a price list as well soon”.

So, does the Osu Sala have adequate stocks of the 48 essential drugs?

Most branch outlets in the city when contacted said, they had enough stocks. However, a few in the more congested areas of the city said, due to the sudden spike in demand following the price reduction, there was a temporary shortage which they were in the process of filling.

The Medical Supplies Division of the Health Ministry assured there were no shortages and urged hospitals ( state) which were running short of any essential drug to inform the MSD well ahead of time.

Meanwhile, the Pharmaceutical industry while agreeing to co-operate with the Health Ministry’s decision maintains that there is a difficulty in retailing drugs at the new prices due to the cost invested in purchasing them ahead of time. The chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry ( SLLII) , the All Island Pharmacy Owners’ Association ( AIPPPOA ) and other small time importers of drugs are reported to have urged the Health Ministry to give them more than the 45 day grace period to re-label the prices according to the new list.

It is understood that a review of the present scheme is also under consideration to look into the current difficulties of implementing the revision policy.


This is true. Some of the brands are not available now due to the price reduction. Crestor (Rosuvastatin Calcium) and Plavix (Clopidogrel) my mother is using are not available and these two brands have only agreed with her without any side effects. So we are faced with a huge problem now. Earnestly requests the government to make some kind of arrangement so that we could purchase the suited drugs thought they are expensive.