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Breakthrough -- and Bibile lives again

Wednesday, 6 July 2005 - 4:41 AM SL Time

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Amidst the political tension and turmoil over controversies ranging from P-TOMS to Presidential elections, what could be a vital new chapter in the history of Sri Lanka was worked out last week with the finalization of a comprehensive draft for a National Medicinal Drugs Policy. The final two-day consultation was organized by the Health Ministry, and quite appropriately, it was held at the auditorium of the Lady Ridgeway Hospital ? underlining the message that the innocent children of the country and generations to come will reap immense benefits and be able to lead a healthier life when this policy is effectively implemented.


The consultation facilitated by Professor Chrishantha Weerasuriya, WHO regional adviser on drugs policy had the active participation of deans of medical faculties, medical consultants and officials of the GMOA, the People`s Movement for the Rights of Patients, top pharmacists and officials of the SPC, the SPMC and drug companies, among others. Some medical consultants and officials of drug companies reportedly tried to dilute or undermine the National Medicinal Drugs Policy by trying to get some key clauses deleted. These related to the cost effectiveness of drugs and the consideration of the country`s need for them at the point of registration. But the majority of the participants led by the GMOA and PMRP insisted that the interests of patients must be given priority over the commercial interests of drug companies -- and their view prevailed. In essence, the NMDP provides for the implementation of an essential medicines concept through which the number of drugs now being imported, prescribed and sold in Sri Lanka would be reduced from a staggering, if not sickening 9,000 to about 350 with provision made for about five dosage forms of each. Through this process, it is hoped that every Sri Lankan could reduce his or her medical expenses by about a 50% while the country as a whole could save billions of rupees in foreign exchange annually. The savings would come through the scrapping of imports of thousands of non-essential drugs under highly expensive brand names. Together with a significant price reduction, there would also be the equally important restoration of quality control to ensure that the people of this country get quality drugs at affordable prices. At present, because the number of drugs being imported, prescribed and sold are excessive by the thousands, the Drugs Regulatory Authority does not have the human or technical resources to sustain quality control and post-marketing surveillance.


Under the proposed NMDP, a wide-powered National Medicinal Drugs Regulatory Authority is to be set up to oversee registration of drugs, quality control and related factors. The implementation of all the policy principles in the NMDP and action plans arising from them will be monitored by a National Standing Committee. This committee comprising all stakeholders will be appointed by the Minister of Health on the recommendations of the Director General of Health Services. Health Ministry Secretary Ranjith Maligaspe, to whom the draft NMDP was formally handed over after the two-day consultation, gave an assurance that the Ministry would give top priority to the implementation of this policy document after approval by the Minister and the Cabinet. Drugs Regulatory Director B.S.R. Samarasinghe and other top health Ministry officials also gave an assurance that this time the NMDP would be effectively implemented for the well-being and welfare of millions of people and of generations to come. They said that comprehensive documents prepared in 1992 and 1996 for National Medicinal Policies had not gone to the stage of Cabinet approval and implementation but this time they promised that the healthy harvest from such a policy would go to the people. The well-being of millions of people is now very much in the hands of Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva. Most of the Cabinet Ministers, especially Tissa Vitharana and D.E.W. Gunasekera are known to be throwing their full weight behind the NMDP. The People`s Movement for the Rights of Patients, on behalf of millions of people, is expressing hope and confidence that President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her government will push ahead with this healthy new chapter to remove the structural injustices in our healthcare service and transform it into a people-friendly instrument that plays a key role, not only in promoting good health but also in eradicating poverty.



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indi51
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LK Information  10 Jul 2005 03:39:55 GMT  Report for Abuse  
'Congratulations to Professor Chrishantha Weerasuriya for reviving the
principles of Bibile and Wickremasinghe for the fair purchase and
distribution of pharmaceuticals in Sri Lanka.
Prof Weerasuriya's tenacity matches that of Professor Seneka Bibile's of many decades ago, which
resulted in the setting up of the State Pharmaceuticals corporation in the
early 1970's, under the Prime Ministership of Sirimavo Bandaranaike. The purpose then was to tender for, import, test and supply essential pharmaceuticals for both the private and government sectors, so that Sri Lankans would pay the best price for essential drugs.
What needs to be watched out for now, is the power of the Pharmaceutical
industry the second most powerful in the world, next to the arms industry,
which will try to thwart every move to enable the poor to access medicines;
vide, the recent scandal in South Africa where one of their ilk tried to
exploit that country's Aids victims by preventing the manufacture and
distribution of generic Aids medicine.

Mrs Bandaranaike too faced the power of the Pharmaceutical lobby in the 1970's, but
stalwarts on her side ensured the people won in the end.
I shall watch eagerly, and wish Professor Weerasuriya success in his
endeavours to bring equity in the delivery of healthcare to the people of
Sri Lanka '
Gamma
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LK Information  10 Jul 2005 04:14:43 GMT  Report for Abuse  
It is good to hear that National Medicinal Drug Policy is going to be implemented, for which Prof. Senaka Bibile scarified his life. If Chandrika can implement this before her tenure ends, she can get a grade (A) in health. Come on Chandrika, go for it without dreaming the Nobel Prize for peace as proposed by some bankrupted Norwegians.
Pera
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LK Information  10 Jul 2005 04:49:30 GMT  Report for Abuse  
Lets pay a slient tribute to Late Dr Sanjaeewa Ranwella, who fought hard for the same cause.
Mucha-linda
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LK Information  11 Jul 2005 03:22:56 GMT  Report for Abuse  
Pera,

Thanks for taking Dr. Ranwella's name into this discussion. We all shoud pay our tribute these people (including Dr. Bibile) not only for the service they did to the country, but also for setting up examples for the generations to come.

A final appreciation should also go to Dr. Thissa Witharana and Mr. DEW Gunasekara for their roles in this regards, and should be limited only to this.

-Muchalinda.
dumindak
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LK Information  11 Jul 2005 05:58:16 GMT  Report for Abuse  
Pera and Muchalinda

Can you describe some good work done by Dr.Ranwella and Dr.Bibile to the forum. it will help us to understand these two great people.
I have heard of Dr. Bibile name but not sure in what regard.
indi51
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LK Information  11 Jul 2005 12:46:10 GMT  Report for Abuse  
Dear dumindak (and ay others interested)
Just to fill you in on Professor Bibile's role in managing/ rationalising Pharmaceutical imports in Sri Lanka, please check:
http://www.sirhalk.org/who_is_prof.htm
vinod
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LK Information  11 Jul 2005 12:53:50 GMT  Report for Abuse  
The Kotte Urban Council (as it then was) named the children's park at Welikada Junction [opposite Welikada Plaza) after Dr Bibile. However, this name change was never put into practice.
Mucha-linda
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LK Information  12 Jul 2005 03:16:14 GMT  Report for Abuse  
About Dr. Bibile:

You may find very informative articles about him if searched in Google. He held the honour for devising the concept of Essential Drugs List to the world, which at the time considered a slap in the face of Pharmacuetical Jiants. This model was later adopted by WHO, UNCTAD and some countries of the Non-Alignment Movement. Obviously, he had to confront a huge opposition and interestingly some came from within the very government.

Then prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike too hesitated first to digest what he suggested, but later was convinced to adopt his concept. He initiated manufacturing drugs within the country and pioneered seeting up Osu Sala. He is the founder and first Dean of the Fac. of Medicine, Uni. of Peradeniya. A Trinitian.

-Muchalinda
Mucha-linda
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LK Information  12 Jul 2005 03:34:45 GMT  Report for Abuse  
About Dr. Sanjaya Ranwella:

I was not aware much about this great person until he drowned to dead in Bolgoda lake. He participated in many Student Union activities while studying in the Medical faculty of the University of Colombo (Peradeniya?) and campaigned among his fellow doctors to practice Dr. Bibile's policies. Having refused to enjoy a luxurious life as a doctor, he cared for the poor people and said to be very popular among the people around Panadura area for whom he offered free consultation (and Medicine).

Proving his capacity in many different fields of Science, he made studying ecology of the Bolgoda Lake (an in-land water body stretching from Moratuwa to Panadura) his personal mission and said to have held the biggest collection of information about flora, fauna and animal species around the lake. Ironically, he drowned to death in the very lake he loved most in his life along with his wife Dr. Kamani Ranwell and their 13 months old son. He is a Royalist and the brother of the Divaina journalist Nayanaka Ranwella.

-Muchalinda.

PS: Correct if any information is wrong.

PS2: A Final note about the death of Dr. Bibile which took place in Guyana, South America. His death, to date, is surrounded by many unclassified issues and some people still believe he was poisoned to death. His wife who was with him at Guyana at the time too believes this.
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