The Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) unanimously elected Kasturi Chellaraja as its president for the year 2020/21, at the 59th Annual General Meeting held earlier this week. Chellaraja, Managing Director of Hemas Pharmaceuticals and now CEO of the Group, will head the Chamber for the 2nd year and along with the new office-bearers and membership, will drive the healthcare agenda of the Country together with government and private sector stakeholders.
Chellaraja said, that healthcare was moving towards personalized medicine - medical treatments that are tailored to the individual characteristics of each patient - and, that the pharmaceutical industry had an important role to play in delivering responsible and high-quality medicine.
In her keynote address, Chellaraja also called for a sincerer commitment of the industry to self-regulate. "We are all Sri Lankan. Yes, we run businesses, but the wellbeing of our patients should be our priority", she emphasized.
She expressed SLCPI’s keenness in partnering with the Government on national imperatives including a fair pricing mechanism for medicines, which will enable greater accessibility of a wider range of high quality medicines.
"We are prepared to partner with the government to implement a fair pricing mechanism", she explained, adding that pricing regulations, the devaluation of the rupee, an overall rise in the rate of inflation and the absence of a price mechanism has posed great challenges to the industry in the recent years. Unlike other import-heavy essentials like fuel, pharmaceutical products are not subject to a pricing mechanism recognized by both industry and regulator.
She also lauded the efforts of all frontline staff, supply chain stakeholders and all representatives of the industry for their impressive work and mobilization during the last few months. "COVID-19 presented unprecedented challenges to our industry. Most of our businesses are struggling but the industry made sure to place patients and country as our first priority. We were able to assure the country and Health Minister that there would be no drug shortages, and there weren’t", she stated proudly.
Expressing insights on the lessons learned due to the recent pandemic, she observed that the burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the island and the large proportion of people living with NCD’s had risen and with that, the dependency on routine access to their medicines. "We need to help the government in the prevention and cure of NCDs in Sri Lanka. Providing quality medicine is what we are mandated to do. However, as a core faction of Sri Lanka's healthcare system, we need to look at promoting healthy habits and values amongst our population", she emphasized.
Her vision for the year 2020/21 for the industry included:
- The continuation of their journey towards self-regulation and ethics
- Engaging with relevant stakeholders to establish a fair pricing mechanism
- Ensuring that regulations posed to the industry are practical and allow the continuation of their operations.
The office-bearers of SLCPI for the year 2020/21 are, Senior Vice President - Mr. Sanjiva Wijesekera, Executive Director, George Steuart Health (Pvt) Ltd; Vice President - Mr. Azam Jaward, Managing Director, Cipla Pharma Lanka Ltd; Hon. Secretary - Mr. Rolf Blaser, CEO/Managing Director, A.Baur & Co. (Pvt) Ltd; Treasurer - Mr. Sirimal Fernando, Deputy Managing Director, Astron Limited.
The SLCPI currently serves as the representative of over 60 members who account for more than 80% of the private pharmaceutical industry, spanning manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers. These stakeholders supply Sri Lankan patients with 800 molecules from 364 manufacturers from across the world.