In 1976 Premier Bandaranaike received a telephone call from the US government, warning that if Prof. Bibile was not removed and his policy withdrawn the US would stop the provisions of PL480 aid for Sri Lanka to obtain wheat flour
While President Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna government are acting effectively to pull Sri Lanka out of the debt trap and the worst economic crisis since independence, the vital public health service is on the brink of collapse—which means the poor people will die, and the rich will live.
The public health service was strengthened in 1971 when Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s government implemented the Senaka Bibile principles which was done by one of the world’s respected prophetic pharmacologists Prof. Senaka Bibile with the assistance of Dr. S. A. Wickremesinghe who was also the leader of the Sri Lanka Communist Party.
For more than five years the Bibile principles were implemented effectively, and the people were able to get quality medicinal drugs at affordable prices. Under these plans the State Pharmaceutical Corporation was set up and also the State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation. One of Prof. Bibile’s intentions was to manufacture good quality drugs in Sri Lanka and thus ensure not only the quality but also save foreign exchange, which would have prevented Sri Lanka from going bankrupt as we did in April last year.
In a rare feature, Prof. Bible was not only the Chairman of the SPC but also the head of its trade union. Those who worked closely with him would often see him sit on the floor and help pack the drugs which were imported loose. His principles were quality, safety, efficacy, the cost of the drug and the need for it.
At that time Sri Lanka imported about 500 drugs but after Prof. Bibile was forced to leave we now import about 12,000 varieties of drugs including more than 50 varieties of antibiotics ranging from amoxicillin which the SPC now sells around Rs. 10 to other brands which costs around Rs. 70 to Rs. 100. Though Prof. Bibile put a limit of 500 on the number of drugs imported things have changed and we could put the limit at 1,000 drugs. But 12,000 is a huge waste of money and perhaps one of the reasons for our bankruptcy.
Among the many mafias, the pharma-mafia is known to be one of the most powerful. So powerful that in the United States, the pharma mafia was able to force the US government to get rid of Prof. Bibile. In 1976 Premier Bandaranaike received a telephone call from the US government, warning that if Prof. Bibile was not removed and his policy withdrawn the US would stop the provisions of PL480 aid for Sri Lanka to obtain wheat flour. The Prime Minister called Prof. Bibile and in turn, asked his pharmacological assistant to join him to see the Premier. He had told Prof. Balasubramaniyam “I think we are finished,”. As expected Ms. Bandaranaike told Prof. Bibile while she had great respect for him and his policies she had no option but to ask him to leave.
So one of modern medicine’s great prophets left the country and went to South America where he worked for the United Nations organisation. Years later he died there in mysterious circumstances and eminent personalities such Prof. Carlo Fonseka, former chairman of the National Council for Higher Education, believe Prof. Bibile was killed.
In early 2000 the People’s Movement for the Rights of Patients (PMRP) filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court which said the people’s fundamental rights were being violated with the withdrawal of the Senaka Bibile policy. The case dragged down for years and the then opposition parties including the United National Party (UNP) promised they would restore the Senaka Bibile policy if they were elected to office. Indeed they did when the Yahapalanaya government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe came to office in 2015. Prof. Bibile’s key policy was setting up of the high-powered National Medicinal Drugs Authority (NMRA).
But Sri Lanka’s mafias are powerful and there are reports that some 40 drug company managers met a leading politician where each of them gave him Rs. 25 million. It was supposed to be for campaign funding but it is clear to whom and for what the huge sum was used. These are the roots of the current public health service crisis, and President Wickremesinghe needs to use surgical equipment to battle the drug mafia.
courtesy Daily Mirror
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