Newly-elected President Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson officially taking over duties from the outgoing President Shyam Sathasivam at the SLCPI 57th AGM
From left: Rolf Blaser (Honourable Secretary), Azam Jaward (Vice President), Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson (President), Shyam Sathasivam (Outgoing President), Sanjiva Wijesekera (Senior Vice President) and Sirimal Fernando (Honourable Treasurer)
- Becomes first woman to hold the post
- Calls for deeper commitment by pharmaceutical industry to self-regulate
- Prepared to partner with Government to collaborate and implement a fair pricing mechanism, which ensures sustainable supplies of quality products at affordable prices
- Lauds efforts of Govt. and NMRA to ensure broad access to high-quality medicines
- Stresses that these efforts be based on the principles of fairness and transparency, and that such efforts do not compromise the country’s ability to attract essential and innovative drugs in the future
Hemas Pharmaceuticals Managing Director Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson was unanimously elected the new President of the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry at the private sector body’s Annual General Meeting, which was held at the Taj Samudra Hotel on 7 August.
Wilson, who becomes the first woman elected to the position, replaces Sunshine Holdings Plc Executive Director Shyam Sathasivam, who held the post for the past two years. She previously served the Chamber in the capacity of Senior Vice President.
Counting decades of financial and administrative experience to her name, Wilson also presently functions as the Managing Director of Hemas’ Logistics and Maritime Cluster.
Addressing the AGM following her election, the new President thanked her predecessor for navigating the industry through a particularly fraught period dominated by extended negotiations over fair pricing.
Wilson then went on to outline the crucial role the Chamber would play in supplying Sri Lankans with affordable and effective medicines during the year ahead as well as some of the prospective challenges confronting the industry.
“As a nation we have witnessed the growing incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases, coupled with an ageing population. So as an industry we have a significant role to play,” Wilson stated.
“We continue to operate in a tough climate. Last year we overcame extreme currency volatility, with the rupee registering significant devaluation. Furthermore, we were faced with banks and financial institutions looking at tightening lending to the industry.”
She asserted that despite the rupee appreciating to a stable level over recent months, there remained reason to be vigilant over future currency pressures.
“On the financial side, things are only going to get tighter in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks. You will find banks tightening their exposure purely because the capacity to lend seems to be under threat and NPLs (Non-performing Loans) are increasing. The pharmaceutical industry and our wholesalers and retailers are going to get further impacted purely because the industry is not currently considered attractive by banks. They want to mitigate their risk and exposure,” Wilson explained.
She went on to highlight the heavy economic and social responsibility the industry bore as an employer of a quarter of a million people and a vital cog in the country’s healthcare apparatus.
“How do we create value as an industry? The first thing is the ability to work together and create an ecosystem where patients have access to quality drugs at affordable prices, where the regulator and the industry can collaborate to secure widening healthcare needs,” the new President declared.
“The second area where we can actually create value is if we as an industry look inwards and self-regulate. We need to look at our core ethics and reinforce our value system.”
In this avenue, she said the Chamber’s Ethics and Compliance Committee, which has laboured diligently over the past year, would continue its good work to fortify the industry’s market practices.
“Against this background, we as a Chamber will continue to deliver accessibility and good quality medication to our citizens. We are willing to work and collaborate with the Government to get a very fair pricing mechanism which ensures patients’ sustainable access to good quality products at an affordable price. We should be fair with the patient as well as the different stakeholders within the industry.”
Wilson also praised the efforts of the Government and the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) in ensuring equitable access to high-quality prescription drugs and medical devices.
She underscored that such endeavours should continue within a framework based “on the principles of fairness and transparency” and should not compromise the country’s ability to attract newer and more innovative drugs for its citizens.
Applauding the initiatives of the NMRA, she identified the establishment of a quality lab as a significant development for the entire healthcare industry.
Some of the other key issues Wilson touched upon during her inaugural address included payment delays to pharmaceutical vendors and closer collaboration with the State Pharmaceutical Corporation of Sri Lanka to ensure greater transparency.
The AGM also saw the reconfiguration of the SLCPI’s governing committee. These new appointments included George Steuart Health Ltd. Executive Director Sanjiva Wijesekera as Senior Vice President; Cipla Pharma Lanka Ltd. Managing Director Azam Jaward as Vice President; A. Baur & Co. Ltd. CEO/Managing Director Rolf Blaser as Honourable Secretary and Astron Ltd. Deputy Managing Director Sirimal Fernando as Honourable Treasurer.
Following the new President’s remarks, a panel discussion was held on the theme of ‘Advancing Good Health Outcomes – Stakeholder Roles’, moderated by Verite Research Analyst Sabrina Esufally. The panellists comprised the occasion’s Chief Guest World Health Organization Representative Dr. Razia Pendse, National Medicines Regulatory Authority Chairman Prof. Asita de Silva, former SLCPI President Adrian Basnayake and Verite Research’s Research Director Subhashini Abeysinghe.
The panel touched upon a range of topics that encompassed some of the key healthcare concerns that Sri Lanka is likely to face in the near future, how well equipped the industry was to deal with these challenges and the manner in which stakeholder ecosystems were designed to ensure patients’ unhindered access to high-quality medication.
During the lively discussion, Dr. Pendse enlightened the audience on some of the emerging global healthcare trends while Abeysinghe spoke on industry-government collaboration to secure positive patient outcomes and eliminate inadequacies within the system. Meanwhile, Dr. De Silva offered his position on regulatory action, collective responsibility when facilitating access to effective medication and the importance of collaboration between all pharmaceutical stakeholders. Presenting the industry’s perspective, Basnayake addressed access to medicines and hurdles the pharmaceutical industry faced in attaining this objective.
Among the other highlights of the ceremony was the presentation of Lifetime Achievement Awards to pharmaceutical industry luminaries Mahanama Dodampegama and the late Colonel Chandra Jayaratne.
Currently serving as the representative of over 60 members who account for more than 80% of the private pharmaceutical industry, the SLCPI spans manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers. These stakeholders supply Sri Lankan patients with 800 molecules from 364 manufacturers located across the world.