SPMC is the largest leading pharmaceutical manufacturer in Sri Lanka .
The installed capacity of the factory is now inadequate to meet the growing drug requirement of the country.
Managing Director of SPMC Mr.P.Suntharalingam speaks to Sri Lanka Mirror on how the SPMC aims to overcome this hurdle to ensure that the public reaps the benefits
Could you elaborate on the current state of SPMC ?
SPMC manufactures 60 drugs under the generic name covering a wide range of pharmaceutical products conforming to World Health Organization (WHO) Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
Even though the installed capacity of SPMC is 550 million tablets and capsules per annum by working a single shift , at present SPMC manufactures around 2000 million tablets/ capsules per annum by working two shifts.
How you elaborate on the quality of SPMC drugs as opposed to foreign imports?
SPMC drugs are in generic name and valued and preferred by doctors, pharmacists and other professionals in the Health sector.
All SPMC products comply with either United States pharmacopoeia (USP) or British Pharmacopoeia (BP) standards.
Starting from the raw materials which are imported every step undergoes rigorous sampling, testing and quality assurance procedures.
The starting materials and finished products are tested before releasing to the market whereas imported products pass through only a random sample testing. Testing starting materials is a proven method for assuring product quality.
SPMC products are branded generics. The tablet and capsules carry the letters SPMC and the labels carry SPMC logo with characteristic of 2 color bands.
What are the main obstructions you face as a Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company?
The capacity of the existing facility is inadequate to meet the demand.
Investment or Funding is required for expansion to establish and new factories to increase production to meet the National requirement.
Cancer drugs are imported at staggering costs from abroad. Can these drugs could be manufactured by the SPMC?
Not with the present facility at SPMC. It is possible by establishing a separate facility by in a different location by way of a Joint Venture.
Why are not your products seen much apart from Government Hospitals and SPC outlets?
Presently, 75% of our production is supplied to government hospitals through the MSD , and the balance to SPC and few private pharmacies.
We have reached our maximum production capacity and therefore we do not have the products to cover the entire private sector.
Any plans to change this situation by increasing the capacity?
Yes. Within the policy guidelines of the cabinet and keeping in line with the Government procurement guidelines we have invited Proposals from interested suitable parties to set up plants with their own investments jointly with SPMC by way of a private public partnership.
The Technical evaluation committee is in now the process of evaluating the proposals and the shortlisted proposals will be further evaluated by the Ministry Tender Committees and the Cabinet Appointed Negotiating Committee. (CANC)
A cabinet paper has been submitted to the cabinet of ministers seeking their approval to refer the proposals to appropriate ministerial and cabinet level committees for further evaluation and approval.
How long will this procedure take?
It is difficult to set a time line for these proposals as they have to be screened by various high powered committees and final approval to be given by the CANC.
Approval of the NMRA is also required to commence work.
How would enhanced production affect prices of drugs in Sri Lanka?
Cost of Production would be lower therefore the drugs could be sold at a lower price.
Recently, Laugfs announced the groundbreaking of what was touted as what would be Sri Lanka’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturing facility. How would a private competitor affect SPMC operations?
Worldwide, the Pharmaceutical industry faces a 'drug mafia’. Would you say the same exists for Sri Lanka?
This is a state owned enterprise and governed by the systems and procedures stipulated by regulatory authorities and therefore there is no room for any deviation.
The activities are regulated and monitored by an experienced professional management team and the Board of directors under the guidance of the Honourable Minister of Health and his officials.
Do you think the National Drug Policy holds answers to issues that exist in the local pharmaceutical industry?
Yes if it is totally implemented it would have the desired outcome.