Crisis-hit Sri Lanka hikes medicine prices

COLOMBO: Cash-strapped Sri Lanka on Saturday (April 30) announced a 40 percent price hike on dozens of commonly used drugs as the island nation struggles through its worst economic crisis in decades.

Months of power outages and acute shortages of food, fuel and medicines have sparked widespread protests demanding the government’s resignation.

Hospitals have already canceled routine surgeries after running out of anesthetics, and Saturday’s guideline applies to 60 scarce drugs.

Antibiotics, over-the-counter painkillers and medicines for heart disease and diabetes will all be subject to the price increase, Health Minister Channa Jayasumana said.

It is the second time in six weeks that drug prices have been raised. A 30 percent increase was imposed in mid-March.

Industry officials said the latest increase was necessary to offset the impact of fuel prices, which have doubled since December.

Official figures released on Friday showed that Sri Lanka’s inflation rate hovered near 30 percent in April, a seventh consecutive record high.

Sri Lanka has run out of foreign exchange to import much-needed essentials.

The government this month announced a default on its $51 billion foreign debt and urged citizens abroad to donate money to help the island emerge from its economic distress.

Sri Lanka has asked for an International Monetary Fund bailout that could take up to three months.

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