Sri Lanka has sharply hiked the prices of commonly used drugs, the second such increase in six weeks, as it struggles to weather an economic crisis, The BBC reported.
Antibiotics, some painkillers and drugs for heart disease are among those hit by a 40% markup.
Sri Lankans had to take short courses of medicine or source supplies from abroad.
The government says it has no choice but to increase the cost of pharmaceuticals.
It follows measures to slow the depletion of foreign exchange reserves amid a crippling financial crisis.
Among the measures were restrictions or bans on imports of certain essential goods, including food and medicine, according to the BBC.
“It’s not something the government is doing voluntarily,” Nalaka Godahewa, Sri Lanka’s media minister, told the BBC.
He said the devaluation of the rupee and the fact that most drugs are imported by the private sector meant the government had no choice or else there would be a severe shortage.
Medical professionals fear that the scarcity of drugs will force people to buy less than the prescribed limit.
“The situation is bad. Sometimes the antibiotics are prescribed for five days. Now my clients say to give me the antibiotics only for two or three days. How will that work?” Ruchira Hewawasam, who runs a pharmacy in Colombo, said.
Some fear that even for those willing and able to pay higher prices, some drugs are in short supply, the BBC reported.
Velupillai Wigneswaran, who lives in the central district of Ratnapura, has been trying for a year to find prescription medicine for her sister, who suffers from a serious neurological disorder.
“We have tried several pharmacies but the drugs are not available. The doctors advised us not to take different drugs. We are trying to get the tablets from India through our friends,” he said. he declares.
Without the medicine, Mr Wigneswaran said his sister was in pain and he was unsure what would happen to her health.
“The crisis we are facing in the pharmaceutical sector is unprecedented. The sharp rise in drug prices will take its toll,” Azam Jaward, deputy chairman of Sri Lanka’s Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry, told the BBC. .
Pediatric antibiotics, life-saving antibiotics, steroids are among the drugs that are difficult to obtain.
It comes amid explosive public anger over rising prices for other essentials such as cooking gas, milk powder and fuel, according to the BBC.
Thousands of people protested the worsening shortage and called on the government to resign.
India has offered to provide drugs under a loan scheme. But this process has been slowed down due to bureaucratic obstacles.
The government has approached international agencies like the World Bank to help buy essential items like medicine.
“They’ve already told us that something like $600 million will come in and when that comes in, we should be able to bring some of those prices down,” Mr Godahewa said.