‘People are going to die’: crisis-hit Sri Lanka’s medicine ends Sri Lanka

CHunderpal Veerasuriya does not remember the last time he took his medicine. The 67-year-old retired businessman, who lives in Sri Lanka’s Gampaha district, has always relied on a drug to keep his hereditary nerve condition at bay, leaving him dizzy and unable to walk.

But since her prescription recently ran out, she couldn’t get another supply. This medicine is no longer available in Sri Lanka.

“I’m afraid I might become paralyzed because there’s no one to look after us,” she said frantically. “My wife and I do everything alone. We divide the household chores and manage it amongst ourselves. My wife has knee problems and can hardly walk.”

Sri Lanka’s financial crisis, the worst since independence, is fast becoming a dangerous health crisis. Government coffers have fallen to their lowest level on record and last week the country had forced to default on its international loans for the first time in its history, Without significant foreign exchange, Sri Lanka has been unable to import essential goods: food, fuel – and medicine.

Sri Lanka imports more than 80% of its medical supplies. There is now a shortage of about 200 medical items, including 76 essential, life-saving drugs, ranging from blood-thinning drugs for heart attack and stroke patients to antibiotics, rabies vaccines and cancer chemotherapy drugs. Necessary surgical equipment and anesthesia are running out so fast that it was decided this week to proceed only to emergency surgery, mostly heart and cancer patients. All routine surgeries – anything from hernias to a swollen appendix – have been stopped. Some government hospitals have been directed to admit only emergency patients.

“Eventually, people are definitely going to die,” said a Colombo doctor, who was asked not to speak to the media.

She described how the hospital was so low on certain drugs that she had to instruct patients’ families to go to pharmacies and try to buy it themselves. “There have been incidents where family members have gone around in search of drugs and by the time they come back with the medicine, it is too late and the patient dies,” she said.

The doctor said that the shortage is increasing. “I’m worried about expectant moms because soon I don’t know if we’ll have enough medicines to do a caesarean section,” she said.

Cancer drugs, which are notoriously expensive to import, have been particularly badly hit by shortages in recent weeks, and the responsibility of sourcing them has fallen on the oncologists themselves. They are making a global appeal for donations, and writing letters to private supporters, organizations and governments, to ensure cancer treatments are not delayed.

Dr Buddhika Somavardhan, an oncologist at Colombo’s largest cancer hospital, said she and other doctors were under “a lot of stress” as essential cancer drugs started running out or were not available at all a month ago.

“One of the drugs that we give to patients undergoing chemotherapy, which elevates their blood counts so that they are not liable to serious infections, is no longer available,” he said. “Till now, we have managed to get a donation of 80,000 vials. But it won’t last very long.”

He added: “Somehow, thanks to the donation, we’re mostly managing without major issues. But we had to postpone some chemotherapy, which can have a detrimental effect on cancer outcome.”

Somavardhan said the crisis is placing a huge “financial and psychological burden” on cancer patients, who have to source and pay large sums of money for their medicines for the first free and easily accessible treatment in hospitals under Sri Lanka’s acclaimed universal health system. Had to do ,

Cancer doctors were also feeling the pressure of being there to both treat their patients as well as appeal for global drug donations. “I didn’t know how long we’d be able to go on like this,” he said.

Ruwaiz Hanifa, a doctor in Colombo, expressed his dismay that doctors “saw it coming in early January”, but little had been done by the authorities to set up backup plans to ensure that no drugs were short-lived. No, even after the country’s foreign reserves were introduced. ending at a worryingly low level.

“As doctors, we are facing huge ethical dilemmas,” Hanifa said. “We used to have a very efficient health system. But at the moment it has become ineffective. And people will die, which is not acceptable.”

He said his patients are being forced to find their own medicines and pay more than 40% of the price if they can find them. Hanifa said many of her patients were having to choose between medicine or fuel to pay for school tuition for their children or to take them to work.

Hanifa said he anticipates long-term effects on the life expectancy of Sri Lankans. “With kidney disease and diabetes and high blood pressure we’re not treating right now, it causes long-term damage,” he said. “So in five years, we’ll see that stroke increases, heart attack increases, neurological problems increase, cancer increases.”

With newly appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe recently warning that the situation will “only get worse” and Sri Lankans facing tough months, people without medicines said they face an uncertain future. have to do. On Sunday, India donated 25 tonnes of medical supplies to the country, while France donated some essential equipment, but most of those working in the health system say Sri Lanka cannot depend on donations forever.

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Among those with anxiety was 42-year-old Sushant Veerasuriya, who has struggled to get his epilepsy medicine, having traveled long distances to track down some pills. Even when he manages to find the drugs, it has become almost impossible for him to afford the total cost of Rs 10,000 (£22) in May.

But as soon as he stops taking the drug, he starts having regular seizures, due to which he loses consciousness and becomes unable to work.

“If I’m without it for five days, the situation will come back and continue non-stop, which I’m really afraid of,” he said. “I am the primary breadwinner of my family and have to support my wife and four-year-old daughter. But when the condition comes, I cannot work. If the medicine is stopped completely then my family’s livelihood is in danger.

Author: Admin

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