Sri Lanka: Workshop sensitises pharma representatives on promoting self-regulation to control abuse

Colombo/ May 08, 2017: At a special-day long national sensitisation workshop, experts and representatives of Sri Lanka's pharmaceutical trade and industry were urged to self-regulate their supply chain processes to reduce the likelihood of non-medical use of controlled drugs. The workshop also highlighted that the non-medical use of prescription drugs is a public health issue that requires as strong a response from the public health system as from the criminal justice system.

Inaugurated by Mr. Kamal Jayasinghe, CEO, National Medicine Regulatory Authority of Sri Lanka, the training meet featured nearly 50 representatives of the country's pharmaceutical trade and industry. Dr. Rajender Pal Singh, Deputy Director General, Narcotics Control Bureau (India), Mr. Prabhjeet S. Gulati, Project Officer and Drug Law Enforcement Expert, UNODC, ROSAand Prof. Ravindra Fernando, Chairman, National Dangerous Drugs Control Board (NDDCB) of Sri Lanka led the discussions with engaging presentations on thematic areas.

Broadly, the discussions revolved around the global and regional trends and patterns pertaining to pharmaceutical drug abuse and trafficking, the international drug control regime and the legal framework governing pharmaceutical sector in Sri Lanka. Discussions were also held on the model Voluntary Code of Conduct (VCC) for pharmaceutical trade and industry developed by UNODC, and representatives were persuaded to take a lead in adopting the VCC.

It was recognized that any strategy to tackle abuse and trafficking of drugs requires unequivocal support of the pharmaceutical trade and industry, since they represent the first line of defence and are better placed to identify any attempt of diversion of pharmaceuticals and prescribed drugs manufactured and supplied by them.

The last decade has seen a substantial rise in the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs across South Asia. Ready availability, affordability and high purity of narcotic and psychotropic pharmaceuticals make them attractive substitutes for illicit drugs among current and former users.

Key takeaways

  • Active involvement and support of the pharmaceutical trade and industry in preventing diversion of drugs is an imperative in creating any strategy aimed at countering drug abuse, since they represent the first line of defence.        
  • It is vital to strengthen the capacities of law enforcement agencies in the region to control the growing problem of abuse and trafficking of controlled drugs. Though laws are, by and large, adequate, the implementation needs to be strengthened and improved.
  • Tramadol, mainly smuggled from India is the main drug of abuse, while abuse of Benzodiazepines such as Diazepam, Codeine based Cough Syrups, Opioids, Methadone etc. has also been observed. 


  • No estimation of pharmaceutical drug abuse in the country. Dispensation of pharmaceutical drugs with NDPS is a regulated activity but in reality they can be purchased without prescription at least from some pharmacies.
  • Many pharmacies in Sri Lanka do not have a system of stamping the prescription, which leads to "prescription hopping" as a common modus operandi to procure controlled drugs from pharmacies.
  • Need to update the schedule of controlled drugs to include drugs like Tramadol which have potential for abuse.


  • Strengthen the control over pharmacies and further improve the monitoring of retail pharmaceutical distribution network in the country.   
  • The medication dispensation system through pharmacies needs to be strengthened in the country. A robust online prescription drug monitoring system which would integrate manufacturers, pharmacies and doctors using a technology platform may be considered by the authorities.  
  • Regular sensitization programmers for pharmacists on code of conduct to be followed when prescribing, storing, and dispensing controlled pharmaceuticals.  
  • Government should make pharmacy trade its partner in controlling the diversion of pharmaceutical drugs and should formalize the commitment in such partnership.
  • The pharmacy trade and industry is also required to ensure an ethical and responsible conduct on its part so as to prevent the misuse of drugs. They must adopt UNODC developed voluntary code of conduct for its members as a guidance tool to tackle the problem. 
  • Pharmacy trade and industry must establish a close interaction with regulatory authorities and extend full cooperation to check the diversion and abuse of pharmaceutical drugs.