(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –In lieu of World Diabetes Day, the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) announced their support towards efforts aimed at controlling the spread of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the country. While reiterating their commitment towards ensuring an uninterrupted supply of NCD medications, members also encouraged all Sri Lankans to look towards adopting healthy habits to manage the issue of rising rates of diabetes in the country.
In recent years, diabetes has become endemic in Sri Lanka. According to the World Bank (2019), almost 11% of all Sri Lankans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and there is an expected upward trend in the incidence of this health condition globally. Thus, World Diabetes Day is an opportunity to recognize strategies to manage and control the disease and further strengthen health systems in place that facilitate NCD care.
Lessons learned in the first lockdown; prevention before cure
SLCPI President Kasturi Chellaraja reflected on insights gained during the first lockdown at the Chamber’s Annual General Meeting earlier this year. She observed that the burden of NCDs – of which diabetes is a significant component – was rising in the country. “We need to help the government in the prevention and cure of NCDs in Sri Lanka. As a core faction of Sri Lanka’s healthcare system, we have to look at promoting healthy habits and values among our population,” stated Chellaraja. “As the proportion of people living with diabetes increases, so too does their routine access to medication.”
Chellaraja highlighted that a ‘prevention before cure’ approach should be supported as it can control the spread and severity of the disease. Along this vein, The International Diabetes Federation recommends adopting healthy lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and nutritious eating choices (ex: a low-energy, dense diet) to control the risk of developing an NCD. Studies have proven that lifestyle changes such as this significantly reduce an individual’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for almost 90% of all diabetes cases globally (IDF, 2020).
Uninterrupted supply of diabetes medication
SLCPI members reiterated that health promotion and disease prevention efforts, especially in a COVID era, need to be complemented by a resilient health system and unhindered medicine delivery. Despite disruptions in logistics and planning due to COVID complications, SLCPI members have ensured that pharmaceutical supply chains have continued seamlessly. Treatment and control of NCDs was identified as a priority in the process of reconfiguring supply chains to become more agile and patient-centric. Prioritizing the needs of NCD patients, pharma companies ensured continuous communication with principals abroad to import essential diabetes medicines for blood sugar control, including Metformin, which is the first-line medication for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.
According to SLCPI members, insulin orders were placed as soon as possible to avoid shortages in inventory. Prioritizing essential care, an ‘Insulin Helpline’ was also established so that persons with diabetes were able to obtain information on the nearest pharmacy with insulin stock, conveniently.
Furthermore, the industry swiftly enabled e-pharmaceuticals and home deliveries so that diabetes and NCD medication could be delivered directly to patients. Understanding that people with pre-existing conditions may be more vulnerable to COVID-19, the facilitation of e-delivery reduced the risk of outside exposure for persons with diabetes.
As COVID-19 cases rise again, SLCPI and member organizations reemphasize their commitment to ensuring an unhindered supply of medicines to persons with diabetes. “The chamber and member organizations will continue to place NCDs at the core of our supply chains. Ensuring access to medications is critical to the timely treatment of diabetes in Sri Lanka,” Chellaraja noted.