Essential Medicines


Country Situation

The concept of Essential Medicine is the basis for the medical supply system in Sri Lanka for many years. WHO’s Model of Essential Medicines List (EML) was introduced in 1977. Even before this initiative Sri Lanka had taken action to secure access to essential medicines making it a pioneer country in this field. In spite of these initiatives over time, problems have been encountered with regard to aspects such as equal access, quality etc. To overcome this situation a National Medicinal Drug Policy was developed facilitated by the WHO Country Office and it was approved by the Cabinet in 2005.


Strategy and target

The main objectives of the NMDP are;

*     To ensure the availability and affordability of efficacious, safe and good quality medicines relevant to the health care needs of the people in a sustainable and equitable manner.

*     To promote the rational use of medicines by healthcare professionals and consumers.

*     To promote local manufacture of essential medicines


The main elements included in the NMDP are as follows:

1.      Selection of essential medicines

2.      Affordability and equitable access

3.      Financing options

4.      Supply systems and donations

5.      Regulation and quality assurance

6.      Quality use of medicines

7.      Research

8.      Human resources

9.      Viable local pharmaceutical industry

10.   Monitoring and evaluation


Establishment of a National Medicinal Drug Regulatory Authority (NMDRA) for regulation and quality assurance of medicines was identified as a priority. This was supported initially by the WHO with the technical assistance of a consultant having a wide experience in working at the Therapeutics Goods Administration, Australia. Legislation required for the establishment of the proposed NMDRA is being drafted at present by the Legal Draftsman’s Department.



WHO supported the following publications in relation to Essential Medicines:

*     National Essential Medicines List 2009

*     Sri Lanka Drug Index 2009 (compilation of all drugs registered in Sri Lanka

*     Analysis of the pharmaceuticals issued by the Medical Supplies Division of the Ministry of Health over a period of five years (2002-2006)

*     Sri Lanka Patients’ Formulary

*     Manual on Management of Drugs


Related Publications and Resources

*      Drug Information Bulletin, University of Peradeniya