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High-level Corruption in Cancer Drug Imports

By Madhuri Ranasinghe

In a shocking revelation at the Maligakanda Magistrate’s Court on November 29, it was confirmed that a major fraud had been committed in the importation of cancer drugs, specifically the Human Immunoglobulin Antigen and Rituximab. The former Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Mr. Seemahewe Janaka Sri Chandragupta, is under scrutiny, and suspicions are rising about his involvement in staging this elaborate act.

The court proceedings brought to light Mr. Chandragupta’s hospitalization, prompting questions about whether it is a genuine health concern or a strategic move to avoid potential arrest. The former Health Secretary’s alleged attempts to influence the National Blood Transfusion Center and pressure pharmaceutical companies for blood plasma samples raise further suspicions.

The scandal extends to the importation of Rituximab, a vital drug for cancer patients. It was disclosed that misleading information was presented to the cabinet, claiming that the drug was imported under the Indian loan scheme. The former Health Secretary, acting as the head of the Tender Board, is accused of managing these deceptive practices.

The pharmaceutical company supplying the Ritoximap drug faced a payment delay, leading to the dispatch of three letters to the Ministry of Health’s Medical Supply Division, urgently seeking payment. During the November 29 court session at Maligakanda Magistrate’s Court, Additional Solicitor General Mrs Lakmini Girihagama revealed that the Human Immunoglobulin drug under scrutiny was unsuitable for patient use and hadn’t undergone laboratory quality testing. Medical laboratories testing the distributed drug confirmed the absence of human immunoglobulin, with a Ministry of Health-affiliated doctor stating that the substance contained water. Consequently, helpless patients received injections of a substance devoid of the necessary human immunoglobulin.

The approval for 22500 doses of the drug, despite hospitals requiring only 7500 doses, raises serious questions about the decision-making process. The former Health Secretary’s alleged involvement in these irregularities, combined with his hospitalization, adds complexity to uncovering the truth.

About this matter, the Criminal Investigation Department apprehended individuals linked to the incident. The arrested individuals include Hevage Sudath Janaka Fernando, the owner of the importing company, Dr. Kapila Wickramanayake, Director of the Medical Supply Department, Assistant Director Devasanti Solomon, Accountant (Supply) Neran Dhananjaya, and Stock Controller Sujith Kumara. They were subsequently brought before the court and are currently held in custody. During the trial conducted on the 29th, the legal representatives for these individuals argued that the charges did not align with the Public Property Act, advocating for bail. However, Maligakanda Magistrate Lochana Abeywickrama dismissed the bail plea, asserting that this case of financial misappropriation falls within the realm of public property.

While arrests have been made in connection with the drug imports, questions remain about the delay in apprehending the masterminds. The court’s orders for relevant government agencies to provide information to the Criminal Investigation Department signal a crucial step in exposing the truth.

As the investigation unfolds, concerns arise about the strength of law enforcement and the Criminal Investigation Department’s ability to bring the real perpetrators to justice. The scandal involving the misappropriation of public funds and the distribution of fake medicine to hospitals highlights the need for a thorough and transparent inquiry to ensure accountability and justice prevail.