Pharmaceutical industry: Progress and challenges

By: Wahidur Rahman

The pharmaceutical sector is highly developed in Bangladesh and contributes significantly to the country’s economy. After the promulgation of Drug Control Ordinance-1982, the development of the sector was accelerated. The professional knowledge and innovative conceptual skills played a vital role in the development of the sector as a whole.

The substantial development in this sector enabled us to export our branded generics in the international marketing domain. The local pharmaceutical manufacturers cater to

97 % of the country’s demand and are expanding their business in the global market.

The annual per capita drug consumption in Bangladesh is the lowest in the world. The pharmaceutical market has grown substantially in the last few years. Pharmaceutical sale in 2007 was worth Tk.4,000 crore, In 2010 it was almost double and in 2011 it was over Tk.9,000 crore. The contributing factors in this sector were the development of health care infrastructure, increase of health awareness, increased rural market penetration of the manufacturers, and the buying capacity of the people.

Healthy growth is encouraging the pharmaceutical manufacturers towards research and development for newer generics of quality drugs at affordable prices. The latest addition in this segment is the introduction of human vaccines, which were previously imported products. Now we are capable of meeting 100 % of the local demand and also exporting even to stringently regulated countries of the world.

Moreover, a high-tech insulin manufacturing plant has started operation to meet the country’s growing demand. The pharmaceutical industry is trying to export to 120 countries from the existing 83 in the next few years. The pharmaceutical sector is the highest contributor to the national exchequer, along with being the largest white-collar employment sector of the country. Bangladesh pharmaceuticals earned around Tk.400 crore through export in 2010, and this could rise to around Tk.500 crore in 2012.

The pharmaceutical companies are now on the verge of entering highly regulated markets like USA, EU, Australia and GCC countries, and have already obtained accreditation from USFDA, UKMHRA, TGA and GCC. In addition to export there is a great opportunity for contract manufacturing and compulsory licensing within the LDC’s of the Asia-Pacific and Africa regions.

The most important factors are drugs quality control and quality assurance from the manufacturer. The DGDRA Bangladesh is playing the key role in inspecting the WHO GMP and SOP of the pharmaceutical manufactures and enrolling the certifications for subsequent two years validity from the date of inspection.

The creation of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient park (API) is one of the most significant parts of the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. The government has taken substantial initiatives to establish this industrial park at Gazaria, Munshiganj by 2013.It would be a giant step in strengthening the pharma industry as at the moment 80% of raw materials are being imported from India/China.

In order to export within the mildly regulated and regulated markets it’s mandatory to provide bioequivalence data of the drug, But at the moment we have no bioequivalence test laboratory to conduct this test and we have to do it abroad at a higher price. So now it is the basic need of the time to establish a full-fledged bioequivalence test laboratory in Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh pharmaceutical market is growing at a fast pace and has a bright future indeed. According to Business Monitor International’s latest report Bangladesh has moved one step upward to occupy the 14th position within 17 regional markets surveyed by BMIs Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Business Environment ratings for the Asia region. Bangladesh has a long way to go though there is huge potential in pharmaceutical manufacturing and international marketing.

The Bangladesh pharmaceutical sector has an opportunity to establish itself as a high volume export-oriented industry close to RMG sector.

Last but not least, it is clear that the Bangladesh pharmaceutical industry is emerging at a fast pace. In order to keep up this pace we have to devise mechanisms to overcome the obstacles and enhance our image in local and international markets.

Source: The Daily Star

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