The bright prospects of the pharmaceutical sector

That the country’s pharmaceutical sector has immense export prospects has been recognized for a few years now. It was not until the country’s fledgling pharmaceutical companies proved their ability, based on the National Drug Policy of 1982, to nearly meet national needs and embarked on the production of quality drugs that received the US Food and Drug Administration approval. At least three Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies have received the green signal from this food and drug approval body known for its strictest approval criteria. So on the two points of production capacity which takes 98% of the country’s internal needs and a breakthrough in exporting, the country has definitely come a long way. If this is a sure proof of the potential of the pharmaceutical industry, there is every reason to regret that it has not been sufficiently exploited as it was in the case of RMG.

At a seminar organized by the DCCI (Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry) in the city, speakers were unanimous that the pharmaceutical sector is the next RMG in terms of exporting, provided the right policies and strategies are initiated to achieve the goal. Data from the Export Promotion Bureau gives a detailed picture of Bangladesh pharmaceutical companies’ exports to 118 countries between July 2019 and June 2020. Some reports give the number of countries to which Bangladesh pharmaceutical companies export drugs ranging from 146 to 151. The number of countries importing pharmaceuticals from Bangladesh may give a false impression. Such a large number of importing countries would have catapulted this country to the rank of one of the main exporters of medicines. But unfortunately, its share in the imports of these countries is very low. The appallingly low percentage share of Bangladeshi-made drugs in these countries’ imports speaks volumes about the inability of pharmaceutical companies to gain traction in the global drug market and highlights the unclaimed space that still lies ahead. to be exploited.

As the data shows, pharmaceutical companies here could export drugs worth more than $10 million to just four countries, including the United States, out of the 21 countries that accounted for 88% of Bangladesh’s exports in 2019. Well, it may have increased in the succeeding two years, but certainly hasn’t received a quantum leap. Sri Lanka and Myanmar are the two main importers of drugs from Bangladesh. These two countries imported drugs from Bangladesh worth $276 million and $434 million respectively and Bangladesh’s share of their drug imports was $20.5 million and $19.6 million, i.e. 7.40% and 4.53% respectively.

A vigorous export campaign is needed. Pharmaceutical companies need to develop their marketing policies and strategies in order to capture a significant share of the markets of at least 20-30 countries. One of the developments that should make pharmaceutical companies and the country optimistic about the future of the industry is the access of local pharmaceutical companies to the US market. Although it represents only a small share of 0.02% of American imports, it has its symbolic value. This gives a clear indication of the potential of pharmaceutical companies and the need to develop the industry as part of the diversification of the export basket. At the same time, a pool of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) must be developed in order to keep drug prices in the local market as low as possible.