Pharmaceutical shipments from Bangladesh grew 25 per cent year-on-year to $169 million in the last fiscal thanks to the addition of anti-coronavirus drugs to the export basket, continuous improvement of quality and policy support.

Drugs worth $136 million were exported in fiscal 2019-20, according to data of the Export Promotion Bureau.

Bangladesh mainly exports medicine related to malaria, tuberculosis, cancer, leprosy, anti-hepatic, penicillin, streptomycin, kidney dialysis, homoeopathic, biochemical, Ayurveda and hydrocele.

Anti-coronavirus drugs were added to the basket in the last fiscal year, giving a leg up to shipments made by the industry.

“Our pharmaceuticals industry showed its capability by manufacturing the generic version of anti-coronavirus drugs instantly. This helped boost the export of pharmaceuticals products,” said Monjurul Alam, director for global business at Beacon Pharmaceuticals.

The shipment of anti-viral drugs Remdesivir and Favipiravir, which are used to treat coronavirus patients, drove the export growth in FY21. Around Tk 400 crore worth of anti-coronavirus drugs were exported in the last fiscal year, according to Alam.

During the pandemic, Bangladeshi companies that manufacture the drugs have supplied the medicines for the treatment of patients at home and abroad. The bold decision of the government to approve them was a boon for the pharmaceuticals industry, said senior officials of a number of companies.

“Bangladeshi companies were able to enter highly regulated markets within three months whereas it would have taken at least two years during normal period,” Alam said.

The health ministries of a number of Middle Eastern, African and Latin American countries imported the generic versions of Remdesivir and Favipiravir from Bangladesh.

The country also benefited from an Indian ban on the export of Remdesivir and its active pharmaceutical ingredients in April after a record spike in Covid-19 cases sent demand surging.

Mohammad Mujahidul Islam, director for marketing and sales at Eskayef Pharmaceuticals, said the pharmaceuticals industry had made an all-out effort to ensure a smooth supply of all medicines, including a few key medicines, to fight the deadly virus in Bangladesh.

Despite the unprecedented challenges, the industry has also managed to continue to exports, Islam said.

“I think it has been reflected in the country’s pharmaceutical export performance in the FY20-21. From Eskayef, we have supported thousands of Covid-19 patients in 43 countries with our Remdesivir injection Remivir.”

All of these efforts have brightened the image of Bangladesh and shown the capabilities of the local pharmaceuticals industry, he noted.

Md Ziauddin, deputy general manager for marketing at Acme Laboratories, said local firms worked hard to keep production up and running, taking all protective measures.

“This helped the sector increase the export.”

Initially, manufacturers had faced challenges in supply chain management due to the pandemic. Later, they were able to ensure the smooth production and export of medicines, thanks to the government’s support, he said.

Local players dominate the country’s pharmaceutical industry.

Square Pharmaceuticals is the major player with an 18.8 per cent share, followed by Incepta at 10.2 per cent, Beximco 8.5 per cent, Opsonin 5.6 per cent, Renata 5.1 per cent, and Eskayef 4.5 per cent, according to the Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceuticals Industries.

Local manufacturers export medicines to 144 countries and cater to 97 per cent of the domestic demand.


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