Experts and businesses on Saturday demanded consistent regulatory and fiscal support from the government to produce active pharmaceuticals ingredient (API) for the sustainability of the country’s pharmaceuticals industry beyond Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property rights regime.
As a backward linkage industry, active pharmaceuticals ingredient has been suffering from lack of required investment and proper research and development, the said at a seminar on ‘Prospects and Challenges of API Industry in Bangladesh’ organised by Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry at its office in the city.
Speakers also emphasised on the compliance standard provided by the International Conference on Harmonisation for the penetration of Bangladeshi pharmaceuticals in the export market in big way.
Although Bangladesh’s pharmaceuticals export were growing by 15 percent year on year but if the industry does not comply with the ICH guidelines, the export might be back tracked, they said.
Dr Md Rabiul Islam, Professor of Mawlana Bhashani Science and Technology University, presented a keynote paper titled ‘Prospects and challenges of API industry in Bangladesh’.
According to the paper, Bangladesh imports the API from different countries worth of US $600 million every year or almost 95 percent of the local demand, which pushes up the production cost. This generates higher cost factors up to 30 to 40 percent of the total cost.
Meanwhile, the government has allocated 200 acres land at Munshiganj for developing API Park but the park was being delayed due to many factors including lack of infrastructure, gas connection and electricity supply.
He presented a keynote paper in the seminar saying that innovative and skill chemists were needed to get pure API molecule.
Rabiul emphasised on attractive pay structure in the industry to get skilled manpower and collaborative research between universities and industries.
As a least developed country, Bangladesh has been enjoying patent weaver in producing pharmaceuticals from WTO’s Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and it would continue up to 2031.
‘We are getting the facility as an LDC, but Bangladesh is going to graduate to a middle income country by 2024 and then the country would not get the patent weaver facility,’ said commerce ministry joint secretary Md Hafizur Rahman.
He said for facing the graduation challenges, the pharmaceutical sector would have to go for a strong API industry as currently Bangladesh produce 80 percent generic medicine and 20 percent patent medicine.
Jahangir Hossain, former director general of drug administration, said the government provided policy support to the API industry but some of the government agencies were reluctant to implement the policy.
He said collaboration between local and foreign farms and transfer of technology was important for developing API industry.
Md Ruhul Amin, director of Directorate General of Drug Administration, said Bangladesh would have to prepare for producing large molecule and the alignment of industry with universities id must to do so.
He assured pharmaceuticals producers to provide all out support for patent saying that TRIPS would not be needed for Bangladesh after graduation if the industry comes for more patent medicine.
Md Sirazul Islam, executive chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, said as a backward linkage industry, API Park should be developed and the government provided policy support for the sector. BIDA would provide all-out support to the industry to remove the existing impediments, he said.
Md Zia Uddin, chairman of Active Fine Chemicals Ltd, said the government announced tax holiday and VAT weaver for the API industry but the Board of Revenue does not implement the policy properly.
DCCI president Osama Taseer said for local production of API, Bangladesh needs modern skills and technical know-how.
The participants also stressed that Bangladesh needs to invest in research and development if it wants to earn $1 billion from exports of pharma products in five years.
The country earned $130 million from pharmaceutical export in fiscal 2018-19, up 25.60 percent from that a year ago.
Bangladesh is currently exporting medicine to about 120 countries while locally-produced medicine caters to 98 percent of the local demand.