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‘New tech key to scaling up Bangladesh's pharma sector’

Md Samiur Rahman Sazzad
10 Jul 2024 20:59:38 | Update: 10 Jul 2024 20:59:38
‘New tech key to scaling up Bangladesh's pharma sector’
— Courtesy Photo

The pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh has advanced its technology and improved the quality of medicines, benefiting local patients and facilitating exports to developed nations, including the USA and Europe. However, this sector could further scale up with investments in new technologies, favourable government policies, and the recruitment of skilled manpower, Matruprasad Priyadarshi, senior director of Regions and Program Operations at the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), shared his views with The Business Post’s Md Samiur Rahman Sazzad.

What are your thoughts on the pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh?

The global pharmaceutical industry has undergone significant changes over the past two decades. It has moved from traditional solid oral dosage forms to advanced therapies such as complex genetics, injectables, and novel drug delivery systems. There has also been a shift from chemical medicines to vaccines and biologic products, reflecting rapid technological advancements globally.

In the past decade, Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies have made notable improvements in technology and the quality of their medicines. This has benefited local patients and enabled exports to developed nations such as the USA and Europe. Several factors have contributed to this progress.

Leading Bangladeshi companies have invested in recruiting talented researchers and developers and enhancing their technology and infrastructure. The key components for industry development are people, processes, and technology. There has been significant growth in scientific, manufacturing, sales, and marketing talent within Bangladesh.

Can you share your experience in the overall pharmaceutical industry?

My passion for improving healthcare worldwide has driven my career. Over the past 23 years, I have worked in various regions, including the US, Europe, Africa, the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian subcontinent, including Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. My journey began with studies in medicine, which transitioned to pharmaceutical sciences and business management.

I have had the opportunity to work in multiple sectors within the healthcare industry, including pharmaceuticals, biotech, vaccines, hospitals, and medical devices. Throughout my career, my background in strategic planning, understanding customer needs, and delivering solutions has been instrumental in bringing the right products to market at the right time. My work has always focused on improving health access by providing quality healthcare services, medicines, and medical devices.

Why has the pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh not achieved the same export success as the ready-made garments (RMG) sector?

While the pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh has significant export potential, it has not reached the same success level as the RMG sector. The disparity arises from the fundamental differences between the two industries.

The garment industry in Bangladesh has developed over nearly 50 years and faces fewer regulations compared to pharmaceuticals. The pharmaceutical industry is tightly regulated by bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA, the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) in Bangladesh, and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) in India. These strict regulations ensure that medicines meet the highest quality standards, making the pharmaceutical sector more complex.

Although the pharmaceutical and textile industries have different requirements and regulatory environments, there are valuable lessons the pharmaceutical industry can learn from the RMG sector, such as scaling up production to meet global demand. By continuing to build on these strengths, the pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh is on the right path to achieving greater global market success.

Can government policy shifts help uplift the pharmaceutical industry?

Supportive government policies are essential for any industry to thrive. It is encouraging to see the Bangladesh government adopting similar measures in the current budget.

These measures include financial incentives, reduced import duties, and other supportive policies aimed at encouraging investment in the pharmaceutical industry. Such measures will enable Bangladeshi companies to source raw materials at lower costs, thereby reducing manufacturing costs and potentially lowering drug prices, making them more affordable for patients.

Favourable government policies are crucial for the growth of any industry, particularly the pharmaceutical sector, where the stakes involve human lives. The proactive steps taken by the Bangladesh government are a positive development and will likely foster growth and innovation within the industry.

This will enhance the country's capability to produce high-quality, affordable medicines, benefiting both the industry and the public.

What are your recommendations for the pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh to meet international standards?

At USP, we have worked closely with the DGDA in Bangladesh for the past six to seven years. I greatly appreciate the DGDA's efforts to focus on quality medicine, ensuring uncompromised drug and medicine standards for patients.

The DGDA's emphasis on maintaining high-quality standards is commendable and crucial for the pharmaceutical industry. By adhering to these standards, the industry ensures that the medicines produced are best in class.

The regulator in Bangladesh has been focusing on using primary pharmacopoeia standards, like USP standards, which helps maintain these high-quality benchmarks.

The regulatory agency in Bangladesh has been cooperative and proactive in ensuring the industry follows quality guidelines, resulting in the production of high-quality medicines.

Such practices should be encouraged further. I urge the industry to invest in and adopt new technologies, such as complex injectables and complex generics, to remain relevant and capable of supplying advanced products globally.

What should the private sector can do?

The private sector should focus on maintaining quality, investing in new technologies, developing technical manpower, and scaling up production. These efforts, combined with supportive government policies, will help the industry grow and thrive both domestically and globally.

Ensuring the highest quality of medicines is non-negotiable. This approach helps guarantee that medicines are safe and effective, protecting patients and building trust. Using verified pharmacopoeia standards and avoiding unverified sources is essential.

To stay competitive and meet global demands, private pharmaceutical companies should invest in advanced technologies. This includes developing and producing complex injectables, complex generics, and biological products.

Recruiting talented graduates from pharmacy and chemistry backgrounds is crucial, but equally important is ongoing training and development. Investing in regular training programmes ensures that employees stay updated with the latest advancements in technology and industry practices.

To be globally competitive, Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies need to scale up their production. Producing large quantities of high-quality medicines can reduce costs and meet the demands of international markets.