Local medicine makers have urged the government to extend cash incentive benefit to the exports of pharmaceutical products to help the sector grow further and capture more overseas markets.
The leaders of the Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (BAPI) made the demand at a seminar on “Bangladesh pharmaceutical industry: opportunities and challenges” at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka on Tuesday.
“Bangladesh is the only country that can supply high-quality but low-cost medicines to the world because of low production cost. But we need the cash incentive to export,” said Nazmul Hassan, president of the association.
He said pharma export has bright prospects and the prime minister has declared the pharmaceutical products, including their raw materials, as the 'Products of the Year' for 2018.
In fiscal 2015-16, the annual sales of pharmaceutical products stood at Tk 15,600 crore for the domestic market. This is a huge jump for the sector as the industry size was only Tk 170 crore in 1982. Currently, local manufacturers meet 97 percent of the domestic demand for lifesaving medicines.
Bangladesh exports medicines to 150 countries, including the USA, Canada, Australian and the European Union.
Exports of pharmaceutical products registered 14.6 percent growth in 2011-2016. Pharmaceuticals raked in $60.24 million in the July-January period of the current fiscal year, up 14.44 percent year-on-year.
Hassan praised the local industry for supplying quality medicines at reasonable prices. “Otherwise, we would have to import medicines and the price would have been eight times higher,” he said.
In the pharmaceutical sector, the government has announced cash incentive for active pharmaceutical ingredients, but local manufacturers don't produce raw materials, said SM Shafiuzzaman, secretary general of the association.
He said if the government provides the cash incentive for medicine exports the volume would double within a year.
Hassan also said: “We have nine years before becoming a developing country. So, if the government gives us cash incentives in different tiers, Bangladesh will be better prepared to face the challenges of the graduation from the least-developed country category.”
Addressing the programme, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said he would recommend incentive for the sector but the finance ministry is solely responsible for its implementation.
He assured the association that the government would extend its cooperation to the sector to boost exports.
Mohammed Nasim, health and family welfare minister, urged the BAPI to reduce the price of some medicines taking into account the purchasing power of the low-income people.
Md Serajul Huq Khan, secretary of the health services division, and Md Mustafizur Rahman, director general of the Directorate General of Drug Administration, also spoke.