Pharma exports surge 33pc
Pharmaceuticals shipment from Bangladesh grew 33 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of the current fiscal year on the back of anti-coronavirus drugs and cash incentives of the government.
Medicines worth $56 million were exported in the July to September period, which was $42.17 million in the same three-month period in the last fiscal year, data from the Export Promotion Bureau showed.
Bangladesh mainly exports medicines related to malaria, tuberculosis, cancer, leprosy, anti-hepatic, penicillin, streptomycin, kidney dialysis, homeopathic, biochemical, Ayurveda, and hydrocele.
Last year, the country started exporting the generic version of anti-coronavirus drugs as the world desperately tried to find answers to the pandemic. The shipment has kept growing since then, giving a leg-up to exports.
The shipment of anti-viral drugs Remdesivir, which is used to treat coronavirus patients, fueled the export growth. An additional $10 million worth of the drugs are being exported every quarter, according to market players.
At least 10 companies, including Eskayef, Square, Beacon, Acme and Incepta are exporting anti-coronavirus drugs.
Bangladesh exports pharma products to 151 countries and meets 98 per cent of the domestic demand.
SM Shafiuzzaman, secretary-general of the Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries, said the export of pharmaceuticals would increase rapidly in the coming years as new drugs were being introduced, and the country enjoyed patent waiver on manufacturing the generic version of any medicine.
Binay Das, executive general manager for marketing at Eskayef Pharmaceuticals Ltd, says local pharmaceutical companies can supply world-class medicines at lower cost.
"Anti-coronavirus drugs are helping the pharmaceuticals sector boost exports."
In the last one and a half years, Eskayef shipped a huge quantity of Remivir, the world's first generic version of Remdesivir.
The accreditation of Eskayef's manufacturing facility by the UK, Australia, and the European Union has enabled it to sell products in many developed countries.
"A quick decision by the Bangladeshi companies to manufacture anti-coronavirus drugs for the treatment of patients at home and abroad significantly helped increased pharmaceuticals export," said Monjurul Alam, director for global business development at Beacon Pharmaceuticals.
According to him, Bangladeshi companies are exporting at least Tk 30 crore worth of anti-coronavirus drugs to the countries, including those in Latin America, Africa, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and Asean.
The shipment of anti-cancer drugs has risen over the years as well.
Recently, Beacon Pharmaceuticals received approval from Syria to export anti-cancer drugs which will allow the company to earn an additional $5 million.
Anti-coronavirus drugs, especially Remdesivir, are contributing to the rise in exports, said Mohammad Ziauddin, deputy general manager for marketing at Acme Laboratories Ltd.
He hopes the industry will continue the growth in shipment until Covid-19 is eradicated.
Wasim Haider, manager for international marketing at Beximco Pharmaceuticals, credited four reasons for the higher growth in medicine shipment.
They are the seriousness of the pharmaceuticals companies to accelerate exports, addition of anti-coronavirus drugs to the export basket, increase of registration of drugs with various export destinations, and the 10 per cent cash incentive on export proceeds from the government.
"Local companies have done well in manufacturing of life-saving anti-coronavirus drugs and exporting them," said Haider.
He also said companies suffered a lot during the pandemic due to the supply chain disruption and the high cost for shipping of raw materials, which squeezed profits.