The Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) industrial park is finally taking shape nearly a decade after the scheme was taken up to facilitate a steady supply of raw materials of drugs and reduce import dependency.
Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation has recently asked 28 pharmaceutical companies to complete all procedures and take possession of the plots allotted to them.
Construction work of API Industrial Park at Gazaria in Munshiganj has begun. The government has already handed over all the plots in the industrial park to the drug makers.
Some foreign partners invited by local drug makers have recently visited the API plots. The BAPI (Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries) members are now planning to make best use of the park as separate companies will produce different types of drug raw materials. They will also be responsible for installing the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) at the project site.
At present, local pharmaceutical companies have to import raw materials from foreign countries -- mostly from China and India. Domestic production of raw materials is not enough to meet the demand of the pharmaceuticals industry, which manufactures about 8,000 generic drugs. And more than 90 per cent of the Tk 47 billion worth of raw materials is imported every year. As a result, the industry is vulnerable to external shocks, according to a report. Local companies would be able to source at least half of their raw materials once the activities of the park start. The park can open up the international API market to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh's pharmaceutical sector is expected to grow at 15 per cent for the next five years riding on the expanded domestic market as well as new export frontiers. Bangladesh's pharmaceutical industry meets 98 per cent of the local demand and exports to 151 countries.
The country has suffered from lack of sufficient backward linkages like a fully-functional API park and bio-equivalence testing laboratory which remain as major challenges for Bangladesh's fast-expanding pharmaceuticals industry.
Although the local drug-makers are producing some old and conventional APIs on a commercial scale, such companies are far from synthesising the new and patented drugs, and meeting the growing demand for the same. The government has not yet considered setting up a lab which could help the industry in a bigger way. The government should formulate a policy for setting up a pharmaceutical special economic zone (SEZ) with the intention of providing an internationally-competitive and hassle-free environment. It should also offer to the drug-makers tax and other benefits to encourage export. Both China and India have successfully set up numerous bio labs and SEZs for boosting pharma export.
The API industrial park promises to propel Bangladesh to a new height as a drug exporter since it is expected to help the local pharma companies gain more export orders with a competitive edge and maintain stable prices in the domestic market.
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