The decision of Glaxo Smith Kline Beecham (GSK) to close down its pharmaceutical division in Bangladesh is another example of how inflexible policies and unfair competition affect an industry. In recent years the company's medicines and drugs were not featuring in physicians' top of mind list of prescribed drugs and the unspoken statement was that quality of drugs and ingredients wouldn't be compromised. Multinationals have their own considerations when it comes to supply chain cost and feasibility but they can also be hard nuts to crack when the core policy of relocating factories to low-cost exporting base is concerned. In Bangladesh they would appear to have missed the bus.
Without quite being a thrust sector pharmaceuticals are obtaining required certification to become an import destination for the developed and developing world with quality parameters improving, though not quite having reached desired standards in many cases. Part of this is due to the cost factor of ingredients and labour versus the ever stretching cost-cutting measures. Quality parameters leave something to be desired as most dispensing physicians know. The astonishing difference in prices of similar medication raises eye-brows and nothing can be scarier when text messages reach patients from doctors to switch brands because of doubts in ingredient usage.
Old school doctors - that noble but fast vanishing breed - grin wryly when prescribing more than the usual dosage of medicine simply because they're unsure about efficacy of ingredients. And our policymakers have not issued any statements with regards to citizen advice on generic medicines that are routinely being taken off the international shelves. As it is, very few shops demand prescriptions for prescription medicine again due to the bonhomie that exists between seller and buyer. Compare that with the careful lists maintained in the developed world about prescribed drugs that are addictive if administered inappropriately.
The swarms of medical representatives that throng hospitals and doctor chambers to try and gain access to patient prescriptions to list who is prescribing what is the most obvious example of pharmaceutical companies going beyond meeting physicians to try and convince them about new and available drugs. There are allegations doing the rounds of physicians being on the take for prescribing one medication over the other though it has to position side by side that the cost factor for the consumer is a deciding factor.
The missing point in the puzzle is that with over 100 new economic zones being set up for export-oriented industries, ready-made garments (RMGs) are being slow to vacate the main cities and with a spurt of pharmaceutical companies in the line up, the economic zones aren't attractive enough. Diabetes is one of the main illnesses of the future due to food habits and sedentary lifestyles. And though President Hamid raised eyebrows with a comment on the high cost of insulin, he has a point. Why should this vital injection not be available affordably? That too which has one of Asia's best endocrinology centres.
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