The rise and impact of Bangladesh's pharmaceutical industry

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The global pharmaceutical industry is a complex web of supply chains, research, and development. Within this intricate network, Bangladesh's pharmaceutical industry has emerged over the last few decades as a pillar of progress. This sector has not only grown exponentially in its local, regional, and global impact but has also played a pivotal role in the country's economic development. In this article, we'll present an overview of the factors contributing to the rise and impact of Bangladesh's pharmaceutical industry, as well as its future outlook.

From catering to local needs to achieving global success

Bangladesh's pharmaceutical industry has a compelling narrative of evolution. What began as a modest endeavour back in the 1980s has since evolved into an industry of exponential growth. 

Today, it's a cornerstone of the nation's economy and, according to the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, satisfies a staggering 97% of the domestic market’s pharmaceutical needs. BIDA estimates that the value of the domestic market alone is estimated to exceed US$6 billion by 2025 – presenting a wealth of opportunities for companies in the sector.

The primary driving force behind the growth of Bangladesh's pharmaceutical industry is its ability to cater to the domestic healthcare market. The industry's journey began with a primary focus on enhancing local access to essential medicines, particularly through the production of off-patent drugs. By producing a diverse range of generic medications locally, it ensured a steady and affordable supply, which in turn significantly lowered healthcare costs for the Bangladeshi people.

Moreover, this success story extends beyond the borders of Bangladesh. What started as a local solution gradually transformed into a global phenomenon, rising to meet the needs of rising healthcare costs and ageing populations worldwide. The pharmaceutical sector has made significant inroads into export markets, including highly regulated markets like the United States of America and Europe, and now exports to over 150 countries worldwide. 

The COVID-19 pandemic also had a notable impact on the sector, with Bangladeshi companies being able to effectively and agilely bridge gaps and disruptions in the global pharmaceutical supply chain. Since then, companies capable of embarking on their own vaccine production facilities have begun to do so as well. Most recently as of June 2023, state-owned Essential Drugs Company Limited (EDCL) announced it will be establishing a vaccine manufacturing plant in collaboration with US-based Dyadic International.

All of these factors have made Bangladesh one of the fastest-growing pharma markets globally, having generated export values of US$169 million between 2020 and 2021. This expansion is not just a testament to the industry's resilience and adaptability but also a testament to its unwavering commitment to quality and innovation.

Factors leading to the growth and rise of the Bangladeshi pharmaceutical industry

Impact of strategic trade and industrial policies

One must acknowledge the role of strategic trade and industrial policies in order to discuss the success of Bangladesh's pharmaceutical industry. The government's commitment to fostering a business-friendly environment and prioritising pharmaceutical manufacturing at the forefront of its economic agenda has been instrumental in the industry's growth.

One of the cornerstone policies has been the provision of incentives and facilitation for research and development (R&D) in the sector. These include tax exemptions, reduced import duties on raw materials, and simplified export procedures. This has fostered innovation, encouraging companies to develop new formulations and improve existing ones, further enhancing the industry's competitiveness.

Additionally, stringent regulations and quality control mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that medicines produced in Bangladesh meet the stringent quality standards of international pharma markets. Established organisations like the Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (BAPI) ensure that pharmaceutical companies adhere to international quality standards and good manufacturing practices (GMP). These efforts have bolstered the industry's credibility and trustworthiness on a global scale.

Impact of social and geographical factors

A large, skilled, and relatively low-cost labour force has also made Bangladesh an attractive destination for pharmaceutical manufacturing. This, combined with its strategic geographical location and easy access to raw materials, has contributed to the sector's competitiveness on the global stage.

While these policies and factors have indeed been instrumental in the industry's growth, it's crucial to recognize that they are part of a broader context. The government's wider recognition of the pharmaceutical sector's potential for driving economic growth, generating employment, and improving public health undergirds the industry’s monumental growth. This holistic approach, combined with the industry's dedication to quality and innovation, has set the stage for Bangladesh's pharmaceutical industry to become a shining beacon of success on the world stage.

Upcoming opportunities in the Bangladeshi pharmaceutical industry

The future outlook of Bangladesh's pharma industry appears exceptionally promising, with a trajectory that could transform it into a global pharmaceutical hub. By 2025, the industry is expected to undergo significant expansion, presenting numerous opportunities and challenges:

1. Export potential

The pharmaceutical industry is anticipated to further tap into global markets to expand its size. This presents a substantial growth opportunity, with exports expected to surge.

2. Research and development

Continued investment in R&D will likely result in the creation of more advanced and patented drugs. The industry's shift toward innovative medicines could significantly bolster its global standing.

3. Dominance of generics

Bangladesh is projected to maintain its dominance in the global generic medicine market. The increasing demand for affordable healthcare worldwide aligns with the country’s strength in producing cost-effective generic drugs.

4. Regulatory compliance

As the industry expands globally, ensuring adherence to diverse international regulatory frameworks will be a challenge. Stricter quality control measures and adherence to GMPs will be imperative.

5. Intellectual property

Balancing the production of generics with compliance with international intellectual property laws will be a persistent challenge. Striking a harmonious equilibrium is vital for sustained growth.

6. Environmental sustainability

As the industry grows, environmental sustainability will become a significant concern. Environmentally-responsible waste management strategies and practices will be crucial.

Overcoming regulatory, intellectual property, and sustainability challenges will be vital on this transformative journey, ultimately contributing to both the industry's growth and Bangladesh's overall development. 

In this journey of progress, logistics play a critical role. Achieving efficient and reliable supply chain management is vital to meet domestic and international demands promptly. DHL Express, a trusted partner in logistics and last-mile express delivery, offers a range of shipping services, including same-day delivery and on-demand delivery, tailored to the needs of the pharmaceutical industry. 

As Bangladesh's pharmaceutical sector continues to expand, DHL Express stands ready to facilitate its logistics needs, ensuring seamless and timely deliveries, both locally and globally. Begin with a DHL Express business account today to find out how we can support your company’s growth and future prospects.