“New technology is key to the development of the pharmaceutical sector in Bangladesh”

The pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh has advanced its technology and improved the quality of medicines, which has benefited local patients and facilitated exports to developed countries, including the US and Europe. However, the sector could further expand with investment in new technologies, favourable government policies and recruitment of skilled manpower, Matruprasad Priyadarshi, senior director, regions and programme operations, United States Pharmacopeia (USP), shared his views with Md Samiur Rahman Sazzad of The Business Post.

What do you think about the pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh?

The global pharmaceutical industry has undergone significant changes over the past two decades. It has moved from traditional solid oral dosage forms to advanced therapies such as complex genetics, injectables, and novel drug delivery systems. There has also been a shift from chemical drugs to vaccines and biologics, reflecting the rapid technological advances worldwide.

Over the past decade, Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies have made significant improvements in the technology and quality of their drugs, benefiting local patients and enabling exports to developed countries like the US and Europe. Several factors have contributed to this progress.

Leading Bangladeshi companies have invested in recruiting talented researchers and programmers and improving their technology and infrastructure. The key ingredients for industrial growth are people, processes and technology. Bangladesh has seen a significant increase in scientific, manufacturing, sales and marketing talent.

Can you share your experiences in the pharmaceutical industry?

My passion for improving healthcare worldwide has fueled my career. Over the past 23 years, I have worked in various geographies including the US, Europe, Africa, Asia Pacific and the Indian subcontinent including Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. My journey began with medical studies which evolved into pharmaceutical sciences and business management.

I have had the opportunity to work in many sectors within the healthcare industry, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, vaccines, hospitals and medical devices. Throughout my career, my experience in strategic planning, understanding customer needs and delivering solutions has been key in bringing the right products to market at the right time. My work has always focused on improving access to healthcare through the delivery of high-quality healthcare services, medicines and medical devices.

Why has the pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh not achieved the same export success as the ready-made garments sector?

Although the pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh has significant export potential, it has not achieved the same level of success as the RMG sector. The disparity is due to fundamental differences between the two industries.

The Bangladeshi apparel industry has been developing for almost 50 years and is subject to fewer regulations compared to the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry is strictly regulated by bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US, the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) in Bangladesh and the Central Drug Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) in India. These stringent regulations ensure that drugs meet the highest quality standards, making the pharmaceutical sector more complex.

Although the pharmaceutical and textile industries have different requirements and regulatory environments, there are valuable lessons that the pharmaceutical industry can learn from the RMG sector, such as scaling production to meet global demand. By continuing to build on these strengths, the pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh is on track to achieve greater global market success.

Can changes in government policy help revive the pharmaceutical industry?

Supportive government policies are essential for the development of any industry. It is encouraging that the Bangladesh government is adopting similar measures in the current budget.

These measures include financial incentives, reduced import duties and other supportive policies to encourage investment in the pharmaceutical industry. Such measures will enable Bangladeshi companies to source raw materials at lower costs, which will reduce production costs and potentially lower the prices of medicines, making them more affordable for patients.

A supportive government policy is crucial for the development of any industry, especially the pharmaceutical sector, where human lives are at stake. The proactive steps taken by the Bangladesh government are a positive development and are likely to encourage growth and innovation in the industry.

This will increase the country’s ability to produce high-quality, affordable medicines, benefiting both industry and society.

What are your recommendations for the pharmaceutical industry in Bangladesh to meet international standards??

At USP, we have been working closely with DGDA Bangladesh for the past six to seven years. I highly appreciate DGDA’s efforts to focus on quality medicine, ensuring uncompromising standards of drugs and medicine for patients.

The DGDA’s emphasis on maintaining high quality standards is commendable and crucial for the pharmaceutical industry. By adhering to these standards, the industry ensures that the drugs it produces are best in class.

The regulatory body in Bangladesh focuses on using core pharmacopoeia standards such as USP standards, which helps maintain these high-quality benchmarks.

The regulatory agency in Bangladesh has been cooperative and proactive in ensuring that the industry adheres to quality guidelines, resulting in the production of high-quality medicines.

Such practices must continue to be supported. I urge the industry to invest in and adopt new technologies, such as compounded injections and compounded generics, to remain relevant and able to deliver advanced products worldwide.

What should the private sector do? you can do it?

The private sector should focus on maintaining quality, investing in new technologies, developing a technical workforce, and increasing production. These efforts, combined with supportive government policies, will help the industry grow and prosper both domestically and globally.

Ensuring the highest quality of medicines is non-negotiable. This approach helps ensure that medicines are safe and effective, protecting patients and building trust. Using verified pharmacopoeia standards and avoiding unverified sources is essential.

To remain competitive and meet global demands, private pharmaceutical companies should invest in advanced technologies. This includes the development and production of complex injectable drugs, complex generic drugs and biologic products.

Recruiting talented pharmacy and chemistry graduates is key, but so is ongoing training and development. Investing in regular training programs ensures that employees are up to date with the latest developments in technology and industry practices.

To be competitive in the international arena, Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies need to scale up production. Producing large quantities of high-quality medicines can reduce costs and meet the demands of international markets.