Bangladeshi medicines are now being exported to more than 150 counties across all the continents.
Bangladesh Pharma industry has made commendable progress over the years and the country is now nearly self-sufficient in pharmaceuticals with almost 98% of the demand met by domestic manufactures and it has successfully transformed itself from an import dependent to a medicine exporting nation.
Bangladesh is now considered as one of the cheapest sources of quality medicine.
- There are about 200+ registered pharma manufacturers
- Country is nearly self sufficient; 98% of demand met by local production
- Total pharma market: $3 billion (2020); double digit growth maintained over the years
- All the top 10 pharma companies are local
- Pharma declared as the Product of the Year (2018) by the Government
- Exporting to 150+ countries
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industry and market
Pharmaceutical industry is one of the most technologically advanced and fast-growing sectors in Bangladesh. The industry took off in the 1980s after the formulation of the National Drug Policy 1982. Since then, the industry has gradually succeeded in becoming self-sufficient in the local market. At present, the industry meets 98% of the domestic demand and contributes around 1.8% to the GDP. Currently, there are 271 Allopathic, 205 Ayurvedic, 271 Unani, 32 Herbal and 79 Homeopathic drug producing companies in the country.
The size of the domestic market amounted to USD 2.74 billion as of March 2020 (according to IQVIA). The sector grew at an annual rate of 16.7% between 2015 and 2019. Driven by the increasing power of purchase, the domestic pharmaceutical market is forecasted to reach USD 5.1 billion by 2023 (EBL Research).
The Bangladeshi drug market is characterized by high domination of branded generic drugs, which account for almost 80% of the drugs produced locally, while those patented drugs make up the remaining.
The industry largely comprises of the top ten producers accounting for almost 70% of the domestic market. The industry consists of established production facilities for tablets, capsules, liquid preparation, dry suspension, injection, ointment/cream, nasal spray, granule, etc. Specialized delivery products like dry-powder inhaler, prefilled syringe/lyophilized injection are produced in the country as well.
After focusing on the domestic market for many years, Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies have entered the global market in recent years. Although still at a nascent stage, Bangladesh is exporting drugs to over 100 countries, including the USA, Australia, and the EU. The exportation has been growing at an annual growth rate of 13.3% since 2014. As many as 1,200 products have been accredited for import by the authorities at the importing countries such as Australia (TGA), UK (MHRA), the USA (FDA), and WHO.
10 TO 15% LOWER PRODUCTION COST THAN INDIA/CHINA
Given the availability of a competitive workforce and efficient manufacturing facilities, the cost of producing medicines in Bangladesh is one of the lowest in the world. The cost of production is currently 10-15 per cent lower than that of India and China, and the gap is expected to widen further.
BANGLADESH IS THE ONLY LDC WITH A STRONG FORMULATION INDUSTRY
Besides, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has extended patent waivers for pharmaceutical products for its LDC members till January 2033. Being the only LDC having a drug formulation base, Bangladesh stands in a unique position with the opportunity to produce as well as export patented drugs to the other LDCs and non-WTO members, and thus increase its export markets.
Trade-related aspect of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS): Being a least developed country, Bangladesh has been exempted from Article 33 of TRIPS agreement of WTO, granting protection from the obligations to implement patents and data protection for pharmaceutical products till January 2033.
large domestic market with growing income
Driven by the increasing purchasing power, the domestic pharmaceutical market is forecasted to grow buy 17% annually and reach USD 5.1 billion by 2023 (EBL Research). Another research report by Research and Markets expects the domestic market to surpass USD 6 billion by 2025. According to a Boston Consulting Group report, by 2025, 30 to 40 million people are expected to graduate from poverty to the entry-level of the middle-income class, another 30 million are expected to move up the income ladder and reach the aspirant and emerging middle class. This increase in affordability of the population, combined with the current low per capita spending on healthcare points to future opportunities for growth in the sector. Per-capita spending on healthcare in Bangladesh was only USD 36 in 2017, which is much lower compared to other regional peers.
In addition, increasing health awareness, changing disease profiles to non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer combined with increasing life expectancy is expected to drive the domestic demand for pharmaceutical products further.
Per-capita healthcare spending
(at current prices in 2017)
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production of branded/blockbuster generic drugs, which
face patent expiry and any patented drugs for export:
Given Bangladesh’s expertise in producing branded/blockbuster generic drugs, the anticipated patent-cliff will provide a huge opportunity for Bangladeshi producers to expand their production and market of generic drugs. It is estimated that around USD 150 billion worth of drugs will come off patent within 2021 and another USD 251 billion worth o drugs will do so by 2023. This is expected to boost both domestic and global demand for generic drugs.
Even for the patented drugs, Bangladesh will be able to avail of the TRIPS benefits ad a result of the WTO’s extended patent waivers for pharmaceutical products for its LDC members till January 2033. Standing in a unique position, Bangladesh can widen the export opportunity of patented drugs to other LDCs and non-WTO members.
With over 112 million internet users in the country, tele-healthcare has a great potential to reach out to a vast majority of the population, both in cities and regional towns. A research by a local digital health service provider suggests 80-90% of consultation cases in primary care can be solved through online-consultation. Several startups have begun providing online services for doctor directory/appointment, personal medical history recording for such needs. Moreover, the COVID pandemic has amplified the need for tele-medicine/e-pharmacy by bringing changes to consumers’ behavior and making online consultations acceptable. Another research (by Light castle) found that medi-tech. Business stands as one of the most promising investment segments in Bangladesh.
The government of Bangladesh initiated to drafting the National Digital Health Strategy in accordance with the resolution made at the World Health Assembly (WHA). Draft version of the strategy was shared among the stakeholders in December 2020.
manufacturing of medical equipment
Needless to mention, the demand for medical equipment is driven by the development of healthcare facilities. Bangladeshi medical sector has experienced annual growth rate of 14.6% between 2016-19, recording the fastest growth in the world, and is expected to sustain this growth (according to Business Monitor International Research). Changing disease profiles with shift to NCDs which require surgery and long-term treatment is expected to boost the demand for medical devices.
While local production of medical devices and equipment is currently at a nascent stage and limited to lower risk products, there is a huge potential to extend local manufacturing of medical devices. In addition to domestic usage, local producers of devices and equipment can also explore the export market, benefiting from preferential access to as many as 52 countries for export.
Consumables & surgical instruments: The demand for consumable and surgical instruments such as disposable/precision safety syringes, needles, catheters, suturing kits, scalpel, scissors, bandages/dressing, gloves, masks, endotracheal tubes, other disposable items is expected to continue growing along with the growth in number of healthcare service providers.
Equipment required in ICU/OT: With the number of healthcare institutions expected to continue growing, the demand for equipment used in intensive care unit and operation theatre such as diathermy machine, OT light/ table, ICU monitor, ventilator, suction, electrocardiograph, oxygen mask, etc. are expected to increase in the future. In addition, demand for hospital furniture is also expected to increase rapidly.
Diagnostic imaging and In-Vitro Diagnostics (IVD) devices: Increased incidence of NCDs such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease is expected to rise in Bangladesh as diets and lifestyle of the population changes. This changing disease profiles will subsequently lead to increased demand for devices used for screening, diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of NCDS which includes diagnostic imaging equipment, testing kits and lab equipment, home monitoring devices used to monitor such disease, etc. For instance, with diabetes prevalent among 9% of the population (the World Bank Group, 2019), domestic demand for glucose monitor, diabetic strip, insulin-pen might increase. Foreign investors can consider contributing to the localized production of these devices.
Health insurance: Bangladesh has one of the highest out-of-pocket expenditure rate (as a percentage of total healthcare expenditure) in the world, where almost 74% of total health expenditure is met by the households. Besides, the overall insurance penetration in Bangladesh (according to Swiss Re, a global insurer) stood at 0.6% in 2018, one of the lowest among Asian countries. With the government planning to increase universal healthcare coverage by 2032, there is possibility for health insurance industry to grow in Bangladesh. Foreign investors have the opportunity to play a key role in developing health insurance service.