Local firms to win global edge
Hopes pharmaceuticals consultant Rob Walker
Jasim Uddin Khan
Bangladesh has ample scope for its pharmaceutical companies to become the most competitive players in global market in the days to come due to the availability of cheap labour and utility services, said an internationally acclaimed consultant.
“The labour cost and other expenses at major medicines supplying nations like India and China are growing rapidly, which has created openings for Bangladeshi companies to compete in the world market,” Rob Walker told The Daily Star in an exclusive interview recently.
Walker now works on graduating a local pharmaceutical plant, Acme Pharmaceuticals, to MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) standard of the United Kingdom (UK).
An MHRA certificate allows any Bangladeshi company to produce and market any registered drug of UK and other European countries.
Having a vast experience in such a consultancy for Indian, Chinese and South African pharmaceutical factories, he had earlier worked for Eskayef and Renata.
Walker successfully helped the two Bangladeshi firms reach MHRA standards within the shortest possible time.
Eskayef has gained this achievement for tablets and capsules, while Renata tablets with hormonal preparations gained UK recognition.
The country has enhanced its capacity to manufacture quality and low-cost pharmaceuticals, Walker said, pointing to the fact that the prices of medicines made in India and China marked a rise after those countries entered the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
“So, Bangladesh is in a favourable condition because of its low-cost high-qualified manpower and LDC (least developed country) status,” he added.
Asked whether all the large pharmaceutical factories should develop their plants in line with ‘good manufacturing practice (GMP)’, Walker said it depends on business decisions of the factories concerned.
“If a company has the strength to browse international market for export and if it wants to enter developed market, it should invest for MHRA accreditation,” he said.
He said many local pharmaceutical companies have already started marketing their products to European and other developed markets.
These companies have been inspired by low labour and power costs, depreciation of US dollar against most currencies and comparative advantages for Bangladesh under the WTO’s agreement on trade-related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
Walker suggested that the companies expanding their existing plants, and those who need to overhaul their older facilities could make investments for building their capabilities to get the MHRA approval.
“It will increase the product acceptability both locally internationally and the company can easily explore international market if it has the accreditation,” he said.
Although evaluation for the MHRA accreditation is a complex process, which includes thorough inspection of any company’s quality system, machinery and equipment, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) system, purified water system and effluent treatment system.
This process ultimately enables a company to improve its suitability with the changing GMP demands of the market.
Walker also pointed out that many UK firms suspended production of some of their generic drugs on the plea that manufacture of those products would not be viable on the big companies’ part because of a little demand due to a high cost.
This situation might be considered as an advantage by the local pharmaceuticals, he added.
Besides, the UK and European government policies are now encouraging people to buy low cost medicines. This policy changes may also be helpful for the UK and EU firms to procure pharmaceutical products in Bangladesh, Walker said.