“The pharmaceuticals sector passed a terrible time during the lockdown to continue day to day work,” said Syed Golam Rahman, managing director of Lab Aid Pharmaceuticals.
“Fortunately the sector managed to manufacture drugs for supportive treatment though there is no specific medicine for Covid-19 patients in the world,” he said.
Rahman was addressing a webinar on “Pharmaceutical sector under Covid-19 spotlight: how it can seize business opportunities and perform social responsibilities” organised by The Daily Star on Sunday evening.
The sector has worked hard since the emergence of the pandemic, particularly its marketing section, to reach necessary medicine to remote areas of the country, he said.
According to him, the pharmaceuticals sector catered to 97 per cent of the domestic demand and in the near future would meet the remaining 3 per cent.
“The industry flourished and there is a quality gap between domestic and multinational companies,” noted Rahman.
The quality of products is ensured through the selection of globally renowned manufacturers when importing active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), he also said.
The pharmaceuticals industry dominates the domestic market and now it is time to win over the global market, said Ahmed Kamrul Alam, director for marketing at Square Pharmaceuticals.
“The pharmaceuticals industry is highly regulated, so there is no scope to compromise with quality of the products,” he said.
“Now we need to utilise our economic power by investing in research and development to come up with our own version of medicines in line with generic versions,” he said.
He believes the sector would further develop in the future and for this the government’s cooperation was required. Regarding product quality, he said company size was not a factor, rather it was performance and product quality.
A number of small companies are performing well, competing with bigger peers by ensuring product quality, said Alam.
The quality of drugs can not solely secure effective treatment, as there is also the need for ensuring proper dosages, he further said.
The pharmaceutical companies of Bangladesh proved that there is no difference in quality between the original and generic versions, he said.
The sector works under intensive surveillance of the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) and World Health Organisation, so there is no reason for the original and generic versions to vary, Alam said.
The quality of drugs of Bangladesh is the same as that of the US, UK and European countries, said EH Arefin Ahmed, general manager for marketing at Incepta Pharmaceuticals.
The importers audit the quality of products and manufacturing facilities every year to maintain the standard, he said.
Bangladesh is creating around 1,000 pharmacists every year and the companies are getting manpower at low-cost in comparison to developed countries, which will take the country a long way in the future, he also said.
He emphasised on maintaining reasonable prices of products while maintaining quality so that those stayed affordable to the masses.
Regarding the quality, he said Bangladesh’s companies were exporting drugs to 144 countries through their proven quality and by securing approvals from global regulatory bodies.
During the pandemic, the companies focused on exporting Remdesivir, which has been proven to be effective in treating severe Covid-19 cases, as they had the ability to offer reasonable prices alongside product quality, he said.
Quality control during distribution is very important, especially in case of some temperature sensitive medications, otherwise their effectiveness will surely deteriorate, said Lucky Singha, head of business at Sanofi.
In this case, manufacturers are not responsible, rather the distribution system is, she noted.
She emphasised the need for pharmacies to maintain good practices, including ensuring preservation of medicines under required temperatures, to safeguard quality and effectiveness.
Public health specialist Tune Tehrin conducted the webinar.