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Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem on investment in pharmaceutical industries

The investors were not eager to invest in the pharma sector because of the uncertainty of patent waiver. The waiver will now encourage foreign, local and joint investment as they have got a message about the future direction of the sector

Published in Dhaka Tribune on Wednesday, 11 November 2015.

Patent waiver a boon for pharma

Ibrahim Hossain Ovi

Bangladesh’s pharmaceutical sector will be the second largest export earner following the RMG within the next three years, thanks to drug patent waiver for 17 years for LDCs, industry people said yesterday.

They said this at a press conference arranged to brief the media about the benefits of the decision of WTO’s Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

The council extended the drug patent exemption for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) including Bangladesh till 2032.

Over the last two years, around 1,200 pharmaceutical products got registration for export earning that will see a massive jump within the next three years, Bangladesh Aushad Shilpa Samity President Nazmul Hassan told reporters at the briefing.

The country would emerge as the second largest export earner from the pharmaceutical sector after the apparel, he added.

According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data, Bangladesh exported medicines worth $72.64m in last fiscal year.

“The extension was beyond our imagination. It will have a positive impact on the people of the country,” he said, adding that the government is working to implement the Active Pharma Ingredients (API) since this is very important to reduce import cost.

Commenting on the graduation of the country into a middle-income status, Nazmul said Bangladesh has at least six years in hand and it is necessary to build capacity for manufacturing patent products.

Nazmul maintained that Bangladesh is in the front line to tap the waiver opportunity because it has technological facilities, plus capacity among LDCs to manufacture medicine.

In his address, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said: “The waiver of patent will have a huge positive impact on the poor people of the country and the pharmaceutical sector.”

Bangladesh as coordinator of LDCs played the leading role in the entire long negotiations that ultimately brought a desired decision of a 17-year extension, he said.

At present, some 250 Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies are now meeting 97% of domestic demands while 30 companies are exporting to 107 countries, especially LDCs.

“Using the opportunity, Bangladesh will be able to accumulate data and the country will produce patent products before other countries,” said Abdul Muktadir, managing director of Incepta Pharmaceuticals.

For this waiver, an opportunity would be created to convert 30-40 companies into multinational status, he added.

“We are getting enormous orders from even developed countries and Bangladesh can be the leading manufacturer of generic medicine,” he hoped.

“The investors were not eager to invest in the pharma sector because of the uncertainty of patent waiver. The waiver will now  encourage foreign, local and joint investment as they have got a message about the future direction of the sector,” Khondaker Golam Moazzem, additional research director, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), told the Dhaka tribune.

If Bangladesh graduates into a middle-income country status from LDCs, it will not be able to utilise the opportunity, he said, adding that the government has to implement API so that manufacturers can get raw materials from the domestic source.

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