With this nascent ‘One Pharma Ltd’, the Directorate General of Drug Administration has 275 registered pharmaceutical companies, though almost half of them are “non-functional”.
Bangladesh’s Tk 12 billion drug market is dominated by local manufacturers and many of them export taking the LDCs privilege.
But quality still remained questionable due to lack of government’s monitoring.
Health Minister Mohammed Nasim while inaugurating the new pharmaceutical company at a Dhaka hotel on Saturday acknowledged that drugs were also being adulterated.
“There are some businessmen who make adulterated drugs,” he said, citing the example of paracetamol poisoning that killed children.
He also sounded warning against them.
But many doubt government’s capacity to monitor all the drugs available in the market.
Sayedur Rahman, a health activist and professor of pharmacology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told bdnews24.com that government did not have that capacity.
He said currently 25,000 brands produce more than 100,000 batches of medicines in Bangladesh.
“But the drug administration laboratories have the capacity to test maximum 4,500 samples a year that means only 5 percent of the total produce.”
“So the drug control committee has to depend on the company’s own quality assurance,” he said.
“If the government had the capacity to test at least one-third of the total production, then it could have created more pressure on the manufacturers.”
He, however, suggested that the “pharma business should be expanded based on the ability of the government’s supervision”.
“You have to monitor drugs, there is no other option. So, new companies should be allowed based on your capacity to monitor them, to regulate them.”
“If we had lesser brands, then quality assurance would have been easier.”
Anti-graft body TIB in a recent report found a nexus between drug producers and the regulator in Bangladesh. It termed the nexus as “institutionalised” corruption.
It said some companies even ignored the basic norms of procedure drug manufacture.
The new pharmaceutical company is the concern of National AgriCare Group, which is known for its agri products businesses mostly seeds and pesticides.
The Group’s Managing Director KSM Mostafizur Rahman said based on their successes in agri business, “they now have the confidence to ensure quality medicine to the people”.
He told bdnews24.com that their initial investment was about Tk 600 million and they had obtained permission to produce a range of products from anti-ulcerant to anti-asthmatic.
The company will follow the WHO Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) for making drugs.
The manufacturing plant is based at northern Bogra.