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Affordable drugs

The drug policy of the government in the 1980s gave a boost to the local pharmaceutical industry. It is said that the annual turnover of the industry was over Tk 50,000 million in the last fiscal year. It caters more than 90 per cent demand of the country. The pharmaceutical companies, which are producing international standard drugs, have started export in the past couple of years. Last year in 64 countries pharmaceutical products from Bangladesh were exported. It is expected that in the years to come a huge amount of medicines will be exported throughout the globe from Bangladesh for high quality and low cost. Within a very short period of time medicine export will exceed the export amount that the garment industry earns.
In the domestic market, the price of medicines have increased in the past couple of years to such a level that those have turned as burden to the middle-income group of people. The majority people in Bangladesh who are poor and ultra-poor cannot afford expensive medicines.
Pricing of all pharmaceutical products in local market should be controlled by the Drug Administration. In practice, some essential drugs’ price approvals are necessary from the Drug Administration; the rest are fixed by the producers themselves. Owing to shortage of manpower and shortages of modern laboratory only a short-listed drug pricing approval from the Drug Administration have been made mandatory. People are suffering.
To use the potential of the export-oriented pharmaceutical industry and ensure quality products government has to set up a few modern testing laboratories near different pharmaceutical industrial hubs. The prevailing drug ordinance is to be amended to make price approval from the Drug Administration mandatory for pharmaceutical products before selling in domestic market. Moreover, the very limited manpower of the Drug Administration needs to be increased. As by-product pharmaceutical industry will encourage higher education in science, increase employment, increase scarce foreign currency earnings and make the drugs at affordable price to people.
Md Ashraf Hosain
Central Bashabo, Dhaka

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