Apr 20, 2011

Myanmar: great market for Bangladesh medicines

Bangladesh can grab a significant portion of the pharmaceutical market in Myanmar if medical collaboration and regular interaction between doctors of the two neighbouring countries are held, said a physician from Yangon.

"About 80 per cent of medicines come from the countries of South Asia to Myanmar. Out of this quantity, Bangladesh occupies only 30 to 35 per cent of the pharmaceutical market in Myanmar," Head of Hepatology Department of Yangon GI and Liver Centre Prof Khin Maung Win said with optimism while giving an exclusive interview to the FE Friday.

He observed that many pharmaceutical companies in Bangladesh are now producing international-standard medicines that are cheaper compared to some European Union countries enabling the country (Bangladesh) to easily enter the market of Myanmar in a big way.

"The production capacity of some big pharmaceutical companies in Bangladesh is tremendous. In Myanmar, we don't have such types of companies," the physician said while expressing his satisfaction at Bangladesh's performance in the pharmaceutical sector after he visited some renowned local companies producing medicines. Prof Khin came to Bangladesh with a Myanmar business delegation to explore the possibilities of enhancing bilateral trade between Dhaka and Yangon.

"There is a wide demand for Bangladeshi medicines in Myanmar. But negative projection by some international media shows the country (Bangladesh) as one of natural calamities such as cyclones and floods that keeps the high-ups in Myanmar in the dark about the sparkling advancements of the Bangladeshi pharmaceuticals companies and other sectors ," Prof Khin said.

Asked how to increase export of Bangladeshi pharmaceutical products to Myanmar, the professor said, "You see, we have only one state-owned pharmaceutical company in Myanmar that cannot produce all important medicines. For example, we import anti-viral tablets to treat hepatitis-B patients from European countries. A tablet of Tenofovir now costs there about 15,000 Myanmar Kyats that is equivalent to US $16.5. If Bangladesh starts exporting this tablet to Myanmar, then the price will be only 1,000 Kyats equivalent to less than US$ 2," he said.

Professor Khin, who is also a prominent and prolific writer in Myanmar, said that Incepta Pharmaceutical Company of Bangladesh has submitted an application to the Myanmar government seeking approval for exporting two categories of anti- viral tablets such as 'Entecavir' and 'Tenofovir' to kill hepatitis-B virus.

"Tenofovir is not even available in Singapore. We are eager to have the Bangladeshi products. About six million people in Myanmar are now suffering from hepatitis-B virus that leads to liver cancer. Myanmar is now one of the top ten countries of the world with the highest incidence of liver cancer," he mentioned.

"We can reduce the number of deaths caused by liver cancer, if we get these medicines from Bangladesh," Professor Khin added.

"I have no idea if Myanmar doctors were ever invited to Bangladesh. Let Myanmar doctors visit Bangladesh to observe the astonishing progresses made in different sectors of Bangladesh. Let them (Myanmar doctors) see your pharmaceutical companies' capacity to produce quality medicines at competitive prices. I strongly believe it will bring about positive changes to them (Myanmar doctors) that will help Bangladesh export more medicines to Myanmar," said Prof Khin.

Asked what he would do after returning to his country, the professor said, "I will disseminate my positive experiences to my colleagues about the high quality of Bangladeshi medicines."

He said air, road and water routes connectivity would be instrumental to promoting bilateral trade.

"I came to Bangladesh by air through the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur that takes a six hours' journey. If a direct flight between Dhaka and Yangon is re-established, then it will take less than one hour and draw a lot of Myanmar tourists," the professor said.

It is worth mentioning that some major pharmaceutical companies in Bangladesh are now exporting medicines to Myanmar.

Bangladesh exported medicines worth US$ 44 million to different countries in 2010. The amount of medicines exported to Myanmar was worth US$ 15 million in 2010, which was about US$ 12 million in 2009.

Source: The Financial Express (Bangladesh)