When all major sectors have experienced a fall in production amid Covid-led disruption in the local supply chain, the pharmaceutical industry has remained unhurt as drugmakers registered a manufacturing boost on the back of high demand for medicines in the pandemic time.
Production in the pharmaceutical sector has continued to rise in the pandemic situation because of the high demand for drugs, according to a recent survey conducted by the Bangladesh Bank.
The quantum index that measures the production of quantity units of goods crossed 850 in October last year which was at 475 in October 2018, according to Bangladesh Bank data.
When pharmaceutical production was on an uptrend, the overall manufacturing sector was going in an opposite direction.
The growth of the overall manufacturing industry fell to 5.47% in June last year from 14.84% in June 2019 as production fell sharply from January 2020 and continued with this trend till April that year.
However, manufacturing began to rise quickly from May last year, according to the central bank survey titled "Economic and Financial Stability Implications of Covid-19: Bangladesh Bank and Government's Policy Responses."
The rise in imports and exports also reflects how pandemic brings opportunity for local drugmakers.
The import of pharmaceutical raw materials increased by 22.45% in the first seven months of the current fiscal year compared to the same period last year when total industrial raw materials import was negative 2.81%, according to Bangladesh Bank data.
The raw material import in the pharmaceutical sector was negative 14% in the last fiscal year, the central bank data shows.
The import of raw materials increased as drugmakers are enhancing their production capacity amid rising demand for new medicines related to Covid-19 treatment.
For instance, Beximco, the top medicine exporter in Bangladesh, brought 15 new medicines in the last one year, of which, 3 to 4 drugs were Covid-19 related.
The company was the first producer of coronavirus drug, Remdesivir, which is being used widely to cure virus-infected patients. The medicine is being exported to many countries.
The company also went to re-launch some medicines like Ivermectin, Zink tablet, which is effective in coronavirus treatment.
The pharma sector is doing well even in the pandemic time due to a rise in demand for new medicines and healthcare products, said Rabbur Reza, chief operating officer of Beximco Pharmaceuticals.
He said Beximco started re-production of some medicines, which have efficacy in Covid treatment. More than three to four repurpose products are in the pipeline.
The company will continue its double-digit export growth this year, fulfilling its projection, Rabbur also said.
Square Pharmaceuticals, another leading drug manufacturer, invested Tk250 crore during the pandemic to expand its production capacity to meet the growing demand for its products both at home and abroad.
The pharma giant saw 20% growth in its profit and 11% in sales in the July-December period of the last year over the same period of the previous year.
Other large drugmakers also saw 10% to 40% growth in sales in the last six months of last year over the same period last year.
Orion Pharma saw the highest sales growth of 41% in July-December last year compared to the same period of the previous year when Beacon Pharma and ACI saw 32% and 20% growth respectively.
Local drugmakers have also been performing strongly in the international market by exporting Covid-19 drugs.
The export of the pharmaceutical sector saw 12% growth in the July-March period of the current fiscal year, double from the same period of the last fiscal year, according to the Export Promotion Bureau.
The high business performance brought high profit for pharma companies, putting a positive impression on share prices in the stock market.
The Bangladesh Bank in its survey said pharmaceutical is the second dominating sector in the stock market after the banking sector as the output of the industry continuously increased throughout 2020.
The listed pharma companies saw up to a 300% increase in profit in the last six months of the last year over the same period of the last year, according to the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) disclosure.
The strong performance of Beximco pharma put a positive impact on the share price of other companies of the Beximco group in the share market.
Two companies belonging to the Beximco group – Beximco Limited and Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd – are the most-talked issues to stock investors.
Soon after Beximco Pharma imported the first consignment of 50 lakh doses of vaccine against Covid-19 from the Serum Institute of India in January this year, the share price of companies of the group saw a big jump.
Two listed companies – Beximco pharma and Beximco Limited – have secured the top positions in the turnover chart of the DSE. They have jointly contributed 30.47% to the premier bourse's total turnover.
Beacon, another large drugmaker, saw a 323% hike in its net profit in the last six months of 2020 in comparison to the same period of the previous year.
The share price of the company remained upward since January this year and each share price gained above 90% till March, according to the DSE.