Pharmaceuticals is one of the very few business sectors that at least experienced positive growth during the coronavirus pandemic. In view of the most recent data (MAT 2Q, 20-Moving Annual Total, Second Quarter, 2020), the domestic market size of pharmaceuticals reached Tk23,310 crore with 4.21% growth over last year, and this is the lowest growth in the recent past.
It needs to be mentioned that in 2019 and 2018, the annual growth rates of the same period were 10.65% and 7.71% respectively. In 2020, the top 15 companies contributed 83.08% of the total sales whereas in 2019, the figure was 79.48%, which means the mega players did well during the coronavirus pandemic.
In terms of growth percentage, among the top companies, multinational giant Novo Nordisk enjoyed a sound growth of 13.75%. Also, Healthcare, Opsonin, UniMed UniHealth, and Incepta had a comparatively reasonable growth of more than 10%, and Drug International, Eskayef, Renata, Beximco, Acme, and Radiant ran over the market growth.
Segment-wise analysis reveals that chronic care products like antidiabetic, cardiovascular and nervous system modulators had a reasonable growth of 13%, 12% and 10% respectively, and they played the key role in up-warding market trend. It is worth saying here that the company that is strong in the above portfolio faced less sales challenges.
Alimentary metabolism (antiulcerants and others), one of the largest segments of the market with 38% of the total market share, had a moderate growth of 6.67%. Systemic anti-infective portfolio, another big segment having 14% of the total market share, showed a miserable growth of -7.15%, which mostly contributed to the poor industry growth.
Except vitamin C (15%), D (26%) and E (11%), there was no significant growth in the vitamins and minerals market. It is mentionable that the portfolio of vitamins and minerals comprises 12% of the total market. The respiratory segment, which comprises 9% of the total market share, experienced a 10% lower growth than in 2019 (9.12% vs 19.57%).
Due to regular hand sanitisation practices, anti-infective and disinfectant solution gained a good growth of 56%. However, the market size is only around Tk70 crore. Due to limited patient admission, hospital solutions had a negative growth of 7.89%.
Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies played a very praiseworthy role in launching time-befitting coronavirus-related new products like Remdesivir, Favipiravir, Ivermectin, Isopropyl Alcohol, Hydroxychloroquine, etc. At short notice, all the products became available in the market in adequate quantities, which drew the attention of both developing and developed countries.
Industry personnel like pharmacists, microbiologists, chemists, etc. and regulatory bodies played the key role here. This also showed the capabilities of our industry to the global arena. Hence, so many countries showed interest in importing our Remdesivir and Favipiravir.
Unlike others, pharmaceuticals marketing is highly regulated and customised for individual specialists. Hence, pharmaceutical companies face lots of challenges for their product promotion. Due to social distancing, medical representatives were unable to visit doctors at their chambers.
This vacuum has been filled up by digital marketing. Almost all the top companies arranged so many webinars as part of their promotional and knowledge sharing campaigns. Engagement of key opinion leaders both from home and abroad for these webinars set a new trend in local pharmaceutical marketing practices.
Using social media by maintaining all the requirements of the regulatory bodies drew attention of the stakeholders. Also, considering the present situation, many companies established electronic order procurement from pharmacies, which is a milestone in the distribution system.
Although the local pharmaceutical industry is self-sufficient in manufacturing finished dosage forms, almost 95% of the raw material (API-Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) which cost around Tk5,000 crore per year are being imported from China, India, Europe, the United States of America, and other countries. Due to the pandemic, global API supply chain management, including production, handling, shipment, etc. was interrupted.
However, due to proper planning, judicious forecasting, efficient demand management, and quick alternative source selection, our people did not face a medicine crisis, although different stories have been recorded in so many countries.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the dimension of almost every wing of the Bangladeshi pharmaceutical industry, and our industry people accustomed themselves to the changes to bring out the best. Hence, the Bangladeshi pharmaceutical industry has proven itself during the pandemic and is ready to respond to any situation.
Dr Md Abu Zafor Sadek is M Pharm, MBA, Doctor of Business Administration (IBA-DU), and is currently serving as the marketing manager at a pharmaceutical company. He is also a former short-term consultant at the World Bank. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org