Civil society representatives on Thursday suggested for self-reliance in raw materials (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient) to ensure availability of medicine for all.
They also said that the Patent Act of 2022, while going in the right direction, must address existing loopholes and make full use of TRIPS flexibilities.
Under the TRIPS Agreement of the World Trade Organization, patentees must pay a special fee for manufacturing a patented medicine. Until 2029, Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies can produce these medicines without any patent fee. However, after that period, medicine prices may significantly increase due to patent fees.
They raised their observations at a seminar organized by the COAST Foundation in collaboration with the Third World Network at CIRDAP auditorium in the capital on Thursday.
The seminar, "Bridging the Gap: TRIPS and Enhanced Access to Medicines in Bangladesh," was presided over by Dr. Kazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman of Palli Karma Shahayak Foundation.
The event was moderated by Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Executive Director of COAST Foundation, with Md. Mujibul Haque Munir presenting the keynote. Other speakers included Dr. Sudip Chaudhuri, Former Professor of Indian Institute of Management, Rashid -E-Mahbub, President of the National Committee on Health Movement, Farida Akhtar of Ubinig, Sharif Jamil of Waterkeeper Bangladesh, Ranja Sengupta, and Pratibha Sivasubramanian of the Third World Network.
In his speech, Md. Mujibul Haque Munir stressed the importance of medicine availability, as 44% of healthcare expenses in Bangladesh are spent on medicines.
The pharmaceutical industry has made significant progress, meeting around 98% of the country's demand and exporting medicines to approximately 147 countries. However, the country currently does not pay fees for patented medicines, which might change once it becomes a developing country, he added.
He proposed several recommendations, including self-reliance in raw materials, emphasis on research and development in the pharmaceutical sector, fighting corruption in the health sector, and ensuring universal health insurance for all.
Dr. Sudip Chowdhury emphasised the need for Bangladesh to achieve self-reliance in raw materials for medicines, requiring government policy support to establish a domestic raw material market.
Pratibha Sivasubramanian called for amendments to the Patent Act 2022, suggesting domestic companies be given the opportunity to obtain Compulsory Licences to break patent rights and manufacture necessary medicines.
She also stressed the importance of transparency in the patent process.
Dr. Rashid E. Mahbub stressed the need for increased funding for research and political will to achieve accessible medicine for all and resolve pharmaceutical industry challenges.
Dr. Ahmad proposed a joint research system between universities and pharmaceutical companies, requiring policy and financial support from the government.
He also emphasised developing skilled manpower to adapt to future industry changes and increasing allocation for the entire health sector.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury acknowledged Bangladesh's pharmaceutical achievements but urged the country to become self-reliant in the industry within the next eight years to ensure affordable medicine access for all.