There have been a number of worrying signs for the Bangladeshi pharmaceutical market in the last year.
Reportedly, unscrupulous drug sellers sell almost 90% of stocked drugs without prescription. Bangladesh is an extremely poor country, and many of the population cannot afford to see health professionals when they fall ill. There has therefore been a long tradition of self-medication in the country, which, for a country where many citizens are uneducated, leads to the misuse of drugs; a study by the University of Dhaka found that 83.4% of people have bought drugs or medicines in life without a formal prescription of a physician. Unlike in other markets, the Bangladeshi pharmaceutical distribution network tends to be more retail-orientated and the bulk of distribution is done by the companies themselves. However, drug stores at Dhaka's major wholesale market closed their shutters in November 2009 in protest against the arrest of their fellow traders in the port city of Chittagong. An anarchic situation is prevailing in the marketing and sales of medicines in the Bangladesh; thousands of illegal and unlicensed drug stores exist in the country. On top of this, the scandal involving Rid Pharmaceuticals, which led to the deaths of 24 children, highlighted the shortcomings of the regulatory agency, the DDA.
Due to the sheer size of the population, Bangladesh cannot simply be dismissed. The country has a large generics market, and companies such as Square and Beximco are beginning to have success overseas. However, despite the country possessing huge manufacturing capabilities which supply 96% of domestic need, the complete lack of R&D in domestic companies could cause the market to stagnate, especially if companies have not evolved by the time the TRIPS agreement comes into effect. Having said that, multinationals should view Bangladesh as a possible manufacturing base. Bangladesh also appears politically stable after decades of instability and coups, and the economy is growing by over 6% per annum.
Further reading - An in-depth analysis of the Bangladeshi pharmaceutical market is available from Espicom: The Pharmaceutical Market: Bangladesh (published January 2010)