More than 68 per cent of the local pharmaceutical market is now being dominated by only 10 companies, although a total of 204 are registered with the authority concerned, industry people said.
The size of local pharmaceutical market stood at Tk 205.12 billion in 2018. The industry recorded a 16.51 per cent growth between 2014 and 2018, they added.
Only five companies hold 46.66 per cent of the market share, Square Pharmaceuticals officials said citing IQVIA data.
IQVIA Inc, formerly known as Quintiles and IMS Health, is one the world's largest contract research organisations. It is an American multinational product-based company, serving the combined industries of health information technologies and clinical research.
Square accounted for the highest 16.95 per cent market share with annual sales worth Tk 34.76 billion in 2018. It is followed by Incepta Pharma with 11.08 per cent market share, Beximco with 8.26 per cent, Renata with 5.20 per cent, and Healthcare Pharma 5.17 per cent.
Of the other top companies, Opsonin Pharma holds 5.08 per cent market share, ACI 4.38 per cent, Eskayef 4.37 per cent, Aristopharma 4.11 per cent, and Acme holds 3.52 per cent share, according to IQVIA data.
When asked, Square Pharmaceuticals Ltd Managing Director Tapan Chowdhury said the country's top pharmaceuticals are developing the necessary infrastructures as well as practices to align themselves with global quality standards.
"The top 10 companies are much inclined to adopting modern technologies and maintaining excellence in their manufacturing and marketing. Therefore, around 70 per cent of the market share is enjoyed by these companies," he told the FE.
The financial strength of these companies also gives them scopes to adopt modern technologies promptly, he noted.
Moreover, the top 10 companies are covering the maximum therapeutic classes, and it also ensures their certain revenue generation and growth.
The companies that are trying to adhere to global quality standards are attaining manufacturing and marketing excellence day by day, Mr Chowdhury added.
"Such trend is being observed elsewhere, like in the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand," Incepta Pharmaceuticals Managing Director Abdul Muktadir said.
The market situation will be better with healthy growth, if more companies enjoy larger market share, he observed, adding the industry is gradually moving towards that end.
Responding to another question, Mr Chowdhury said the regulator concerned is not at all a barrier (for the sector). Rather, Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) is trying its level best to ensure that all companies maintain quality.
Quality can never be compromised for pharmaceuticals industry. Besides, aligning with global regulatory standards will open the door for the Bangladeshi companies to enter into the competitive global market, he opined.
Terming the market dominance by the top 10 companies 'not a big concentration', Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Distinguished Fellow Prof Mustafizur Rahman said the companies are in the business from the very beginning, both in the local and foreign markets.
The focus now should be on how the small and medium-sized companies can be scaled up, he said, suggesting measures to identify and address the particular difficulties that they might face.
Medicines for acidity under the therapeutic class of anti-ulcerants have become the major revenue driver for the local pharmaceutical industry in the country. Drugs worth Tk 30.13 billion under this class were sold last calendar year, according to IQVIA data.
The other top-selling medicines are - antibiotic, diabetic (insulin), calcium for bone and joint pain, pain killer, nervous system, fever and paracetamol, diabetic (oral), allergy and asthma, according to data.
Industry leaders said the government's policy support, doctors' confidence, and trust of customers and people have helped the industry to flourish over the decades.
The local companies now meet 98 per cent of the local demand, and import of finished pharmaceuticals is very low, they added.
Being a least developed country (LDC), Bangladesh enjoys waiver from the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) obligations. However, there are some concerns over continuation of the preferential treatment under the agreement once the country graduates to a middle-income one.
The industry leaders identified absence of sufficient knowledge, training and exposure to global regulatory standards as the major challenges for local pharmaceutical sector.
The government should provide flexible provisions for importing active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), equipment and machinery for the sector. Besides, industry-friendly policies should be taken after proper evaluation to facilitate its investment outside the country, they added.