Sunday, August 20, 2017

State-owned pharma firm plans for upgrade

State-owned Myanmar Pharmaceutical Factory (MPF) is seeking suppliers for five of its business wings, as it aims to modernise in a changing marketplace.

Workers pack pharmaceutical products at a Yangon factory. Photo: StaffWorkers pack pharmaceutical products at a Yangon factory. Photo: Staff

The company is grappling to improve its products, looking to meet the World Health Organisation’s Good Manufacturing Practice standards. While it produces a number of drugs for the local market, sometimes under its BPI brand name, it faces increasingly stiff competition from Indian imports.

MPF in the past has relied on orders from the Ministry of Health’s central medical store. However, the hospitals’ tenders have become more competitive, with importers increasingly taking part, and MPF says it may be missing out on these orders. The firm may have to change its focus to the mass market, given the growing competition for hospital tenders.

The firm is looking to replace much of its machinery at the five business wings, as part of its modernisation efforts. So far, 20 private companies have submitted Expressions of Interest and the tender will be closed on May 29, according to the factory’s general manager. Five companies will be selected in the final step to join MPF in its businesses.

MPF received K50 billion (US$46 million) of the budget for fiscal year 2016, and will use K32 billion of this for a new project.

“We intend to increase production to almost double. In this project, we are also going to build a  new warehouse, which will be able to store 10 million individual large-volume parenteral drugs, as well as 5 million antibiotic drugs, 500 million capsules and 20 million units of injected medicine,” said U Win Ko Ko, general manager at MPF.

“We intend to start the project this year,” he said.

Myanmar Pharmaceutical Factory was formerly known as Burma Pharmaceutical Industry (BPI) until 1988. It is under the administration of the Ministry of Industry.

The state-owned company supplies medical products directly to government-owned hospitals, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Social Welfare. It also has ambitions to supply the wider pharmaceutical market.

Myanmar spends hundreds of millions on importing medicines and other pharmaceutical products each year, because of a lack of local manufacturing plants, according to the Myanmar Pharmaceuticals and Medical Equipment Entrepreneurs Association.

“Last year, we spent $200 million to buy the necessary medicines, but unofficially we estimate that more like $400 million is spent,” U Zaw Moe Khine, general secretary of the association, told the Myanmar Times earlier this month in Mumbai.

Six foreign direct investment proposals to build pharmaceutical manufacturing factories have been approved, but only two companies are in operation – AA Medical Products, the largest pharmaceutical distribution company in Myanmar, and FAME Pharmaceuticals Industry Company, an herbal medicine distribution company.