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POST TIME: 5 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Scarcity of vital vaccines

Scarcity of vital vaccines

After the winding up of the pharmaceutical operation of Glaxo Smith Kline, GSK, a British company, in Bangladesh after 60 years in operation, a scarcity in some vital vaccines has occurred. Of them, the most notable is Varilix, used to treat chicken pox. This is indeed worrying because, reportedly, no other company makes the chicken pox vaccine with the markets in two major cities, Dhaka and Chattogram, out of it.  The question obviously is why the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) did not take precautionary measures beforehand, when it was clear that with GSK out of the market, the availability of the vaccine would also suffer.

Chicken pox is still not eradicated and every year, many suffer from it. With no other company manufacturing it, a crisis may soon become evident. Reportedly, local pharmaceutical giant, Incepta, has requested for the licence, though this should have been given long before GSK stopped its pharmaceutical operation.

Waiting for an emergency to occur and then giving out hurried licences is not an encouraging sign. Some other vaccines, produced by the British company, Cervarix for cervical Cancer, and Engerix-B, used for treating Hepatitis B, are also rare in the market. The immediate need at the moment is to give out licences to local drug manufacturers to make the vaccines.

Also, a probe has to be done as to why a market assessment on the winding up of GSK and its possible repercussions was not done. The company was here for 16 years, which means they have had a very prominent presence in pharmaceuticals. The survey of such a company leaving should have been done long before, to avoid any future catastrophe.

However, a lesson has been learnt. Now the DGDA must ensure that essential vaccines are made by not one but by several local companies. It’s an irony that when drugs manufactured in Bangladesh is exported to various countries and have made a mark in the global market, the country is seeing an unnecessary shortage which could have been averted.

The drug manufacturing authority also needs to make a list of medicines and vaccines that are still being monopolized by foreign companies, especially for Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other ailments which are still not widely understood in the country. Once the list is done, local drug companies need to be invited to take licences for production. The paucity triggered by GSK departure should work as a warning.