Myanmar trying to move up the food chain on pharma production

Myanmar is trying to kick-start its pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, which currently consists of a handful of state-owned factories and one public-private joint venture, to wean itself off foreign imports, according to a recent report on the Frontier Myanmar news website.

The government is offering incentives to private distributors to coax them into the drugmaking game. The country's first factories are said to be nearly ready to begin producing what will "theoretically be affordable yet high-quality medication," the report said.

Currently, the only facility in Myanmar that produces finished biological products is the state-owned BPI Pharmaceutical Factory, according to the report.

The facility has been making finished biological products, such as antibiotics, vaccines and antivenom for snake bites since 1954, but only produces two of the 8 vaccines in Myanmar's national immunization regimen: those for hepatitis B and tuberculosis, according to Frontier Myanmar. The rest of Myanmar's pharma needs are met through imports and from international NGOs such as the GAVI Vaccine Alliance.

Officials worry, though, that as Myanmar becomes more developed, it will lose its "least-developed country" status as well as the benefits and international aid associated with the designation.

Aung Zaw, head of quality assurance at BPI, said he worried that the country is developing faster than its capacity to provide these medicines, which could leave Myanmar with a shortage if the international aid dries up, the report said.

- here's the story from Frontier Myanmar

Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that BPI was the only facility making pharmaceuticals in Myanmar; it is the only facility that produces finished biological products.