Beacon Pharmaceuticals PLC - a leading light

Feb 21, 2024

Beacon Pharmaceuticals PLC - a leading light

Beacon Pharmaceuticals Limited A Leading Light- A Leading Light

With a market value of $2.6 billion, Bangladesh's pharmaceuticals sector is the second-largest contributor to the country's economy behind the ready-made garment industry. It meets 98% of domestic needs, its drugs and remedies are exported to 140 countries around the world and it has become a major magnet for foreign investment.

The industry's phenomenal growth over the past 20 years is partly the result of the decision by the World Trade Organization to give patent exemption to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) like Bangladesh as part of its mission 'to promote access to medicines for all." Enshrined in the Doha Declaration of 2001, this agreement has given companies operating in the sector the flexibility to develop generic versions of pharmaceuticals that are under patent protection elsewhere. Bangladeshi companies can then either sell them into the domestic market or to other LDCs and non-WTO member countries that have not implemented patent protection.

One company that has taken full advantage of this regulatory environment is Beacon Pharmaceuticals Limited, which has grown into Bangladesh's leading producer of oncological drugs and the fastest-growing pharmaceutical company in the country in just 13 years. It manufactures more than 200 generic drugs and 65 oncology products. Beacon routinely extends its portfolio by introducing 10 to 15 new products a year, making it a pioneer in biotech and anti-viral drug development as well as in oncology but oncology remains at the heart of the company operation and raison d’etre.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, around 250,000 Bangladeshis contract cancer each year, and the public-sector healthcare infrastructure is simply not up to addressing a problem of this size. Back in the 1980s, Beacon's managing director Mohammed Ebadul Karim and his siblings were working as pharmaceutical traders and were regularly exposed to the scale of the problem. "It became that the cost of cancer treatment was very high, while in the decades after independence most Bangladeshis were very poor," Karim recalls. "Many people were dying without even being diagnosed. "

Karim was determined to play his part in alleviating this suffering. Undeterred by his lack of technical experience and the skepticism of friends and associates, who told him he was entering a medical and commercial minefield, Karim linked up with a Spanish consultant engineering firm that he encountered in Frankfurt, company agreed to provide him with a conceptual design for his product technology.

Beacon Pharmaceuticals opened for business in 2006 and has since managed to capture a 53% share of the domestic oncology market, With many Bangladeshi cancer sufferers still obliged to go abroad for treatment, Karim is strongly considering setting up "a technically advanced diagnostic center" in collaboration with a globally reputed lab.

Beacon Pharmaceuticals was also the first Bangladeshi company to start exporting life-saving cancer drugs to fellow LDC countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. "With the advantage of patent exemptions, as per the WTO agreement globally, Beacon became the first producer of 20 molecules after the originator," Karim says. "In most cases, we offered these new drugs at a fraction of the cost of the originator. Now, we sell them directly to customers around the world through our Global Patient support program."

A long-standing commitment to R&D has always been central to Beacon's business philosophy, and it is currently exploring how to improve the processes around existing Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) and formulation products. Although Bangladesh manufactures 4,000 generic finished drug formulations, 90% of the raw materials are imported, mainly from China and India. To meet the demands of the high-tech APIs that will soon begin to be developed at the new state-supported API park, Beacon is going to set up an oncology API facility. This new oncology plant will be 100% compliant with both North American and Western European regulations. Once the facility is complete, Karim is confident that he will be able to get the registration in the U.S., Canada and the EU that will enable Beacon to sell its products into those markets at costcompetitive prices.