The pharmaceutical industry will require government support if it is to recover from its recent poor performance and compete globally, according to a key industry figure.
Medicines Australia CEO Tim James told the ABC the sector needs assistance, just as the auto industry has received assistance.
Latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show Australian pharmaceutical exports declined by 18 per cent to $2.9 billion in 2014, compared to $3.6 billion in the year before.
Since 2012, when they peaked at around $4.3 billion, Australian pharmaceutical exports have declined by more than 30 per cent.
"We of course are seeking out for the Australian Government to create more incentives, more drivers, more levers, more opportunities for the industry here in Australia to be able to attract that global dollar," James said.
"We want to see those jobs retained here in Australia, and indeed we want to see a vibrant industry here in Australia."
According to James, given its skilled labour force, world-class infrastructure and reputation for manufacturing safe, high-quality medicines and vaccines, Australia is well positioned to succeed in the sector.
“Despite this, new investment in pharmaceutical manufacturing in Australia remains negligible, which clearly shows that all these factors are simply not enough to keep Australia competitive,” he said.
The decline in Australian pharmaceutical exports comes at a time when the global market for medicines and vaccines is booming. It is already worth over US$1 trillion per year in sales, and is expected to nearly double in size by 2020.
“Much of this growth is going to come from emerging markets in Asia,” James said.
“But right now, we just don’t have the correct policies in place to capitalise on this growth. If this continues, we will no doubt miss out on this once-in-a-generation opportunity, regardless of how good we may look ‘on paper’.”