Pharmaceuticals are the future

Australian Pharmaceutical manufacturing looks set for substantial growth to meet the increasing demand of Asian health-care products.

The industry recently witnessed a rapid boom in the pharmaceutical export manufacturing sector with exports increasing fivefold by 2020.

Australia’s pharmaceutical sector has been facing constant odds with the federal Health Department, waging a constant war to bring down the prices it pays for the drugs under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The industry also suffers from the problem of high wage and dollar environment that poses a constant trouble to the manufactures.

However in 2011-2012 there has been a significant rise in the exports of pharmaceutical and medicinal products. Pharmaceuticals are now firmly established as the No. 1 “substantially transformed” manufacturing export with $4 billion in exports, beating the car industry in 2011-12 with $2.8 billion in exports and the wine sector with $2 billion.

Old factories that were to be closed down in Australia are now being reopened or even expanded to supply Asia’s voracious appetite for drugs.

Asia with its rapid urbanisation and rising living standards has pushed pharmaceuticals to a huge extent and serves as a big market for advanced health-care products and other medicinal drugs. Besides, it also takes half of Australia’s pharmaceutical exports, according to the AFR.

While GlaxoSmithKline says it will expand its blow-fill-seal manufacturing operations in Melbourne, Blood products and vaccine group CSL is building a $250 million biotechnology products research and manufacturing facility at its Melbourne blood fraction plant.

Since 1990s the Pharmaceutical sector has not received the much needed support and exposure from the government and the companies mostly find themselves arguing against the government.

Dr Tim Oldham, President Hospira Asia Pacific and representing Australia’s Generic Medicines Industry Association, says, Australia’s pharmaceutical industry is a high value-add sector and one which other countries look to for its high production standards, innovation and quality assurance. “We are way ahead in terms of being the leading exporter of elaborately transformed goods but we can’t be complacent with intense competition coming from countries such as India, which can produce the same medicines for less.”

“We need to focus on the innovative manufacturing sectors such as pharmaceuticals in order to be less buffeted by the two speed economies created by the mining boom.”

Dr. Oldham pointed out that Australia’s pharmaceuticals as the leading manufacturing export industry of elaborately transformed goods, employing more than 40,000 people domestically.