Australian medicines exports have declined by 30 percent in one year, according to latest industry figures.
The huge decline highlights the enormous challenges facing the local industry as it struggles to remain competitive in the global pharmaceutical industry, says Medicines Australia, which represents the pharmaceutical industry in Australia.
Five years ago, medicines were Australia’s largest manufactured export, bringing in more than $4 billion to the local economy, Medicines Australia says.
Today, manufactured medicines have slipped to second place behind the motor vehicle industry. If the trend continues, medicine manufacturing will shortly drop to third.
The latest figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that in the first six months of 2015, Australian manufacturing exports were $1.06 billion, compared to $1.49 billion in the first half of 2014, representing a 28.5 percent decline.
Pharmaceutical exports were 30 percent lower in June 2015, compared to June 2014.
Such a dramatic fall in the rankings should be ringing alarm bells in Canberra, Medicines Australia says.
The body warns that Australia is set to miss out on enormous economic and job creating opportunities at a time of growing demand for innovative, safe and effective medicine products in Asia, particularly in China.
It has called on the federal government to do more to encourage growth in the biopharmaceutical sector.
Though the steadily falling Australian dollar is making medicine exports more competitive, this is not enough to reverse the trend.
“A lower dollar also cannot compensate for the enormous challenges facing industry and the broader Australian economy as the mining boom comes to an end,” Medicines Australia said in a recent media statement.
In a submission to the current Senate inquiry into Australia’s Innovation System, Medicines Australia outlined key principles to invigorate the Australian medicines industry, which included:
- Secure the existing investment we have in Australia to ensure it stays here
- Encourage the development of Australia’s local bio-pharmaceutical sector
- Attract new direct foreign investment to Australia.
The submission argued that by following these key principles, Australia could take advantage of the Asia boom and at least double current medicine exports, but with stiff competition from nations such as Singapore and Japan, the time to act is running out.
Medicines Australia is encouraged to see that the Australian Parliament now identifying science and innovation as a key future economic and employment driver.
However, the rhetoric needs to be matched with action, it says.
“To further support the Australian pharmaceutical industry, Government must urgently identify additional ways to encourage more local innovation and adopt policies that will lead to more research and development, clinical trials, and advanced manufacturing investment.”