Herbal medicines get new lease of life
Herbal medicines are increasingly popular in local and global markets. More than 20 firms seek licences to come into the sector.
Herbal medicines are set to witness an investment boost as over 20 companies have lined up for licences from the drug administration to manufacture such medicines to exploit business potentials in the sector, still almost untapped, industry people said.
“A new avenue for herbal medicine has opened up as many investors are looking for venturing in making such medicines,” a senior official of Directorate of Drug Administration told The Daily Star.
Officials said the drug regulator has received nearly two dozens of applications seeking approval to make herbal medicine. Of the applicants, four got licences and around 20 companies are awaiting approval.
“So far we have cleared four applications. We are also in process of giving approval to some more companies,” the official added.
The latest approval was given to Radiant Nutraceuticals Ltd, which is set to join the foray with three existing operators — Square, ACME and Modern — with Square Herbal and Nutraceuticals being the pioneer in the segment.
“We have opted for herbal medicine making with an aim to tap the export potential. The global market for herbal medicine is huge and many people in the West are showing growing interests,” said MM Asad Ullah, in-charge of Square Herbal and Nutraceuticals Ltd, a concern of Square Group.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), as many as 80 percent of world’s people rely on traditional medicines for their primary healthcare and remedies, and the use of traditional medicines is rising in the developed economies such as Europe and America.
Industry people said the global market for medicinal plant products is estimated to be more than $60 billion a year.
At present, China and India supply bulk of the plant drugs demand to the global market.
In Bangladesh, demand for herbal medicine is also on the rise.
Industry insiders said allopathic pharma market in Bangladesh is worth around Tk 4,000 crore, while the market size for herbal medicines including Ayurvedic and Unani stands at more than Tk 1,000 crore.
Industry people observed that scopes to exploit the untapped herbal medicine now lure investors to the segment with majority of applications coming from new investors along with allopathic drug makers.
Stakeholders said some of the well-known allopathic drug makers are gearing up for establishing herbal medicine units.
The sector started pulling attention after the government had endorsed herbal medicine in the drug policy along with two other traditional branches of medicine — Ayurvedic and Unani.
Later the sector received a further boost as the government termed herbs and herbal medicine as one of the five priority sectors to diversify the country’s export basket.
Industry people observed that Bangladesh has prospect in making footsteps on the global market for medicinal plant and products as nearly 650 medicinal plant species have been identified to be in use in Bangladesh with around 25 plants having high value.
Sector people said herbal medicine differs from Ayurvedic and Unani medicines due to its unique manufacturing process, although all the three branches of medicine depend mainly on medicinal plants.
“Our manufacturing process is different from Ayurvedic and Unani. We also use modern technology,” said Asad of Square Herbal, which has so far launched 8 medicinal products.
He also said businesses of Ayurvedic and Unani medicines would not be hurt by the growth of herbal medicines. “Rather a new market will be created,” he added.
To push the sector forward, the drug administrator has recently set a definition for herbal medicine and selected a set of reference books for manufacturers to follow while making herbal medicines.
The regulator has also finalised testing criteria to boost the sector and expedite the process of giving approval to the prospective licence seekers.
The licence awarding process was slow earlier in absence of a definition, testing criteria and reference, industry people said.
“Finalisation of these criteria will assist us to clear the applications faster to help grow the sector in a disciplined manner,” said the official of the Drug Administration.