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European Pharmaceutical Contractor

Natural Remedies

Why are herbal medicines important to the pharmaceutical industry? Between 20 and 25 per cent of currently marketed pharmaceuticals have a plant-based origin. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that nearly 5,000 different medicinal plants are traded internationally. The use of plant-based medicines is as high as 80 per cent in developing countries, while the rate in developed countries is also rising. Importantly, as pharmaceutical patents begin to expire and pipelines start to run dry, there is a large untapped well of opportunity in these plants. This article explores the different regulatory environments, development requirements, and growing market opportunities in Europe and North America.

Herbal medicines have been part of the European cultural and medical systems for centuries. The traditional use of medicinal plants is now validated through the field of nutrigenomics. Many plants consumed for food and medicine appear to have co-evolved with the human species, and the result is that these plants can powerfully affect genomic expression in ways that are very similar to modern pharmaceuticals. While not understood at the time, these responses were recorded by traditional healers in cultures around the world and this knowledge base has been passed on through the generations. Now we stand poised to reap the benefits of this knowledge through the ability to identify and test these responses rapidly in high tech settings where entire plant catalogues can be run against genomes in a matter of hours rather than centuries.


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Dr Jay Udani, MD, is the founder, CEO and Medical Director of Medicus Research. He is a board-certified Internist who served as Chief Resident at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center before completing two fellowships in Health Services Research and Integrative Medicine. He is a key opinion leader in the field of botanical drugs and dietary supplements, having designed and performed over 75 clinical trials, and has published over 40 articles and textbook chapters. He has received several, prestigious awards including the 2008 Natural Products Association Clinician of the Year, the AMA National Achievement Award, and the Harvard Medical School Pinkney Research Fellowship.

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