NSW partnership with China to commercialise herbal medicines

11 April 2011

A research centre at the University of Western Sydney will receive $75,000 from the NSW Government to provide expert advice to Australian and Chinese herbal medicine companies commercialising their products and negotiating regulation in world markets.

The Australian market for complementary medicine, including traditional Chinese medicine, has an estimated value of $3.1 billion per annum and is expected to grow six per cent annually over the next five years.

With the world-wide burden of chronic disease and an ageing population, the international market presents even greater opportunities, with international sales of herbal remedies alone estimated at $US83 billion per annum.

Executive Director, Innovation, Research & Policy, Kerry Doyle said that the Centre for Complementary Medicine Research (CompleMED) at the University of Western Sydney has been chosen to bring together a team of NSW researchers, regulatory and intellectual property experts to partner with Chinese and Australian herbal medicine companies, research centres and hospitals.

“The team will look at the scientific evidence-base of products making high-level therapeutic claims against the regulatory requirements in target countries”, Ms Doyle said.

“They will also provide companies with expert advice on which products might need further development in order to successfully enter their target international markets”.

“Initially being run as an 18 month pilot, the program is part of an innovation and technology partnership promoting greater investment and trade between NSW and China.

“It will also support the growth of the NSW clinical trials industry, which has been identified as a leading worldwide site to undertake complementary medicine clinical trials,” Ms Doyle said.

CompleMED Director, Professor Alan Bensoussan will lead the expert team and says the initiative will have a significant and positive impact on the way the sector operates internationally.

“Chinese herbal medicine has shown potential to fulfil therapeutic roles as an adjunct therapy or where there is no suitable pharmaceutical treatment; where the risk profile is better or where herbal medicine is more cost effective,” Professor Bensoussan said.

“We are delighted to have the support of the NSW Government. This work will assist, in a very targeted way, the research and commercialisation of high quality herbal medicines.

“In the longer term, it will deliver a model for broader collaboration and engagement in the therapeutic and commercial development of a range herbal medicines.

“No herbal medicine sold in Australia, North America or Europe is permitted to make a therapeutic claim to treat or manage a serious disease without substantial scientific evidence.

“Australia has stringent quality, safety and efficacy regulatory requirements administered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration that are internationally recognised, and NSW is well-placed to capitalise on the opportunities in the sector,” he said.