ITC: Promoting Intra-Regional Trade: LatinPharma 2003: Forging Alliances between 'Natural' Partners: The World Market for Natural Products Is Estimated to Reach US$ 100 Billion by 2010. Medicinal Products Make Up around 80% of This Market. by Linking Up Pharmaceutical and Natural Product Companies, ITC Is Assisting the Pharmaceutical Industry in Latin America to Become Competitive Exporters of Natural Medicinal Products

Article excerpt

Natural resources are found across the developing world, but developing countries have not explored the commercial possibilities for this rich biodiversity in depth. Peru, for instance, is home to about 20% of the world's medicinal plants, yet in 2002, its exports of natural medicinal products were a meagre US$ 5 million, or the equivalent of 0.03% of world exports.

Encouraging business development

ITC's LatinPharma initiative supports business development and the strengthening of intra-regional trade in the Latin American pharmaceutical industry. In 2002, its first year, LatinPharma explored the topic of generic drugs and related business opportunities for the region.

LatinPharma 2003 focused on fostering strategic alliances between pharmaceutical companies and producers of natural medicinal products in the Andean Community. The two are obvious partners in the region: pharmaceutical companies have the production capacity, marketing know-how, access to financial markets and distribution channels--but they are operating below capacity, due to competition from multinational drug firms. Natural product companies have access to raw materials, research and development of new formulas, and a customer base which is about twice the size of that for medicines.

Trade support institutions in each Andean country undertook supply and demand studies with specialized associations to analyse the markets and verify the potential for these partnerships. Overall, the studies revealed very positive prospects, with the region's export potential estimated at US$ 61 million. However, to make business partnerships a reality, natural product companies still need to address some issues. The most important are:

* developing internationally accepted practices, such as quality management, good manufacturing practice (GMP), packaging and bio-equivalence studies (see "What is bio-equivalence?"); and

* obtaining legal advice on various issues related to doing business, such as patents and intellectual property rights to protect their knowledge.

Comprehensive approach

A virtual discussion forum to identify and debate issues prepared the way for a series of conferences, a trade fair and a buyers*sellers meeting (Lima, Peru, July 2003). During the conferences, Latin Americans shared both successful and unsuccessful experiences. …