Nobody knows exactly how many plants are used medicinally. However, the number is almost certainly in the tens of thousands. In Mexico alone, there are approximately 3,500 species of medicinal plants, according to a spokesperson for the Botanical Garden of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Traditional healers in China reportedly use more than 5,000 species of plants to treat illnesses and injuries. Ayurvedic and other traditional healers in South Asia use at least 1,800 plant species. Most cultures recognize a large number of medicinally useful plants.
Still, we have merely scratched the surface; only 5% to 15% of the approximately 250,000 higher plants have ever been investigated for bioactive compounds, with about 155,000 seed plants in the tropics alone, according to the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. Although tropical rainforests cover only about 8% of the earth's surface, they offer an immense resource for discoveries of new compounds. Ethnobotany, the study of plant use by local populations, has now expanded to include research scientists and pharmaceutical companies from developed countries looking for new drugs.
Plant-derived medicines are not limited to traditional cultures. Many of the prescription drugs sold in the U.S., Canada and Europe contain active ingredients derived from plants. Widely used drugs that contain plant extracts include the anti-tumor agent paclitaxel and the anti-cholesterol drug lovastatin, not to mention the familiar aspirin.
Consumption of traditional herbal remedies is also increasing in developed economies. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that between 4,000 and 6,000 species of medicinal plants are traded internationally.
SCOPE OF STUDY
- Identifies and classifies the plant-derived drugs that have been commercialized to date.
- Analyzes the historical and current volume and value of shipments of each of these drugs in specified geographical markets.
- Identifies and evaluates the impact of factors that will drive future demand for plant-derived drugs.
- Describes plant-derived drugs that are currently in the clinical testing or approvals stage and assesses the probability that they will be commercialized successfully in the next 5 years.
- Contains forecasts for the global volume and value of plant-derived drug shipments and their markets through 2011
- Identifies the leading manufacturers of plant-derived drugs and the firms that may become important players in the next 5 years.
METHODOLOGY AND INFORMATION SOURCES
The findings and conclusions contained in this report are based on information gathered from vendors and users of plant-derived drugs, as well as other informed sources. Additional data were obtained from extensive reviews of secondary sources such as trade publications, trade associations, company literature, and on-line databases.
Surveys of vendors and end-users are an important element of any market study, including this one. However, vendors' sales projections are often influenced by internal corporate considerations, as well as a desire to generate market interest and hopefully sales.
As a result, the emphasis in this study is on a corroborating "bottom-up" analysis. A somewhat different methodology was used to project demand for plant-derived drugs that are commercially available in 2005, versus those that are now under development and may become available within the 2006 to 2011 time frame of this study.
The author of this report, Andrew McWilliams, is a partner in the Boston-based international technology and marketing consulting firm of 43rd Parallel LLC. He has over 25 years experience in international market assessments and strategy consulting for clients in the technology sector, including biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and health care. Mr. McWilliams' other reports for Business Communications Co. include, in addition to the earlier (2003) edition of the present report, reports GA-085R Evolving Nutraceutical Business, B-187 Drug Markets by Price Tier, B-128 Disabled and Elderly Assistance Technologies in the U.S., B-216 Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Cosmetic Enhancement Products, and B-207 Radiation-Based Therapy and Therapeutic Imaging.