Plant-Derived Drugs: Products, Technology, Applications

Published - Jun 2006| Analyst - Andrew McWilliams| Code - BIO022D
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Report Highlights

  • The global market for plant-derived drugs was worth an estimated $18 billion in 2005. BCC expects this figure to grow to nearly $19 billion in 2006 and more than $26 billion by 2011, at an AAGR of 6.6% between 2006 and 2011.
  • Cancer treatment is expected to become the largest application of plant-derived drugs by 2011, with 24% of the market.
  • Respiratory problems such as asthma represent the largest medical application of plant-derived drugs in 2005, accounting for 26% of total sales of plant-derived drugs.
  • The North American market (the U.S. and Canada) accounts for over half of the world market for plant-derived drugs, and is projected to increase faster than either the Western European or developed Asian regional markets, exceeding 54% of the global market by 2011


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.


This report:


  • 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.



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.

Analyst Credentials

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.

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Published - Feb-2003| Analyst - Andrew McWilliams| Code - BIO022C

Report Highlights

  • Total worldwide sales of plant-derived drugs in 2002 are estimated at $13.7 billion.
  • Sales are projected to increase at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 6.4% through 2007.
  • The U.S. accounts for 50% of the global plant-derived drug market.
  • The U.S. market will grow faster than foreign markets as a whole, at an AAGR of 7.5% per year vs. 5.3%.


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