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Vector Research - Global Technologies.


A t the present time, about 50% of the total plant-derived drug sales come from single entities, while the remaining 50% come from herbal remedies. Although the latter have greater volumes of consumption, the relatively low volumes of single entities, which are mostly prescription products, are more than compensated by their higher prices. Single entity plant drugs, which mostly treat serious medical ills, include atropine, digoxin, morphine, paclitaxel, pilocarpine, reserpine, scopolamine, topotecan and vincristine, among many others. Several of the compounds have outlived their usefulness in light of better alternatives, however, and are exhibiting declines in sales. On the other hand, as a consequence of new drug developments, single entities overall are projected to increase their market share of the combined total future dollar sales.

According to a soon-to-be-released Business Communications Company, Inc. study, RB-121, Plant-Derived Drugs: Products, Technologies and Applications, the total market for plant-derived drugs was valued at $22,608 million in 1997 and is projected to reach $30,688.5 million in 2002, representing an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 6.3%.

BCC estimates that terpenes will contribute the most to the dollar sales of plant-derived drugs. As the taxoids gain as treatment for cancer, the terpene category should increase its share still further in the next several years. Steroids are another key group in the terpene category. Terpenes were valued at $7,660 million in 1997 and are expected to reach $12,400 million in 2002, at an AAGR of 10.1%.

Glycosides are the next most significant category. Flavonoids, saponins, anthraglycosides and digitalis compounds are among the most important groups within this category. With an AAGR of 4.8% glycosides will increase to $9,230 million in 2002 from $7,300 million in 1997.

BCC points out that alkaloids are the third most significant category of plant-derived drugs, in terms of sales. Included are the belladonnas, camptothecins, opiates, Rauwolfias, and Vincas, among others. Alkaloids were valued at $3,600 million in 1997 and will project to $4,045 million in 2002, representing an AAGR of 2.4%.

All other plant-derived drugs include miscellaneous substances and plant drugs for which the active principles have not been well characterized. Among the important groups within this category are plant-derived vitamins, psoralens, ephedrines, salicylates and various others. This category includes many substances that have been manufactured by complete synthetic duplications rather than by plant derivation. This category was valued at $4048 million and will rise to $5,013.5 million in 2002, at an AAGR of 4.4%.

BCC concludes that no one application category dominates the medical uses of plant-derived drugs. Among the most significant are those related to neural, respiratory, digestive and skin problems along with pain and cancer. Additional applications include contraception, hormone replacement, cardiovascular problems, infectious diseases and miscellaneous others.

($ Millions)

Plant Drug Category 1997 2002 AAGR%


Terpenes 7,660 12,400 10.1
Glycosides 7,300 9,230 4.8
Alkaloids 3,600 4,045 2.4
Others 4,048 5,013.5 4.4
TOTAL 22,608 30,688.5 6.3

Source: Business Communications Company, Inc.,

RB-121 Plant-Derived Drugs: Products, Technologies and Applications

PUBLISHED: January 1998

Data and analysis provided courtesy of BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY, INC., 25 Van Zant Street, Norwalk, CT 06855,  Telephone: (203) 853-4266; ext. 309,  Email: publisher@bccresearch.com

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