OPINION: Innovation and new ingredients can take Australia's supplement sector to new heights

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

CMA CEO Carl Gibson.
CMA CEO Carl Gibson.

Related tags: Complementary medicines, Medicine

Australia is recognised as a premium industry in the complementary medicine sector, and upcoming new regulations will help enhance its reputation for quality, safety and innovation, writes Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA) CEO Carl Gibson.

With over 60% of companies in the sector engaged in exporting, and a number of Australian brands increasingly being recognised internationally, ours is an industry with the potential to become a sustainable success story.  

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has responsibility for the oversight of product safety, quality, claims, listing, post-marketing monitoring, and setting standards for manufacturing. Achieving the right regulatory environment will be crucial for the future of our industry, as will a focus on innovation.

The Therapeutic Goods Amendment Bill No. 1 of 2017 is currently before the House of Representatives. Amongst other changes, the Bill introduces a 'Listed Assessed' pathway for listed medicines; it has the goal of encouraging firms to invest in conducting clinical trials to substantiate higher-level therapeutic indications and health claims.

Implemented successfully, the new pathway will be a unique opportunity to reward greater investment in R&D by the industry, and to further expand the clinical research base supporting the use of complementary medicines.

New formulations

The TGA has also recently approved the inclusion of many new ingredients to the List of Permissible Ingredients.

Over the last three years, more than 100 new active and excipient ingredients have been added to the approved list, allowing the industry to innovate further and formulate new products to meet consumer demand. 

CMA recently welcomed over 450 delegates who attended the 2017 Innovation Seminar & Supplier Expo, Annual Conference and 18th​ Annual Industry Awards, with the Innovation Expo attracting twice the expected number of attendees interested in learning about innovation from a number of angles, including ingredients, research and processes.

They heard that the recently published 2017 Complementary Medicines Industry Audit​ showed that the Australian industry had grown to revenues of $4.7bn as a result of increased demand from consumers in both the domestic and international markets.

After the USA, Australia is the second largest exporter of complementary medicines and the second biggest market in the world. The high international demand for Australian complementary medicines is driving a major expansion of local manufacturing, with an anticipated annual growth rate of 3.9% contributing further to the strength of our high-skilled local manufacturing.

Quality is key

The demand for natural products and health foods is growing rapidly across Asia. According to Austrade, the Chinese health food market alone — which includes vitamins and minerals, herbal extracts and TCM — is currently valued at US$30bn, and is projected to grow by 10% every year until 2025.

With rising disposable incomes, and increasing awareness of health and well-being, savvy Chinese consumers are also very particular about the safety and quality of the healthcare products they purchase.

We were delighted to welcome a delegation from China to our annual conference, led by the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Medicines & Health Products (CCCMHPIE).  It really is invaluable to support such trade delegations to promote greater engagement between our professional networks. 

Carl Gibson has been CEO of trade body CMA since September 2013.

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