Pharmed ups production capacity for booming joint health ingredient

Related tags Joint health Osteoarthritis

Indian glucosamine supplier Pharmed Medicare started production at
a new facility near Banaglore last week, adding a further 500 tons
in yearly capacity for the firm, reports Dominique Patton.

European demand for the joint health supplement is growing at between 10 and 15 per cent, estimates Pharmed president Sundeep Aurora.

The company, which claims to supply around 70 per cent of Europe's glucosamine market, currently produces around 1,000 tons per year.

A current shortage of the main raw material required to make the ingredient - the chitin fibre found in shrimp and crab shells - has recently trebled costs for the company and will restrict full scale-up of the plant in the current year.

However the recent withdrawal of the leading arthritis drugs will increase demand further, along with new markets and growth in the animal nutrition sector.

"After the Vioxx scandal and then Celebrex, the whole Cox 2 inhibitor segment is out,"​ Aurora told In 2003 Vioxx made $2.5 billion in sales in the US alone.

Demand for glucosamine, shown in studies to be safe and effective in relieving joint pain, is already expected to grow as the population ages and other major risk factors, such as obesity, raise the number of patients with arthritis.

But awareness that the leading prescription drugs that previously helped arthritis sufferers may not be available in the future, gives joint health ingredients a further boost.

"We're also hoping for positive results from the NIH study, due out later this year. The potential for a rise in demand is very significant,"​ added Aurora.

Pharmed will be hoping to regain some of its share of the European market with the new 15-acre facility, as restricted supply of chitin over recent months has prevented it from taking on new contracts.

Chitin supply has been impacted in all major shrimp producing countries by US trade tariffs, placing downward pressure on the production of shrimpmeat, and high fuel costs reducing fishing.

India's chitin supplies have also been impacted by the tsunami, thought to have affected sea shrimp catching in the country for around three weeks.

Glucosamine suppliers are hoping for new raw material when the fishing season begins in May. Some suppliers have also begun importing chitin from abroad.

"We are looking at importing crab from the US. The freight costs are very expensive but if problems in India persist, we will have to do this,"​ said Aurora.

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