Optihealth said today it has teamed up with the Nigerian based firm Thompson and Grace Pharmaceuticals in a distribution deal for the whole range of its products. The agreement will mean Optihealth can take advantage of the growing market for supplements in the countries, which is estimated to grow at some six percent a year. The 15 countries included in the deal are members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). This makes up some 5 million square kilometres. They are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. Jorge Romero, President of Optihealth, said: "West Africa is sometimes overlooked but the consumption of dietary supplements grows at a very rapid pace. The demand for high-quality, science based supplements is just impressive." Market Romero said the total market for supplements in Africa is $490m and West Africa represents some 40 per cent of that, at $196m. The West African portion could reach $233m by 2010. West Africa was chosen over East for the size of the market, political stability and because of the ECOWAS, which means there is harmonized regulations, currency cooperation and free flow of goods. Romero added that the other main health issues for upper middle class consumers between the ages of 35 to 45 are infertility and sex invigorators. "These products are still in the R& D Department but all must comply with our philosophy of making formulations as opposed to single ingredients products containing branded and patented ingredients so we can always guaranteed the highest level of quality, efficacy and safety lot after lot," Romero said. He added that the firm plans to roll out its existing line of products as well as creating new ones to service the specific needs of the region. Romero said that now is a good time to target the countries because of an increasing population and household income. Parts of Africa have been identified as in need of additional supplementation by the scientific community, which could help ease the burden of many prevalent diseases and lack of adequate nutrition. Studies have shown supplements of vitamin A and zinc may protect children from malaria, which is most common in sub-Saharan Africa and results in the death of about one million children each year. Other studies have linked vitamin supplements to helping to boost child mortality. Range The first product to be launched are from the firm's line of women's health. This includes Soyselect, which contains isoflavones and saponins. It is aimed at reducing the severity of menopausal system. PMS Relief is also positioned at reducing premenstrual symptoms by promoting hormone balance. It contains a patented and clinically supported ingredient Suntheanine, which is L-Theanine. Optihealth also produce a product aimed at the beauty market. It contains a mix of vitamins and minerals and antioxidants to promote healthy skin, hair and nails. Isaac Thompson Amos, chief executive of Thompson & Grace Pharmaceuticals, said: "The market for supplements is strong and growing considerably, and with our expertise in the marketing and distribution of these types of products in all the main channels, from clinics to pharmacies to health food stores and supermarkets, we expect to enjoy a mutually beneficial partnership over the coming years."