The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Fri, August 23 2013, 9:51 AM
Indonesia has taken one big step toward fulfilling its potential as a plant-based medicine producer with the opening of its first extract plant producing raw materials for pharmaceutical-strength herbal medicines.
“Local private companies have started to develop the extract industry, which could facilitate the production of affordable herbal medicines,” Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said during the dedication of the extract plant, owned by PT Dexa Medica, in Cikarang, West Java, on Tuesday.
According to the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), 30,000 out of the 40,000 plants in the world with medicinal properties could be found in Indonesia, making it a prime destination for herbal medicines research.
Despite its vast biodiversity, Indonesia still imports 60 percent of the plants and extracts it uses for herbal medicine production, from countries such as China, India and Brazil.
Nafsiah said that most local herbal medicine producers had only been able to develop traditional herb concoctions known as jamu, which were often produced ad hoc without the aid of research facilities.
“We want to encourage companies to take the initiative in developing our rich natural plant resources for herbal medicines by issuing Regulation No. 006/2012 on traditional medicines business and industry,” she said.
According to the Food and Drugs Monitoring Agency (BPOM), Indonesia has three groups of traditional medicines: jamu, which has been consumed by Indonesians for generations with proven benefits; standard herbal medicine; and phytopharmaceuticals, or herbal medicines equivalent to modern pharmaceutical drugs.
Nafsiah said that Indonesia had a large potential plant-based medicines market. According to Health Ministry data, the market for Indonesian herbal medicines reached Rp 13 trillion (US$1.2 billion) in 2013. “Indonesia’s market for herbal medicines is increasing from year to year,” she said.
Maura Linda Sitanggang, director general of pharmacy and medical equipment services at the Health Ministry, said that 10 local private companies, including PT Dexa Medica, had started to develop extract laboratories and centers for herbal medicines.
“So far, nature-based drugs in Indonesia are still very expensive, as most of them use imported materials. The willingness of local companies to produce extracts will reduce medicine prices,” she said.
The executive director from Dexa Laboratories of Biomolecular Sciences — a subsidiary of PT Dexa Medica — Raymond R. Tjandrawinata, said that the company was established in 2005 with a focus on developing natural ingredients as raw materials for herbal medicines.
In 2007, the company opened its first research center, which focused on utilizing Indonesia’s biodiversity — including plants with medicinal applications — to create medicines. “We realize that Indonesia has many plants that can be used as medicines. Why don’t we start producing our own?” he said.
Raymond said that the company had decided to make herbal medicines, not jamu, through the Tandem Chemistry Expression Bioassay System. “This method involves finding the specific plant essences most suitable for healing a specific disease,” he said. “Jamu mixes multiple essences into one.”
He added that the company had created five herbal medicines in tablet form, which used natural ingredients such as cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmannii), mahkota dewa plant (Phaleria macrocarpa) and (Lagerstroemia speciosa).
“These plants have been scientifically proven to treat conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and endometriosis, which can cause symptoms like pelvic pain and irregular menstrual bleeding,” he said.
He added that all the products had gotten certification from either the BPOM or the international Patent Cooperation Treaty.
“In the future, we plan to be a herbal medicines producer for ASEAN countries,” he said. (tam)