Filipino firm granted license to distribute lagundi syrup

MANILA, Philippines - The government has granted a lagundi syrup license to Filipino firm Azarias Pharmaceutical Laboratories Inc. (APLI) which for the first time will generate royalties that will be churned back for local drug research and development.

This licensing agreement will be the first license between a research and development (R&D) agency, the University of the Philippines, and a private firm, Azarias, under a new regime since the Technology Transfer Act (TTA) was ratified a year ago.

The TTA has just created a new investment source for drug development in the country, according to Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, Philipppine Council for Health Research and Development executive director.

"This will generate royalties for (drug) research and development for the future. Before when we used to handle this, royalties were going to the national treasury. But by virtue of the law, the royalty should go to the investigator and research institution where the investigator belongs," said Montoya in an interview during the PCHRD's 29th anniversary celebration.

Montoya said the drug development sector expects a substantially bigger fund for the coming years from the former P2 million to P3 million yearly royalty from drug licensing that used to entirely go to the national treasury.

"If you imagine that there are more technology adopters now than before, the royalty will be even more. Pascual was the first in lagundi, now we have 10 adoptors. Many more companies are working on a license. But the more players, the better, so that drug price will drop," he said.

The cough syrup market, still dominated by multinational firms, is a big market that has offered many Filipino firms an opportunity to venture in.

"The therapeutic effects of lagundi is indeed a testimony that the indigenous medicinal products developed in the Philippines can very well compete with the more established preparations coming from imported pharmaceutical companies," said Azarias Operations Head Joel C. Monje.

Even advertising directed at criticizing the herbal drug proves how successful the Filipino-developed lagundi product has become.

"I think its a good sign because that means the herbal industry share is increasing because the reason why they're now doing these commercial ads is their sales are being affected. It tells you lagundi has now taken up a sizable market, said Montoya.

PCHRD estimates that the entire herbal industry may now be taking up 10 to 15 percent of the total market.

The criticism against herbal drugs is definitely contestable considering the same approval process for all drug types.

"I think there's no question herbal drugs can cure and can treat because this is based on critical trials. The requirement being imposed on conventional and synthetic drugs is also being imposed on herbal drugs," he said.

After the success of lagundi, Montoya said the drug R&D sector is now about to launch two other herbal drugs which have just undergone clinical trials.

"Ulasimang bato is already up for licensing this year as soon as we complete the technology package. Some people have already expressed interest to get a license, he said.

"We're also preparing the license package for sambong for which we have a new indication. Before it was only for the treatment of uric acid stone in the kidney. Now we also have indication for high uric acid level in the blood."

Ulasimang bato is for the treatment of biliary cholic. Its competitor drug is Buscopan. Sambong for the cure of high uric acid level has Allopurinol generic drugs as competitor.

With these prospects, as a drug product generator, UP Manila has already established a licensing office to hasten facilitation of drug R&D commercialization.

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