Natural Products and Supplements in Serbia: A Growth Spot

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In a market environment that, up until recently, has been severely difficult for producers of chemical pharmaceutical products to operate in, three enterprising Serbian companies – Pharmanova, INNventa and Esensa – have found success by stepping up their offering in dietary and other health supplements, as well as cosmetics and simple medical devices.

“We promote ourselves as a capable partner, not just as a cheap manufacturing base.”

Aleksandra Miric, Pharmanova

Aleksandra Miric, director of Pharmanova, describes how her company – focused on the dietary supplement, OTC drug and medical device market – has “developed from a modest galenic laboratory to a modern production facility in Obrenovac which was designed, built and maintained in accordance with strict European standards, i.e. Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines. Since 2008, our production has been conducted in a plant we consider to be one of the showcase facilities of Serbia’s pharmaceutical industry.” Miric points out that the “dietary supplements, OTC drug and medical device markets, where Pharmanova conducts its activities, are still growing, and domestic manufacturers have a chance to be important stakeholders in these areas.” Serbia’s manufacturing footprint in these niches is also drawing international attention. Miric notes that “We are very proud when we manage to raise the interest of partners from developed European markets for our products or when we draw them to manufacture their brands here. We promote ourselves as a capable partner, not just as a cheap manufacturing base.”

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Esensa, another ‘made in Serbia’ success story which grew by 30 percent in 2016-17 and plans to grow by 50 percent in 2017-18, has rapidly expanded its wide ranging-product offering of medical devices, food supplements, cosmetics and general use products abroad in the last two years. Director Nenad Djordjevic sees that “Having a 200-strong product portfolio has actually been a big help in [internationalization]. Every country is shaped by its regulatory standards, so we decided to find out which global markets were suited for the product documentation that we were already in possession of. That is how we discovered that many of our cosmetics could freely be exported to Hong Kong without additional documentation, as it has comparatively low import barriers.” However, Esensa is not limiting itself to these easily accessible markets. Djordjevic asserts that “Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, on the other hand, have very restrictive regulations. The Kazakh Ministry of Health came and inspected our facility in Belgrade fully in order to obtain a permit. We have short-term plans for the countries for which we already have full documentation ready and long-term plans for the Middle East, Africa, and other complicated markets where it takes over two years to register a product. Generally, it takes around 18 months to register the production site and eight months per product.”

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The third player in the triumvirate is INNventa Pharm, a young Serbian company formed in 2008 which represents and distributes medicines from some of the world’s largest pharma companies as well as produces its own dietary products and medical devices, with the primary focus on prevention therapy. General manager Goran Orlic proudly exclaims that “We recorded 79 percent growth in 2017, and we intend to better that in 2018; current forecasts indicate we will double revenues in 2018, counting both our own brand and tender businesses.” Orlic highlights the company’s focus as “bringing inventions to the market … this might mean trying out different business solutions, specific dosage forms, or re-introducing old products to the market if needed.”

Additionally, the fact that some of INNventa’s products are ‘natural’ and non-chemical has not been a barrier to innovation and meeting unmet medical need, as in the case of the company’s UrolitINN product. Orlic elucidates: “UrolitINN is the result of combining the words urolithiasis and INNventa. It consists of eight natural herbs that enable the elimination of stone and sands from the urinary tract. This is extracted from natural products of herbal origin; therefore, there are no chemical agents present. There is no other product in the same field, so we have significantly grown in this particular segment and overachieved the goals we have set for it. No other medicine on the market helps in prevention, and it is incredibly beneficial in kidney crisis management.”

Writer: Patrick Burton

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