Admit there's a role for natural solutions, Pharmactive's MD tells the pharma world

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

Marguerite Gerritsen of Pharmactive with Liza Laws Nutraingredients
Marguerite Gerritsen of Pharmactive with Liza Laws Nutraingredients

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Pharmactive Biotech Products, SL is a Spanish private training company that develops and manufactures unique and scientifically backed natural ingredients. We caught up with Managing Director, Marguerite Gerritsen, at Vitafoods, Geneva, to find out about the future of nutraceuticals in a pharma world and to commend them on winning one of our prestigious awards.

Congratulations on winning a Nutraingredients award, what does this win mean to Pharmactive?

We're very, very excited about it and we are so proud to showcase our winning product, Affron, at Vitafoods. We feel we deserved it, because we are the market leader in saffron which is also evidenced by the amount of growth that we are having with our ingredients. Our customers are also very happy, so for us it has all come together - our innovative company, a good ingredient, backed up by science. And that is what was recognised by the judges.

If people don't already know about you, why should they try your products?

We are a small family-owned business and we're very agile and very focused on innovation.

We appreciate I would say challenging customers, customers that ask lots of questions about our sustainability profile and about our footprint. We like those who ask to see clinical studies, those who want to go into detail….

Often people want to know exactly where our products come from and need assurance they will get their preferred customer base – quick wins in this industry are just that, quick wins – you get them one day, you lose them another and these are not our preferred projects.

What is important to us is that we work with a customer on developing a great product. And hopefully it will have great success and be in the market for a long time, we are not interested in let's say quick fixes.

There's clearly a lot of passion for your products and alongside this people are not as keen to go to the doctor. They also want to know what they are being given and how it really affects them. How do you reassure people that you're genuinely consumer-focused?

The average consumer nowadays is a lot more educated about preventative health. They're a lot more vocal. So, they go to the doctors with their printouts from Google and say, “I've seen this, what do you think​?” They often demand a second opinion and they are starting to ask for supportive medicine. There are countries now that are further along, like Spain, where people have a serious medical condition or medical trajectory and they're really getting the support from their doctors who suggest taking a supplement.

I think even the medical field is slowly and gradually becoming more aware and more open, acknowledging that there is a role to play for the nutraceutical industry. However, there's still a big divide between pharma, doctors and other sorts of industries, butI think they they're starting to come together. So, part of Pharmactive’s mission, and we firmly believe in this, is that we as a company, have a role to play in making those parties connect. We have a lot to learn from pharmaceutical industry. And that includes the rigour the discipline, the product development process, the focus on clinical data... I think that is something we still must improve on overall as an industry.

So, what about the pharmaceutical industry vs the natural solutions...?

On the other side, what the pharmaceutical industry has to learn from us is to, and I'm being a little bit blunt here, “get down from your ivory tower, come down to real life and admit that there's also role for just natural solutions​”. The fact that we have a lot of companies here at Vitafoods presenting a lot of great products, backed by science, means that that there's always going to be a market for it, it has efficacy and there's a role to play.

We are looking for pharma companies that are open to having this discussion and I believe they are out there. 

It sounds like your company has got a genuine concern for the people that will be taking your products, which, for me is in stark contrast to some I know who have just been handed out strong antidepressants or painkillers that are addictive and then just left to go through withdrawals alone…

When the nutraceutical industry started 25-30 years ago, it was very much and I always use the term, a cowboy industry. However, it is not fair to compare it to the pharmaceutical industry that has been around for hundreds of years – but we have not progressed to that level of rigour yet. Some of the earliest supplements really suffered from probably wishful thinking and were without proper science but I think now, overall, companies are getting better at putting science out there, better research in and better ingredients are being used. I think all this helps shine a light on the industry in a positive way which means that people are more aware and more willing to challenge their doctors to give them advice on supplements.

I think it also depends how the regulatory framework steps up - and that's a stumbling block. We know that at least for our company, but also many other companies that we are very willing to start the discussion and I think there are a few front runners also in pharma that want to have that discussion too. However, if the regulatory framework is still risk averse, it's holding us back.

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