The newly established medical division of award-winning natural health products company Comvita Limited has secured its first export order for medical grade manuka honey. The order will be supplied by Comvita's Cambridge-based medical division whose formation follows the recent acquisition of Bee & Herbal NZ Ltd. and Apimed Medical Honey Limited.
Comvita received the export order from the UK wound care product manufacturer Brightwake soon after that company was granted a drug tariff allowing its manuka honey wound dressings to be fully funded by the National Health Service and marketed directly to hospitals and clinics in the UK.
The formation of the Comvita Medical Division and its first export order are viewed by Comvita's CEO Graeme Boyd as major milestones for the company and for the use of honey in international medical markets.
"The economic potential is huge and creates new opportunities for everyone involved in the production of manuka honey," he says. "This includes landowners and beekeepers."
This is endorsed by Comvita's chairman Bill Bracks who says launch of the medical division reflects a new direction the company's taking.
"It takes us toward the illness end of the health spectrum," he says. "Comvita has been traditionally positioned at the wellness end. Its focus has been directed at creating a condition of wellness. We are now moving down the continuum toward the medical end, the illness end."
Bracks points to the wound-dressings which are a mainstay product of the medical division. He says obviously these are aimed at people who already have a wound.
"The medical end is driven mainly because we have a high degree of expertise and experience in dealing with manuka honey, having pioneered the growth of the manuka honey market and through our long association with Professor Peter Molan at Waikato University.
"Manuka honey is a unique New Zealand product which offers a new method of treating otherwise untreatable wounds. Even the flesh-eating bacteria succumb to the high activity manuka honey."
Bracks says manuka honey fits specifically into the wound dressing market which is a key part of the huge medical devices market estimated to be worth $40 billion internationally. He says there's huge potential to tap into a very small portion of that market
Newly-appointed divisional manager, Ray Lewis, says Comvita is laying the foundations for growth with an innovation programme backed by clinical trials. He explains research at Waikato University has identified an exceptional antibacterial property called UMF, or Unique Manuka Factor, which is present in some but not all manuka honey.
"UMF manuka honey provides a moist environment to promote healing and reduce scarring, and has been proven by medical science to be a natural solution for wound care," says Lewis.
"In supplying medical grade honey, a unique supplier accreditation programme ensures product traceability and safety. The supplier network from resource to manufacturer can be audited for compliance. Safety's ensured not only for microbiological contamination but also for any chemical and physical contamination.
"Other honey quality standards such as foreign matter, drum standards and manuka characteristics are also considered when determining medical grade honey. The entire process, from positioning and maintaining the beehives to extracting the honey and packaging the end product, is controlled to a strict quality regime developed by Comvita to meet the demanding standards of UK regulatory authorities."
A non-adherent wound dressing is impregnated with the honey to form a protective barrier and help create a moist wound-healing environment. Osmotic action draws exudate into the dressing thus releasing more honey and helping to create an environment favourable to healing.