June 2008
Listed company Comvita has developed Medihoney products which promote wound healing because of the anti-bacterial properties of high unique manuka factor (UMF) honeys. The patented product has become the first honey-based product for the management of wounds and burns to receive marketing clearance by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

New Zealand produces honey from the flowers of native trees, manuka and kanuka, which comes with unique manuka factor (UMF), which varies according to the season and flowering intensity. More than 100 tonnes of UMF honey are now produced annually, mainly from bush areas in East Cape, Central Plateau and Northland.

Comvita is the worlds largest producer of UMF manuka honey, contracting with beekeepers to supply.

Wound and burn care products made from UMF manuka honey have been used in New Zealand for some time. The practice is not modern the ancient Greeks knew that honey applied to a wound would promote healing. It keeps the wound moist and provides natural anti-bacterial properties. Honey products are also effective against so-called super bugs, such as MRSA, which have developed resistance to the usual antibiotics. A wound will not heal if infected. Bacteria produce toxins, and cause inflammation which itself stops healing, causes pain, and causes scarring. A honey with sufficient antibacterial potency stops all of these problems. Comvita and its Australian-based subsidiary Medihoney are world leaders in the development of honey-based medical products. Medihoney products are sold in Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Wound care is a US $7 billion sector of medicine worldwide.

Medihoney products have potential to improve the quality of life for people with hard-to-heal wounds as a result of diabetes, vascular insufficiencies and pressure ulcers which afflict nursing home patients.

The Comvita partner in the US, Derma Sciences, applied for the clearance from FDA for Api-Med dressing, which was received in the middle of last year. It had earlier received approval from Health Canada. Derma Sciences has exclusive marketing rights to the Comvita wound-care products in the Americas. The licensing deal, which includes patents and other intellectual property, covers the use of Comvitas medical grade manuka honey-based products for chronic wounds, skin tears, post-operative wounds and burns.

A second FDA clearance has been obtained for a gel sheet.