San, CSIR agree on obesity drug made from Hoodia Gordonii Cactus
The San people and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
(CSIR) have finally come to a royalty agreement for a potentially
lucrative new obesity drug, reports Business Day.
The drug, known as P57, was developed from a Kalahari cactus known
as hoodia, or xhoba by the San. Xhoba played an important role in
San traditional healing.
Details of the agreement have not yet been released. However a
CSIR spokesperson told Business Day that profits would be shared
equally between all San.
According to the Guardian newspaper, the CSIR patented the drug
in 1997, and subsequently licensed it to British drug company Phytopharm.
Phytopharm has now sold the rights to United States-based Pfizer.
The deal came under fire, however, when it was revealed that the
San people had been left out of any royalty agreements.
Phytopharm estimates that the market for obesity treatments is
in excess of $3-billion in the US alone.
Hunger-killing cactus "could grow in Australia"
A RARE and ugly cactus that grows in the African Kalahari desert
is being touted as the latest weapon in the battle of the bulge
and potentially the world's first organic weight-loss drug.
Hoodia, traditionally used by the Kalahari's San bushmen to ward
off hunger and thirst during long hunting trips, reputedly kills
the appetite for 24 hours.
The hunger-quelling ingredient, known as P57, was discovered a
few years ago and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer now holds the developing
and marketing rights to turn the molecule into weight-loss gold.
It is reportedly being cultivated in industrial quantities at a
secret location under armed guard by South African authorities.
But the makers of a BBC documentary to be aired on the ABC's Four
Corners tomorrow night believe the conditions are right for the
plant - which thrives in hot desert environments - to grow wild
in parts of Australia.
"The Hoodia thrives only in deserts at a temperature of 50 degrees
and over," said Tom Mangold of the BBC's Correspondent program.pe"Australia
has such an environment. It's just possible the plant grows wild
According to Dr Rich Dixey, the head of UK company Phytopharm which
discovered P57, the molecule works by acting on the nerve cells
in the brain that sense glucose sugar.
"What Hoodia seems to contain is a molecule that's about ten thousand
times as active as glucose," he told Mr Mangold.
"It goes to the mid-brain and actually makes those nerve cells
fire as if you were full. But you haven't eaten food, nor do you
Animal and clinical trials have backed the findings, with a group
of morbidly obese people reducing their calorie intake by about
1,000 calories a day - roughly 50 per cent.
As if that isn't good enough news, Hoodia is also said to have
euphoric and aphrodisiac effects, according to Mr Mangold, who sampled
the plant himself.
On the downside, the plant is said to have an unpleasant taste.
However, the Hoodia story has been marred by allegations of bio-piracy
and concerns about what the Western discovery will mean to the San
tribespeople, who could be turned into millionaires overnight.
Pfizer and lawyers representing the Kalihari Bushmen are waiting
for clinical trials to end in about three or four years.