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hoodia.jpg (26424 bytes)

The media is informing the public on a new exiting development in the weight
loss market. The people behind Viagra paid millions of dollars just for the
rights to make/distribute a drug based on this cactus.

The bad news: it might take at least 3-4 years to be available on the market
The good news: there is now one food supplement containing the real cactus

Read the full story now:

Hoodia cactus, the new weight loss miracle?

Currently there is a major breakthrough on the weight loss front as South African researchers did research on the food eaten by the San people.
They discovered they did eat parts of the Hoodia cactus to suppress
their appetite during hunting trips.

The UK company Phytopharm obtained the license for patented P57, the appetite-suppressing ingredient of the cactus and sold the rights to license the drug for $21m to Pfizer, the US pharmaceutical giant known for supplying e.g. Viagra.

After legal problems with the original inventors of the food (the San people)
Phytopharm on paying the San people a commission on all sales so the market
is now open for a drug version of the cactus. As you will understand this
drug will cause quite a wave on the weightloss market the coming years.

Below you will find some info on this exciting development.

Ron Fonteine

Hoodia Diet Tabs - now available !

bottleb.gif (20905 bytes)

Hoodia Diet Tabs is the solution for a safe all natural stimulant free weight loss. Hoodia Diet Tabs contain the powerful appetite suppressant Hoodia cactus in a 100% caffeine free, ephedra free and stimulant free diet pill unlike any other. 90 tablets for just $29.95
Click here for more details

Hoodia Diet Tabs Nutrition Facts

Chromium  100 MCG
Calcium Pyruvate 48 MG
Hoodia Gordonii 20:1 50 MG
Citrus Pectin 40 MG
Grapefruit seed extract 30 MG
Prune 30 MG

* based on 1 serving/tablet

In Africa the Hoodia cactus keeps men alive. Now its secret is 'stolen' to make us thin

Pharmaceutical firms stand accused of once again plundering native lore to make fortunes from natural remedies, writes Antony Barnett

For thousands of years, African tribesmen have eaten the Hoodia cactus to stave off hunger and thirst on long hunting trips.

The Kung bushmen who live around the Kalahari desert in southern Africa used to cut off a stem of the cactus about the size of a cucumber and munch on it over a couple of days. According to tradition, they ate together so they brought back what they caught and did not eat while hunting.

Now the Hoodia, which grows to 6ft - taller than the bushmen themselves - is at the centre of a bio-piracy row. Campaigners say the cactus has attracted the interest of the Western drug industry, which exploits developing countries through the international patent system.

In April, when pharmaceutical giants were being accused of failing to provide affordable Aids drugs in Africa, Phytopharm, a small firm in Cambridgeshire, said it had discovered a potential cure for obesity derived from an African cactus.

It emerged that the company had patented P57, the appetite-suppressing ingredient in the Hoodia, hoping it would become a slimming miracle.

Phytopharm's scientists boasted it would have none of the side-effects of many treatments because it was derived from a natural product. The discovery was immediately hailed by the press as a 'dieter's dream' and Phytopharm's share price rose as City traders expected rich returns from a drug which would revolutionise the 6bn market in slimming aids. Phytopharm acted quickly.

It sold the rights to license the drug for $21m to Pfizer, the US pharmaceutical giant, which hopes to have the treatment ready in pill form within three years. Having made millions from Viagra, the impotence drug, Pfizer now believes it has in its laboratories a drug that is going to beat fat. But it appears that while the drug companies were busy seducing the media, their shareholders and financiers about the wonders of their new drug, they had forgotten to tell the bushmen, whose knowledge they had used and patented.

Phytopharm's excuse appears to be that it believed the tribes which used the Hoodia cactus were extinct. Richard Dixey, the firm's self-proclaimed Buddhist chief executive, told the Financial Times : 'We're doing what we can to pay back, but it's a really fraught problem... especially as the people who discovered the plant have disappeared.'

Yet this weekend leaders of the people Dixey believed had disappeared are having their annual gathering at a farm 45 miles north of Cape Town. One of the top items on the agenda is to plan their strategy against Phytopharm and Pfizer. They are angry, saying their ancient knowledge has been stolen, and are about to launch a challenge and demand compensation.

Roger Chennells is the lawyer for the tribal bushmen, who number 100,000 across South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Angola. He argued their case in 1999 when the bushmen won 100,000 acres of white-owned farmland on the edge of the Kalahari.

Speaking to The Observer, Chennells said: 'They are very concerned. It feels like somebody has stolen their family silver and cashed it in for a huge profit. The bushmen do not object to anybody using their knowledge to produce a medicine, but they would have liked the drug companies to have spoken to them first and come to an agreement.

'I believe there is grounds for a legal challenge, but there is certainly a strong moral case for the drug companies to pay proper compensation to those whose knowledge they have taken and now claim to own.'

Alex Wijeratna, a campaigner for ActionAid, the international development charity, said: 'This is a major case of bio-piracy. Corporations are scouring the globe looking to rip off traditional knowledge from some of poorest communities in the world. Consent or compensation is rarely given. The patent system needs urgent reform to protect the knowledge nurtured over generations by groups like the African bushmen.'

When presented with news of this weekend's tribal gathering and the bushmen's anger about what has happened, Dixey reacted with genuine astonishment.

He claims that one of the reasons he set up Phytopharm was precisely to help tribal people profit from their ancient medicinal knowledge of plants. He said: 'I honestly believed that these bushmen had died out and am sorry to hear they feel hard done by. I am delighted that they are still around and have a recognisable community. The ownership of medicinal plants is extremely complex, but I have always believed that this type of knowledge is the most valuable asset of indigenous tribes. Instead of weaving baskets and taking tourists around, royalty payments from medicines could transform their prospects.'

Dixey, who insisted that he would now be happy to enter into talks with the bushmen community, said that Phytopharm was approached with the deal by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which had been investigating the properties of the Hoodia cactus.

He claims it was the CSIR that told him the bushmen tribes who used the cactus no longer existed and assured him that agreements were in place to help local communities.

Dr Marthinus Horak, the man in charge of the CSIR project, defended the deal. He claimed there were only a few hundred bushmen left in South Africa itself, living in isolated areas, and were very hard to contact.

He said: 'We always intended to speak to the community at some stage, but we did not believe it would be appropriate to do so before the drug had passed on the clinical tests and been finally approved. We did not want to raise their expectations with promises that could not be met.' Horak said the CSIR was committed to sharing financial benefits and had a track record in dealing with local communities through a variety of benefit-sharing programmes.

Yet critics - such as the South African campaigning group BioWatch - believe that these benefit-sharing agreements are nothing but a sham and mainly result in money being invested back into CSIR itself - which is half-funded by the South African government.

Rachel Wynberg from Biowatch said: 'All we hear is words, but we see nothing on paper. They talk of benefit-sharing, but it seems more of a myth than reality and most of the money seems to end up back in the CSIR.

'The details of agreements are all confidential and we have no access to them. The Hoodia drug has the potential to be South Africa's first blockbuster drug and this should have all been sorted out before the patent was awarded and not after.'

Sandy Gall, the broadcaster and former ITN newsreader who next month is publishing a book on the bushmen of southern Africa, described the situation as 'disgraceful'. He said: 'These ancient people have been exploited for years and it is disgraceful that it is still happening.

'They have been displaced and dispersed, but for someone to claim they thought the bushmen no longer existed is either naive or deceitful.'

The harsh environments in which the Kung bushmen have lived for thousands of years have led them to become expert botanists. They can readily identify more than 300 different types of plant with different properties and campaigners believe that the row over the Hoodia patent is just the first of many such battles to come.

Tomorrow pressure groups will converge on a meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva to protest against the system of patents which they claim helps drug corporations to exploit developing countries and prevents them from getting access to cheap drugs.

Antony Barnett
The Observer
Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002

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Excerpt from Assoc. Press 8/25/92:

Witdraai, South Africa - The slight, wizened man kneels in the sand and speaks of the long desert hunting treks of his youth, where his grandfather gave him the fleshy pulp of the hoodia cactus plant to stave off hunger and thirst. "The bushmen?? are always in the bush so we know a lot," said David Kruipeir, 67, a traditional healer for the nomadic African people known as the San. But the San have been wary of sharing their knowledge since their battle with the U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and a South African lab over plans to turn the hoodia into a new diet drug without acknowledging its discoverers. "The lid must stay on the pot," Kruipeir said.

The case is one of several to be discussed at the World Summit for Sustainable Development as examples of the difficulties indigenous people encounter when they try to cash in on medicines they have used for generations. The San, who number about 100,000, live in the region of the Kalahari Desert of southwest Africa where the hoodia, which they call Xhoba is native. For as long as they can remember, the bitter-tasting plant has kept them from feeling hungry on long journeys when they have little other food or water. The issue is part of a pattern of being exploited relating to their lands and their rights. It can't be looked upon in isolation. It is an indigenous people's human rights issue. The San case started when researchers at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, a South African lab partly funded by the government patented P57, the appetite suppressant derived from the hoodia, without acknowledging the San. The lab then licensed P57 to the small British pharmaceutical company Phytopharm which said the San clan that discovered the hoodia had died out, and subleased the patent to Pfzier. Eventually that San clan, which had been relocated by the apartheid government but was very much alive, found out about the patent. After legal wrangling an agreement on royalties was reached. Folk remedies have greatly contributed to modern medicine. By some accounts up to a quarter of present day drugs can be traced to plants --and many of those came from traditional medicine. The difficulty of translating traditional knowledge into Western medicine equitably has been a source of contention around the globe.

In India, the government working to create a national database of plants used traditionally for medicinal purposes is in a bid to head off any legal disputes. In South Africa, at the Collaborating Center for Drug Policy at the University of Cape town, researchers are working with traditional healers to develop anti-malaria drugs from local plants. Together, the researchers and healers have drafted a plan to split related profits equally with the communities. As for the San, although they remain annoyed that, in their view, they were almost swindled and they can't help but be amused by the prospect of Westerners using the hoodia plant to slim down.

A group of South African hunter-gatherers has reached a preliminary agreement with South Africa’s leading research organisation to share any benefits arising from the commercialisation of an appetite-suppressing substance in the hoodia cactus. Both sides hope that the agreement will end a sharp dispute over the intellectual property rights of the hoodia's active ingredient, dubbed P57.

For thousands of years, the knowledge that a slice of hoodia cactus can stave off hunger and quench thirst has remained the sole preserve of the San, the hunter-gatherers who today still inhabit the desert regions of Southern Africa. The cactus is now seen as a potential goldmine, as it could be the first plant to give rise to a commercially viable appetite-suppressant drug. The United States alone, which has an estimated 35 to 65 million clinically obese people, offers an enormous market for such a drug.

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Traditional Knowledge of the San of Southern Africa: Hoodia gordonia

Presentation prepared by
Victoria Geingos and Mathambo Ngakaeaja
Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA)
for the Second South-South Biopiracy Summit: “Biopiracy – Ten Years Post Rio”
22-23 August 2002, Johannesburg, South Africa

The San of Southern Africa have collected and used the Hoodia gordonia succulent for centuries. WIMSA, a San-owned regional networking organisation, learnt in 2001 that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) based in Pretoria, South Africa, had identified the active ingredient of the Hoodia. San representatives expressed concern that the CSIR had not consulted them before registering the research on the Hoodia for patenting, and passing the findings of their tests on to the pharmaceutical companies Phytopharm in the UK and Pfizer in the USA. With the assistance of their legal advisor the San entered into negotiations with the CSIR, which resulted in a memorandum of understanding and a benefit-sharing workshop, which
was held recently. A mutual understanding between all stakeholders has been established in this project, the first of its kind, with a firm commitment to sharing the benefits of the future success of the Hoodia patent with the San.

San and the Hoodia
Since 1999 WIMSA has been undertaking a Regional Oral Testimony Collection Project in close co-operation with other San organisations and their support organisations. San themselves conduct, tape and transcribe interviews relating to San history. Over 200 interviews have already been conducted. A number of
male and female respondents refer to the San’s knowledge of medicinal plants, and some refer to the Hoodia. San elderly and youth alike have elaborated on the use of the succulent, various species of which grow in sandy or rocky areas in Angola, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. The ||Anikhwe of northern Botswana feed children who “eat too much” pieces of Hoodia to make them eat
less. If this practice is carried out for longer than three months, the child could die, so Hoodia must be used with caution.

The Hai||om of northern Namibia still use Hoodia sap to treat allergic reactions in the eyes, and to treat severe stomach pain they boil Hoodia pieces in water and drink the brew.The ‡Khomani of north-western South Africa also refer to aforesaid practices. Already decades ago obese members of the ‡Khomani community were eating the Hoodia to slim down. (In the old days people
consumed the plant to meet the requirements of a healthy body whereas today overweight young people do so to slim down to meet the requirements of fashion.) All San communities interviewed – including the !Xun and Khwe who hail from Angola and now live in Schmidtsdrift in South Africa – stated that San hunters suppressed their hunger and maintained their energy levels on their two to three-day hunting trips by eating a slice of Hoodia twice a day. The plant had the same effect on the hunting dogs. Every generation in all San communities has passed the knowledge of the Hoodia on to the next generation
despite such evils as apartheid, which denied the San pride in their culture.

Most San communities enjoy extensive sharing of resources and thus have not withheld their knowledge of the Hoodia and other plants from other ethnic groups. We have come to realise, however, that we need to protect
our intellectual property, and we have taken measures to prevent further exploitation and ensure benefit-sharing amongst our peoples. It was of critical importance to the San that the CSIR acknowledged that our traditional knowledge regarding the Hoodia was the original source leading eventually to the approval of the patent in 1995. At the last WIMSA General Assembly meeting the San delegates appointed the South African San Council to negotiate with the CSIR on behalf of all San in the region. The first round of negotiations between the South African San Council and the CSIR led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding in which the CSIR acknowledges the San’s prior intellectual property rights in respect of the Hoodia. The council also
undertakes in the memorandum to negotiate a benefit-sharing agreement to take effect if the plant reaps success in the marketplace. The General Assembly agreed that future benefits deriving from the Hoodia will be shared equally by the San in all countries in which they live, namely South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The San are aware of the complexities arising from the CSIR’s association with international commercial
partners, and do not wish to threaten the viability of the planned commercial undertaking. At a workshop on benefit-sharing held recently it was decided that the relationship between the CSIR and the San should involve not only monetary ‘sharing’, but also sharing knowledge. It was also agreed that the
Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST) will provide information to the San on the patenting of all South African plants internationally.

The representatives of WIMSA, the South African San Council and the CSIR present at the above-mentioned workshop recommended the following:

- The Government of South Africa should direct more attention and resources to support indigenous communities who are directly responsible for the creation, maintenance, custodianship and development of their own indigenous knowledge.

- The need for vigorous formal consultation with San should be attended to. This would help to alleviate the perception of the lack of consideration, and to protect indigenous knowledge across regions. The San have for example not yet been consulted by the South African Government with regard to the proposed
laws on biodiversity and benefit-sharing.

- DACST should extend co-operation and support for a regional initiative for awareness-raising, initially by means of a regional conference. The San hope that their recommendations will be taken seriously, and that they will be acted on in the near future.

Victoria Geingos, Joram |Useb and Axel Thoma
Regional WIMSA
PO Box 80733
Tel: +264 061 244 909
Fax: +264 061 272 806

Mathambo Ngakaeaja
PO Box 219
Tel: +267 6597 485
Fax: +267 6596 439

Marthinus Horak
PO Box 395
Pretoria 0001
South Africa
Tel: +27 12 841 2670
Fax +27 12 841 4790

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