First a little background. Scientists in South Africa at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have known for more than forty years that hoodia could probably be used as an appetite suppressant. They studied many plants indigenous to South Africa, looking for potential food products and testing for toxicity. It was much later before Phytopharm, a British pharmaceutical company, became involved. In 1995, Phytopharm, working with the CSIR, identified and patented a molecule in hoodia, p57, which they believe to be the active appetite suppressant in hoodia gordonii.
Building on and adding to the research performed by the CSIR, Phytopharm sub-licensed the rights to develop pure hoodia p57 to the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. At this time Phytopharm hoped to come up with a semi-synthetic form of hoodia p57 and they may still be working on this idea, but their new relationship with Unilever (makers of Slim Fast) is focused on the development of a dietary supplement. They are looking for a new partner to help with research and development of a prescription drug that may be useful in treating metabolic problems related to obesity. This drug will also be based on the hoodia p57 molecule.
While dieters will see many products on the internet and in stores which claim to contain pure hoodia gordonii, manufacturers must be very careful about claims concerning hoodia p57 or pure hoodia p57. While Phytopharm and its partners cannot patent a naturally occurring substance like hoodia gordonii, they do have a patent on the isolated molecule. Health supplements and diet aids which contain genuine hoodia gordonii will in fact contain p57, because p57 is found in hoodia gordonii. P57 hoodia products from Phytopharm may contain only the p57 molecule which has been extracted from the hoodia gordonii plant. Products currently on the market are simply the hoodia gordonii plant that has been ground into a powder.
While there is really no way for dieters to know how similar Phytopharm's pure hoodia p57 will be to those products which are currently available, it is possible to be relatively confident that the product contains genuine hoodia gordonii and not something else. Because reporters and other individuals have investigated certain products and found that they were not genuine hoodia gordonii, those reputable companies which do use hoodia gordonii in their products provide certifications and analytical reports for their customers to view. A CITES certification, while not a guarantee of any hoodia p57 content, does certify that the company exported the plant from South Africa. Analytical reports are chemical analyses of the compounds within the health supplement, performed by independent laboratories. Desert Burn and Hoodia Gordonii Plus websites display both of these certifications. Close inspection of the analytical reports displayed by some companies do indicate the presence of the hoodia p57 molecule.
Phytopharm and Unilever announced recently that they have contacted the ?appropriate authorities? about other companies selling hoodia gordonii. It is unclear at this point what issues they are trying to address. There do not seem to be any companies out there who claim to be selling pure hoodia p57 only pure hoodia gordonii. There are definitely no companies that are extracting the hoodia p57 molecule from the plant. There are companies whose names are similar to hoodia p57, but it may not be possible for Phytopharm to bring patent infringement complaints against those companies.
Phytopharm and Unilever have spent millions of dollars on the research and development of their hoodia p57 product. Their hesitation about entering the market before clinical research was completed is admirable. But, no matter how much the public admires their efforts, many are just not willing to wait for their pure hoodia p57 products to hit the market. These dieters are giving the hoodia gordonii products that are on the market a try. Whether or not these products work as well as Phytopharm's product will not be clear until the clinical research is completed...in a couple of years.
For more information about hoodia p57, visit the Hoodia Info Blog.
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