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Old 06-26-2004, 09:24 AM   #1
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Exclamation Alleged "Hoodia" pills and products - the latest scam!

This was initially going to be a reply in the "appetite supressants" thread but after doing a bit of research, felt the subject of hoodia deserved its own thread - since apparently the snake oil salesmen are now jumping on the plant as the answer to their loss of ephedra as a 'miracle diet ingredient'.

Originally Posted by caralea
I just found a tea, its called BIJA Healing Teas. Hoodia Slimming, its cactus and green tea and other good stuff. It acts as an appetite suppressant. I also take Niacin and Chromemate, they are vitamins that help with cravings. Its all working, Ive lost 13 pounds in less than 3 weeks. I also listen to a Low Carb Self Hypnosis CD at night.
I wonder though...if there's actually Hoodia in that tea. TrimSpa has also touted the Hoodia that is allegedly in their pills (it's the hot new 'diet ingredient' now) and are now being sued in New York for NOT containing the component in the plant that is alleged to burn fat.

And another thing to keep in mind is that the plant has still not been proven to cause weight loss. I found this article in the Botswana Daily Sun website:

British company studies hoodia viability
12 January, 2004

A British pharmaceutical company, Phytopharm, is carrying out clinical trials to establish the viability of the use of extracts of hoodia plant by obese people.

Nonofo Mosesane, the curator natural history ‹ Botanical Garden ‹ told BOPA that the results of the trials are expected in 2008.

Mosesane said if the results are favourable, people could plant hoodia, which is known as seboka or sekgophana in Setswana, for commercial purposes.

The plant was recently included in the list of protected plant species.

"Everything is possible with planting hoodia, you can plant it vegetatively or through seeds," Mosesane said, adding that his office did some casual trials and planted 12 seeds on November 21 2003, which has germinated by surprise on November 25. The seeds are said to be growing well albeit slowly, probably because they were planted in a tray and were placed under a shade.

He said the ideal place to plant hoodia is in sandy soil. As is the case with other succulents, hoodia does not need to be watered as watering could kill it.

Mosesane said the plant might not be increasing in the bush because all indigenous plants have their natural enemies that are always waiting to prey on them. "Although wind and birds are good at seed dispersal, they tend to be a hindrance in spreading the plant as it lands in areas not suitable for its habitation," he explained.

He said the seeds need safe seed trap sites, adding that acacia, shrubs and rocks are found the best providers of safe sites.

Hoodia is common in communal areas but it is difficult for it to replenish itself due to ploughing of crops and livestock that destroys the newly geminating plant through their hooves. "Animals do not eat hoodia but some can feed on the roots thus killing the plant," he also explained. One of the natural enemies of hoodia is the snout beetle, which attacks the plant from the roots up to the stem.

Towards the end of last year, the news media went on a frenzy about a weed mistaken for hoodia, which was reportedly being exported to the United States.
So they won't really know if it "works" for another 4 years, supposedly! Of course, until then (or when the FDA cracks down), the marketers will be selling the crap out of hoodia, or (as the article says) what they purport to be Hoodia.

Another article - this one from the ABC News, dated 7 Aug 2003:

Desert Diet
Ancient Tribal Remedy Could Be Next Big Drug to Fight Obesity

By Matthew McGarry

L O N D O N, Aug. 7
— A wild plant used by generations of native Bushmen in South Africa's Kalahari Desert to help them avoid starvation in the dry, hot sands could make them millionaires if it is successfully developed into a weight-loss drug for Westerners.

"I learned how to eat it from my forefathers," said one member of the San tribe, a people who live in the Kalahari Desert, as he prepared a piece of the cactus-like plant called hoodia by trimming off the prickly spikes. "It is my food, my water, and also a medicine for me."

According to San spokesman Andries Steenkamp, his people ate the hoodia plant for thousands of years in order to ward off hunger pains and to quench their thirst during lean times and when they were forced to survive during long hunting trips.

"Hoodia stops hunger and also treats sickness," Steenkamp told ABCNEWS. "We, San, use the plant during hunting to fight off the pain of hunger and thirst."

Pfizer Developing Key Ingredient

Now drug firms are tapping into the San knowledge, and are hoping to make a fortune by developing the hoodia plant into a miracle slimming pill for millions of overweight Americans and Europeans.

One of those firms is Pfizer, the U.S. pharmaceutical giant responsible for Viagra. It has invested as much as $21 million for the rights to develop and license the active ingredient of hoodia, called P-57.

Obesity is a growing problem in Western countries, where 100 million people are dangerously overweight. Doctors say excessive weight gain causes a myriad of medical problems including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and the onset of strokes.

P-57 works by mimicking the effect that glucose has on nerve cells in the brain — in effect fooling the body into thinking it is full, even when it is not, thus curbing the appetite.

Clinical trials in the United Kingdom suggest P-57 could reduce appetite by up to 2,000 calories a day, making it a potential runaway success in the multimillion-dollar dieting industry. Developers of P-57 hope to see it available as a prescription drug by 2007, after further clinical trials.

The irony that some of the world's most overfed people may benefit from some of the hungriest was not lost on the San.

"At first people here were a bit shocked," said Nigel Crawhall, a professor at the South African San Institute and a campaigner for the rights of indigenous tribes. "Why would anybody want to lose weight by eating the hoodia plant? Because it's meant for when you're traveling across the desert and you don't have enough to eat. So we thought it was a bit weird."

Promised a Cut in Profits

A tribe of hunter-gatherers whose 20,000-year-old culture was recently close to extinction, the San people could now have found the ultimate survival weapon in their reliance on hoodia. Pfizer has promised them a cut of the royalties.

But the chance to share in the proceeds of a revolutionary new diet drug didn't come without a fight.

Roger Chennells, a lawyer who in 1999 helped the San win back a large portion of their ancestral homelands in South Africa, decided to challenge the drug firms and the South African research institute that originally took out the hoodia patent in 1996.

After a prolonged battle an agreement was finally reached earlier this year. "There was a certain amount of mistrust because it was a significant amount of money and each side had a lot to lose," said Chennells. "But after a fight, both parties were satisfied."

Now the San will help to cultivate the plant and should the drug come to market, their impoverished community of an estimated 100,000 people scattered across the Kalahari Desert stands to gain millions of dollars annually, plus jobs and scholarships.

Dreams of Riches

But first the drug must be proven to work and then it must be declared safe to use by government medical boards.

Crawhall said the mood is one of anxious anticipation. "There are lots of promises, and lots of excitement, but people have seen promises before and they don't always deliver, so there's also a bit of caution," he said. "People can't help but wondering if this is really going to happen or not."

In the meantime, the needy San people continue to hang on to life in the harsh and unforgiving Kalahari Desert, comforted by dreams of future riches and how they will spend all that money.
And yet another article:
Magic molecule ... and the millionaire bushmen

June 23 2003

A cactus in the Kalahari desert may save the West from obesity and bring millions of dollars to an impoverished African tribe, writes Tom Mangold.

Imagine this. A pill that kills the appetite and attacks obesity, is organic, with no chemicals added, has no known side effects, and contains a miracle molecule that fools the brain into believing you are full and even stops you thinking about food.

A mirage? A product as likely as the pill that turns water into petrol? No. It's true and it's here. And I know it works because I've tried it.

Deep inside the arid Kalahari desert, which intrudes into South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, grows an ugly looking cactus (actually a succulent) called the Hoodia plant. It thrives in temperatures that boil your brain - 50 degrees plus, and it takes years to mature.

When scientists at the South African Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research were routinely testing the cactus for commercial or medicinal value, they discovered to their amazement that the plant contained a new molecule, unknown to man, since christened P.57.

The Eureka moment came when the boffins from CSIR checked with the San tribe of bushmen, equivalent to the Aborigines of Australia and among the world's oldest and most primitive hunter-gatherers, who have historically eaten the Hoodia during their hunting trips in the Kalahari. To stave off the worst of the hunger pangs during their trips across infertile lands, they chewed the Hoodia. They've been eating this for thousands of years and believe me, you won't see a fat San today.

Once the South Africans realised what they had, they sold the license for P.57 to a small British bio-pharma-ceutical company, Phytopharm, which has an ethical policy of rewarding the Third World for pharmaceutical breakthroughs that make money for the First World.

As soon as the implications of P.57 were absorbed by the British, Phytopharm sold the development and marketing rights to the giant Pfizer Corporation for $US32 million ($A47.5million). They in turn have invested a further $US400 million in a product that could rival their own Viagra for profits.

When I travelled to the Kalahari recently to try it for myself, I met families of the San bushmen, a sad, impoverished and displaced tribe, still unaware that they are sitting on a green/goldmine. If the Hoodia works as most believe it will, the 100,000 San strung along the edge of the Kalahari will become overnight millionaires on royalties negotiated on their behalf by their "white-knight", South African lawyer Roger Chennells. They'll need all the help they can get to handle the lottery win. Currently many smoke industrial quantities of marijuana, suffer from alcoholism, and have neither possessions nor any sense of the value of money. One notable exception - their highly intelligent negotiator, Petrus Valboie, who will be working to create and help administer a trust fund for his tribe, doesn't own the shirt on his back or the chinos he travels in.

The truth is no one has grasped what the magic molecule means for their fat counterparts in the developed world. More than 100 million people in the developed world are now clinically obese. Soon it will be statistically safer to smoke than to overeat. A pandemic of obesity is sweeping the world and in its wake come the attendant plagues of diabetes and heart attacks.

Sure, you can try every appetite suppressant on the market until those amphetamine "jiggers" give you the permanent shakes, pay hundreds of dollars for every fashionable medical injection, or slavishly follow each new diet fad, but the results are awfully similar. Ninety per cent of us will finish up where we started - overweight and still eating too much. And for the very fat - an early death is often predictable.

The truth about food after 40 is that it is required for maintenance only. We really don't need to eat that much to keep healthy, trim and fit. The problem is we live in a culture that forces food at us. In America, people already snack all day. There are no meal times. We think too much about food, make too many ceremonies around it. But how can we stop?

The miracle of Hoodia is that it seems to do it for you. According to Dr Richard Dixey, the boss of Phytopharm, here's how P.57 actually works: "There's a part of your brain, the hypothalamus, and within that mid-brain there are nerve cells that sense glucose sugar. Now when you eat, blood sugar goes up because of the food, and these cells start firing and now you are full.

"But the problem with the overweights and the obese is that they will still sneak down the fridge at two in the morning and hit the HaagenDaz, consume huge amounts of calories and still not feel full," Dixey says.

"What the Hoodia seems to contain is a molecule that's about ten thousand times as active as glucose. 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 want to. That's how it works."

When Dixey organised the first animal trials for Hoodia he was astonished to discover that rats, a species that will eat literally anything, not only stopped eating, but even lost interest in what to a rat is a five-star cordon bleu delicacy, salami and chocolate.

When the first human clinical trial was conducted by Phytopharm, the company chose a morbidly obese group of people from Leicester, England, and placed them in a "phase 1 unit", a place as close to prison as it gets. All the volunteers could do was read papers and watch television - and eat. Half the group were given Hoodia, half were given placebo. At the end of 15 days, the group on Hoodia had reduced their food intake by 1000 calories a day. Given the average daily diet is around 2200 calories, this was a stunning success.

So we set out for the Kalahari desert four hours north of Cape Town in search of the cactus. It turns out to be an unattractive plant that sprouts about 10 tentacles the size of a long cucumber. Each tentacle is covered in spikes, which need to be carefully peeled. Inside is a slightly unpleasant-tasting, fleshy plant. I ate about half a banana size - and later so did my cameraman. It was about 6pm. I did not then believe in the tooth fairy or the Hoodia.

Soon after we began the four-hour drive back to Cape Town. The plant is said to have a feel-good almost aphrodisiac quality, and I have to say we felt good. But more significantly, we didn't think about food. Our brains really were telling us that we were full. It was a magnificent deception. Dinner time came and went. We reached our hotel at about midnight and went to bed without thinking of food. Neither of us wanted nor did we eat breakfast. I had a very light lunch but consumed it without appetite and very little pleasure. Partial then full appetite returned slowly after 24 hours. It was no scientific test but that plant worked on me.

The San bushmen all tell me the plant has a distinct aphrodisiac effect too. I didn't experience that, but I did have a feeling of well-being that was most unusual.

Valboie says the plant is a wonder-plant, giving energy to scour the desert by day and a new strength to make love all night. It allegedly cures hangovers and settles an upset stomach too.

Chennells, the San's lawyer, gave some Hoodia to a fat dog and it immediately stopped eating. He tried it himself and he lost his appetite. Did it have an aphrodisiac effect on him? "Let's just say I was in the desert, alone, and I felt very strong," he smiled.

If there are side effects - and the clinical trials have still got three to four years to run, they have yet to emerge. Chennells is ecstatic: "The San will finally throw off thousands of years of oppression, poverty, social isolation and discrimination. We will create trust funds with their Hoodia royalties and the children will join South Africa's middle classes in our lifetime." The royalties will allow the San (who were once hunted like animals by the whites) to buy their own land, and to join the 21st century. The irony is that a primitive and impoverished Third World tribe will be passing its historic knowledge of the miracle molecule to a developed world groaning under the weight of its insatiable appetites.

Says Chennells: "I envisage Hoodia cafes in London and New York, salads will be served and the Hoodia cut like cucumber onto the salad. It will need flavouring to counter its unpleasant taste, but if it has no side effects and no cumulative side effects - and it hasn't for the San as far as we know, then the fat world will have found the silver bullet it's been looking for."

But the new green/gold rush in South Africa has already brought in the snake-oil salesmen and bandits. Earlier this year, in Namibia, a group of men was stopped by the police as they were taking Hoodia plants out of the sand. The men claimed to have permission from the CSIR in Pretoria, but this was a lie. They were one of several groups of bio-pirates, scouring the vast emptiness of the Kalahari looking to steal the precious Hoodia and smuggle it out of southern Africa.

I discovered some of the Hoodia has already reached the United States where a "grey" market in the Hoodia has already taken off. You can check the net for Hoodia products, but be careful, as the ones I found are worthless frauds. One popular "Hoodia" appetite suppressant sells under the name of Lipodrene. I had the pill independently analysed in London and it turns out to have "no discernible Hoodia" in it. I would be equally careful of trying any other alleged Hoodia pills. Pfizer have sole marketing rights, the clinical trials have three or four years to run so be patient.

And don't try travelling to the Kalahari to find the cactus on your own. Not only is it illegal to export it, it will die long before you step off the plane in Australia. Besides, the Kalahari is inhospitable, and the only people who can help you locate it in the wild, the San bushmen, are the very people who won't help as they would be robbing themselves of their inheritance.

Besides, the plant is becoming more rare. The South African CSIR are now cultivating it in industrial quantities at a secret location under armed guard. The truth is, that if the plant delivers on its initial promise, it will do for fat people what pain killers have done for headaches, and Viagra for sex. But it still has a way to go before it can be synthesised into a simple pill.

There is one way in which you might be able to beat the system legally. The Hoodia thrives only in deserts at a temperature of 50 degrees and over. Australia has such an environment. It's just possible, the plant grows wild here too.

Tom Mangold and Dominick Ozanne's film The Anti-fat Pill and the Bushmen was made for BBC TV's Correspondent program.

This story was found at:
Here's a link to the transcript of that BBC program "The Anti-Fat Pill & The Bushmen"


Tom Mangold
Behind three separate layers of very high security fence lies the South African Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research – the CSIR.

Tom Mangold
In the sixties scientists inside this well-guarded complex heard rumours of how the San tribesmen used the Hoodia to suppress appetite on long hunting trips. They took the plant and in their laboratories they tried to extract the active ingredient.

Tom Mangold
Today it is the revelation of what they have found which has turned this place into a pharmaceutical Fort Knox.

Tom Mangold
Ok, what have we got here?

Dr Petro Terblanche
Director, Biochemtech, CSIR
In the late sixties the scientists made an observation that the animal trials showed that the rats actually stopped eating and of course that triggered the inquisitive mind and we started investigating further. That was when the
PhD student actually made an extraction and identify a molecule, which has never been seen before. So there’s, there’s an ingredient in the Hoodia plant, which you could only find through very high level and significant scientific research, which this student then identified and by scanning the world literature and the world databases realised that this is truly novel and that is the invention that the CSIR then patented.

Tom Mangold
The road to freedom from poverty and hunger for the San runs through a small company called Phytopharm in Cambridgeshire who bought the license for Hoodia from the South African CSIR.

Phytopharm then promptly sold the rights to develop the drug for thirty two million dollars to the giant pharmaceutical company Pfizer who are continuing
trials on the plant.

So if the Hoodia can somehow bring about their salvation two more questions arise. Does it work, and will the money come in time?

This very good news is already out. A plant with a miracle molecule that can help cure the overweight is like the pill that can turn water into petrol. That's
worth stealing. So now a green gold rush has followed with bio-pirates trying to kidnap the plant.

The bandits working on the fringes of the law have mounted operations to steal and illegally export the precious cactus. Last year a group of men were
found in the Kalahari in Namibia cutting down wild plants.

When challenged by the Namibian police they claimed to have permission to harvest, but it turned out to be a complete lie. They were trying to open up
a grey market in Hoodia in the west, and they may have succeeded.

I learned that the Hoodia was being talked about in the sunshine belt states of the U.S.

And even though it's never been approved by the authorities it was even being sold openly on the net.

Indeed the fame of Hoodia has reached Georgia and Alabama. One of several products already available by mail order only through the internet is Lipodrene.

It's claimed to be the world's first Hoodia pill.

In the United States Hoodia is already being marketed very quietly on the net. There are three appetite suppressants on sale. They all claim to contain the miracle molecule in Hoodia. Talk to me about them.

Dr Richard Dixey:
Well I think it's a disgrace, frankly. We have done five years work so far on this plant, and on the back of the clinical trials we've published, a bunch of people have got hold of and they've just taken the clinical data and the
name of the plant and stuck it in their products.

In fact we analysed one of them to see if it contained any Hoodia. It didn't contain any Hoodia we could detect...It contained caffeine. It was a caffeine pill. And what had happened was they had seen the publicity about Hoodia
in the papers and thought, great, we'll stick Hoodia on our caffeine pill, make it a miracle cure.

Tom Mangold
And sure enough when we tested Lipodrene it turned out to have no discernible Hoodia in it. It's a plain fraud.

So who's buying this stuff? Do they know the Hoodia claims are false? Does the very thought of a new miracle molecule have some psychological value?

First stop Amanda Ward, a housewife who lives in a trailer with her two children, two dogs and truck driver husband.

She's been taking Lipodrene for three months since her husband bought her two bottles for Christmas.

Amanda first heard about Lipodrene from her friend Tracy.

Tom Mangold:
Amanda, let me just begin by asking you when it comes to doing something about it, a lot of people are simply going to say, why don't you eat less? Can you eat less?

Amanda Ward:
Oh, yeah. I've tried several diet products and I'm taking something now that really works.

Tom Mangold:
What, what are you taking now that works?

Amanda Ward:

Well, my appetite is suppressed but I haven't been, I just haven't been sticking to my diet.

Tom Mangold:
Because you know they say it's got this Hoodia plant from South Africa?

Amanda Ward:
Yes, she gave me a pamphlet and I read it and it had three different factors in it that it really works on your hips and your thighs and your middle section and it was that one ingredient that they were really talking about.

Tom Mangold:
Supposing I said to you it hasn't got the miracle molecule in it, it's just another appetite suppressant, would you be surprised?


Amanda Ward:
Yes, I would.

Tom Mangold:
Well, so much for the power of persuasion. People like Amanda are easy victims for the many snake oil salesmen already trying to cash in on Hoodia's fame.

The company marketing Lipodrene is called Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, run by Mr Jared Wheat, a shy and elusive individual. His offices and mail order
operation are in a rundown shopping mall on the outskirts of Atlanta.

As well as selling Lipodrene they also market an alleged impotence cure. Last year Mr Wheat, a former bodybuilder, was warned by the American Food and Drug Administration for making false and exaggerated medical claims for one of his products. Now he's at it again, claiming that Lipodrene contains a miracle slimming agent.

Wheat's Lipodrene leaflet makes no sense once it emerges that there's no Hoodia in the pill. So will Mr Jared Wheat explain himself now?

Jared Wheat:
Hello, may I help you?

Tom Mangold:
Hi, are you Mr Wheat? Hi, I'm Tom Mangold, BBC Television. Hi, nice to meet you at last. We wanted to have a chat to you about, you know we're making a film about the Hoodia? And we wanted to talk to you about Lipodrene and all that stuff. Have you got a moment to talk to us?

Jared Wheat:
Err, I told the gentleman I spoke to last time I don't do interviews.

Tom Mangold
Oh, why is that?

Jared Wheat
I just don't. You guys always twist stuff in negative ways and I don't trust the press.

Tom Mangold
We, we're not going to twist anything.

Jared Wheat
I had the local TV station tell me something very similar recently and I just don't want…
I spoke to your rep here recently, sir. I told him I had no interest whatsoever of doing any type of interview.

Tom Mangold
The one thing I wanted to ask you was, where do you get your Hoodia from? Do you get it from South Africa?

Jared Wheat
I am not going to comment on that either.

Tom Mangold
But could it be that you're getting it illegally?

Jared Wheat

Tom Mangold
Can you talk to us later on, Mr Wheat?

Jared Wheat
No, sir. I don't do interviews with the press.

Tom Mangold
Perhaps can we make a date for a week from now?

Jared Wheat
No, sir. You'd be wasting your time.

Tom Mangold
But they're quite simple questions. We've got nothing nasty to ask you.

Jared Wheat
I understand. No, thank you.

Tom Mangold
Are you sure?

Jared Wheat
Yes, sir.

Tom Mangold
Okay, well thanks for putting up with us anyway.
The entire transcript which I quoted a small portion of above is well worth reading in its entirety - wish I'd seen the show itself.

Okay: bottom line as I see it:
  • The alleged appetite suppressing ingredient in Hoodia is STILL under study for at least the next 3 years.
  • The alleged active ingredient, "P57" is patented and owned by a biopharmaceutical company, who sold the rights to Pfizer, makers of Viagra
  • The diet pills that claim to contain Hoodia which have been analyzed have been found to contain NO Hoodia.
  • As usual, the snake oil scam artists are after your money...
Mrs. Jim
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