Commercial activities

According to the BioMolecular Sciences, Inc. website (see references) research on the pharmacological properties of H. gordoni, centering on the P57 molecule, has been ongoing for the past 30 years at South Africa's CSIR. A licence agreement was signed with Phytopharm in 1997 and in 1998 Pfizer acquired an exclusive global licence for P57. It is reputed that Pfizer spent around $US 400 million on the development of P57 as a drug.

In 2003, for reasons that are not clear, Pfizer ceased work on P57 and in December 2004 an agreement with Unilever was announced (Phytopharm/ Unilever, 2005). As part of the agreement Unilever agreed to initial payments to Phytopharm totalling $US 12.5 million out of a total of $US 40 million in payments plus royalties. It has been reported that Unilever could have products on the market by 2007 (e.g. Financial Times, 2004), probably under the Slim-Fast brand.

It is encouraging that Unilever is co-ordinating the development of Hoodia. As and when product(s) containing Hoodia reach the market consumers can be sure that a thorough approach has been taken to ensure their safety and efficacy.

This should be the end of the story so far, but unfortunately it is not. The Internet abounds with advertisements for Hoodia-based products for sale.

Some of these are clearly bogus even to the uninitiated but some seem to be quite genuine. Purchase of so-called Hoodia-based products via the Internet is quite straightforward but it should be borne in mind, as explained above, that these products do not yet have legal status either in Europe or the USA. This commercial activity could well undermine the long-term future of Hoodia. This would be most unfortunate as Hoodia still has the potential to become a major component in the fight against obesity.

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