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2 November 2001 News Update


Among recent innovations by a United Kingdom company which specialises in developing pharmaceutical products from plants are a natural cure for heartburn and dyspepsia and an anti-inflammatory product to treat canine osteoarthritis.

Phytopharm based in Cambridge, eastern England, claims to be the world leader in its field. The company has used the stems and roots of Hoodia gordonii that grows in the arid regions of South Africa to combat heartburn in humans.

The sap is mixed with methylene chloride to extract its active ingredients that are recovered by evaporation. In tests on rats, Phytopharm claims the natural remedy was dramatically better in reducing secretion of gastric acid. The company has patented the drug and will begin human trials shortly.

P54 is the product that has been successful in trials to treat canine osteoarthritis which mainly affects the synovial joints causing pain, swelling and stiffness and the loss of movement in dogs and other domesticated animals.

A variety of steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is used to treat dogs but usually have adverse effects. P54's components are active in reducing the production of the inflammatory enzyme COX2 in the joints and gut.

The activity is consistent with its apparent efficacy in treating arthritis, Crohn's disease and as a cancer chemo-preventive agent. In a trial conducted by Bristol University Veterinary School, western England, 61 dogs with osteoarthritis were selected for the trials and 54 were randomly allocated twice daily treatments of P54 or a placebo for eight weeks.

The investigating veterinary surgeon and the owners were not aware of which treatment was given to each dog. The study showed that 56 per cent of the dogs were "better" or "much better" after being treated with P54 compared with only 26 per cent of those treated with the placebo. The owners' assessment of response also favoured P54 compared with the placebo.

The treatment was generally well tolerated with no serious adverse events although a side-effect was malodour of the animals' coats.

Phytopharm's Dr Jon Innes said: "Evaluation of the treatments for canine osteoarthritis is difficult. Although we were unable to demonstrate a treatment effect using gait analysis, there is a suggestion from the investigator and owners' assessments that some aspects of osteoarthritis may have improved. We are cautiously optimistic about the results of this study and are examining options for the development and commercialisation of the product."

In the development of botanical pharmaceuticals, Phytopharm has developed a portfolio of 11 successful products, nine of which are in the clinical evaluation phase. They relate to anti-inflammatory treatments, neurological disorders, dermatology, cancer and metabolic diseases.

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