Coal-Based Drug Developed in South Africa May Boost Immune System in HIV-Positive Patients
Enerkom, a South African research and development company, said Friday that Oxihumate-K, a coal-based drug, may boost the immune system in HIV-positive patients, Reuters/Contra Costa Times reports (Chege, Reuters/Contra Costa Times, 9/28). According to University of Pretoria Professor Connie Medlen, the drug, sold today "on a small scale" as a nutritional supplement, "improved the condition" of HIV-positive patients in a recent study. She said that the Oxihumate-K prompted a "clinical improvement" in HIV-positive patients, adding that the drug "stimulated the type of immunity necessary to cope" with opportunistic infections. However, the drug did not help HIV-positive patients "who were already seriously ill" (BBC Monitoring, 9/28). Dr. Anthony Surridge, Enerkom's acting CEO, said, "This is not a cure for AIDS. It boosts the immune system. It increases the quality and quantity of life." Enerkom began a Phase II clinical trial of the drug in late 1999 on 350 HIV-positive patients at several military clinics in Tanzania. The University of Pretoria has administered the trial, funded by Enerkom's parent company, Central Energy Fund. Enerkom plans to conduct a Phase III clinical trial of the drug in South Africa. However, Smunda Mokoena, deputy director general of South Africa's Department of Energy, said that Enerkom plans to move the drug to the market on a larger scale in about six months, after the company completes the Phase II trial. Reuters/Contra Costa Times reports that the drug has "raised controversy" in South Africa after a separate AIDS drug backed by the South African government "turned out to be a toxic industrial solvent" (Reuters/Contra Costa Times, 9/28).
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