Companies Struck ‘Secret Deal’ to Distribute Unregistered Herbal AIDS Treatment in 12 African Countries
Phyto Nova, a South African company that grows and sells a plant rumored to help treat HIV/AIDS, had a "secret deal" to dispense Sutherlandia, an unregistered herbal tablet developed from the plant, to HIV-positive people in 12 African countries, the South African Sunday Times reports. The Times states that Sutherlandia manufacturer Phyto Nova brokered a deal with Virodene Pharmaceutical Holdings to distribute the herbal treatment to HIV-positive people in Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and other African nations. Virodene Pharmaceuticals produces the controversial AIDS drug Virodene, which has been banned for use in humans in South Africa and other countries because it contains an industrial solvent that has been linked to deadly liver damage. Officials at Phyto Nova say that Sutherlandia helps delay the progression of HIV and increases blood cell counts and weight gain in HIV/AIDS patients. Under the deal between Phyto Nova and Virodene Pharmaceuticals, Virodene was to purchase 120,000 bottles of Sutherlandia tablets over one year. However, the deal that was struck in January fell through in June due to defaulted payments, and it is "unclear" where the early shipments went. Some of the bottles were sent to Tanzania, the Times reports, but it is not known what happened to them after they reached the country. Dr. Carl Albrecht, one of the owners of Phyto Nova, said that the company "ha[s] no knowledge of where and how" Virodene is using the tablets. South Africa's Medicines Control Council plans to investigate Sutherlandia, which by law must be registered as a medicine with the government, and the MCC expects to receive an application for permission to conduct a clinical trial on the substance in January (Bezuidenhout, Sunday Times, 12/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.