After spending $25 million dollars developing a diet drug using Hoodia extract, drug maker Unilever has completely abandoned the herb after clinical trials found it to cause vomiting, increased blood pressure and heart rate, and other side effects … but no weightloss. Though the company found this out in 2008, they have only recently released the results of the study which ended their plans to market a suppliment using the Hoodia gordonii plant, which is said to be used by Bushmen in the Kalahari desert of Southern Africa.
Early drug testing found that the drug made rats eat less and an uncited study claimed it did the same for humans, according to the Unilever report. South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) initially isolated the “active” ingrefient in the plant and told Reuters in 2001 that Kalahari’s Khomani people would get significant royalties from Hoodia sales. CSIR signed over commerical rights to a British based firm Phytopharm Plc in 1997, who then made a deal with Pfizer to develop a weight loss drug based on Hoodia. When that didn’t pan out, Unilever stepped up.
The company abruptly dropped its Hoodia plans in 2008, telling Bloomberg News that the plant “didn’t meet safety and efficacy standards.” We now know what an understatement that was, as the Unilever drug trial found no change in calorie intake, weight loss or hunger level resulted from the plant, but those who took it did experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, increased pulse and blood pressure, signs of liver damage AND “odd skin sensations”.
While its unlikely that another big pharmaceutical company will consider marketing Hoodia, over-the-counter diet pills featuring the plant extract are widely available on the ‘net for less than $20. Stay far, far away (unless you just need more liver damage and nausea for some reason).