Scientists produce promising AIDS drug
By Alfonce Mbizwo, Business Editor
SCIENTISTS at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) say they have made a breakthrough in producing a herbal cocktail that reduces HIV viral load in a patient?s bloodstream by up to 90 percent within two months of therapy, Chronicle can reveal.
The drug, called Gundamiti, has been developed from herbs after 14 years of research.
UZ scientists claim that it is potent enough to increase diseasefighting CD4 blood cells in the range 400to1500/ml in two months.
The herbal cocktail is currently being manufactured from the University of Zimbabwe but moves are under way to establish a factory to manufacture the drug on a large scale. Gundamiti is already being distributed in the country in capsule form.
?Gundamiti is a herbal remedy specifically designed to fight the effects of HIV in humans. It is made up of water extracts of three plants. These plants are in use as medicinal remedies,? said the lead researcher, Dr Peter Mashava of the Department of Science and Mathematics Education.
The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Edwin Muguti, yesterday said the drug had proven that it could reduce the effects of HIV.
?We are aware of the claims that have been made regarding its potential. It is a herbal combination that has showed some promise in the treatment of some illnesses. It has antiretroviral properties and seems to improve the clinical life of some people,? said Dr Muguti.
He said the Government was not actively involved in the research but support organisations involved in the research.
?We have institutions and scientists that have been working on research projects with our support. With Gundamiti, we have researchers from the University of Zimbabwe and other institutions that are involved in this project. We did our own very preliminary investigation and were satisfied with the results. We informed the researchers that we are backing them.
?Research has been going on since the 1990s but we only started getting tangible results in November 2005,? said Dr Muguti.
Dr Mashava said so far the drug cannot completely cure AIDS but is very effective against opportunistic infections associated with HIV.
He claimed it has lowered the viral load in the range 5090 percent in two months. Studies have proven that the drug has no known side effects, with studies of both the liver and kidney functions being shown to be safe, he added.
?A person taking the medication would start showing improvement in the quality of life within one month. Opportunistic infections are drastically reduced with the increase of CD4s allowing the sufferer to enjoy a near normal life," said Dr Mashava.
The distribution of the drug has caused a storm with the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) saying it was not registered with them.
MCAZ DirectorGeneral Mr Maphios Dauramanzi last night told Chronicle that drug regulatory body had never heard of Gundamiti or that it was being distributed.
He said although Gundamiti is made from herbs,
the producers of the herbal cocktail would have to register it with the MCAZ.
?If they are claiming medicinal effects, they have to register it,? said Mr Dauramanzi.
Dr Mashava admitted that Gundamiti is not yet registered with the MCAZ but said the scientists were in the process of doing so.
?We can only register with them (MCAZ) when we have set up a manufacturing plant that meets the right standards,? he said.
Gundamiti has already been patented in all 16member states of the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO): Botswana, the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
?We have patented the drug in ARIPO countries and also South Africa and we are making plans to manufacture it on a large scale,? said Dr Mashava.
A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a state to a patentee for a fixed period of time in exchange for a disclosure of an invention. The exclusive right granted to a patentee in most countries is the right to prevent or exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing the invention.
Dr Mashava and his Zimbabwean commercial partner, African Business Linkages Holdings (ABLH), have formed a company called Gundamiti Pharmaceuticals (GP), registration number 4087/2006, to manufacture the drug.
ABHL is headquartered in Bulawayo and chaired by Mr Kwanele Hlabangana. Other board members of GP are Miss Leratang Monare, a South African national and Mr Albert Mashava.