The Amazon Is One Big Drugstore, Waiting to Be Discovered? Yeah, Right!

Years ago, I read a book by a Harvard botansist, who went toe Amazon and lived with the indians. He studied various herbal medicines that the indians have used for millenia, and came back and wrote a glowing account of this! He founded acompany to research and develop these medicines (which has since gone bust, costing ME a lot of money). So, is this all just a myth? My take is that yes, there are possibly useful drugs to be gotten from the rsainforest plants…but they are not all that effective, and cost a lot more than synthetic drugs derived from chemical research.
Have any really important drugs been developed (in the past 10 years) from rain-forest plants?

So we should just cut it all down now and quit screwing around? Because a botanist doesn’t know how to run a business we should not investigate potential pharmaceutical products from the rainforest? Considering that every prescription drug produced by the drug companies using synthetic chemical research costs tens of millions of dollars that the companies extract from their customers and that the cost of multiple failed synthetic drug research programs are also extracted from consumers as a cost of doing business, could it possibly be that short circuiting some of this expensive and speculative research might actually be cost effective? Could it be that your point of view is terminally short sighted? Could it be that you secretly have shares in a failed rainforest resort that has been shitcanned by local authorities to protect the rainforest? Could it be that you are simply being willfully obtuse onthis topic? Could it be that you just don’t like Sean Connery?

Could be.

Why should 5 billion years of evolution not provide staggeringly complex pharmcological treatments far in advance of what medical science currently provides, given that it ended up yielding the staggeringly complex organism which those compunds are being designed for, ie. us?

My uncle is a highly regarded hospital pharmacist - he is head of pharmacy services for one of America’s best known university hospital complexes.

When he visited China a few years back, he was asked for his views about traditional Chinese herbal medicine. He replied that there was obviously something to it, especially considering that many of the drudgs he used were plant derived.

I’m sure he feels the same about this situation. The extent to which these drugs will be helpfel is anyone’s guess, but it sure does bear further study.

I don’t know how you could argue the point.

The influence of natural products on the drug discovery process in pharmaceuticals is profound. A recent NCI survey reckoned that 61% of the 877 small molecule new chemical entities introduced as drugs world wide during 1981-2002 can be traced to or were inspired by natural products:

Natural products 6%
Nat. prod derivatives 27%
Synthetic compounds with nat prod derived pharmacophores 5%
Synthetic compounds designed on the basis of knowledge gained from a nat prod (nat prod mimics) 23%
Source: Cand E news, October 13, 2003 (subscription needed)

pdf of J. Nat prod article with many examples of “rainforest-type drugs” here (subscription needed)

That said, the pharma industry agrees, or agreed, with the thrust of your argument; having canned all their nat prod discovery programs in the late 80s. The crisis of empty drug pipelines that now grips the industry has forced a rethink wrt natural products, and they are now back on the agenda as starting points for new drug structures.

This is quite true, and theories that natural products represent “priviliged structures” for protein binding, having undergone aeons of evolutionary pressure, are beginning to take hold in drug discovery.

Well, either there’s some good shit to be had there, or there isn’t. We sure as hell won’t find out without looking. Using science to learn about the world is worth it for its own sake. When we get great medicines and such from it, well, that’s a bonus.

A year or so back–far enough that I’ve pretty much forgotten the details–I read an article about a seemingly exciting chemical that was found in lobsters, in their mouths or in their stomachs. The researcher noted that there were all kinds of things floating around in your average lobster and that there may be even better stuff to be found. His half-joking comment was, “We haven’t even started looking at the salad, yet.”

The simple fact is that there are a whole bunch of things in the world around us that we still stand to learn a whole lot from. And it behooves us to make every effort to do so. Does that mean that you should be holding your breath for the cure to cancer to come out of the Amazon? Well, not unless you can hold your breath for an impressively long time.

But it might.


Considering the biotech companies are apparently running left and right trying to claim intellectual property rights on natural products and natural product derivatives (up to and including DNA sequences of actual humans :eek: ), I imagine there’s gotta be something to warrant all that attention.

Part of the reason as I understand it is that natural ‘drugs’ can’t be patented, so there is no ecconomic incentive to research them.

Synthetic sea snail venom was just approved by the FDA for chronic pain treatment

I think that pretty much goes to show that there very well may be treatments to be discovered in nature.

We’re talking about MEDICAL drugs, silly! :smiley:

There’s a lot of truth to that. I was talking to my family care physician about herbal remedies like St. John’s wort and gingko biloba and asked him if they were so darned useful how come they had never been proven in a clinical test. He said that the testing for safety and efficacy could run into millions of dollars, and if it works, people will just plant the stuff in their backyards. There’s not a lot of return on the investment there.