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Monday, July 11, 2005

Stopping The Runs 

Diarrhea kills millions of people each year, mostly in the developing world. I have personal experience with such, uhm, gastric distress, in that when I was in Belize, we all got the requisite water-bourn nasties. When it hit, we (my group of teenage volunteers) had just been to visit Rosita Arvigo at her Ix Chel Centre, where I'd purchased a bottle of her Traveler’s Tonic (I wish I'd thought to Google her up back before ZAF and AMG's adventures began). Others in the group were less trusting of the 'alternative medicine' shtick, but I'd suffered through dysentery on trips before, and knew full well to take whatever the locals suggested. All in all, whilst I went out the next night, the others remained home, hovering by the (non-flushing) loo.

All this is to say that I am really happy to hear about Napo Pharmaceuticals’ taking an innovative, direct approach to addressing diarrhea in the developing world: they have developed an inexpensive drug that will be available and affordable to these populations immediately upon release, as opposed to many years later like the expensive 'blockbuster' drugs the really big companies (Merck, Glaxo-Wellcome, etc.) produce, which are initially marketed exclusively, and unapologetically so, to the wealthiest of the world's citizens.

The drug, called Crofelemer, was isolated from a rainforest plant, shown to researchers by South American traditional healers. It is especially promising because, unlike most current anti-diarrheals (like Imodium), it does not inhibit bowel motility, allowing disease agents to accumulate in the body, and it is not absorbed into the bloodstream, reducing drug interactions. These two factors make it promising for children and immunocompromised diarrhea patients, who are among those hardest hit by the disease. There are so many more treatments out there, I only hope we find them before they go away.

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