San to get financial relief from pain drug

2010-10-03 10:46

The South African San Council and two San communities are set to benefit from a pharmaceutical company marketing a product ­developed from a plant used for centuries by the San for pain relief and as a sleeping aid.

In line with the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (Nemba), the San community hold indigenous knowledge related to the use of the plant Sceletium tortuosum, commonly known as kanna, channa or kougoed.

They stand to benefit from a permit granted to HGH Pharmaceuticals to trade commercially with the plant extract.

Under Nemba, the permit issued by Water Affairs and Environment

Minister Buyelwa Sonjica commits the permit holder to sustainable
harvesting.

At a function held at the !Khwa Ttu San Cultural and Education Centre 70km north of Cape Town on Friday, Sonjica formally announced the benefit-sharing agreement which spells out the country’s first integrated export and bio-prospecting permit, held by HGH Pharmaceuticals working in collaboration with Gehrlicker GmbH, Germany.

HGH Pharmaceuticals will pay the San council a yearly royalty from the proceeds they receive from products derived from the plant.

However, during the first three years the royalty will only be payable in respect of net proceeds received each year in excess of R5 million, said Sonjica.

An undisclosed percentage of the profits will be shared between the council and the Paulshoek and Nourivier San communities. The council will get 50% of the share while the communities will each get 25%.

“It’s a historical day for us,” said South African San Council chairperson Andries Steenkamp, adding that the agreement was “a first of its kind”.

“Everyone is very excited about it as we look forward to working with HGH in developing a product for stress relief by early next year.”

He said the profit share was welcomed as it “would help support, grow and develop the communities, who are very poor”.

HGH Pharmaceuticals director Dr Nigel Gericke said the company was “honoured” to be awarded the first bio-prospecting and export permit issued by the government, allowing them to conduct research and development.

He said an end product, ­Zembrin, was expected to treat stress, anxiety and mood swings, and would be available in the US within the first half of next year. 

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