Iran researchers develop herbal anti-AIDS drug

Iranian researchers have developed a herbal drug which they say reduces the spread of HIV/AIDS in infected people. They claim it is equally potent, if not more so, than currently used antiretrovirals. Middle East Health reports.

Iran’s scientists have produced a herbal medicine that boosts the body’s immune system and helps it stave of the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus, according to a report in Iran’s Med & Lab Engineering Magazine. The breakthrough was recently announced by Iranian Health Minister Kamran Baqeri Lankarani, at a ceremony to introduce the medicine in Iran.

“The herbal-based medication, called IMOD, serves to control the AIDS virus and increases the body’s immunity,” Baqeri Lankarani said.

The Iranian Pharmacists Society says the drug, made from medicinal plants in 15 research centres around the country, controls the spread of the virus in the blood stream and boosts immunity with a 90-day treatment course and a two-year follow up. They said it will be given for free to AIDS patients in the country.

Baqeri Lankarani said the drug is not meant as a cure for AIDS, but instead boosts the immune system and prevents further spread of the disease.

“It is not a medication to kill the virus. However, it can be used as an alternative to other anti-retroviral drugs,” Baqeri Lankarani said. The drug, developed following five years of research, has been tested on 200 patients. More clinical trials are planned this year.

Published research

According to an interview with Iran’s PressTV on 12 March, Dr Minoo Mohraz, Iran’s top AIDS expert and chairman of the Iranian AIDS Research Center at the University of Tehran, said: “There have been no published research papers on this, which is necessary to make the work credible for global attention. We are not permitted to publish any before the patenting procedure is finished in Europe.

“However, research papers are ready for publication, pending completion of the patenting process.”

She said the patenting process was expected to take about two months, following which the research papers would be published.

The director of the project to develop the drug, Mohammad Farhadi, said: “This is a substance good for both AIDS patients and those who carry the virus without showing symptoms.” He said the medication will be tested on some 3,000 to 5,000 Iranian patients this year to monitor its efficacy.

Dr Mohraz said: “Once IMOD is patented, it will enter the domestic market after the fourth stage of the clinical trial is completed by the end of 2007. It will enter the international markets soon afterwards.” She emphasised that the drug far surpassed the attention it has received worldwide.

“The results we have obtained are so reassuring that I am backing it with the reputation I have gained in my 30-year-long career. It is fully scientific,” she told PressTV.

AIDS cases

Baqeri Lankarani said that the number of HIV/AIDS cases in Iran stands at around 14,000 while 1,700 people have died of the disease. Last year, Iranian officials warned that there will be a rapid spread of HIV/AIDS infections in the country if action to combat the spread of the disease is not taken immediately.

Intravenous drug use is believed to cause 62.3% of HIV/AIDS infections in Iran (followed by “unknown causes” at 27.9% and sexual contact at 7.4%). IV drug use is particularly prevalent among. A large proportion of the total prison population in Iran is made up of people detained for drugrelated offences, and the UNAIDS report 2006 says there is an urgent need to scale-up prevention programmes in prisons.

Iran is believed to have at least two million regular drug users, and possibly as many as 3.5 million. Alavian said addiction is growing by around eight percent a year.

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