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This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

PHYTOMEDICINE SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL WILL BE OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCED IN APRIL and will begin accepting submissions for publication sometime in 1994. Announcements for Phytomedicine will be sent to scientists in industry and academia by the end of this month. The future editor-in-chief of the journal, Norman Farnsworth, PhD, University of Illinois-Chicago, reported on the upcoming journal for herbal medicines at a March 16 conference sponsored by Rutgers University ("The Tan Sheet" March 22, p. 12). Commenting on the need for stricter science and greater dissemination of information, Farnsworth pointed out that "whole field . . . is really in chaos" because "scientists go around in pockets, and they don't talk to each other." Farnsworth said the scientific community needs to establish more universal standards and encourage collaborations in order to make any progress in the area. The stated mission of the quarterly publication is to disseminate "timely, critical reviews on plants and their constituents of current and future pharmacological or phytotherapeutic interest . . . by . . . prominent authorities in the field." According to a description of the journal, Phytomedicine is intended to "help to set an international standard for pharmacological studies and proof of clinical efficacy." Because of the "basic science and methodological contributions" envisioned by Phytomedicine, the editors predict that "papers published in this journal will be useful to drug regulatory authorities in deciding whether or not to afford approval to some phytomedicines." University of Munich's Institute for Pharmacological Biology Director Hildebert Wagner, PhD, will join Farnsworth as another editor-in-chief of the journal, with responsibility for submissions from Europe, Africa, and Asia (excluding China). The journal's editorial board includes 22 noted scientists and physicians from eight Asian and European countries as well as the U.S. "This new journal is put forth not only as an outlet to attract and distribute qualified and innovative findings in the field of phytopharmacology, phytotherapy and phytotoxicology, but also as a guideline for researchers interested in this field," the editors noted. Farnsworth also has pioneered another effort to make standardized phytochemical research widely available by creating the Natural Products Alert database (NAPRALERT) in 1977. NAPRALERT now catalogs approximately 110,000 articles organized into four categories -- demographics, organisms, compounds, and pharmacology -- and reaches European, Australian, and Japanese networks, according to Farnsworth. Currently, NAPRALERT is "trying to develop . . . specific ways to go into any kind of kingdom to find certain classes of biologic activities and to include those which we already know," Farnsworth said at the Rutgers conference. Farnsworth pointed out that "not all biological activity is terribly relevant to human disease," and stressed the need for more rigorous in vivo clinical trials in phytochemical research. "If in vitro effects were so predictive for humans, then we would have cured cancer 20 years ago," Farnsworth declared. He described the "relationship between cytotoxicity and human anti-cancer effects" as "uncertain." The major questions, according to Farnsworth, that need to resolved in developing phytomedicines include: What levels of ubiquitous phytochemicals are needed in foods to produce preventive effects?; What levels of ubiquitous phytochemicals are needed in foods to produce preventive effects in vivo?; What effect does processing have on usable levels?; and What effects result in combinations of ubiquitous phytochemicals in relevance to single phytochemicals? "It's very important that the analytical, quantitative context of what we eat [is] worked out," Farnsworth told the conference. "I think the response to most of these [questions is] pretty shallow . . . a lot of these things have not been studied in detail." Farnsworth asserted that for the most part, the food, flavoring, and health food industries have no real interest in making the kind of R&D investment necessary for decisive scientific studies. "They only are interested in having uses and applications that require little or no R&D, exclusive of formulation and advertising," Farnsworth said. "They have a lack of interest in R&D to discover novelty in a product, even though the payoff will be mountains greater than just coming in with 'another new thing.' They are very conservative in that respect." Kraft Foods VP-Scientific Relations Enrique Guardia, PhD, who addressed the Rutgers audience on March 17, also predicted that R&D funding would not come from the food industry. "How can I convince my manager to give me $ 10 mil. to do the research and to produce a product that I will not be able to represent, that I will not be able to make claims for, that I will not be able to promote?" he asked. "One of the reasons, if not the most powerful reason that regulation has to change . . . is that we will never see the food industry investment in R&D if it isn't going to be effective." "Why do drug companies . . . spend that huge amount of money that they spent on R&D? Because they can recover through pricing," Guardia said. "I don't have that elasticity. People will only spend so much for food." But "in the next century, we'll see a truly revolutionary change: the blurring of the line between food and pharmaceuticals," Guardia predicted. He speculated that eventually there would be "joint ventures, joint activities between pharmaceutical companies and food companies." "It's clear that the potential of medical foods means that the pharmaceutical industry, bioengineering, will play an increasingly important role in food manufacturing," Guardia maintained. Preventive Nutrition Consultants President Herbert Pierson, PhD, declared that "analytical methodology can't be stressed . . . enough" when discussing phytomedicine R&D." That's the bottom line," Pierson stated. "Analyze these materials, get the [chemical] fingerprints established, pass them over to us, and use a feeding study to show that in vivo positive impact on humans so the professional community buys into it, and these recommendations make it to the patients."

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