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Plants as source of drugs

Toxicon

Elsevier BV

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Abstract

This work presents a study of the importance of natural products, especially those derived from higher plants, in terms of drug development. It describes the main strategies for obtaining drugs from natural sources, fields of knowledge involved, difficulties and perspectives. It also includes a brief discussion of the specific situation in Brazil regarding the use of, trade in, and research into therapeutic resources of natural origin and the general lack of awareness of the use of potentially toxic plants, mainly in folk medicine.

Most cited references15

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Efficacy, safety, quality control, marketing and regulatory guidelines for herbal medicines (phytotherapeutic agents)

(2000)
This review highlights the current advances in knowledge about the safety, efficacy, quality control, marketing and regulatory aspects of botanical medicines. Phytotherapeutic agents are standardized herbal preparations consisting of complex mixtures of one or more plants which contain as active ingredients plant parts or plant material in the crude or processed state. A marked growth in the worldwide phytotherapeutic market has occurred over the last 15 years. For the European and USA markets alone, this will reach about $7 billion and$5 billion per annum, respectively, in 1999, and has thus attracted the interest of most large pharmaceutical companies. Insufficient data exist for most plants to guarantee their quality, efficacy and safety. The idea that herbal drugs are safe and free from side effects is false. Plants contain hundreds of constituents and some of them are very toxic, such as the most cytotoxic anti-cancer plant-derived drugs, digitalis and the pyrrolizidine alkaloids, etc. However, the adverse effects of phytotherapeutic agents are less frequent compared with synthetic drugs, but well-controlled clinical trials have now confirmed that such effects really exist. Several regulatory models for herbal medicines are currently available including prescription drugs, over-the-counter substances, traditional medicines and dietary supplements. Harmonization and improvement in the processes of regulation is needed, and the general tendency is to perpetuate the German Commission E experience, which combines scientific studies and traditional knowledge (monographs). Finally, the trend in the domestication, production and biotechnological studies and genetic improvement of medicinal plants, instead of the use of plants harvested in the wild, will offer great advantages, since it will be possible to obtain uniform and high quality raw materials which are fundamental to the efficacy and safety of herbal drugs.
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Recent natural products based drug development: a pharmaceutical industry perspective.

(1998)
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Natural products research: perspectives from a major pharmaceutical company.

(1996)
Natural products research continues to provide a tremendous variety of lead structures which are used as templates for the development of new drugs by the pharmaceutical industry. Advances in bioassay technology and in chemical methodology have combined to make natural products a cost effective source for new leads. While microbial products have been the mainstay of industrial natural products discovery, in recent years phytochemistry has again become a field of active interest. Drug discovery programs based on microbial products and phytochemicals are discussed and contrasted.
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Author and article information

Journal
Toxicon
Toxicon
Elsevier BV
00410101
May 2001
May 2001
: 39
: 5
: 603-613
Article
10.1016/S0041-0101(00)00154-9
11072038