Investigation and development
The development of the modern lagundi-based drug was the result of ongoing NIRPROMP research and development (R&D) on herbal medicines. R&D has been directed fundamentally by UPM researchers, including Dr. Nelia Maramba and Dr. Conrado Dayrit, and has focused on the clinical validation of traditional medicines such as lagundi for use in the manufacture of medicines symptomatic (treatment that focuses on the symptoms of the ailments, and not on the cause).
This is achieved by isolating the active ingredient to develop the associated drug from it. When the investigations began, the lagundi was not one of the highest ranked candidates on the list of preferences.
In fact, after conducting a first review of several research projects focused exclusively on traditional medicine in the Philippines, the R&D team discovered more than 500 projects related to the isolation of active ingredients from plants without any of them having been market successfully.
Dr. Dayrit suspected that one of the main reasons these active ingredients were never marketed as products was that consumers were generally unaware of what plants they were made from and how those ingredients were transformed into medicines.
In his opinion, this lack of information generated mistrust among consumers in relation to companies trying to make new medicines from relatively unknown plants, so that R&D should focus exclusively on traditional medicine made from known plants and in which the population trusts.
- After conducting a consumer survey, the research team found that while people are generally wary of medicines made by unknown companies from unknown plants, what many people do trust is herbalists.
- This shifted the focus of R&D from journal articles from various research programs to herbalists, and NIRPROMP began collecting data on folklore and conducting scientific tests to validate herbalist revelations.
- With the help of the National Science and Technology Authority at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, between 1977 and 1982 NIRPROMP conducted a survey of herbalists to identify herbal preparations with promising medicinal properties.
- Interviews were conducted with 1,000 herbalists and the herbs they used and the side effects they produced were recorded in detail. Of the 1,500 plants that were identified, NIRPROMP was able to scientifically validate that 480 of them had beneficial medicinal properties.
Another R&D project was carried out jointly based on the information provided by the herbalists. The participants in this project dumped the records of the Department of Health to discover what was the leading cause of morbidity at that time. The data collected was used to prioritize symptoms or illnesses that plant-based medicines would be most likely to treat successfully.
The researchers found that among the most common symptoms that had the potential to be treated with traditional medicine were respiratory problems.
With this arsenal of data, the researchers came up with five criteria to check on the plants: safety, efficacy, quality, availability of raw materials, and propagation studies of the raw herbs. The first three criteria were necessary to ensure that medicines were safe and effective, while the last two were intended to ensure the sustainability of supplies for R&D, clinical trials and subsequent commercialization.
A long and careful review of each of the 480 plants was then conducted and NIRPROMP identified 10 that could be scientifically validated to be safe, effective and sustainable.