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Hoodia Featured on 60 Minutes

(November 23, 2004) On Sunday, November 21, CBS News’ top-rated news magazine 60 Minutes aired a segment on hoodia, the increasingly popular succulent plant from Namibia in southwestern Africa that is being touted for its ability to suppress appetite. Hoodia was formerly in the news a few years ago when reports were aired, prematurely, that the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer was then planning on introducing a new diet drug made from the plant. 60 Minutes interviewed a representative from PhytoPharm, a UK-based research company that holds a patent on the use of a special hoodia extract for weightloss. Pfizer has since abandoned its plans to market such a drug. However, the publicity on hoodia fueled its market interest and many importers have introduced products that claim to contain “hoodia”. The 60 Minutes segment covered issues of biopiracy and royalty payments to the indigenous Kalahari Bushmen who have used hoodia, known locally as xhoba, for centuries or millennia. Hoodia is derived from Hoodia gordonii (Masson) Sweet ex Decne. of the dogbane family (Apocynaceae), a succulent plant that grows primarily in Namibia as well as in northwestern parts of South Africa. Information on the 60 Minutes broadcast is available at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/11/18/60minutes/main656458.shtml.