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Bitter RootsThe Search for Healing Plants in Africa$
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Abena Dove Osseo-Asare

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226085524

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226086163.001.0001

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Take Madagascar Periwinkle for Leukemia and Pennywort for Leprosy

Take Madagascar Periwinkle for Leukemia and Pennywort for Leprosy

Chapter:
(p.31) Chapter 1 Take Madagascar Periwinkle for Leukemia and Pennywort for Leprosy
Source:
Bitter Roots
Author(s):

Abena Dove Osseo-Asare

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226086163.003.0002

Chapter One reconsiders a key case in biopiracy debates, Eli Lilly’s discovery of leukemia treatments from rosy periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus). It contrasts periwinkle with pennywort (Centella asiatica), a plant Malagasy and French researchers transformed into Madecassol, a wound treatment licensed to La Roche, implicating African researchers in biopiracy. The story of the two plants suggests recent drug discovery is tied to longer historical migrations of plants and ideas, and that Africans used patents filed in the West to claim priority and drug profits since the 1960s. While Lilly claims that they owe Madagascar nothing because periwinkle is widely dispersed and used in folk remedies around the world, Malagasy scientists suggest that they owe little to communities in South Asia where pennywort grows. It incorporates interviews with Malagasy scientists and plant sellers, alongside correspondence between scientists in North America, and competing labs in Madagascar, India, Jamaica, the Philippines, Canada, and France.

Keywords:   Albert Rakoto-Ratsimamanga, Centella asiatica, Catharanthus roseus, Oncovin, Eli Lilly, La Roche-Posay, Pennywort, Rosy Periwinkle, Velban, Vinca alkaloids

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