AFP: Singapore firm claims cure for HIV, but told to hold tests

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Singapore firm claims cure for HIV, but told to hold tests

January 21 2003

A Singaporean pharmaceutical firm specialising in traditional Chinese medicine said today that it was ready to test and market pills that can cure the virus that causes AIDS.

Richard Ong, managing director of Herose Pharma International, said trials conducted on AIDS patients in Cambodia five years ago using pills originally designed for skin disorders yielded positive results.

"We did some testing on AIDS patients in Cambodia in 1998," Ong told AFP.

"We found that it is positive ... the patients experienced recovery in their conditions," he said.

But health officials in the city-state have warned the company to hold off on planned human trials until it gets official permission.

The AIDS sufferers in Cambodia who took part in the testing experienced healthier appetites and became stronger after taking the pills used in treating psoriasis, a skin disorder that causes red scaly patches, Ong said.

The medication was developed by Tang Jianhua, a Chinese doctor, he said.

"It is his heart's desire to cure HIV," Ong said, referring to Human Immuno-deficiency Virus which leads to the deadly Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

But the company's attempt to carry out similar trials in Singapore has hit a glitch as it does not yet have approval from health authorities.

The company, which placed advertisements earlier this month asking HIV-positive volunteers to participate in a trial, has been ordered by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) to stop doing so, Ong said.

"We really do not know (it was against the law) as it was just a clinical study," he said.

HSA officials could not be reached for comment but a spokesman was quoted in the Straits Times newspaper today as saying that "the company has not commenced the trial and was only starting to recruit volunteers".

"HSA has ordered the company to stop its advertisement as well as any other recruitment," the spokesman said.

The HSA last year ordered a Chinese-made diet pill to be taken off the market after it was linked to one death and several cases of serious illness.

The Straits Times said local AIDS activists were sceptical of the company's claims.