A database that tracks dubious medical claims.

Claim number: 39

Claimant: Dr Boxall's

Claim date: May 10, 2011

Forum in which the claim was made: Flyer

Claim methodology: Herbal remedies

Frequency with which the claim is made by this claimant: Frequent

Actual claim: Reduces Weight

Plausibility of this claim: Tests are disputed or inconclusive


Dr Boxall's claims that Hoodia Gordonii reduces weight and obesity


Besides making this claim in a flyer handed out at Wembley Square in Cape Town, the company also advertises Hoodia on its website.

There is much hype about Hoodia as a weight loss supplement. However, no well-conducted clinical trial has shown that it is safe and effective for this purpose. In fact there are safety concerns about Hoodia.

This extract is from pages 95 and 96 of Nathan Geffen's book, Debunking Delusions:

For a few years in the 1990s there was a lot of hype around a plant called hoodia that San people use as an appetite suppressant. It appeared this might become the model of how traditional medicines could be scientifically tested and commercially produced to the benefit of the original community where it was first used. According to Wikipedia, South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) licensed it to a British company called Phytopharm to research and develop. The CSIR later also agreed to share any profits from hoodia. Phytopharm entered into a deal with drug giant Pfizer but the deal then all fell apart. The active ingredient, P57, was too expensive to extract and synthesise.

Pfizer’s lead researcher on the project wrote in a letter to the New York Times, ‘There were indications of unwanted effects on the liver caused by other components, which could not be easily removed from the supplement. Clearly, hoodia has a long way to go before it can earn approval from the FDA. Until safer formulations are developed, dieters should be wary of using it.’ So much for the hoo-ha around hoodia, for now anyway.

ClinicalTrials.gov lists a mere three Hoodia trials (as of 11 May 2011), only one of which looks at efficacy in weight-loss. This small clinical trial was completed in 2008, but at  this point the results have not been published.

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