DOST-assisted firm launches standardized tawa-tawa extract capsule

A COMPANY based in Negros Occidental is launching Wednesday, August 21, its standardized tawa-tawa extract capsule, a product developed as a potential drug to aid in the recovery of dengue patients.

Herbanext Laboratories, a Filipino-owned company established in Bago City in 2001, is one of the pioneers in the development of medicinal plant extracts for health and wellness in the Philippines.

The firm, in a statement, said it became part of the Drug Discovery and Health Products Program known as "Tuklas Lunas" of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)'s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) in 2013.

The program's goal is to further discover and develop local herbal drugs from the dense biodiversity of the country.

Called the Daily Apple Tawa-tawa Herbal Capsules, the product will be available in the market starting Wednesday, August 21, as a food supplement with no label claims.

"The product, which already has pharmaceutical qualities in many respects, will hopefully help provide a stop-gap measure in addressing the debilitating and potentially fatal effect of the dengue virus while the much needed herbal drug products that will be acceptable to the medical community are still being developed," the company said.

Herbanext pointed out that it is being released as a food supplement with no therapeutic claims pending further clinical studies.

Preclinical studies conducted, however, have established the safety of the product and it was given a Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April this year.

The product, manufactured under good manufacturing practice standards, is intended for consumers who are familiar with the applications of tawa-tawa but would like to take it in a standardized dosage form instead of a decoction.

The Daily Apple Tawa-tawa Herbal Capsule will be distributed nationwide by Generika Drugstores, the firm added.

Herbanext claimed that tawa-tawa or Euphorbia hirta L. with known antiviral and anti-thrombocytopenic (platelet increasing) activity remains the most popular traditional remedy for dengue among Filipinos.

Its traditional use for treating the symptoms of dengue can be traced back centuries.

To this day, however, mainstream use of tawa-tawa has not been accepted yet due to lack of scientific data supporting safety, efficacy, and proper dosing.

For the local manufacturer, the traditional practice of preparing a decoction from fresh plants is not practical in urban centers where the supply of the herb is scarce and heavy metal contamination is a real concern.

With dengue epidemics a recurring problem in Western Visayas, its president Philip Cruz has embarked on the development of a standardized tawa-tawa extract capsule in 2013.

Cruz, a researcher and inventor, has received several recognitions from the DOST. In 2005, he was a recipient of The Outstanding Young Men Award.

Since 2015, Cruz and his research team has been working on the identification and quantification of key bioactive compounds in tawa-tawa along with several other popular Philippine medicinal herbs.

They developed protocols for the manufacturing of standardized dosage forms.

Within the year, the company, in partnership with the University of San Agustin's Center for Natural Drug Discovery and Development in Iloilo City, will also start another DOST-funded study on tawa-tawa with the goal of identifying the specific compounds responsible for its platelet increasing properties.

It is estimated that another three to five years of research and clinical studies are still needed before the product can comply with the drug standards of the FDA.

"While it is neither the first nor the only tawa-tawa food supplement product in the market today with an FDA license, it is the only one that is based on a standardized extract," the company added.


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