The US National Cancer Institute has a budget of US$2 billion a year – the equivalent of the Guatemala government’s total annual budget. Between 1960 and 1980 it tested 114,000 plant extracts looking for new drugs to fight cancer – and found two: taxol and camptothesine. This puts the chances of isolating drugs from plant species at one in 50,000 – with a hefty investment bill for 10 years rearch and development. Yet many common drugs sold over the counter at pharmacists today, like aspirin, were originally derived from plant species. And with more than 250,000 plants species on earth, many in developing countries, the potential is obviously still enormous. Joost de Haas’ fascinating documentary looks at who benefits from successful drug development and what role there still is for traditional healers who use medicinal plants?
Films in this series