Magazine article New Internationalist

Invasion of the Frog-Snatchers: Activists Are Hopping Mad over the Development of a New Drug [Development of Painkiller Depends on Active Ingredient Secreted by Poison-Dart Frog]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Invasion of the Frog-Snatchers: Activists Are Hopping Mad over the Development of a New Drug [Development of Painkiller Depends on Active Ingredient Secreted by Poison-Dart Frog]

Article excerpt

In November last year Abbott Laboratories, a US-based pharmaceutical company, announced the development of a new painkiller that may be up to 200 times as strong as morphine. It produces no side effects and could replace analgesics currently used for surgery and treatment of severe pain -- giving it the top position they occupy in a prescription-drug market currently worth $40 billion annually.

But in Ecuador there was an outcry at this news, because the active ingredient of the new analgesic (known as ABT-594) is found in a poison secreted by a frog. The 'poison-dart frog' is found only in the foothills of the central Ecuadoran Andes and its poison is used by indigenous people for hunting.

Two Ecuadoran environmental organizations, Ecological Action and the Environmental Law Center, say that 750 poison-dart frogs were taken to the US without permission in 1976. Now the earnings projected for ABT-594 have led Ecuador to seek to benefit from Abbott's discovery. But Ecuador has not found legal grounds for suing because the US has not ratified international conventions dealing with biological resources and does not require its companies to abide by them. …

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