By KWAMBOKA OYARO
There is excitement in the field of research as scientists work overtime to make a male oral contraceptive a reality. The researchers in a university laboratory in Indonesia are on the verge of making history by presenting the first contraceptive of its kind to the world.
The scientists are humble about their crucial contribution but sometimes the probable impact of their success is overwhelming and one of them shouts, “This is it!” The others smile knowingly.
Their raw material, the Justicia gendarussa tree, is widely available as it grows naturally in Indonesia and south East Asia.
Picking the tree for this study was not by chance.
For years, the men of Papua, occupants of one of the 17,000 Indonesian islands, have used the tree to avoid pregnancy in pre-nuptial relationships.
The Papuans — considered ‘primitive’ compared to other more developed provinces of the country — know that the tree is toxic and boil the leaves for hours to kill the toxins.
They drink the boiled water about 30 minutes before intercourse. Unconfirmed reports (no scientific study to prove this) say the rate of success among the Papuans is 100 per cent.
Indeed, the researchers’ effort to turn these leaves that have worked successfully for the Papuans into male family planning pills has not disappointed them as results of their trials are showing almost 100 per cent success.
The first and second trials have shown that the pill is safe and effective. Most importantly, the research established the quality, safety and efficacy of the drug.
The experiment has been going on for years. The researchers used mice to find out the drug’s suitability and after 20 years and convincing results, the researchers were ready to start their first trials on humans in 2008.
Making the drug
In the laboratory at the Faculty of Pharmacy in Universitas Airlangga in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city after capital Jakarta, lead researcher or team leader Dr Bambang Prajogo, explains the process of making the drug.
Before it reaches the laboratory, the leaves of the raw material, the Justicia gendarussa tree, are harvested, cleaned and dried for about three days in hygienic conditions before they are crushed into powder form and delivered to the university.
At the bottom of the chain of production are hirelings who harvest the leaves, deliver them to a herbal factory, Sido Jodo, a family-run business on the town’s outskirts.
Once the leaves are received, they are cleaned to remove any physical impurities before they are dried in the sun.
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