Umckaloabo gets competition

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Umckaloabo faces competition - Schwabe seems relaxed

With Umckaloabo, naturopaths, doctors and pharmacies have had an effective medicine against colds available from the range of natural medicine for thirty years. After a patent dispute that ended negatively for the manufacturer Schwabe, observers now feared the "end" of the successful preparations. However, yesterday the manufacturer gave a clear all-clear.

After the pharmaceutical manufacturer Dr. Willmar Schwabe's patent for the manufacturing process for extracts from the plants Pelargonium sidoides and Pelargonium reinforme was revoked, fear of the products disappearing from the market quickly spread. Dr. Traugott Ullrich, spokesman for the company, made it clear that the patent dispute only concerned the extraction process for producing the drugs from the plants, but not the drugs that are on the market under the name Umckaloabo.

Since September 2002, only the Schwabe company was allowed to extract the active ingredients using the aforementioned method. Competing companies and non-governmental organizations objected to the patent of the Karlsruhe-based company with technical and ethical reasons. The European Parliament has now found that manuals with technical instructions for the controversial manufacturing process already existed and therefore do not constitute an invention by Schwabe. The Evangelical Development Service (EED) welcomed the decision as a “great success in the fight against biopiracy”, since the extraction from the geranium roots is a traditional African process.

The revocation of the patent now allows other manufacturers of phyto-medicinal products to use this process to produce the coveted cold preparations. Due to the good position on the market and the hurdles that a competing product faces before it can be approved as a medicinal product, Ullrich sees no danger for the “bombastic brand” Umckaloabo, which has also been available in tablet form since last autumn.
Despite his apparent composure, it is not surprising that after receiving the written notification, Schwabe strongly considers the possibility of appeal against the patent office's decision. If, according to its own statement, the company is particularly concerned with averting the accusation of “illegally acquired traditional knowledge”, the fact that Schwabe has an annual turnover of 40 million euros with Umckaloabo in Germany alone may also play a role. (Jeanette Viñals Stein, alternative practitioner, January 29, 2010)

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