Thursday, April 12, 2007

Leeches are not drugs.

That was not the point of this article:

At least 115 chemical compounds have been developed from what researchers thought was the medicinal leech, Hirudo medicinalis, with many being used in drugs.
But genetic analysis has now shown the leech that led to the discoveries may have been the species Hirudo verbana.

But these two sentences that got me thinking of my year(s) in the basement pharmacy at UCI:

Leeches are used in modern medicine mainly as a research tool, with scientists developing drugs based on the chemicals in their bodies.

Leeches were once used traditionally and have made a return to the doctor's armoury since the 1980s, when it was realised they were useful after plastic and reconstructive surgery.

I only know of one FDA approved drug made from's quite possible there are more, and I am just out of date (I have not been a real pharmacist in over three years). [Future employers, that's just a joke. I read a lot. Please feel confident in hiring me.] We used a bit of Refludan (lepirudan) at UCI, but we used far, far more real, live, swimming leeches. At most hospitals, leeches are handles by the blood UCI leeches are drugs. They get dispensed in little prescription vials with little prescription labels. They get dispensed by a pharmacist...who gets to catch them with a little fish net, and put them in the aforementioned prescription vials. Leech suppliers have all kinds of storage/maintenance recommendations (like changing the water every other day); but seriously, have any of you seen our home aquarium?

Hmmmn, I had some sort of point when I started writing this...oh yeah: Leeches are not drugs.

My favorite line of that article:

It could be equally devastating for the leeches themselves, which as H. medicinalis have legal protection, but as H. verbana have no defence against being collected from the wild in hundreds of thousands.

What the hell are you people doing collecting hundreds of thousands of leeches?

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