The medical world has experienced major inventions that have led to better treatment of various ailments. For example, the discovery of antibiotics by Alexander Fleming in 1928 would be a sigh of relief for treatment against bacterial diseases especially sexually transmitted infections.
Before that, human beings led a cautious s3x life, lest they got infected with gonorrhoea which was incurable. However, it is said that after antibiotics became available, humanity regressed back to promiscuity.
Then in 1980s, HIV/AIDS, an incurable disease began claiming live of thousands of people across the globe. It was simply known as the ‘killer sex disease.’ Sexually, humans treaded carefully as the disease served as a startling reminder of the seventh commandment that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.
In Kenya, HIV was first reported around 1984 and the stigma associated with it made even relatives shun away from burial ceremonies of loved ones who had died of the viral disease. The ‘slimming disease’ as it was known was associated with gays and promiscuous people.
Discovery of Kemron
As scientists burnt the midnight oil in search of the cure for this debilitating disease, two Kenyan scientists grabbed global headlines when they claimed they had discovered a ‘miracle drug’ in 1990.
Embattled former KEMRI boss Davy Koech and Prof. Arthur Obel named their drug Kemron and alleged it showed great improvements in symptoms of AIDS patients. According to the duo, patients treated with Kemron exhibited tremendous improvement in symptoms and even added weight. Further, it was alleged that up to 10% of patients showed no detectable antibodies against HIV virus after the treatment with Kemron.
It was the first time that such claims were being made and Kenya’s then president Daniel Moi recognized the two scientists who had brought honor to the country. The drug was sold at around Sh74 per tablet and was to be taken daily for six months. Due to the desperation to get cured or at least get relieved of the symptoms, there was an insatiable demand for the drug globally.
Scientists bastardise the wonder drug
However, other scientists across the globe shot down claims that Kemron had shown substantial improvements on AIDS patients. They accused Davy Koech and Arthur Obel of fraud and said the medicine had not undergone control trials and could therefore not be reliable. The World Health Organization further discredited claims of Kemron’s reliability in treating the viral disease saying it remained an experimental drug.
The shortlived nationalistic euphoria left Kenya with an egg on its face, as the government too was forced to discredit the drug.
According to Dr. Koech, who is still adamant that their drug was reliable, their invention was ‘hijacked’ and infiltrated with fake information.
“The truth got lost in between, it became lies, it became fake. We were not able to explain ourselves. The information was hijacked by people who did not know what we were doing. They never relied on us to give the correct information,” he told KTN.
Patent Rights Claim
According to Hillary Ng’weno (deceased) who was the lead editor of the Weekly review, Obel and Koech did not invent the drug as they were given by an American veterinary, Joseph Cummins to try it out.
“The excitement would turn to disappointment when it transpired that Koech and Obel had not in fact discovered the drug they called Kemron. It had been given to them by an American veterinary researcher to test on AIDS patient.”
“When the drug cleared most of the symptoms that AIDS patients had, Koech and Obel decided to take credit for it,” said Ng’weno.
Determined Professor Obel
For Professor Obel, a father of 3, the shame he was subjected to did not pin him down. The former lecturer at University of Nairobi, known for his unapologetic nature would later produce another drug he called Pearl Omega which he sold for Ksh 30K in the mid ’90s.
Despite fellow medical practitioners ganging up against Obel, he remained unstoppable and said his main concern was the improvement of symptoms for his patients. It is reported that the medic would later get deregistered by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council (KMPDC).
In 2019, the Standard reported that Obel was selling another drug called Iconaire which he alleged increased the CD4 cell counts in HIV patients. The drug is sold for Ksh 30k for a 30 day dose. Obel however points out that it is not a cure for HIV.
Obel is also known for his love of flamboyance and owns a fleet of Mercedes Benz and Peugeot cars. In 2004, he was accused of shooting at a matatu driver who blocked him on Tom Mboya Street.
Obel was found in possession of a pistol and 19 bullets in his home. He later breathed freedom after paying a fine of Ksh 400000 and damages of Ksh 100000.
Cars And Women
Prof. Arthur Obel owns a total of 21 high end cars ranging from Mercedes Benz to BMWs. The 76 year is said to be a brutal womaniser who will do anything to win the woman he fancies, at least according to one of his former student.
Asked if this is true, Obel retorted:
“Which man does not love women? Tell me, which man can say he does not love women?”
Those close to him claim that he is a father to many children he has refused to acknowledge.
“If you are famous and successful, people will tag at you claiming you are their father. I pay them no attention,” he told the Standard.