Sunday, January 30, 2005

"Botanical antiviral": caveat emptor

There are reports from various news sources today that a "pharmaceutical" manufacturer and a distributor are "working with government and hospital officials in Southeast Asia to provide VIRA 38 for the treatment and prevention of bird flu (H5N1). VIRA 38 is on the market in Hong Kong and will be available in China and Taiwan soon."

Let me say first I am extremely skeptical of the claim that "VIRA 38", an alleged "broad spectrum anti-viral" made from botanical products, is truly effective at anything except lining the pockets of its purveyors. The further claim that VIRA 38
is known for its effectiveness in treating and preventing influenza. VIRA 38 has recently been shown to contain compounds that inhibit the bird flu (H5N1) virus. Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, have previously discovered these same compounds to be effective against a variety of pathogens including SARS CoV, the virus responsible for causing severe acute respiratory syndrome
comes without any citations or supporting documentation. I judge it highly unlikely to be true, have no reason to believe it, and have plausible reasons to think it is false.

I am purposely not linking to the company or its distributor or giving their names. Should it turn out that this is truly an effective over-the-counter preparation, we will likely have confirmation soon enough. In the meantime, expect more such claims as anxiety ratchets up.