Sunday, July 10, 2005

Caveat emptor redux

There have been several news reports recently that Vietnam will begin testing a botanical treatment for H5N1 called VIRA 38. These are not really news reports, although they look like them. They are thinly disguised copies of a press release from PRB Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the firm based in Irvine, California and Hong Kong that makes this nutritional medicament, which they tout for every virus from SARS to bird flu.

There is no peer reviewed scientific literature we are aware of to substantiate their claims. They are making the preparation available to the Vietnamese government to use in poultry and the press release implies it is an official collaboration with the Vietnamese Department of Animal Health (which it may be). At this point, however, I continue to be very skeptical, as I was in January when the same company took advantage of heightened public interest in avian influenza to announce essentially the same thing.