Race-based treatment: pushing the limit on truth

Controversy surrounds the idea that certain drugs or therapies might be better for one specific race than another (here). But now the makers of a dietary supplement are steaming ahead full speed with claims that their product will produce equivalent results to an FDA-approved drug. They’re claiming it will help (as increased production of nitric oxide is known to do) a multitude of conditions from erectile dysfunction to better healing after burn injuries.

But the makers, Thorne Research, Inc., are claiming in a full-page ad in Jet magazine that their product can be used instead of the drug (BiDil) which was approved by the FDA earlier this year to treat heart failure in African Americans. They’re giving it away free to get people taking it, then they’re going to charge close to $33 a month for a supply–a price that approximates what the actual drug costs.

Physicians are saying the claims are “a big stretch.” The FDA has warned Thorne that it’s ads are making claims that would qualify the supplement as a drug (“cure, heal, etc.) and that they’d better pay stricter attention to truth.

But Thorne is going to sell a lot of its product because, as a reader said recently, people believe what they read on the web–and in respectable magazines–regardless of whether it has anything to do with the truth.