Boyd Haley finally does the right thing, but is it for the wrong reasons?

As you may have heard, the strike is over. That doesn’t mean the crisis is over, nor does it necessarily mean that I will be staying with ScienceBlogs, but I view management’s response as a positive move that may be enough to keep me here. Now management needs to lose the Google ads for quackery, and then we have something to talk about. It seems that every time our benevolent overlords kill one set of quack ads, they disappear for a short while, only to reappear in a different guise. I think they understand that. At least I hope so.

In the meantime, I will speak no further of these issues, and there’s no reason not to return to business as usual, although I may try to keep things a bit shorter than usual in the beginning, mainly because either my allergy or a bad cold has turned my sinuses into inflamed balloons full of snot. That makes me particularly ornery, which is why I’m in the perfect mood to catch up on some developments that happened while Respectful Insolence was on its brief hiatus.

Remember the industrial chelator that disgraced crank chemistry professor Boyd Haley tried to market as a dietary supplement, “reasoning” that because it has a benzoate chemical group, which, as he points out, is found in cranberries, and two cystamine groups, which are found in meats it’s made up of two “natural food” elements? Yes, I’m talking about OSR#1, which the FDA tried to shut down. Boyd Haley’s argument was, of course, risible in the extreme, so much so that either he’s forgotten all the knowledge of chemistry that he learned in his career or he was lying through his teeth with utter contempt for his audience. Just yesterday, there was a Tweet from Boyd Haley:

Registered Medical Professionals: Please review your email for an important message about the future availability of OSR#1®.

Then a little bird forwarded this to me:

On 18 June 2010, the FDA wrote to CTI Science questioning whether OSR#1® fit within the agency’s definition of a dietary supplement, indicating that instead it appeared to be a drug. Although we believe the product meets the legal definition of a “dietary supplement,” we have decided not to contest this point but to work with the agency. While achieving formal drug approval is lengthy and costly, CTI Science will in the course of it prove to FDA’s satisfaction the safety and efficacy of OSR#1® and ultimately be able to offer OSR#1® to the public with FDA-authorized therapeutic claims.

As a result of this decision, CTI Science has voluntarily agreed to remove OSR#1® from the market effective Thursday, 29 July 2010. The product will not be available for sale after that date until new drug approval has been obtained. Please continue to access our website, , for updates on OSR#1® in the future.

On a personal note, I have met most of the medical professionals we deal with, and your passion and dedication to excellence are rarely seen these days. It has been an honor to work with you, and I am deeply appreciative of the support you have shown in the past. Please accept my best wishes for your continued success. I look forward to working with you in the future again with OSR#1®.

Boyd E. Haley, PhD

CTI Science-Color-EM
CTI Science, Inc.

My question is this: Why don’t Haley and CTI Science simply shut down production and sales now? Why sell OSR#1 for another week? My guess is that the answer is that Haley wants to milk his cash cow for one more week. All the quacks who “prescribe” or recommend OSR#1 to their clients will rush out to buy a boatload of the stuff before Haley cuts off the supply. It’s pure profit, because the stuff costs only $0.25 per gram to synthesize. I don’t know what Haley sells OSR#1 for wholesale, but Kathleen Seidel points out that certain retailers sell it for $60 to $105 for 30-100 mg capsules of OSR#1. That’s right: $20 to $35 a gram–seriously righteous bucks, a markup of up to 14,000%. Given that the Univesity of Kentucky bore the costs of development, and the packaging and filler can’t cost all that much. One can only imagine that shortages in the wake of Haley’s shutting down production will boost that profit potential even more. One can even imagine that, given that the chemical formula isn’t too complex, others might step in and synthesize OSR#1 the way Jim Tassano synthesized DCA.

You know, if Haley had simply shut down sales immediately, I might have grudgingly lauded him for finally doing the right thing. OSR#1 is clearly not a dietary supplement. It does not derive from any natural products, and it is synthesized in a laboratory. Moreover, it’s being marketed as an “antioxidant” for the treatment of autism. It makes definite drug claims, and it’s being used as a drug. It’s been associated with adverse events being reported on chelation therapy boards that represent the dark underbelly of the “autism biomed” movement. Before any more OSR#1 is ingested by even a single autistic child, OSR#1 needs to undergo the same testing and clinical trials that any new drug candidate. That is the single standard proponents of science-based medicine advocate.

More on this development:

  1. OSR to be pulled from the market?
  2. OSR: Off The Market