This morning, there were several Tweets about a very sad story. Here is the first one:
But soon many others followed. It was a very tragic story.
In short, a 19 month old Alberta boy died of meningitis. Read more articles here and here. According to the story, his parents were running an alternative medicine website called TrueHope Nutritional Support Inc., a Canadian online story selling vitamin and mineral supplements. The couple tried to treat their son, who was getting sicker and sicker, with all kinds of supplements but he did not get better, and eventually passed away.
TrueHope, the company run by the parents of the boy (according to one of the news sites above) claims that their supplements will cure a wide variety of behavioral conditions such as autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and depression. Their main product is EMPowerplus, a multivitamin product. Here is one of their claims (highlighting mine):
In a related story, a British Columbia man with schizophrenia who had been taking EMPowerplus and had stopped taking his prescription drugs, killed his father.
Truehope lists a collection of “clinical studies” on their website, but most of these are by the same 2 authors, and unblinded, not-placebo controlled studies, where people with mental illness were given pills, and asked if they felt better after a while. Read a critical analysis about their research here.
Natasha Tracy, a mental health writer, wrote some critical blogs about EmPowerPlus. She actually bought the product, but received a lot of pushy telephone calls afterwards, asking her to do additional tests. Tracy wrote a post about her experience called What I Know about EMPowerplus by Truehope that You Don’t. TrueHope of course was not amused, and threatened her with a lawsuit. But she did not remove her posts – and has not been sued so far. More about the lawsuit and Tracy’s story here.
The question remains why such a product can be advertised to treat diseases, and sold in Canada without the need for a prescription. Today we learned how dangerous and tragic selling dietary supplements with vague health claims can be.