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"UBC professors question effectiveness of Cold-fX"

Vancouver Sun

Source: Vancouver Sun

Published: 25 Feb 2022

Category: Other

Rating: (3½ stars)

what they said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

A pharmaceutical expert has raised questions about the scientific claims made by CV Technologies Inc. concerning its flagship product, Cold-fX, which has become Canada's most popular cold and flu remedy.

James McCormack, a professor at the University of B.C. faculty of pharmaceutical sciences who specializes in evaluating and interpreting clinical drug trials, said in an interview that before the public buys into the company's motto, "trust the science," they need to look at the science.

One key to the company's financial success has been marketing. During the three months ending Dec. 31, it spent nearly $2.6 million, or 14 per cent of its gross revenue, on advertising and marketing. This pays for the TV, radio and newspaper ads that have made Cold-fX almost as common as colds. According to market research agency ACNielsen, Cold-fX now ranks as the country's bestselling cold and flu remedy...

The original article can be found at: http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/story.html?id=b2b79113-24b1-42cc-bb5e-05e31980f47d&k=13640

how did it rate? (more information)

Criteria Rating
Total Score 6 of 9
Availability of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Novelty of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Disease Mongering Satisfactory (?)
Treatment Options Not Satisfactory (?)
Costs of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Evidence Satisfactory (?)
Quantification of Benefits of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Harms of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Sources of Information Not Applicable
Relies on Press Release Not Applicable
Quantification of harms of treatment Not Satisfactory (?)

what we said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

Full disclosure #1: two of the UBC 'experts' interviewed for this story are Media Doctor Canada reviewers. They have not been involved in this review.

Full disclosure #2: Media Doctor Canada has yet to examine an article that goes into this much detail about the nature of the evidence and the depth of interpretation of how that evidence was acquired.

The sole problem with this story might be that it lacks any mention of harm or side effects. We don't know if Cold Fx has any adverse events related to it, but even stating that its long term safety is unknown would be better than nothing.

The company making this product has to be congratulated for putting the product to a proper randomized study and for pledging to continue to study the product's effects. Commenting on the differing interpretations of the length of study and 'mining data' are beyond the scope of this review.

Many people might have very strong feelings one way or another about this treatment and would be critical of how the 'experts' interviewed seemed dismissive of its effects. For some people a reduction from 9% to 1% may very well be worth their money, especially if the treatment in question appears to be particularly free of side effects. But without knowing anything about side effects from this article it would be hard to come to a fully informed decision.

Readers might be left wondering: How do you catch "one-quarter" of a cold?

public forum

(03 Mar 2022) Lynn Tribe writes,

"I can't seem to take Cold Fx. I get bloating and upset stomach from it."

(24 Sep 2022) Mark Wells writes,

"Speaking of "tortured statistics," I think the article is guilty of the same crime: listing the price of the largest container of Cold-FX to inflate the products expense, and downplaying the positive study results to the point of misrepresentation. Also, there is little fair treatment of those who conducted the most recent study. Here's some background on the doctors who conducted the last study:
Dr. Tapan Basu studied in the Department of Nutritional Biochemistry at the University of London and received his doctorate from the University of Surrey in 1971. He has written extensively on nutrition and pharmacology including 6 books and 158 papers and abstracts. He is or has been a member of advisory boards for professional publications like the British Journal of Nutrition and has played a key role in international conferences on clinical nutrition in six different countries. He holds 9 awards or honors for his work and has received research grants from five countries. He holds memberships in 12 professional societies including the British Society of Surgical Oncology and is a fellow of the American College of Nutrition.

Dr. Gerry Predy received his doctorate in medicine from the University of Alberta in 1976 and holds a Fellowship in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Canada) in Community Medicine. Since 1996 he's been the Medical Officer of Health for the Capital Health Region in Alberta - the largest integrated academic health region in Canada. He supervises 170 public health nurses, inspectors and health care workers involved in public health programs. He's the Director of the Northern Alberta Vaccine Trials and Evaluation Centre and has conducted research in a number of public health areas. He's also the former chair of the Council of Medical Officers of Health. Capital Health operates medical facilities including 10 hospitals and employs more than 18,000 health care workers."

Media Doctor response,

"Which study are you referring to? The qualifications of the researchers you mention, while interesting, does not equate to quality reporting of the treatment. Media Doctor is about how research gets communicated to media consumers. If there are specific areas in which we have "downplayed the positive study results", we would be very happy to reconsider our rating."

(01 May 2022) Vaso Bovan from Public writes,

"It is not helpful to be "even handed" in reportage when the evidence is so damning. Here we have a product - Cold-FX - whose claims of efficacy - let alone cost-effectiveness - are not supported by robust evidence. Yet the original article, and now the Media Doctor analysis of the article, fails to educate the public about the weakness of the evidence. According to Media Doctor, the article is "Satisfactory" along several measures. I disagree. The article stopped well short of calling Cold-FX promotors to account for irresponsible endorsement. Media Doctor states that the article's "... sole problem with this story might be that it lacks any mention of harm or side effects." I disagree again. The article in fact has many flaws - investigative timidity among them - and including a failure to ask why the pharmacists and pharmacologists and government in Alberta have declined to speak up about the product's unconvincing research results. One may ask the same question of Media Doctor reviewers."

Media Doctor response,

"Thank you for your very forceful comments. I don't know if the evidence we found was 'daming', when I hope all we did was score it according to our criteria. You could certainly criticize our criteria as perhaps being too loose and I would then hope you could suggest improvements.

You raise an important point that perhaps pharmacists and so on should publically speak about the product's research results but this is beyond the scope of Media Doctor's reviews. I think this may be the first time we have been accused of investigative timidity. I'd be happy to talk to you about this--please email me at [email protected]"

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