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A conversation with a Rigvir flack

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A conversation with a Rigvir flack

Over the last two Mondays, I’ve been writing about an unproven cancer therapy that I hadn’t really heard much about before. The cancer treatment is called Rigvir; it is manufactured in Latvia and marketed primarily through a Latvian entity called the International Virotherapy Center (IVC). To recap, Rigvir is an unmodified Echovirus, specifically ECHO-7, that, according to the IVC, seeks out cancer cells, replicates in them, and thus lyses the cancer cells (causes their membranes to break, spilling out the cancer cells contents, thus killing the cell), hence the term “oncolytic virus.” Somehow, mysteriously Rigvir was approved by the Latvian equivalent of the FDA in 2004 for the treatment of malignant melanoma despite what appears to have been grossly inadequate supporting evidence and then even more mysteriously placed on the Latvian Health Ministry’s list of reimbursable medications in 2011. I suspect that the reason that I didn’t look into Rigvir earlier was probably because its use had been primarily restricted to Latvia, Georgia, and Armenia. Also, there was the language barrier. Nearly everything available on the web about Rigvir is in Latvian, a situation that has only recently begun to change.

It was Antonio Jimenez and Ty Bollinger who plucked Rigvir from obscurity. Dr. Jimenez runs the Hope4Cancer Institute clinics in Baja and Cancun, Mexico, and, for whatever reason (probably profit), these clinics started offering Rigvir relatively recently. Then, Jimenez, who’s clearly worked with Bollinger in the past, must have turned Bollinger on to Rigvir, and Bollinger included it in a long segment of Episode 3 of his The Truth About Cancer (TTAC) propaganda series of videos. It was this connection and the deceptive use of patient testimonials by both Bollinger and the International Virotherapy Center to sell Rigvir that formed the basis of my second post on Rigvir last week. As you might imagine, apparently the management of the IVC was not happy about my posts. In fact, so unhappy was the management of the IVC that within 15 hours of my first post about Rigvir going live I got an e-mail from someone named Lelde Lapa, whose title was listed as Assistant of Business Development Department at the IVC, protesting and attempting to refute my post. As I noted before, I was amazed at how fast I received such a long e-mail after publishing my post. Clearly the IVC has many Google Alerts set for Rigvir and its name and was fast to act. What followed was an exchange that currently stands at five e-mails, three from Ms. Lapa, with two responses from me, with Ms. Lapa’s tone (if it indeed was only one person writing these) becoming more strident as the exchange went on. Because these e-mails are a great insight into the thinking (such as it is) at the IVC, I decided that a most excellent way to conclude my series on Rigvir as a trilogy would be to annotate and publish these e-mails, and then to compose a final response to Ms. Lapa’s third email, at the end of which Ms. Lapa told me that I didn’t need to respond. Clearly she don’t know me vewy well, do she? So let’s begin. Remember that English is not Ms. Lapa’s native language; so be kind. I wasn’t kind, but not because of any difficulties Ms. Lapa might have had with English.

Rigvir strikes back, round 1

So on the afternoon after my first post about Rigvir went live, I was greeted by this in my e-mail in box:

Of course, I had no idea who this Lelde Lapa was. I couldn’t really find anything about her. A Google search of the IVC website for her name didn’t reveal anything. For my purposes, it doesn’t really matter, but I did find it odd. I can’t help but note here that, although I do not claim to be completely objective, my bias is rather well known: I favor science as the basis of determining which medical treatments do and do not work. I make no bones about that. Moreover, I couldn’t help but immediately note that it’s pretty hard to use “only proven data” when there is so little in the way of proven data upon which to evaluate Rigvir. That was, in fact, my key problem with the drug, that it is unproven and being marketed without sufficient scientific and clinical evidence that it does what is claimed for it. Here was my response, sent later that evening:

In actuality, I had no idea whether Prof. Muceniece would care what the IVC is doing. I just wanted to see if there was any sense of shame over what the IVC was doing with her invention.

Rigvir strikes back, round 2

A couple of days later, I received this. For reference, the blog by Eduards Ritums was discussed in my first post and used in part as a basis for some of my criticisms. In any case, note the somewhat paranoid tone. I also showed my e-mails to a skeptic from Latvia who has been active investigating Rigvir, who thought that the style changed enough that it might have been written by someone else. I don’t know for sure if that is the case (you can judge for yourself), but I do know that the fallacies and dubious arguments flow freely and with paranoia:

Gee, Ms. Lapa makes the observation that my blog post has been circulated far and wide in Latvia as evidence that Rigvir doesn’t work as though that were a bad thing! In actuality I can’t help but feel a bit of a warm and fuzzy feeling in the pit of my cold, black heart that my post has actually been circulated far and wide in Latvia. Those behind IVC will probably take this as evidence that I’m out to get them, but I’m not. I’m out to protect cancer patients. If the IVC had the goods, as far as evidence, the easiest thing for its management to do would have been to publish it or somehow show it to me and other skeptics who are concerned that Rigvir is cancer quackery. We can be persuaded, but it takes evidence. Finally, notice that last part, in which “Ms. Lapa” tries to co-opt me, thinking that if I were to try Rigvir I would conclude that it works. I’ve noticed this pattern before, and where I’ve noticed before it isn’t flattering to Rigvir or the IVC. You see, I’ve discovered that when it comes to cancer quackery or unproven cancer treatments I seem to have special cachet because I am a cancer surgeon and researcher. Thus, from time to time, cancer quacks try to convince me to try the treatment they are selling on my own patients. In my response, I decided to stomp down hard on this offer after giving a bit of a lecture. See what you think:

Rigvir strikes back, round 3

The IVC didn’t respond right away. It took a few days. Indeed, I was beginning to wonder if Ms. Lapa was going to respond again at all, particularly after nothing arrived immediately after my second post about Rigvir. Then, just as I was about to send a quick e-mail to tweak Ms. Lapa and see if I could get a response, this hit my e-mail in box:

Ms. Lapa (or whoever I’ve been corresponding with) might not think that an exchange of opinons “is not necessary any more” and that she can flounce off, digitally speaking, but I beg to differ. So, instead of responding right away, I decided that a public response would be more appropriate, to be unveiled this morning. So here’s my response to Ms. Lapa. I’ll be sure to send her a link to this after this post goes live. After all, why bother if the person to whom I respond doesn’t see my response? So here we go. Here’s my response written over the weekend:

After that, there’s only one last thing to do:

oracknows Sun, 10/08/2017 – 21:36

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Source: https://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2017/10/09/a-conversation-with-a-rigvir-flack


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