Comment on Recent Article on Resveratrol in the NY Times

January 20, 2011

In a January 11, 2011 article by Nicholas Wade in the New York Times Science Section Titled: ‘Doubt on Anti-Aging Molecule as Drug Trial Stops’, the piece begins with:

 ”The pharmaceutical company Sirtris announced last month that it had halted the last of its clinical trials of resveratrol.”

 I wasn’t aware of the article until a friend of mine called and asked:

“Did you read the NY Times article on Resveratrol?” 

“No, what does it say?” I replied.

To which my friend retorted: “Basically that resveratrol doesn’t work”….

I read the article and it doesn’t say that, but from the Blurb you would think that..”HAS HALTED…TRIAL

Then, on January 18th, The New York Times published a letter to the Science Times by George Vlasuk, Chief Executive of Sirtris, who politely clarifies what seems to be an error in the Wade article.  Click here to read the response.

The substance of the original article is that GlaxoSmithKline (who purchased Sirtris in 2008) and the new CEO of Sirtris George Vlasuk – have divergent views from the founders of Sirtris – David Sinclair and Christoph Westphal – on the merits of Resveratrol.

In a media world where the Title of the Article and the Size of Viewership is more important, from a PR point of view, than the content, the public’s perception is pitifully easy to manipulate.  What are we to make of this?

It just so happens that to my own satisfaction, in this case I am Woody Allen in the scene from Annie Hall when he’s standing on a movie theater line and some blowhard is holding forth on Marshall McLuhan.  An increasingly perturbed Allen finally brings out McLuhan (from off camera) who berates the guy’s ignorance on the spot.

On Tuesday, I had lunch with a scientist who works for GlaxoSmithKline and who will remain nameless.  The bottom line is a dark bottom line.  You can’t patent resveratrol but you can patent an analogue compound, and sell it for 10 or 100 times more.

GlaxoSmithKline wants to undercut resveratrol as a compound the public would want to take.  And, as the owner of Sirtris, you can halt trials and keep the results hidden and unpublished.  What the public is left with is a headline implying something which is not actually stated.

The good news is that Dr. Raphael de Cabo of the NIA will be publishing his test results on the effects of Resveratrol on rhesus monkeys soon.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

rifa January 24, 2011 at 9:05 pm

As usual, it is about big Pharma wanting big profits.

jazzapple March 5, 2011 at 11:32 am

This was all-too-predictable when GSK purchased Sirtuis – I saw it coming when I read that news a few years ago. It was also a validation of resveratrol’s efficacy.

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