The organiser of the anti-Rigvir skeptic community and author of this blog, Austra Muizniece aka @zimbabve on TW, interviewed by European Skeptics Podcast:
“This week we welcome back Latvian activist Austra Muizniece, fearless fighter against the fake ‘cancer treatment’ Rigvir. Shamelessly and corruptly approved in Latvia just two days before Latvia joined the EU, Rigvir has been claimed to be a cure at first for melanoma, and later for virtually any kind of cancer. Austra, herself a cancer survivor, has together with fellow skeptics lobbied for years to get Rigvir off the market as there has never been any evidence presented to support its efficacy. Litigation and harassment have been their reward, but finally now it seems like this fraudulent substance is being withdrawn from the market after 15 years of providing nothing but false hope to cancer patients.”
March / April
Calls for official probe over Rigvir cancer treatment scandal: in what could be the most serious blow for Rigvir yet, there is risk of criminal liability for possibly having misled the patients, who are now in the worrisome situation of possibly having been treated with sub-par medicines. “The question is, then, as to why it took so long for the medicines watchdog to test Rigvir samples?” – https://eng.lsm.lv/article/society/health/calls-for-official-probe-over-rigvir-cancer-treatment-scandal.a314845/
Institution asks Rigvir to repay state funds used for botched drug batch. Also, in line with the regulations on distribution of medicine, the owner of the registered medicine has the duty to compensate for loss to drug wholesalers, pharmacies and other persons who received the medicines outside the compensation system: https://eng.lsm.lv/article/society/society/institution-asks-rigvir-to-repay-state-funds-used-for-botched-drug-batch.a315108/
Medical rights expert and lawyer Solvita Olsena invited patients to turn to the police, asking to check whether their Rigvir is what it says it is on the label. In an April 3 post on that appears on medicine.lv, neurosurgeon Renārs Putniņš joined the growing ranks of doctors to condemn Rigvir, calling the entire Rigvir ordeal an affair and asked for an investigation as to how the medicine could have been registered in the first place. “There should be someone on the seat of the accused, at the very least, so that we don’t have to experience similar situations in the future!” he wrote. https://eng.lsm.lv/article/society/health/calls-for-official-probe-over-rigvir-cancer-treatment-scandal.a314845/
“It’s like buying what you think is lemon juice, but finding that what you have is lemon-flavored water:”
The Health Inspectorate and the State Agency of Medicines (ZVA) decided last autumn to test the anti-cancer product Rigvir in the laboratory and the preliminary results have proven to be deeply concerning, reported De Facto March 24. A sample of Rigvir was sent to an independent laboratory in the United Kingdom. It found that the amount of Rigvir ECHO-7 virus, which is supposed to fight cancer cells, is of a much smaller amount than promised by the manufacturer: https://eng.lsm.lv/article/society/health/rigvir-cancer-treatment-at-center-of-fresh-controversy.a313826/
Distribution of Rigvir anti-cancer medicine suspended – https://www.baltictimes.com/distribution_of_rigvir_anti-cancer_medicine_suspended/
1) The court case, in which Rigvir manufacturers SIA Latima had sued Latvian cardiologist Dr. Andris Skride for criticising Rigvir, its lack of evidence, and saying it is an unproven medication that has turned into a business project, has concluded. Instead of providing evidence contrary to the claims of Dr. Skride, the manufacturers of Rigvir have annulled their lawsuit against him. Latvian / Automated translation in English
Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC) publishes a warning article about virotherapy and unproven Rigvir in the “Disinformation” section of its official website. Link to AIRC article, Italian version
Health Inspectorate of Slovenia is investigating a physician Kalan Živčec who has prescribed Rigvir to her patients. Original in Slovenian / Automated translation. Other source in Slovenian available here (paywall).
Manufacturer of Rigvir loses in an administrative court case against Health Inspectorate of Latvia and Inspectorate’s initial decision in 2016 regardingthe applied fine for illegal advertising of Rigvir is not cancelled: Original in Latvian/Microsoft Bing automated translation
- A major investigative magazine IR reports – State Drug Agency of Latvia hid a completely negative expert conclusion about the efficacy evidence for Rigvir, which would have prevented the renewal of its license and casts doubt on the initial registration (only Google Translate version for now)
- A representative of Rigvir clarifies his position of scientific evidence: “We do not need scientific evidence to see its effectiveness”. Despite lack of evidence, Ministry of Health defends Rigvir, asking oncologists to prove that it is not effective and calling professional associations “social groups”. Minister of Health Anda Čakša is quoted saying: “A letter by some social group saying they don’t like something – it’s just not helpful. Show us data that this medicine does not work for your patients. We don’t have anything to react to at the moment.”
- Mike Collier, Public broadcasting of Latvia, suggests a possible solution to Rigvir dilemma: How to resolve Rigvir
- Critical analysis of Rigvir by a prominent science-based medicine advocate and surgical oncologist Dr. David Gorski
Part 1: Rigvir is most likely cancer quackery
Part 2: Unethical marketing via quack film Truth About Cancer, deconstruction of testimonials
Part 3: Rigvir strikes back, or: A conversation with a Rigvir flack
Part 4: Analysis of a dubious case report
- Oncologists state that Rigvir scandal is an international shame for Latvia and that Ministry of Health still has not provided answers to their questions about the evidence of efficacy for Rigvir or responded about conflict of interest.
February to August
- Media reports repetitive attempts to intimidate the medical professionals who requested data on evidence of Rigvir efficacy: Latvian article / automated translation.
- Dr. Andris Skride, one of the signatories of the letter to the Health Ministry is sued by Rigvir representatives. Another signatory, Dr. Santa Purviņa, the Head of Pharmacology Department in Riga Stradins University, is receiving letters from Rigvir lawyers directed to her university: Latvian article / automated translation.
- SIA Latima, manufacturer of Rigvir, fails to receive further European Commission funding under Horizon2020 project, progress stops at Phase 1 and initial 50 000 EUR for feasibility studies. Manufacturer’s PR spin follows as “seal of approval“.
- Three leading Latvian medical associations – oncologists, oncologists-chemotherapists and rare disease specialists, as well as the head of pharmacology department in Rīgas Stradiņa University request to remove Rigvir from Latvian drug register due to insufficient evidence of efficacy, to review clinical guidelines and to evaluate conflicts of interest: for now only Google Translate EN version
- Ministry of Health responds in February 2017: Rigvir registration and compensation status to be reviewed. No further public updates are given by the ministry until October 2017.
- Materia Medica magazine in Latvia publishes an extensive overview of Rigvir history, problematic advertising and evidence level.
- Latvian TV3 reports on illegal advertising and unethical business practice by Rigvir producers and Global Virotherapy Clinic, comment by Janis Eglitis, the head of Oncology Association of Latvia
- European Commission CORDIS cancels a misleading Rigvir press release (where Rigvir is claimed to be effective in a dozen of cancers and verified in all III phases of clinical trials) and EU H2020 funding project investigation is launched.
- A local skeptic activist has assembled 100 crowdfunding requests by international patients raising money for Rigvir in public platforms. Out of 100 patients, at least 37 are deceased. 34 have posted no news for at least 6 months. 8 campaigns are deleted. Only 9 patients have melanoma, the only indication for which Rigvir is registered. Total requested amount: 3.7 million EUR. A file with the same patients in numbers provides a general overview of diagnoses, countries of origin, crowdfunding amounts.
- Ksenija Andrijanova (a blogger and defender of evidence-based approach) posts a short explanation of the Rigvir situation
- Initial article submitted to Latvian media, an extended overview of the situation that caused a local skeptic and a cancer survivor (TW handle @Zimbabve) to submit the first complaint to Health inspectorate of Latvia
- Second report by Latvian TV3 news, only Google Translate version for now
Latvian Inspectorate of Health publishes a decision to apply a fine to SIA Latima, the manufacturer of Rigvir. Inspection concludes that Rigvir advertisements constitute unfair commercial practice, they violate advertising laws of prescription medicine to the general public, and the content of advertisements does not match the registered product specification.
SIA Latima claims that they will appeal the fine.
A local skeptic and a cancer survivor (TW handle: @zimbabve) submits a complaint to the Health Inspectorate of Latvia regarding Rigvir and makes it publicly available, and Latvian media picks up the story (automated translation). Complaint contains examples of illegal, misleading and prolonged advertising of Rigvir directly to general public and cancer patients in magazines, newspapers, in a cancer patient support group, as well as advertising it off-label for multiple forms of cancer. Representatives of Rigvir claim that the official complaint is a part of a “black PR” campaign – a common excuse in Latvian political and business environment.
Other links to earlier articles, mentioning Rigvir or its collaboration partners in Mexico
- A description of Hope4Cancer, accredited, exclusive Rigvir partner clinic in Mexico:
- Undercover journalist goes to film cancer quack clinic Hope4Cancer in 2012
- A podcast on Mexican alternative cancer clinics, describing Hope4Cancer clinic (from 01:20:00), the exclusive partner of Latvian Virotherapy Centre, and the claims made about Rigvir (from 01:30:00)New Zealand TV on Hope4Cancer alternative clinic and “smoke and mirrors” medicine they offer, including Rigvir
- Australian media on last ditch treatments and so-called grief vampires: