MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

On Twitter, I recently found this remarkable advertisement:

Naturally, it interested me. The implication seemed to be that we can boost our immune system and thus protect ourselves from colds, the flu and other infections by using this supplement. With the flu season approaching, this might be important. On the other hand, the supplement might be unsafe for many other patients. As I had done a bit of research in this area, I needed to know more.

According to the manufacturer’s information sheet, Viracid

  • Provides Support for Immune Challenges
  • Strengthens Immune Function
  • Maintains Normal Inflammatory Balance

The manufacurer furthermore states the following:

Our body’s immune system is a complex and dynamic defense system that comes to our rescue at the first sign of exposure to an outside invader. The dynamic nature of the immune system means that all factors that affect health need to be addressed in order for it to function at peak performance. The immune system is very sensitive to nutrient deficiencies. While vitamin deficiencies can compromise the immune system, consuming immune enhancing nutrients and botanicals can support and strengthen your body’s immune response. Viracid’s synergistic formula significantly boosts immune cell function including antibody response, natural killer (NK) cell activity, thymus hormone secretions, and T-cell activation. Viracid also helps soothe throat irritations and nasal secretions, and maintains normal inflammatory balance by increasing antioxidant levels throughout the body.

This sounds impressive. Viracid could thus play an important role in keeping us healthy. It could also be contra-indicated to lots of patients who suffer from autoimmune and other conditions. In any case, it is worth having a closer look at this dietary supplement. The ingredients of the product include:

  • Vitamin A,
  • Vitamin C,
  • Vitamin B12,
  • Pantothenic Acid,
  • Zinc,
  • L-Lysine Hydrochloride,
  • Echinacea purpurea Extract,
  • Acerola Fruit,
  • Andrographis paniculata,
  • European Elder,
  • Berry Extract,
  • Astragalus membranaceus Root Extract

Next, I conducted several literature searches. Here is what I did NOT find:

  • any clinical trial of Viracid,
  • any indication that its ingredients work synergistically,
  • any proof of Viracid inducing an antibody response,
  • or enhancing natural killer (NK) cell activity,
  • or thymus hormone secretions,
  • or T-cell activation,
  • or soothing throat irritations,
  • or controlling nasal secretions,
  • or maintaining normal inflammatory balance,
  • any mention of contra-indications,
  • any reliable information about the risks of taking Viracid.

There are, of course, two explanations for this void of information. Either I did not search well enough, or the claims that are being made for Viracid by the manufacturer are unsubstantiated and therefore bogus.

Which of the two explanations apply?

Please, someone – preferably the manufacturer – tell me.

14 Responses to Viracid: boosting the immune system or the manufacturer’s profit?

  • Sounds like Tamiflu. Maybe they also could get a billion dollar contract to stockpile it. They just need to kick a few mill in the back door of the CDC.

  • Thank you for the support.

  • Hmm, I can’t find any research about Viracid either. But what I can find, doesn’t look good.

    First, there is the recommended dosage:

    Suggested Use:
    For immediate immune support: 1-2 capsules per hour or as recommended by your health care professional.
    For immune maintenance: 2 capsules per day or as recommended by your health care professional.

    Which of course raises the question what those people from OMP think of as a “health care professional” – I’m pretty sure that they don’t mean ordinary GP’s.

    Anyway, at $ 0,50 per capsule with most retailers, this ‘immediate immune support’ with up to 20 capsules per day (2 per hour) is already rather pricey – and it raises another question: how long does one need to take this high dosage ‘for immediate immune support’? One day does seem rather short, so I take it that people who suffer from e.g. the sniffles (a.k.a. the common cold) are supposed to keep up this regimen for at least 3 or 4 days.

    Then the question arises whether or not this is actually healthy – time to take a closer look at the ingredients.
    On page 2 it says that ‘one serving’ consists of two capsules, and that these two capsules contain 15,000 IU (4,500 mcg) vitamin A, or 5 times the recommended daily intake. However, this ‘one serving’ is already considered a toxic dose(*), and suggesting that people ingest up to ten times this amount daily for any prolonged time definitely sounds like a Bad Idea.
    Even though the other ingredients look harmless enough, this high vitamin A content seems to me already reason enough to actively discourage the use of this product (and, of course, because it effectively drains your wallet without any evidence that it is actually beneficial). And oh, one can only hope that the aforementioned ‘health care professional’ knows about hypervitaminosis A and how to prevent it.

    *: See e.g. this information:

    However, it’s important not to exceed the tolerable upper limit (UL) of 10,000 IU (3,000 mcg) for adults to prevent toxicity.

  • Orthomolecular Medicine is a term most people are not familiar with. It has been around at least since the early 1980s, and sounds like an innocent division within medicine, like nuclear medicine. But it is emphatically not a legitimate medical discipline. It is “is a form of alternative medicine that aims to maintain human health through nutritional supplementation” [Wikipedia].

    The top right header of the Viracid information leaflet bears the words “Ortho Molecular Products”. You’ll see from the company’s website that Ortho Molecular Products cover a wide range of health situations, namely gastrointestinal health, endocrine health, cardiovascular health, immune health, speciality health (a cornucopia of products aimed at problems such as stress, sleeplessness and many others), musculoskeletal health, women’s health and men’s health.

    Blazing through many of the web pages is the company’s slogan “Because efficacy matters®” (note that they’ve gone to the lengths of registering this slogan as a trade mark). You’ll see it up there on the top right of the Viracid information leaflet. Those with a sense of irony will find themselves — I think the expression is ROFL — when they note that, at the foot of every page in the information leaflet, right alongside the words “the power of efficacy” is a footnote referring to every single ingredient in the Viracid formulation that reads “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

    So now we know the full story. Viracid is produced by a company that believes firmly that efficacy matters, yet they can’t be bothered actually to test the ingredients of Viracid to confirm that they possess any clinical efficacy whatsoever.

    And many people reading this comment will grumble if I suggest that anyone buying Viracid or one of the many other products from Ortho Molecular Products must be easily duped and gullible.

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