Who's doing their homework?
Nobel Prize Winner Didn't Disclose His Herbalife Contract
Bloomberg News/December 6, 2004
By David Evans
Louis Ignarro, who won a Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1998, endorsed a diet supplement for the heart sold by Herbalife International Inc. in exchange for royalties and then touted the ingredients in a scientific journal, without disclosing his financial interest to the publication. Ignarro's consulting company received at least $1 million as its share of sales of Herbalife's Niteworks between June 2003 and September 2004, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The bottles sell for $90 each for a month's supply and display Dr. Ignarro's signature and Nobel Laureate status on the label.
"He's a paid consultant, so it should have been disclosed,'' said Marcia Angell, editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine in 1999 and 2000, now a senior lecturer on ethics at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "He had an interest in the substance he was evaluating.''
Herbalife pays Ignarro's consulting firm - Hermosa Beach, California-based Healthwell Ventures LLC - a share of Niteworks revenue "sold with the aid of Dr. Ignarro's consulting, promotional or endorsement services,'' Herbalife wrote in a Dec. 2 SEC filing.
Herbalife has 1 million distributors in 59 countries with reported 2003 revenue of $1.16 billion.
Ignarro, 63, is the featured speaker in a one-hour Los Angeles based-Herbalife promotional video in which he claims Niteworks protects against heart disease, strokes, Alzheimer's and other diseases.
Hearts of Mice
The Nobel Prize winner didn't return telephone calls to his office and to the public relations department of the University of California at Los Angeles, where he teaches. Herbalife spokeswoman Barbara Henderson said the company won't comment, on advice from its lawyers, because it's planning an initial stock sale to the public. Ignarro's article, which appeared in the June 8 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, described positive affects on the hearts of mice fed vitamins C and E, and arginine, an amino acid that produces nitric oxide in the body. All of those are in the Herbalife product.
Ignarro didn't disclose his Herbalife ties to the journal, according to Bridget Coughlin, managing editor of the Washington- based publication. "There is indeed a conflict of interest that should have been included in this article,'' she said. "There's a financial disclosure that should have been made.'' She said the journal has decided to issue a correction.....
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