Cold-FX must pull Alta. agency logo from study ads
Published Friday, January 14, 2011 6:22AM EST
EDMONTON - An Alberta government agency has told a cold remedy company to stop using it to promote a study on one of the firm's products.
Alberta Health Services says Afexa Life Sciences (TSX:FXA) placed ads in newspapers this week stating that the government health provider is researching the effects of Cold-FX on children's colds and flu.
The ads, which included the Alberta Health Services logo, seek children between the ages of three and 11 to take part in a trial.
Roman Cooney of Alberta Health Services says the agency has nothing to do with the research and Afexa was wrong to place the ad or use its logo.
"Alberta Health Services is not conducting research on behalf of Afexa," Cooney said Thursday.
"We have asked them to remove references to Alberta Health Services from their promotional material. I think we have made it very clear to them that they ought not to be using Alberta Health Services or its logo, or implying that we are endorsing this research. That is not the case."
Afexa also listed Dr. Gerry Predy, Alberta's senior medical health officer, as one of the study's clinical investigators in a news release last October about the clinical trial.
Cooney took issue with Afexa using Predy's government title in the release, noting that Predy is also a University of Alberta researcher. He said Alberta Health Services has no problem with Predy working for Afexa in his academic role.
"It is perfectly appropriate as long as the relationship is transparent for a physician and a researcher to have both roles," he said. "We have no concerns about that. Our concern is about the company blurring those roles."
Predy and Afexa officials could not be reached for comment.
A health policy expert says when public health officials get involved in commercial activities it can create the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Prof. Joel Lexchin of York University says such situations can pit commercial considerations against public health goals.
Are the health officials representing the public through the government, or private enterprise? Whose values are being put first?
"There is significant literature that indicates that when drug companies fund clinical trials, the trials are much more likely to be positive than when anyone else funds these trials," Lexchin said from Toronto.
"This makes the involvement of a public health official even more dubious, as the participation of this person can be seen as giving the results of the trial more legitimacy than the results may deserve."
Afexa says Cold-FX helps prevent colds and flu, but that has been debated in medical circles.
In September 2009 Afexa reached a $7.1-million settlement with investors, who accused the company of misleading financial statements after the disappointing launch of its product in the United States.
A month earlier, the Alberta Securities Commission announced that former officials with Afexa, formerly known as CV Technologies Inc., had paid a $690,000 settlement for breaching securities laws.
Cold-FX has used such NHL legends as player Mark Messier and commentator Don Cherry as pitchmen and was an official sponsor of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
A spokesman for Alberta Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky said Afexa was wrong to place the ad, but referred questions about how it happened to the company.
"It was a mistake," said Andy Weiler. "You will have to ask the company how that occurred. The mistake was recognized and the ad was pulled."