Product claiming to protect against anthrax lacks credentials or approval

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says Bio-Germ, a lotion being promoted by a Texas businessman lacks federal approval and could face scrutiny for claims made on its Web site.

Businessman Allan Lord, claims his product can give protection from anthrax and he has gained support from a veteran congressman, a respected police chief and a microbiologist at a University of Texas branch known for bioterrorism research.

However research into the claims by staff at the Dallas Morning News shows the company appears to be built on little more than shonky scientific ideas and friends of the man's father.

The Bio-Germ Protection kits apparently contain skin lotion, a nasal spray, an aerosol spray and a mask, and sell for $250 online.

According to the company, the lotion, which is made from grapefruit seeds and the oil of an Australian tree, can protect the skin of public safety workers responding to a potential terrorist attack.

The aerosol spray can supposedly be used to decontaminate a room, and a nasal spray can treat people who have inhaled spores.

In its promotional videos the product is praised by Republican senator Ralph Hall, and McKinney Police Chief Doug Kowalski, who holds homeland security seminars around the country and led the Dallas police SWAT team for a decade.

Hall, a longterm friend of Lord's father, Doug Lord, had said the product appears to be a breakthrough and the answer to the anthrax problem.

Kowalski, who has worked with Doug Lord for years on police charity rodeos, appears in uniform on the video holding the Bio-Germ kit saying it is "the type of product that will be very beneficial to first responders".

It seems the basis of the claims are the research of Dr. John Heggers, a burn specialist at the UT Medical Branch in Galveston.

Heggers published the only scientific article on Bio-Germ in an obscure online journal run by two of his former medical residents.

The journal was forced to retract the study after two scientists listed as co-authors disputed the article's findings, saying they had never read or approved it.

A number of anthrax experts who reviewed the original article for the newspaper, placed little value on Heggers claims because he failed to test spores of a highly infectious form of anthrax used by terrorists 2001.

The experts say Heggers tested a weak form of the bacteria sometimes found in livestock carcasses and easily killed with rubbing alcohol.

Heggers had written that Bio-Germ would protect the public from an anthrax attack and also later said it probably would counter other bioterrorist threats like smallpox and the plague.

He had urged police and fire departments to buy it, apparently saying it met government safety standards.

He now admits he exaggerated, and says he failed in adhering to the facts.

He has apologized and says his intentions were 'honorable and not mercenary'.

Heggers has also known Doug Lord for years. When Doug Lord served on the board of governors for the Galveston Shriners Hospital he controlled finances for the clinical microbiology department that Heggers managed.

Allan Lord refuses to comment on the newspapers findings, referring questions to the products' developer, Robert Heiman, who said he was unaware that Bio-Germ was being sold, as the products are still being tested.

Hall and Kowalski say they had no intentions of misleading the public.

If in the FDA's view Bio-Germ is deemed to be violating the law, it could stop the company selling the products, or refer the matter to federal prosecutors.

The Federal Trade Commission also could seek penalties if it determines that Bio-Germ has made false or unsubstantiated claims.

UTMB President John Stobo will review the findings of a scientific integrity committee and then decide whether to discipline or fire Heggers, a tenured professor.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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