Updated with statement from Public Citizen.
VIENNA, Va. (
) -- The veracity of a recent article lauding an experimental H1N1 flu drug from
is in question because it appears its author may not be who he says he is.
The article's author, Dr. Pablo Romanus, says he is director of the Health Research Group at
, a government watchdog group based in Washington, D.C.
But Public Citizen says it has no record of Romanus ever working for the group, either as a director or even as an outside consultant.
Public Citizen on Tuesday
"An article touting a new H1N1 vaccine that appeared on the Web site American Chronicle identifies the author as someone who works for Public Citizen's Health Research Group. The problem is that the author, 'Dr. Pablo Romanus,' has never worked, consulted or contracted with Public Citizen in any way. In fact, we've never heard of Romanus and have no idea if he's even a real person."
Efforts to contact Romanus were not successful.
Romanus' Sept. 28 article, published by a Web site known as
, says that the FDA convened a recent meeting in which several companies and groups presented data on new H1N1 drugs.
"So far only one proposed treatment has met the stringent safety and efficacy requirements to be fast tracked into human studies. That treatment was being developed by Virginia based, Cel-Sci Corporation and is based on their Ligand Epitope Antigen Presentation System," writes Romanus.
He adds, "Animal study results and technology data were compelling enough to make the FDA grant the company overnight approval to move directly into human trials of the treatment."
Cel-Sci representatives did not respond to questions for this article.
A Google search turns up very little on Romanus except links to his Sept. 28 article and a resume posted on the Web site LinkedIn.
That resume lists Romanus' current job title as Senior Analyst, Health Research Group at Public Citizen, from January 2000 to the present. Prior to that, the resume states that Romanus worked at the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
from January 1990 to December 1998.
The CDC is checking its employment records to verify whether Romanus worked there, according to spokesperson Von Roebuck.
On Sept. 16, Cel-Sci announced plans to begin a clinical trial of its LEAPS-H1N1 drug on the white blood cells of hospitalized H1N1 patients. It's not clear whether this study is a human clinical trial, as Romanus states.
Cel-Sci has not said whether the study involves treatment of white blood cells with LEAPS-H1N1 after their removal from patients, or whether the drug is being administered directly to patients.
Many readers took issue with my
on Cel-Sci, published Oct. 2, which raised doubts about the company's H1N1 drug, among other concerns. Some readers cited the Romanus article as proof that the FDA and other government officials have endorsed and are supporting Cel-Sci's drug.
One commenter to my column, posting under the pseudonym Onconasty, wrote, "Did you read the article Adam? Do you think you are more aware of what the FDA, CDC, HHS etc. are up to than Dr. Romanus is? You did read his resume didn't you. I know a lot about what is going on behind the scenes, and I find the Dr's internet article far more credible than your internet article. I am pretty sure that an ex-CDC official, who is now a consumer advocate on health matters with the respected national organization Public Citizen, doesn't have any ulterior motives. He states flatly and with authority that the FDA has picked only LEAPS above a lot of other products potentially useful in combating the imminent swine flu pandemic. Do you think that he made that up?"
Romanus doesn't work for Public Citizen, so whose credibility is in question?
Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback;
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