As it stands, there is no science backing Star's claims that anatabine reduces inflammation, relieves pain or treats Alzheimer's, thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury or other auto-immune diseases These are all medical claims Star makes or insinuates with its constant anatabine promotions.

Anatabine is not FDA approved for anything, but thanks to lax rules and generous loopholes, Star is able to sell the nutritional supplement over the Internet and at GNC retail outlets. What Star hasn't been able to do is convince people to buy anatabine. Sales are minimal, totaling just $1.7 million in the last reported quarter.

Which is where the Johns Hopkins connection comes into play. Star wants investors and the general public to believe anatabine is a drug capable of curing all sorts of diseases. The marketing message is simple: If Johns Hopkins believes in anatabine, you should too.

Internet stock promoter Dr. John Faessel (he's a dentist) embraces Star's misleading marketing message and runs with it. In two columns posted recently on Seeking Alpha -- both bullish on Star Scientific -- Faessel refers repeatedly to the "successful Rock Creek/Johns Hopkins human trials of anatabine."

Wrong. Johns Hopkins had no involvement in the anatabine trial.

Gilford Securities analyst Otis Bradley also plays along with the deception. In a recent research note, Bradley writes, "The anatabine thyroid research has been done by the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, certainly one of the most preeminent medical institutions in the world, under the lead of Paul Ladenson, chief endocrinologist and one of the preeminent leaders in the world in his profession."

Wrong again. Star Scientific is solely in charge of the anatabine thyroid study, which recruited patients from nine private U.S. clinics, none with academic credentials. Ladenson may be an expert on thyroid disease but he's being paid by Star Scientific.

Star Scientific also pays golfer Fred Couples to endorse anatabine. At this point, there's very little to distinguish Couple's advertising pitch and Ladenson's consulting work.

-- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.

Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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