High school science project takes down Big Pharma

A few years ago, GlaxoSmithKline marketed Remifemin brand of black cohosh extract from their consumer products division as a hormone-free alternative in managing menopausal symptoms. But after reports surfaced that black cohosh might be associated with cases of liver damage, GSK very quietly walked away. (To date, no one has ever shown that black cohosh is causally associated with liver damage). A company called Enzymatic Therapy continues to sell this product in the US, one that is manufactured by Schaper & Bruemmer in Germany.
Well, here’s what happens when GSK gets involved in marketing a black currant juice product in New Zealand that was promoted as having more vitamin C than orange juice:

Global drugs company GlaxoSmithKline was fined 217,000 New Zealand dollars (US$156,000; €117,000) for misleading advertising Tuesday after two science students found its iconic black currant drink Ribena contained no detectable vitamin C.
The multinational company admitted to 15 charges of misleading advertising between 2002 and 2006 in a suit filed by the Commerce Commission, a consumer watchdog, after a 2004 school science project exposed the false claims.

More from the news article:

But high school students Anna Devathasan and Jenny Suo, then 14, found it contained almost no trace of vitamin C after testing the children’s syrup-based drink as part of a science project in 2004.
Commerce Commission chairwoman Paula Rebstock praised the teenagers and called them a “true inspiration to everyone at the commission.”

Watch out for those science fair projects. Shelley Batts at Retrospectacle tells of her own work in 3rd grade that was recently confirmed the Academy of General Dentistry.

4 thoughts on “High school science project takes down Big Pharma

  1. Awesome! Two things make me smile. I’ve had a beef against GSK because of a dispute with them last year, so I’m happy to see them lose something. And I recently was a judge at a high school science contest, so I’m happy to see the kids helping out society.

  2. I remember a similar case in New Zealand where a milk copmany got caught out by a science fair project which found that their high-calcium milk had no more calcium in it than their normal milk products. I can’t remember if there was any legal ramifications for the company, but there was something of an unhappy ending — the milk company stopped providing monetary prizes for the science fair.

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