duckOne of the oft heard complaints about modern medicine is that it's dominated by "big pharma," that is greedy, soulless corporations who lie to us and suppress less expensive and more effective treatments for monetary gain. While it's true that corporations are out for monetary gain, and there have been irregularities as with any big business, let's take a look at the pot that's calling the kettle greedy here.

Consider a single product: Oscillococcinum.

Their site never actually says that the "FDA regulated drug" does anything... really, read carefully. It doesn't. They do claim it is a "Flu Medicine." And they claim studies have shown its effectiveness in reducing flu symptoms. We'll save examining the studies for another time, for the purpose of this article, let's focus on the ingredients.

Pharmaceuticals such as Tamiflu and Zithromax are tested for years before they're released to the public. Teams of chemists, lawyers, doctors, nurses, clinical researches, and study subjects go over every conceivable side effect or quality control issue before the drug is released to the market. These procedures cost an incredibly large amount of money, and while it may, in fact, be ridiculous to charge $5 for a pill, there is at least some basis for them being expensive. Part of that basis, is that they have active ingredients.

Not so for Oscilloccinum.

Each capsule is 1 gram, and it contains a 200X preparation of muscovy duck heart and liver, .15g of lactose (milk sugar), and .85g of sucrose (table sugar). For those unwilling to do math, the sugars add up to 1.00g. Er.. where's the duck liver? Well, a 200x preparation of anything is past Avogadro's limit. It's chemically impossible for there to be even one molecule of duck liver in an Oscilloccinum capsule. That means... there is exactly no duck liver in it. In fact, it's a capsule of sugar, more suited for sweetening tea than reducing your flu symptoms. The tea might help though.

What does the company have to say about this? Gina Casey, manufacturer Boiron's spokesman says "Of course it's safe: there's nothing in it."

So how much is this product that's basically less than 1ยข worth of sugar? $21.59 will buy you 6 dosages, which are to be taken up to three times a day. At $3.60 a capsule, that's a pretty tidy profit, wouldn't you say? Oh, I failed to mention... it's available in over 50 countries.

I was in a "health" food store today, and their very prominent displays of Oscillococcinum were nearly depleted. Why? Fear of H1N1 or "Swine Flu." Not even Boiron says the stuff will do anything to prevent the flu, but people are buying it in droves.

Greed did someone say? I'd say selling something with no active ingredients is the very definition of greed. In fact, there's another word for it: snake oil. Maybe we can find some tar to go with all those duck feathers their factories must produce. Oh wait, never mind. A single duck would have provided far more than enough liver and heart for every single capsule ever made. And it would still be quacking to boot, just like the people who promote this stuff.