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‘Shonky’ sugar pill created by religious group • Monday March 10, 2003

New Zealand Press Association, Mar. 9, 2003

A sugar pill being sold in New Zealand with the claim it can help sufferers of HIV and other illnesses, was created by a United States religious group which says the recipe was given to a scientist through prayer.

The pill Ambrotose, which costs about $NZ300 a month and is sold through a pyramid-type scheme, has been rubbished by the New Zealand Aids Foundation and other health groups.

It is alleged that sellers of Ambrotose in New Zealand are using US claims the product can alleviate symptoms of HIV, cystic fibrosis, cancer, arthritis, down’s syndrome and a host of other illnesses and diseases.

The Health Ministry said tonight it had warned the New Zealand distributors of Ambrotose they could be in breach of the Medicines Act if the claims were used in this country.

Spokesman for the ministry’s Medsafe authority, Peter Pratt, told NZPA a response to the warning was expected tomorrow, and if unsatisfactory the distributors could be taken to court.

“We received a first complaint about the product two weeks ago after public meetings on Ambrotose were held in major centres,” Mr Pratt said.

A second complaint was received after marketing information on Ambrotose was sent to cystic fibrosis groups.

Mr Pratt said there was no registration system for products such as Ambrotose in New Zealand’s legislation.

“So you can’t do anything about them until they get out on the market and start making claims. There is new legislation proposed to change that.”

Ambrotose – made from eight sugars, aloe vera and vegetable extracts – was developed by the Texas-based company Mannatech, which has an “aid relief” arm called MannaRelief.

Canadian Eugene Fox, who sends out a MannaPrayer email to followers of the group, claims on his website that Ambrotose helped his bowel disease and his wife’s arthritis.

“The Lord places a high value on our physical health…. The Lord built Mannatech around an amazing discovery given through prayer to the chief scientist, Dr Bill McAnalley. It’s the plant-derived glyconutrient complex (brand name Ambrotose),” Mr Fox said.

Mr Fox said Mannatech was established when founders Sam and Linda Caster knelt with family members in a Texas living room and “gave themselves to the Lord in a fresh commitment”.

New Zealand Aids Foundation executive director Kevin Hague said today the pills were “shonky” and had no scientific basis.

He said he was “staggered” to hear there were more than 200 people selling the pills in New Zealand.

The Aids Foundation rejected a request last year to endorse and sell the pill, and take part in a clinical trial.

“Over the years there have been very many of these essentially `snake oil’ solutions to HIV,” Mr Hague told NZPA.

“People have come to us with cures like injecting blood with hydrogen peroxide, and one woman periodically sends us letters claiming to be able to cure people of HIV by giving the right electro-magnetic frequencies and beaming rays into people.”

Mr Hague said the foundation was angry that sick people and people with children suffering from illnesses and disease could be taken in by the claims attached to the pills.

He said the claims amounted to “cynical exploitation of the desperate and vulnerable”.

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