EDITORIAL

Congressional Attempt to Ban DHEA Overlooks . . .

A Startling Conflict of Interest

ernand Labrie, a Canadian medical researcher, is the author of about 100 scientific papers on the prohormonal1 supplement DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) that have found benefits for both its medical and nonmedical uses. In a recent paper of which Dr. Labrie is the lead author, DNA microarray technology was used to compare the way in which DHEA and DHT (dihydrotestosterone), the most potent natural androgen and an anabolic steroid, modulated the expression of nearly all 30,000 genes in the mouse genome.2 The authors claim that the results show that DHEA is also an anabolic steroid.

They claim too that this is the first time that DHEA, at “physiological” concentrations, has been found to induce high levels of DHT in prostate tissue, resulting in a marked stimulation of ventral prostate weight gain and the increased expression of androgen-sensitive genes.

The term anabolic steroid carries the implication that DHEA may be dangerous indeed. But where is the evidence for that? Having followed the scientific literature on DHEA for the better part of two decades, we know of no evidence suggesting that any of the dangers associated with anabolic steroids apply to DHEA.

Patents, Profit, and Partiality

At the end of Dr. Labrie’s paper, this statement appears: “The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest that would prejudice the impartiality of this scientific work.” [Emphasis added] Yet the United States Patent and Trademark Office lists Dr. Labrie as an inventor on no less than 47 patents involving the use of DHEA, either as a drug adjunctive or as a pharmaceutical alternative to a wide variety of medical treatments, including some not so medical, such as restoring lost muscle mass and strength and enhancing libido.3 The classification of DHEA as an anabolic steroid and the subsequent ban on its over-the-counter supplemental use could very well make Dr. Labrie or those owning the patents very wealthy indeed. Endorecherche, Inc., is the name of the Canadian firm (in the U.S., EndoCeutics, Inc.) that holds the most recent 37 of those patents. Its CEO and president is none other than Dr. Fernand Labrie!

What’s more, on behalf of his company, Dr. Labrie has recently filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC File 333-140927) to sell upwards of $86 million worth of stock in EndoCeutics. From the prospectus summary, Dr. Labrie states that if all goes well, EndoCeutics “intends to submit an NDA [New Drug Application] in the United States in 2008 for DHEA as treatment for vaginal atrophy.”

Political Bedfellows

The United States Congress is once again railing against DHEA—having exempted it from anabolic steroid classification several times before—and there are currently two bills in the hopper—Senate Bill 762 (S. 762) and House Resolution 1249 (H.R. 1249)—seeking to classify DHEA as a controlled substance under the anabolic steroid category. When the principal Congressional office promoting the bill—that of Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)—was contacted, Dr. Labrie’s paper was offered as a scientific basis for the drive to ban DHEA, along with a press release from Grassley’s office stating, “Like all steroids, DHEA has a number of potential long-term physical and psychological effects, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, liver damage, severe acne, baldness, dramatic mood swings and aggression.” [Emphasis added] None of these claims are supported by the scientific literature on DHEA, nor did Grassley’s office provide any evidence supporting them. Does Grassley know of any conflicts of interest? His office has expressed no such concerns.

Without Any Significant Side Effects

Despite 40 years of research on DHEA (over 11,000 papers have been published on all aspects of this natural hormone), there have been no long-term studies, nor are there likely to be any, because of the unpatentability of DHEA and the extremely high cost of any such studies. What can be said, however, is that we and other allied companies, clinics, and doctors have—through personal experience and the compilation of blood-test databases—witnessed the benefits that DHEA can confer on aging humans.

Life Enhancement Products, Inc., was the first company to market DHEA prominently as a dietary supplement (beginning in 1995). We have never been deluded into promoting the use of DHEA for the significant fat-loss or bulking effects of anabolic steroid drugs, because there is no scientific support for anabolic effects. Instead, we have focused on aspects such as well-being, mood support, libido enhancement, and the promotion of health—made clear in the literature, and all the more important because these benefits are without side effects of any significance.

DHEA: In the Frontline of Opposition

The struggle to maintain a free market for nutritional supplements—and to avoid the oppression of a universal healthcare system dictated by Federal bureaucrats—is a noble cause. In the path of an unopposed medical juggernaut, the discovery and dissemination of information that we have taken for granted would be transformed into something very different that might not easily survive, and certainly not with the creativity that is our industry’s heritage.

If one could think of a single supplement that has marched in the frontline of opposition to centralized control and that has epitomized our right to supplement with vitamins, herbs, and hormones, it is certainly DHEA. The late Dr. William Regelson, author of a book on DHEA, once said that he never expected the research to amount to anything of practical and widespread importance because he never expected that DHEA would become available for use as a life-extension supplement.

Let us vow not to lose this important nutritional ally, as we surely will if we are not vigilant. There is no question that unholy alliances of political and industrial interests are colluding to monopolize certain natural alternatives to medical treatments, seeking to restrict valuable information and cut off those who can’t pay the higher prices—such as unscrupulous medical and business interests in league with politicians who, by banning life-extending nutrients, would line their pockets and unquestionably drive us to our graves far earlier.

References

  1. Labrie F, Luu-The V, Belanger A, Lin SX, Simard J, Pelletier G, Labrie C. Is dehydroepiandrosterone a hormone? J Endocrinol 2005 Nov;187(2):169-96.
  2. Labrie F, Luu-The V, Martel C, Chernomoretz A, Calvo E, Morissette J, Labrie C. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is an anabolic steroid like dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the most potent natural androgen, and tetrahydrogestrinone (THG). J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2006 Jul;100(1-3):52-8.
  3. U.S. Patent Nos.: 7,005,428; 6,995,150; 6,964,955; 6,884,795; 6,710,059; 6,670,346; 6,541,463; 6,465,445; 6,432,940; 6,423,698; 6,124,115; 5,955,455; 5,948,434; 5,922,700; 5,872,114; 5,861,387; 5,854,229; 5,846,960; 5,843,932; 5,837,700; 5,824,671; 5,817,649; 5,814,340; 5,807,849; 5,798,347; 5,780,460; 5,776,923; 5,753,639; 5,728,688; 5,629,303; 5,610,150; 5,595,985; 5,593,981; 5,567,695; 5,550,107; 5,545,634; 5,541,172; 5,434,146; 5,372,996; 5,362,720; 5,064,813; 5,023,234; 4,775,661; 4,775,660; 4,760,053; 4,666,885; 4,659,695.

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