Terra Sigillata

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In September we posted “M.D. Anderson name misused in Evolv nutraceutical water advertising,” detailing the not-exactly-truthful claim by a multilevel marketing company that their bottled water product was “tested” by one of North America’s premier teaching and research hospitals.

A flurry of search engine hits to this post raised my attention to the fact that the The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center has now initiated legal action against the makers of Evolv. Cameron Langford at Courthouse News Service reports:

Two companies are pushing bottled tap water with false claims that it’s endorsed by the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the University of Texas says in Federal Court. The UT says HealtH20 Products and Evolvehealth sell the bogus water it as “Evolv,” claiming it is infused with an “Archaea Active formula.” [. . .]

[. . .] “Specifically, defendants are misleading consumers and cancer patients into believing that UT’s MD Anderson conducted extensive testing of the main formula in the Evolv product, known as ‘Archaea Active,” the UT says.

“Defendants’ misuse of the MD Anderson marks creates, at a minimum, a likelihood that cancer patients and consumers will falsely believe that defendants’ products is sponsored or endorsed by UT’s MD Anderson, when in fact, MD Anderson does not endorse or recommend the use of the defendants’ product.”

Natural products researchers, including yours truly, are used to supplement companies misrepresenting our published papers in their advertising literature. There’s not much we can do as individuals when our work is cited on a webpage.

However, there’s a much more serious issue going on in this case: according to the official complaint filed against the companies by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System (PDF here from Courthouse News) M.D. Anderson and The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center are registered US trademarks.

When the M.D. Anderson name was first used in Evolv product advertising, the center’s Office of External Communications released this relatively light-hearted statement on 9 September clarifying that the institution did conduct fee-for-service testing the product for anti-inflammatory activity but did no efficacy or toxicity testing.

According to item 25 in the complaint, a more official and stern request to the manufacturers followed on 4 November and “demanded that the defendants cease using the M.D Anderson Marks.” Defendants, however, refused to comply with UT’s demands.”

Incidentally, the complaint notes in item 24 that the defendants attempted to obtain from the University of Texas an exclusive, world-wide, royalty-free license to use the M.D. Anderson Marks in relation to the Evolv water beverage” after the initial objections of the cancer center

(Not listed in the complaint was what I suspect was M.D. Anderson’s likely response: “What, are you people high or something?”)

Wilonsky notes:

Far as the UT Board of Regents is concerned, Evolv’s doing nothing more than using M.D. Anderson’s name and rep to build a “pyramid,” which is why it’s taking Evolv to court for trademark violation and trademark dilution and damages.

And even with the filing of the complaint in US District Court in Houston this past Monday: this remains the text on the Evolv website as of 12 noon today:

More than 15 years of scientific research and development have been invested in our proprietary, all natural Archaea Active™ formula. Evolv combines this colorless and flavorless formula with natural spring water to deliver the health benefits of good hydration with optimal oxygen utilization and increased stamina, energy and endurance. In vitro testing was conducted at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and FutureCeuticals®.

The Archaea Active™ formula may also help:

  • enhance the absorption of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins and other important nutrients
  • speed fatigue recovery
  • maintain healthy circulation
  • support a healthy immune system

Hmm. . .if M.D. Anderson filed that complaint against me, I’d have had the webmaster change the page a femtosecond later – but that’s just me.

So what did investigators at M.D. Anderson actually test for anyway?
But there is one interesting sidenote to this case: some of the in vitro testing results of the HealtH2O water are posted on the “Archaea Active” website. The complete report with names and dates isn’t posted and there is no assurance that what is there is verified by whoever conducted the studies. But here’s my interpretation of the available information. (I’ve retained a screenshot in case it disappears)

The water was apparently tested against A549 small cell lung carcinoma and RBL1 rat basophilic leukemia cells for suppression of arachadonic acid-stimulated release of pro-inflammatory lipids such as prostaglandin E2 and leukotriene B4.

At first glance of the data presented, it might appear that the water does actually have an effect on suppressing bioactive lipid production at so-called 1X, 0.5X, and 0.25X water concentrations (no standard deviations or indication of replicates, though). But what this appears to mean is that the cells were removed from culture conditions and exposed to straight water and then 50% and 25% water in culture medium. These no-salt or low-salt conditions would obviously kill the cells by hypotonic lysis during what appears to be a 2 hr incubation period; there do not appear to be corresponding controls to correct for this activity.

What a mess.

The rest of the data on endogenous release of PGE2 and leukotrienes are a bigger mess, with the water appearing to even increase production at some concentrations, and no apparent concentration-response trend.

Again, the full report has not been released by M.D. Anderson and there’s no assurance that what is on the Archaea Active website is authentic. However, it might look like official gobbledygook to a non-scientific reader that demonstrates some activity of the water when, in fact, these appear to be uncontrolled and uninterpretable experiments.

(I should note for the record, however, that the Arachaea Active website, run by healtH2o, does have the disclaimer in bold: “Please note that MDACC does not endorse, back or recommend any Archaea Active™ products.”)

I’d love to hear any input from anyone who studies bioactive lipids for a living.

Comments

  1. #1 Marilyn Mann
    November 20, 2009

    Interesting!

  2. #2 Tsu Dho Nimh
    November 20, 2009

    Nice … Evolv Water is NOT VEGAN! That Archaea Active™ formula is made with milk whey.

  3. #3 idlemind
    November 21, 2009

    So people with cancer might use these products instead of treatment that could save their lives, but the real problem with the products is that their advertising violates trademark. Sad how very toothless our ability to regulate these products is, but if M.D. Anderson can take ‘em down this way, more power to them.

  4. #4 Ian Musgrave
    November 22, 2009

    I’m not a bioactive lipids expert (yet, next year I’ll be doing a bioactives project), but I do work with A549 cells and I can read a graph.

    PGE2 production was reduced with increased concentration of healtH20 enhanced water (table 5).

    Eh what? table 5 shows PGE2 levels all over the place, with the 1x concentration higher than the control! Although without error bars this could just be a messy assay result.

    The results are all over the place, and in places contradictory. In the assay where they added arachidonic acid, the low concentrations of water appeared to have an effect, not the high (and the results were all over the place again). The LTE4 results in table 2 show an increase at 1x, but are described in the text as a decrease (and lower concentrations of the water have no detectable LTE4, either we are seeing homeopathy here or the assay is too flawed to be used).

    The whole thing is a dogs breakfast, and does not support any anti-inflammatory role for the water.

  5. #5 Abel Pharmboy
    November 23, 2009

    Professor Musgrave, what a pleasure to see you here! Yes, I also noted the inverse concentration response and general scatter of the data.

    However, I have never heard of crappy data ever referred to as “a dogs breakfast” – is that an Australian term?

  6. #6 Ian Musgrave
    November 23, 2009

    Hi Abel! Anything to distract myself form the pile of marking (grading for US readers, in Oz grading is something you do with a very large tractor-like machine). Hmmm, “dogs breakfast” certainly is Ozian, but I though more widespread, maybe also used in the UK.

    Still, that data, it’s rubbish. [/Marvin the Paranoid Android Voice]

  7. #7 Inquiry Minds
    November 23, 2009

    Thank you for this post, very informative. If you have any more updates, please post, we will check in often. Hopefully people who are about to join this company will have a chance to read this post first and stay away.

  8. #8 KC Frantzen
    November 24, 2009
  9. #9 rick white
    November 24, 2009

    Shame on Trey White the Founder of Evolv, Some investment that was to invest in that leadership team, I see a class action suit coming around the corner for dist- to get back their investments and times invested in this venture, don’t spend your billions yet!!!

  10. #10 KC Frantzen
    November 30, 2009

    I’ve been using the product myself in the testing phase for 3+ years, and members of my family and friends have been for 7 years or more.

    I don’t know Trey White and team so can’t vouch for them. But I know all 3 of the inventors (of what is now known as ‘Evolv’)and their families personally.

    It is a wonderful product which has changed many lives for the better.

    So don’t give up on it just yet, okay?

  11. #11 DC
    December 1, 2009

    I know Trey White and he is a quality guy. I tried evolv for a few days now. The product is great and makes me feel fantastic and I am a huge skeptic. I have more natural energy and feel clearer after drinking it. I am glad they have created a product that can do so much and do it naturally. Working out is better too. It sure beats coffee and all the sugar loaded energy drinks on the market.

  12. #12 Ronald
    December 16, 2009

    I want every penny back from Evolv! I bought into their “MA Anderson” testing..thinking it could help my wife with her cancer!!!!

    That is exactly how they wanted it to appear…so suckers like me could help make them rich.

    A….holes!

  13. #13 EvolvLadyTexas
    January 17, 2010

    Evolv has been a blessing both in our Health & Finances. My husband suffers from ADHD and after drinking Evolv, he has improved clarity & focus. I’ve suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for many years and find that after drinking Evolv that I have more energy & alertness. My overall health has improved since I’ve been using the product and know that this product is going to help others also. I met Trey White & the Evolv staff and they are the most compassionate, down to earth, caring group of people and feel very honored to be part of a product & opportunity that is going to help improve people’s lives.

  14. #14 Melissa Pierce
    February 12, 2010

    SHAME ON YOU ABEL FOR POSTING THIS….Have you even tried the product??? No one ever said MD Anderson backed or endorsed it just had invitro testing done on it….That’s what is wrong with this country…Everyone wants to try & find something bad with a great product…FYI…..I have suffered from severe Migraines for about 5 years & since comsuming this product NO MORE MIGRAINES!!! guess what no more taking any migraine meds….I Thank the Scientists & Trey White for this product…..

  15. #15 Abel Pharmboy
    February 12, 2010

    Hmm…it appears that some of you may have drunk the, uh, Kool-Aid.

    By the way, anecdote does not equal causation. It is the lack of critical thinking that will allow this product to be successful.

  16. #16 Ana Giraldo
    February 23, 2010

    Abel: anecdote DOES NOT deny causation either. The lack of critical thinking also weighs on you. While nobody can assert that this water would cure migraines, you can not make any assertions on the contrary either. I know the proof rests on evolvhealth, but you have no right to dismiss a product just because YOU don’t have proof it works. Logical? You tell me…

  17. #17 Abel Pharmboy
    February 23, 2010

    Hi Ana, sorry but I have ever right to dismiss the product until there is any proof the it has any therapeutic effect for any indication. I don’t believe that you understand what critical thinking means. Using your example, I could say that Italian salad dressing cures cancer because no one has proven that it doesn’t.

    Of course, that doesn’t stop anyone from buying the water and believing that it has any therapeutic benefit. However, it is illegal to for the company itself to claim that it has medicinal effects under the guidelines of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. I would also caution distributors from making medicinal claims for the product as these would fall under FTC purview as false advertising.

    However, I do suffer from migraines myself and wish you all the best in remaining migraine-free.

  18. #18 Rolando
    May 2, 2010

    I chopped off my own penis because I was depressed. But after drinking only *3* bottles of Evolv, it grew back and I’m more happy than ever!

  19. #19 Chevonne
    May 27, 2010

    Greetings To All!!

    I’m no medical person nor am I a science buff, but what I am is an Evolv Consumer. I have seen some wonderful results in my life with inflammation reduction and pain reduction. I have also seen other in my family experience this. I don’t know if the test are true of false, but how I feel and several of my aging/ill family members feel, is all I can speak for. I promote the product because it has truly changed my life and I see those who drink it around transform as well!

  20. #20 Brains is a quality
    June 30, 2010

    Listen tards!… this is just a PLACEBO!!!!!!…. my brother in law is a PHD Doctor, and he and I and the half of smart people here is telling you: There’s nothing special to this water.

    Common sense it’s all it takes to know it’s a scam. You don’t have to try it!, you just need to know what’s in it to come to a conclusion.

    Were are the proof?…. Cancer claims is a laughing matter in any product. My mom died of Cancer wen I was 19, it was so profound to me that I started to educated my self in the subject so well, to be able to talk to doctors about it in detail.

    Do you know what causes Cancer?….

    Do you know why the body can’t distinguish Cancer cells from normal body cells?…..

    If you know this, then you’ll laughing at Evolv right now!..lol If you think this water has or is a holy-grail for Cancer/pain/migraines then I’m sorry for you, you’ll gonna lose a lot of money in your life time, if you don’t educate yourself.

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