Friday, July 18, 2003

Egg powder-as-drug case headed to jury

By Charley Gillespie
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A poultry researcher and her plastic surgeon business partner were out for fame and fortune when they advertised their powdered eggs as a treatment for everything from attention deficit disorder to cancer, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Marilyn Coleman and Dr. Mitchell Kaminski "played fast and loose with the truth," Prosecutor Deborah Solove said during closing arguments in U.S. District Court. The partners ignored federal rules that considered the eggs and powdered yolks to be drugs - and thus subject to a rigorous approval process - by advertising them as disease treatments, she said.

Kaminski, Coleman and their company OvImmune were indicted on 23 charges last August, including conspiracy to commit mail fraud and distribution of an unapproved and misbranded drug with intent to defraud. The jury was scheduled to begin deliberations today.

Prosecutors have said the defendants ignored federal rules that consider food supplements to be drugs when they are advertised as treating a disease. They said the defendants told people the egg powder could treat yeast infections, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome and AIDS.

The two have maintained they did nothing wrong and that they told people that the eggs were a food supplement and not a drug.

"There is no compilation of data that can transform a banana into a drug," Max Kravitz, Coleman's lawyer, said in his closing arguments. "If you have reasonable doubt that an egg is not a drug, you must acquit."

He blamed the charges on a turf war between the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture.

Coleman, 57, and Kaminski formed OvImmune in 1993. She has said she sought legal advice from the FDA on what she needed to do legally to market her product. After receiving no response, she relied on a 1998 letter from the Department of Agriculture that the egg powder was a nutritional supplement, not a drug.

She started researching egg antibodies while an assistant professor of poultry science at Ohio State University from 1977 to 1982.

But Solove said Coleman approved a newspaper article that fraudulently said her research was endorsed by the American Medical Association. Coleman also said in the article that immunized chickens produced eggs that "had had proven success treating chronic fatigue syndrome," Solove said.

"Eggs don't work. You eat them. They cost a dollar," Solove said. "But they had people paying $200 to $300 for powdered eggs. This is not intent to sell food."

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