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Mannatech Relationship with NIH Scientist under Investigation

by David Evans

©1999 Bloomberg, LP
August 13, 1999

Mannatech Inc. Mannatech Inc.'s relationship with a scientist at the National Institutes of Health, who is also a part-time salesman for the nutritional supplement maker, is under investigation by the agency.

The NIH ordered Dr. Robert Ortmann, a researcher at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, to cancel a speech he was scheduled to make tomorrow at a Mannatech sales meeting in Olympia, Washington, said agency spokeswoman Anne Thomas.

In addition, Thomas said NIH lawyers will send a letter to Coppell, Texas-based Mannatech today asking the company to stop making any reference to the agency in its marketing materials.

"NIH is opening an investigation into this matter," she said. "We're very concerned if the public has been misled into thinking the NIH has endorsed these products. There is no endorsement."

Ortmann and Mannatech didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

Ortmann endorses Mannatech's products., called glyconutrients, in an interview with Mannatech scientist Steve Nugent that is part of a promotional audio tape called "The Nugent Report."

"I believe that glyconutrients are going to become a staple nutritional supplement for all six billion people on the face of this Earth within the next two to five years," Ortmann said.

Nugent responds on the tape: "It is so refreshing and amazing to hear someone in your position at the National Institutes of Health, a medical doctor, speaking so highly and so positively about natural, non-toxic substances."

Mannatech is also using a study by Dr. Darryl See to promote its supplements. See initially said his study, which ranked Mannatech products among the top five out of 196 studied, was funded by the NIH. Following a Bloomberg article, See last week acknowledged that the agency didn't fund his study.

See also said the study wasn't conducted under the auspices of the University of California Irvine Medical School, as earlier stated, that his wife has been a Mannatech distributor since 1997, and that he received more than $100,000 from the company in speakers fees and research grants since 1998.

See has recommended Mannatech's supplements for treatment of diseases such as AIDS and cancer.

On Monday, Sam Caster, Mannatech's president, said the company will continue using the study, but may "disassociate" itself from See. He said the company's internal investigation of See's study, prompted by the Bloomberg news report, was continuing.

Mannatech shares rose 11/16 to 8 in late trading.