While reading the series of stories in the Washington Post about the bribery scandal currently engulfing various Virginia politicians and shady Star Scientific (STSI), a documentary about a curious insect was playing on the television.
The North American cicada, Magicicada cassini, is famous for its distinctive chirp, and its life cycle, returning every 17 years. And so it is with some con men residing in the lower rungs of the stock market, reappearing every so often, and promoting their worthless shares with the same siren songs.
In January 1988 an article appeared in JAMA discussing Retin-A, a derivative of vitamin A, as a treatment for wrinkles. It set off an explosion in the use of Retin-A and a flurry of hype around some other, less well studied, products. The frenzy was so great that then-FDA commissioner Frank Young issued a warning to the public. An article in the LA Times, available here, explains:
Young said some unethical pharmacists, dermatologists and manufacturers were promoting and selling mixtures called Retin-A that actually contain different amounts of the active ingredient, retinoic acid.
Some manufacturers, he also said, are making bogus creams sold as Retin-A or as look-alike products that contain no retinoic acid…The FDA said it was “actively investigating a number of firms” promoting and selling wrinkle creams
Imagine the reaction at a small struggling firm in Massachusetts, called Spectra Pharmaceuticals (SPTPQ) when the JAMA article hit. For years Spectra, its Chairman and CEO, Dr. Al Maumanee of Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute, along with another scientist, Dr. Scheffer Tseng, had been studying their very own vitamin A derivative as an eye ointment first at Hopkins, and later at the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. But the studies were quite controversial.
According to a New York Times article, available here: