Emails between David Gorski, an American oncologist and science blogger on the one hand and Lelde Lapa, Assistant of the Business Development Department at the Riga-based International Virotherapy Center (IVC) on the other, charts and extraordinary back-and-forth regarding the clinical credentials or otherwise of 'Rigvir', a patented drug licensed for use in Latvia, Armenia and Georgia.
Rather than summarise the contents here -- which range from the lingering effects of Soviet occupation on Latvia's medical record system to Mexican quack clinics -- we recommend reading the increasingly combative correspondence for yourself.
It can be read at Gorski's blog site HERE.
As previously reported by LSM Health Minister Anda Caksa recently announced she would hold a roundtable event at which advocates and opponents of Rigvir, which was developed in Latvia and is owned by a Riga holding company, could meet face to face.
But Caksa has also been asked by Delna, the local branch of Transparancy International, to beware of potential conflicts of interest when it emerged that one of her ministerial advisers, oncologist Dace Baltina, holds the position of Medical Director at IVC. Rigvir is on the list of medical treatments for which the state pays.
Former Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Central Bank Governor Einars Repse is the head of IVC.
In an unexpected development later on October 2 it was announced that the promised discussion had in fact taken place, lasting less than two hours. Media were not allowed to record the discussion in full as it took place at the Health Ministry but did interview some of the participants after the fact. No press release announcing the meeting in advance was posted on the Health Ministry's website, but it was instead included an an item on the ministry's daily agenda.
A representative of Rigvir holdings, Jurgis Auzins, said critics of the treatment's clinical data were "producing fake news".
Doctor Inara Rubene told LTV she would like to have said the discussion was fruitful "but unfortunately that didn't happen."
LTV further reported that invitations to participants were only sent last Friday afternoon when most medical professionals had already signed up for their work rotas for the following week, making attendance problematic.
(NOTE: LSM asked Ms. Lapa to confirm if the correspondence was a fair representation of the exchange, via the official IVC email account, but after 6 hours received no reply. We will happily add her comments as and when they are received.)