St. Albert Gazette

June 14 2003
By lleiren Byles
Staff Writer

Bracing for a fight

Supporters of EMPowerplus worried about gov't advisory

While a scientific storm continues to rage around a controversial 
dietary supplement, those who feel their emotional health depends on the 
pills are feeling a little more secure.

"Right now we can have it," said St. Albert businessman, Robert. "That 
big hurdle's over for now. The media responded, some government 
officials have responded and things are stabilizing, I think."

Robert, his father and father-in-law spoke to the Gazette last week to 
air their concerns about a government advisory against EMPowerplus. They 
claimed the concoction of vitamins and minerals has been pivotal in 
restoring emotional well-being to Robert's wife, Barbara, who struggled 
with bipolar mood disorder for more than 10 years. But federal health 
officials began stopping shipments of the product at the U.S. border, 
leaving the family in fear for Barbara's well-being.

Robert launched a Web site to gather information and public reaction 
about the site. Although the Internet site has been steadily gathering 
steam, including several hits a day from Health Canada, supporters of 
the product are braced for along fight, he said.

"We saw this coming two years ago. Now, it's here and it's real," he 
said. "This is going to be a very long, very involved process, but so 
far, so good."

The battle begins, unfortunately, with claims made by the makers of the 
supplement, according to Tyler Maitson, a cognitive psychologist who has 
been using EMPowerplus.

"Truehope makes explicit claims about using EMPower as a treatment for 
mood disorders. They are also not following federal guidelines in trying 
to recruit members for their own research studies--ignorance and 
management, that," he said. "As well, the group of companies that market 
this stuff doesn't seem to be well managed in general, which is why 
there is all this foofaraw. It looks to me like the product is good, but 
the company is just not being well run and not going about producing it 

In an interview with the Gazette, Marvin Ross, a medical journalist from 
Ontario and co-author of Pig Pills, Inc.--a disparaging look at the 
Truehope company--called the company "criminal and reprehensible."
"There is no scientific evidence that EMPowerplus will help with any 
psychiatric disorder whatsoever," he said. "There have been no safety 
tests done, no animal studies and no toxicity studies."

Ross and his co-authors, Ron Reinhold, a private detective from Black 
Diamond, Alberta, and Doctor Terry Polevoy, owner and operator of, claim research done at the University of Calgary and 
funded by the Alberta government proved the supplement to be 
ineffective. They also claim that Truehope is endangering vulnerable 
people by encouraging them to quit psychiatric medications in favour of 

"I really object to Truehope people actively encouraging people to go 
off their psychiatric medications," said Ross. "To tell people to go off 
that stuff and replace it with stuff that's never been effective, I 
think it's criminal and reprehensible."

Ross cited the case of one young man in Ottawa who attempted suicide 
after treating his own schizophrenia with EMPowerplus.
"I wonder if there are any numbers for people who tried to commit 
suicide while taking lithium," quipped Robert. "Those don't get blamed 
on the mdication."

Ross admitted that number is "probably quite high."
Everyone, it seems, wants the research on EMPower to begin.
"I would hope that (Truehope founder) Tony Stephan is right, so let's 
prove it," said Ross. "I wouldn't argue with anecdotal evidence, because 
I can't."

Robert and Maitson would also love the research to progress, as long as 
the product is still available for those who feel they need it.
"We're realizing very quickly that it's not the product they (the Pig 
Pills, Inc.authors) have a problem with, it's the company," said Robert. 
"If that's the case then leave the product alone when there's nothing 
wrong with it."

The products' supporters would just like to  believe they're being 
listened to, he said.

"We know we're not the only ones lobbying Health Canada," he said. "The 
pharmaceutical companies are also trying to make their case. I'm a 
businessperson, I can understand that. If someone was encroaching on my 
business, I'd do everything I could to make sure my product came out 
ahead. But if the government wants to see research, give them a little 
bit of a break and help them out. Don't just jump on them and shut them 

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