The SoCal inventor of zinc-based Zicam cold treatment has been charged with importing and distributing an unapproved treatment for bird flu, the U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A. announced today.

Charles B. Hensley was due in federal court downtown today to face the music. (What, the Zicam cash wasn't enough for him?).

Feds say he marketed Vira 38 as a treatment for avian influenza despite a lack of evidence that it works — and despite the absence of the FDA's necessary approval. Now this gets tricky because …

… you don't need federal approval for herbs. But you do have to be careful in how you market them: If you say they have medicinal properties and can cure or treat stuff, then you could be in trouble if you fail to get FDA approval.

Prosecutors claim the 57-year-old from Redondo Beach took to importing and marketing Vira 38 after it failed to catch in in Hong Kong as a treatment for the regular flu.

He got hit with a 12-count indictment by a federal grand jury last month.

The legal details, according to the U.S. Attorney's office:

The indictment accused Hensley of four misdemeanor counts of introducing an unapproved new drug into interstate commerce, four misdemeanor counts of introduction of a misbranded drug into interstate commerce, and four felony counts of illegally importing an unapproved drug into the United States.

The herb marketer was arrested at home by a task force made up of FDA agents (the FDA has people with guns?), the LAPD and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

He probably would have had better luck marketing marijuana as an herbal cure for back pain. At least that would have been quasi-legal in California. Irony.


LA Weekly