EDMONTON -- The drug DMSO, not permitted for sale in Canada for medical use except by prescription, has made its way onto some Edmonton store shelves where it is being sold as an industrial solvent.
The drug, dimethyl sulfoxide, was being sold Monday at $22 for an eight-ounce bottle at seven different city outlets, including grocery, natural food and drug stores.
Adherents have claimed the substance, applied to the skin, can aid a wide range of ailments from arthritis and bursitis to cancer.
Paul Thompson, of P. Thompson and Associates, the company importing the dimethyl sulfoxide from a company in Seattle, Wash., said it was up to the purchaser to decide how to use the substance. pickup5thgraf: '
'I have no control over what you do with it,' said Thompson, who added that he had first heard of DMSO by word of mouth and then discovered his parents, who live near Seattle, were using it to treat bursitis and arthritis.
'I used it ... When I found out what it could do, I decided I would attempt to bring it into Canada,' he said.
'We don't make any claims about what it will do for you,' Thompson said, arguing lack of advertising removed any responsibility the company had under federal drug legislation.
That judgment was questioned by Fred Krause, western division chief of the drug and environmental health division of the federal government's department of health and welfare.
'If it is imported for sale as a drug, no matter what the claims, it comes under the Food and Drug Act,' said Krause, in an telephone interview from Vancouver.
Despite legal industrial uses as a solvent for cleaning metals or thinning paint, 'it has received such wide publicity as a drug ... it's widely perceived by the public as a drug,' and will be treated as such except by 'routine industrial users,' Krause said.
One routine industrial user here is Van Waters and Rogers Ltd., a distributor of chemicals that sells a less-purified form of DMSO as a dye tracer to pipeline firms.
A company spokesman said DMSO had 'certain differences in technical grades and medical grades.'
He pointed out industrial DMSO would not have certain phenols removed, and warned that, because DMSO is absorbed so quickly by the body once it isapplied, 'anything poisonous, any impurity can be absorbed ... so fast it's like taking it orally.'
Thompson said he had attempted to purchase DMSO from Van Waters and Rogers but the company said it would not sell the product to him.
'The responsibility is ours to see it's not misused,' the company spokesman said, echoing Krause's contention that 'without application as an industrial use ... no matter what the claim,' sale of the substance was illegal.
Thompson said he had checked with Krause to find out if DMSO could be advertised even as a solvent and was told it could not.
Krause refused to comment on any 'individual' questions about DMSO but said he had been approached by 'a firm in Edmonton' and outlined his opinion on the substance.
Krause would not say if his department was investigating DMSO sales in Edmonton but did ask for names of stores retailing it.
The only store Thompson said he was free to name as a retail outlet for DMSO denied it was selling it.
Thompson said his company began importing DMSO 'a few months ago' and was currently selling between 100 and 125 bottles a week. It had passed through customs without problem, he said.