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December 5, 1980

Snake charmer needed to soothe this debate

JAMA. 1980;244(22):2496. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310220006003

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More controversy than ever surrounds the already controversial use of snake venom for treatment of multiple sclerosis.

  • The Food and Drug Administration and a Florida serpentarium are in federal court over manufacture and distribution of the venom product.

  • The National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke (NINCDS) has turned down a grant request from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to study the venom.

  • The National Center for Toxicological Research, located at the Army's Pine Bluff Arsenal, Jefferson, Ark, has begun animal tests with a small amount of the material, obtained from the FDA's Bureau of Biologics.

The FDA initially asked the Florida serpentarium owner to stop selling the snake venom product to multiple sclerosis and arthritis patients for the time being. It then offered "to cooperate with anyone interested in testing the venom, marketed as PRO-ven." When the serpentarium owner apparently decided not to go along with the