Ukrain (Ukrainian: Україн; also called celandine) is the trademarked name of a semi-synthetic substance derived from the plant Chelidonium majus and promoted as a drug to treat cancer and viral infections, including HIV and hepatitis. It was created in 1978, by a Ukrainian chemist Vasyl Novytskyi (Ukrainian: Василь Новицький). Ukrain is named after the nation of Ukraine and is produced by an Austrian company Nowicky Pharma.
In 2005, Edzard Ernst led a review into evidence of the effectiveness of Ukrain. Although the review found evidence suggesting the drug was effective, it also concluded that "numerous caveats prevent a positive conclusion". Commenting on the review some years later, Ernst wrote on his blog that the results they were examining had seemed "too good to be true" – and on investigation the trials were very small in size, often seemed to include Novytskyi himself, and had significant methodological flaws. However, despite the cautious conclusion given, "this article became much cited. ... [Novytskyi] must have been delighted".
The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center say that clinical trials have yet to prove safety and effectiveness of ukrain. The American Cancer Society stated that, as of 2013, "available scientific evidence does not support claims that celandine is effective in treating cancer in humans". It may however be responsible for some adverse side-effects including hepatitis and allergic skin reactions.
Ukrain is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. On September 4, 2012, several people including Vasyl Novytskyi, the drug's developer, were arrested in Austria for distributing the drug under suspicion of commercial fraud. Novytskyi appeared in Vienna regional court again in January 2015 for selling ukrain, earning an estimated 1.1 million euros through fraud by changing labels on expired vials. In March 2015, two co-defendants of Novytskyi were exonerated for commercial fraud, while legal proceedings continue for Novytskyi.
From October 2013 to April 2014, a licensed naturopath in Tucson, Arizona, Michael Uzick, was using ukrain in his practice to treat cancer patients. He was reported to the Arizona authorities by Britt Marie Hermes, who worked for Uzick when she discovered the drug was being illegally imported. Uzick was given a letter of reprimand by the Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board, which framed Uzick's misconduct as having "obtained the nutrient ukrain not from a manufacturer registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."
- Habermehl D, Kammerer B, Handrick R et al. Proapoptotic activity of Ukrain is based on Chelidonium majus L. alkaloids and mediated via a mitochondrial death pathway. BMC Cancer. 2006;6:14. PMID 16417634
- Panzer A, Joubert AM, Eloff JN et al. Chemical analyses of Ukrain, a semi-synthetic Chelidonium majus alkaloid derivative, fail to confirm its trimeric structure. Cancer Lett. 2000;160:237-41. PMID 11053654
- "Celandine". American Cancer Society. August 2011. Retrieved September 2013. Check date values in:
- Edzard Ernst (14 October 2012). "A telling story about "alternative" cancer cures and their purveyors". Retrieved December 4, 2012.
- Ernst, E; Schmidt, K (2005). "Ukrain - a new cancer cure? A systematic review of randomised clinical trials". BMC Cancer. 5: 69. doi:10.1186/1471-2407-5-69. PMC . PMID 15992405.
- "Ukrain". Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. September 2012. Retrieved September 2013. Check date values in:
- Krebskranke getäuscht: Festnahmen, September 4, 2012 (orf.at)
- "Ukrainian chemist lands in court for cancer 'cure'". The Local. 28 Jan 2015. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
- "Mitangeklagte in Prozess um angebliches Krebs-Heilmittel freigesprochen". derStandard.at. 5 March 2015. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
- Senapathy, Kavin (31 May 2016). "Why Is Big Naturopathy Afraid Of This Lone Whistleblower?". Forbes. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
- "Dr. Michael Uzick Disciplinary Actions". Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board. Retrieved 16 September 2015.