Bogus Homeopathic "Smallpox Shield" Stopped

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Early this year, Bill Gray, M.D. a homeopathic leader who practices in Saratoga, California, began peddling a homeopathic product which he claimed would offer protection "approximately equivalent" to that of smallpox vaccine. His Smallpox Information Central Web site claimed to provide "the most complete and updated information available on smallpox, its pathology, its weaponization, its treatment, and its nontoxic prevention." Gray also claimed that his product, "Nontoxic Smallpox Shield," was "virtually 100% effective despite direct exposure" and "has been proven in smallpox epidemics throughout the world spanning over a century -- when smallpox was in its heyday." The product was said to have been "originally from Variolinum, which is extracted through extreme dilution from smallpox pustule." [1] In an advertisement on the Authors and Experts Web site, Gray further stated:

Tested through centuries of homeopathic experience in worldwide smallpox epidemics, homeopathy has proven completely safe and totally effective in preventing both adverse reactions to vaccines and smallpox itself. It presents a nontoxic alternative that can be given along with the vaccine to assure complete immunity [2].

FDA regulations state that homeopathic products offered for use only in "self-limiting conditions recognizable by consumers" may be marketed without a prescription [3]. The price was $19.95 for a single-dose vial and $24.95 for a 3-dose vial, plus shipping and handling. Possibly hoping to get around the law, Gray added a "digital prescription fee" of $30, which would cover up to four individuals in a family. However, because all drugs marketed as must be "generally recognized by experts" as safe and effective for their intended purpose, Gray's claims were illegal in addition to being preposterous. On April 2, 2003, the FDA sent him a warning letter stating that it was illegal to introduce biological products into interstate commerce, a special license was needed and that his product could not be distributed for human use without FDA approval [4]. Gray's Smallpox Information Central Web site is no longer online.

Gray has practiced homeopathy for more than 30 years. In 1978, he co-founded the International Foundation for the Promotion of Homeopathy, which was renamed International Foundation for Homeopathy (IFT) in 1981. IFT functioned for 20 years, during which it offered courses, held conferences, and published a newsletter [5]. Gray's writings include Homeopathy: Science or Myth? [6] and Homeopathy: Medicine for the New Man, (which he edited). In the foreword to the latter book, he described how after graduating from Stanford Medical School he had turned toward various "holistic fields" with the hope of finding "a method that was systematic enough to deal with the deep chronic diseases which are the challenge of every physician." Not long afterward, after meeting a prominent Greek homeopath (George Vithoulkas), he concluded that "in the hands of a true Master, homeopathy holds the answer for the vast majority of disease sufferers." In 1985, Gray co-founded the Hahnemann College of Homeopathy, a nonaccredited school.


  1. Smallpox Information Central Web site ( accessed March 18, 2003.
  2. Gray B. Bill Gray, MD, nontoxic homeopathic preventive for smallpox and smallpox vaccine reactions Authors and Experts Web site, accessed July 14, 2003.
  3. Conditions Under Which Homeopathic Drugs May be Marketed. FDA compliance policy guide 7132.15, revised March 1995.
  4. Masiello SA. Warning letter to Bill Gray, April 2, 2003.
  5. Winston J. Faces of Homoeopathy. Tawa, New Zealand: Great Awk Publishing, 1999.
  6. Gray B. Homeopathy: Science or Myth? Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2000.
  7. Gray B. Forward. In Vithoulkas G. Homeopathy: Medicine for the New Man. New York: Arco Publishing, 1979.

This article was posted on July 15, 2003.

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