Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

“Rigvir, Anyone?”: A Discourse Analysis Of Oncolytic Virotherapy Medication Websites

“Rigvir, Anyone?”: A Discourse Analysis Of Oncolytic Virotherapy Medication Websites

Anna Zabicka

RigVir is state-approved oncolytic wild-type virotherapy medication for the treatment of malignant cutaneous melanoma in Latvia. It has never been tested in the EU standard clinical trials and thus is not EU approved. Currently, there is no conclusive evidence for the efficacy of RigVir as a melanoma treatment and RigVir has been repeatedly accused of unethical patient deception. Following the accusations and the idea that deception can lead to the changes in language use, this article investigates the changing discourse and possible deceptive means used on several websites associated with RigVir. The analysis is based within the debate of the demarcation problem in science, recognizing the specificity of biomedical discourse, and the role that language, including deception, plays in the demarcation problem. Using the publicly available website Internet Archive “Wayback Machine”, changes in the used expressions, language, and content on the International Virotherapy Center (IVC) website were tackled and linguistically analyzed from 2015-2017. Additional analysis of the RigVir official website was used to bolster the argument. The discourse analysis revealed significant changes in content and linguistic means used on the IVC website since 2015. Changes from more exaggerated, boastful to more cautious, scientific language in such patterns as assurance of harmlessness, suitability, scientificity, and uniqueness of RigVir suggest that the language is adapted to the discourse beneficial for the particular period of time. Therefore, the specific changes of linguistic patterns in the RigVir case indicate not only deception but also the kind of storytelling that involves changes to keep the story to seem truthful and sincere. In contrast to ignorant and genuine belief in untrue statements, the discourse analysis confirmed suspicions of deliberate intention to deceive that conform to science fraud.

April 2, 2018 - Posted by | abstract


  1. Is it that the makers of RigVir used their own linguistic analysis to deceptively project a more professional, scientific presence as a marketing strategy? As a study in the linguistic practice of deception in marketing and consumption, I am intrigued.

    Comment by Jami | April 20, 2018 | Reply

  2. Anna, it’s sad that this type of deceptive linguistic marketing is taking place, though I suspect it’s quite common around the world. It seems embedded as a type of structural violence within the pharmaceutical industry that values sales at the expense of efficacy. The fact that a drug is both ineffective and state approved makes me wonder how deep the political corruption is that allows this practice. It’s reminiscent of how pharmaceutical companies have knowingly sold ineffective and low-quality medications they can’t sell in “western” nations in “Third World” nations simply because they can get away with it in order to line their own pockets.

    Comment by Robert McCallum | April 26, 2018 | Reply

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