Shark liver oil (aka, "squalene" when used topically) has been used as a folk medicine to aid in wound healing by Norwegian fisherman for many years. In the 1950s, researcher and physician Astrid Brohult used shark liver oil in her work at a children's hospital in Sweden. She believed that shark liver oil increased the number of white cells for patients being treated by radiation, had an inhibitory effect on the growth of tumor cells, and reduced radiation injuries. Although her claims were unconfirmed by independent research, Brohult arranged to have a Swedish company, Halsoprodukter (Health Products), produce a shark liver oil preparation under the name Ecomer. The National Swedish Board of Health and Welfare permitted Ecomer to be marketed as a "natural product" for a time. The primary customers for Ecomer were naturopaths and "health food" fanciers.
Between October, 1986 and November, 1988, the Swedish Department of Drugs received six reports on suspected adverse reactions to Ecomer. A notice about these reports was published in the Department's information bulletin. As a consequence of the posting, further reports were received. These totalled 34 by the end of 1989. The reports mainly described changes in blood status, blood coagulation disorders, skin and liver reactions. An analysis of the reports by the Swedish Adverse Drug Reactions Committee concluded that many of the patients involved had concomitant diseases and other therapies that could have been the cause of the adverse reactions, but that it could not be ruled out that Ecomer may have induced idiosyncratic hypersensitivity reactions in the organs involved. This finding disqualified Ecomer as a "naturopathic drug" (i.e., it could no longer be presumed to be safe), and the manufacturer was asked to withdraw Ecomer from the market.
Although following this action shark liver oil went of the radar screen, so to speak, occasionally it surfaces in the cancer underground. Like vampires, once popular cancer remedies rise again and again. People with serious diseases should use such products with extreme caution, being ever-alert to adverse effects and skeptical of claims that adverse effects are positive signs that the substance is working (e.g., "the poisons are coming out"). It is wise not to use potentially hazardous substances such as shark liver oil and to avoid exposing oneself to psychological manipulation by the purveyors of dubious remedies.
© 1997, National Council Against Health
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