Peter R. Rothschild, a 1989 immigrant from Mexico, was arrested by U.S. Customs agent at his home in Eureka, Montana on February 6. Rothschild claims to be an ordained minister in the Messianic Church for Divine Law and Christian Science, and a naturopath, was charged with smuggling an illegal drug, PolyergaTM a cellular extract of fetal sheep, a form of so-called "cellular therapy." Cellular therapy is a bogus approach to rejuvenation and cancer treatment practiced outside of the U.S. where consumer protection laws are weak or non-existent. The fact Polyerga is registered as a drug in Germany means nothing in terms of the standards of consumer protection Americans have come to expect. Curiously, Rothschild testified before the Montana Medical Board of Examiners on August 3, 1990, in favor of licensing naturopaths in that state. Rothschild claims to be an MD, a biochemist and university professor, but none of these can be verified. (Great Falls Tribune, 2/7/91 and Tobacco Valley News, 2/14/91)
Chris Magno Tizon, 34, of Las Vegas, was sentenced to 3 years probation for helping run a psychic surgery scam in which his uncle-aunt team, Gary George and Terry Lynn Magno, made Phoenix-area people believe they had coughed up tumors. Tizon pleaded guilty to conspiracy to practicing medicine without a license in December, 1989. Sentencing was delayed because of Tizon's agreement to testify against his uncle. The Magnos are still at large. (Arizona Republic, 2/26/91)
The practice, patients, and peer criticisms of Dallas, Texas allergist, William Rea, MD are described by Glenna Whitley in "Is the 20th century making you sick?" (D Magazine, Aug, 1990). Known for his colony of disciples who live in one-room cabins and trailers near his clinic, Rea is considered by patients to be a medical messiah who has delivered them from their miseries. Undaunted by criticisms from his medical colleagues, believers consider him to be simply ahead of his time. Rea also has a substantial following in England where he holds the "First World Professorial Chair" at a university. British aristocrats fascinated with "alternative" health care are Rea fans in the UK. He also has a following of fringe physicians in the US. Rea claims that there are about 4,000 physicians practicing aspects of clinical ecology. Whitley presents details of Rea's unadmirable history as a surgeon, his present operation, and why it is not accepted by scientific medicine.
Food safety issues from farm, through processing, to market continue to dominate the popular press. An outstanding source of reliable information from the field of food science is the monthly Food Safety Notebook published by Lyda Associates, Inc., P.O. Box 700, Palisades, NY 10964. $75 annually.
Another tragedy may be in the making in Scottsburg, Indiana. The Louisville, KY Courier-Journal (2/18/91) reports that 15-year-old Tim Wolf, who suffers from acute lymphocytic leukemia, has been granted permission by Judge James Kleopfer to discontinue effective chemotherapy and substitute vitamins, herbs, and nutritional supplements. This was done over the objections of the Scott County Dept. of Public Welfare's "child in need of services" petition. The testimony of Tim's parents was reported to be crucial to the judge's decision. Tim's father is president of the Scottsburg Chamber of Commerce and owns Scottsburg Plastics, one of the city's largest employers. Nearly 150 friends and community leaders, including the mayor, wrote letters of support for the Wolfs. Tim's disease is in remission due to conventional therapy, but he has experienced severe side-effects. After visiting "several holistic doctors" Tim decided to try the bogus remedy described above. Now that the side-effects of chemotherapy are gone, Tim is enjoying life more.
Comment: The bad news may well be that his cancer is also enjoying life more! The scenario is all too familiar to quackwatchers. Headlines tell the story of the courageous family who defies the establishment with the help of a medically-ignorant judge. The first reports are always encouraging. Soon the story fades into obscurity, and later the obituary appears in a tiny place way in the back of the newspaper. We will try to keep readers posted on this story.
A study of consumers' knowledge, understanding and attitudes toward health claims found that although attitudes toward health messages are generally positive, understanding of them is low, especially among less-educated consumers. Knowledge of fiber was significantly correlated with positive attitudes. The study was conducted on 241 respondents in 4 Utah grocery stores. (J Am Dietetic Assoc, 91:166-171, 1991 [February])
A 20-year old woman with no history of poor health has died partially as a result of taking tanning pills (JAMA, 9/5/90 264:1141-2). The pills contained canthaxanthin, a synthetic non-provitamin A, which led to aplastic anemia. The victim's Jehovah's Witness beliefs prevented life-saving medical care. This case is also detailed in humanistic terms by Berton Rouche in The New Yorker, pp.69-74, 3/11/91
A 9-year-old girl died in Ottawa, Canada after being on a water-only diet for 40-days. Mellissa Larochelle was treated at home in the northern Ontario town of Hearst with the diet which, according to provincial police "apparently has some religious overtones to it. It's somehow connected to the 40 days and nights Jesus fasted and its supposed to purge your system," they said. Mellissa was seized by the Children's Aid Society and hospitalized in Ottawa but died on March 16, 1990. The girl's grandmother, Rollande Turgeon, 55, was sentenced to 6 months in jail on January 18, 1991 after pleading guilty to negligence causing bodily harm. Turgeon had taken courses and was accredited by the American Hygiene Association. She operated a so-called fasting clinic at her house. Turgeon was treating Mellissa for an ear infection.
(Chronicle Journal, Thunder Bay, Ontario, 3/20/90 and 1/19/91)
Data from the 1987 National Health Interview Survey show that 51.1% of U.S. adults aged 18-99 years consumed a vitamin/mineral supplement in the past year, but that only 23.1% did so daily. Whites, women, and older individuals were more likely than blacks, men or younger individuals to consume supplements regularly. Multiple vitamins were the most commonly consumed supplement, followed by vitamin C, calcium, vitamin E, and vitamin A. Few, if any, individuals were consuming amounts considered to be toxic. Authors conclude that vitamin-mineral supplementation appears not to pose a significant health risk for most of the population. (Am J Epidemiology, 132:1091-1101, 1990).
COMMENT: It is always a relief to discover that most people do not engage in overzealous supplement use. However, an epidemiologic net is not likely to turn up individuals who are vulnerable to serious harm.
Case reports appear to be more useful for understanding and helping to educate those at risk.
Linda Rojas recalls her sad experience in "My childhood as a chiropractic patient" (Rocky Mountain Skeptic, Sept-Oct, 1990). Told at age 6 that she would be hunchback and blind by age 12, and that she had a bone missing in her back, she endured chiropractic treatment 1-3 times weekly for 12 years. Treatments included a Radionics device, liver pills, daily herbal laxatives that used to nearly cause her to faint, and two-fisted punches to the spine that would leave her dazed and stiffened. Only years later during college was she able to begin to heal when a medical doctor (whom she visited for help with her chronic back problem) reacted angrily to her long-term manipulations by the DC. Ms. Rojas' account reveals the psychological damage done by DCs who practice their pseudomedicine on children. She also recalls another little girl with diabetes who was there to be cured. The DC advised her mother to keep her off of insulin lest she become addicted. The girl died before the DC could cure her. Rojas' victimization was an extension of that of her mother. A tenant farmer's wife with an 8th grade education, she blamed her poor health and the burden of bearing two children for her lifelong unhappiness. She explained away her lost dreams by a multitude of ailments which were confirmed by the DC who endorsed her wish to avoid farm work by advising her not to do anything that might get her back "out of place."
COMMENT: James Cyriax, MD, labeled the phenomenon described by Rojas "chiropractogenic neurosis" in his Textbook of Orthopaedic Medicine; Volume Two (11th edition), London: Bailliere Tindall. Children taken to chiropractors by parents at such an impressionable period of their lives can become conditioned to chronic suffering. Cyriax offers a possible solution for this condition: combined reassurance that the problem has been fixed and a warning that further manipulation may cause problems.
A series of letters copied to NCAHF suggests poor regulation of acupuncture training in California. After complaining that a local acupuncturist was a former New York bank teller with no medical training who merely had paid $300 and written a thesis to obtain a Ph.D. certificate in acupuncture, a consumer has received revealing responses from California's educational bureaucracy. A Private Postsecondary Education Division letter (3/5/90) noted that it had authorized several schools of acupuncture to grant the Doctor of Oriental Medicine degree, but had withdrawn its authorization in 1988 "in response to public concern about the meaning and integrity of the DOM degree." One doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to read between the lines that this public agency apparently allowed trade schools to produce pseudomedical professionals for a time until someone complained. The official expressed his concern over the ease of obtaining a Ph.D. certificate and stated that the PPED "is committed to protecting the integrity of PhD degrees awarded to students who earn those degrees through rigorous academic study programs." But, a more recent letter (12/31/90) takes a more bureaucratic tone as the same official explains that the "state approval agency does not specify curriculum requirements for particular doctoral degree titles. Rather, the institution must meet minimum standards..." Among the standards listed was that "the course of study for which the degree is granted provides curriculum necessary to achieve its professed or claimed academic objective for higher education, and the institution requires a level of academic achievement appropriate to that degree" (this seems to us to be empowering enough). The PPOE official stated that "a qualified onsite review team verifies that the degree programs offered meet the minimum standards."
Comment: NCAHF wonders how the onsite review teams are chosen. It may be a "fox watching the chicken coop" situation. This seems like a ripe area for an investigative health science journalist to explore.
Ira Milner, RD, reports (Nutrition Forum, Nov-Dec, 1990) on his experience of attending a New Jersey seminar along with "more than 100 retailers and a few chiropractors" put on by Enzymatic Therapy, Inc. of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Before the program began, participants were asked to sign a "guarantee" that they were not agents of the FDA, Better Business Bureau, or any other consumer protection agency; and, that they would not tape the seminar for use against the company by any government agency. The seminar lasted from 9 am to 6 pm, and featured company president Terence J. Lemerond, ND, BS, CNC, Kenneth R. Daub, DC, and Michael T. Murray, ND, who practices naturopathy in Bellevue, Washington and teaches "therapeutic nutrition" at John Bastyr College, a naturopathic school in Seattle. Milner details how these promoters work to circumvent the law in the promotion of unapproved drugs disguised as nutritional products. Milner says, "rather than seek FDA approval, Lemerond and his associates have been using subterfuge to 'distance' illegal claims from their product labels. The fact that this effort has prospered is not the result of its cleverness but of FDA sluggishness. As should be obvious from this report, evidence of wrongdoing is not difficult to obtain."
Mark Totten, 27, a student at Maharishi International University, Fairfield, Iowa, was killed at 2:12 am, November 29, 1990 by a Burlington Northern coal train that he may have been attempting to stop through the power of Transcendental Meditation. (TM-Ex News, Fall, 1990)
New York Newsday (3/8/91) writer Kenneth Crowe asks if the refusal to help hustle a children's vitamin was the underlying reason for the resignation of Roy Greenslade as editor of Robert Maxwell's London Daily Mirror. It has been reported that Greenslade was forced out of his position in a dispute over a story boosting Vitachieve, a vitamin product said to improve children's IQs. The story was based on research reported in a small magazine owned by Maxwell. After the story appeared, other newspapers and scientists began to question the report. Instead of reporting the criticisms, the Mirror ran a coupon offering parents $1 off Vitachieve's purchase price.
The research in question involves a familiar face. Stephen Schoenthaler, PhD, Coordinator of the Criminal Justice Program at California State University, Stanislaus, a proponent of the notion that diet is a major factor in juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior. When the NCAHF Task Force on Diet & Criminal Behavior was doing its work, Schoenthaler was a major figure supporting the alleged diet criminality link. NCAHF investigators became quite familiar with Schoenthaler's research methods and were not impressed. Much of his work has been published in the Internation Journal of Biosocial Research, a vanity publication of Alexander Schauss (see "Diet & Behavior Expert Fakes His Credentials" NCAHF Newsletter, Jan-Feb, 1989).
Schoenthaler is now touting vitamins for improving IQ in his book Improve Your Child's IQ and Behavior. He claims to have found a significant 3.7 point increase in the nonverbal IQ scores of children who were given supplements. Vitachieve is endorsed by the Dietary Research Foundation, the charitable trust that funded Scheonthaler's study. UK scientists are highly skeptical and suspicious about touting a vitamin product based upon a single research report funded by principal people profiting from the scheme. Details of the affair appear in Nature (3/7/91).
The International Chiropractic Association, the organization that represents "straight" DCs, condemns as unethical the enticement of potential patients into a chiropractic office on the basis of the assertion or representation to the potential patient that research will or is being conducted, and that attempts to convert such "research subjects" into paying patients represents unethical behavior. (Int'l Review Chiro, 12/90). This action was apparently stimulated by a large patients recruitment scam that lured people in as possible research subjects and pretended to find serious problems in need of care during screening.
The sweetheart relationship between the health foods industry and naturopathy is deepening. A series of meetings held in Seattle in September, 1990, outlined a training program in which a naturopathic college would train health food employees. The program will help the financially-strapped naturopathic education business, and create an aura of expertise on the part of the health food clerks as they dance around the law to avoid being guilty of obviously practicing medicine without a license, while in fact doing just exactly that. NCAHF sees this alliance between pseudomedicine and pseudonutrition as a serious threat to consumers. Clearly, legal standards used to control the relationship of doctors to drug companies need to be applied to this situation.
Victor Herbert, MD, JD, evaluates the safety and effectiveness of the Pritikin Program in the February, 1991 issue of Nutrition & the MD. The Pritikin diet is extremely low in fat (8-10%) and extremely high in fiber (65-75 gm/day). Herbert says that the late Nathan Pritikin essentially took the short term initiation diet developed for otherwise untreated diabetic patient by James W. Anderson, MD and made it a long term diet. The Anderson group switched their patients to a maintenance diet of 25% fat and 50 gm/day plant fiber. However, Pritikin cited Anderson's studies of the long term effects of the moderate fat maintenance diet to prove that continuing the short term diet did not produce deficiencies. Other distortions of the data by Pritikin are described by Herbert. He concludes that the Pritikin Program is just another low-calorie, high-cost diet plan being sold to the public that should be weighed against the reported disadvantages of very low fat, high fiber diets. Adverse effects include poor absorption of fat soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids, and significant stool losses of iron, calcium and zinc.
Citing the poor repayment record of chiropractic (DC) and podiatry (DPM) students, the Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL) program proposes to eliminate DC and podiatry students from the program. DC educators are complaining bitterly about the proposal and the language used to describe the two guilds as "non-critical" and "low in demand"; and their colleges as "questionable institutions." DC educators are scrambling to rally support against the proposal. DC education is a proprietary system in which producing DCs is a business in itself. DC reformers say that a major reason for the plethora of pseudo-scientific practices among DCs is having to survive in a marketplace where there simply aren't enough legitimate applications of spinal manipulative therapy to support the large numbers of DCs the schools are producing. This may also be what causes DCs to invade many other health care fields (eg, medicine, physical therapy, dietetics, dentistry, and even veterinary medicine) as they struggle to survive. Many schools include questionable methods of practice-building in which consumers are viewed more as pigeons to be plucked than patients to be helped achieve freedom from disease and doctor care. Coupled with a survival mentality, such training is bound to lead to consumer exploitation. NCAHF believes that chiropractic cannot reform until it's proprietary training system is changed. Will the Administration be able to pull off this worthy feat? We doubt it. DCs are masters at influencing politicians. If you want to get involved, write to your senators and congressmen. Especially to committee chairmen; Hon. Henry Waxman (D-CA) House Office Bldg, Washington, DC, 20515, and Sen. Claiborne Pell, Senate Office Bldg, Washington, DC 20510.
After nearly three years of literature evaluation, analysis and peer review, the NCAHF Board of Directors has approved a position paper developed by its Task Force on Acupuncture. The position paper describes acupuncture's theory and practice, current use in China, scientific status, practitioner training, hazards, legal status, and makes recommendations. NCAHF believes:
The entire position paper will be published in the Clinical Journal of Pain in July, 1991.
Cancell (aka Entelev, Jim's Juice, Crocinic Acid, Sheridan's Formula, JS-114, JS-101, 126-F) is described by promoters as "an assembly of synthetic chemicals" which react with the body electrically rather than chemically. Cancell, which may be used internally or externally, is touted as a cure for cancer and a variety of other diseases including AIDS, cystic fibrosis, MS, emphysema, Parkinson's disease, hemophilia, and mental illness (except schizophrenia). Cancell's inventor, James Sheridan, a chemist, says that the formula was revealed to him by God in a dream in 1936. Sheridan says that because Cancell is divinely inspired, he cannot charge people for using it. Instead he has established the Eden Foundation, a nonprofit corporation, to which people may contribute.
In 1982, Sheridan applied to FDA for Investigational New Drug status (IND file #20258) which was not granted due to failure to provide requested information. In 1984, Edward J. Sopcak acquired the directions for manufacturing Cancell after Sheridan said he was forced to stop production by "the media and FDA." Batches of Cancell are cooked up in Sheridan's and Sopcak's homes. Sopcak claims to have distributed about 15,000 pints to patients; it is not known how much Sheridan has sent.
Sopcak and Sheridan differ somewhat on Cancell's alleged mode of action. Sheridan says cancer is a protein disease and that there are 3-types of cells: normal, primitive and cancer. He says that Cancell causes cancer cells to become primitive and self-destruct. Sopcak believes that there is only one type of cancer which is caused by a mutated anaerobic cell. He says that improper diet causes electrical and chemical damage thus opening the way for the microbe Progenitor cryptocides (ed. the alleged cancer-causing germ imagined by the late Virginia Livingston-Wheeler, MD). Sopcak says Cancell acts by changing the vibrational frequency and energy of cancer cells, "reducing their voltage," until they reach the "primitive" state described by Sheridan. He claims to "tune" the liquid to correct vibrational frequency in some secret fashion.
Promoters claim that human and animal studies proving Cancell's worth have been done, but are being suppressed by "the establishment." They say that FDA did a "secret and illegal" study which resulted in 80-85% cure rates, but the FDA denies that any such study was ever conducted. The only evidence Sheridan and Sopcak have to offer is a file of letters that Cancell works. One reporter described Sheridan's evidence "ridiculous and amateurish" (Wendland, Monthly Detroit, March, 1984). [NCAHF advises that any treatment used by large numbers of people will include a few of the naturally-expected, long-term survivors who are part of any group of cancer patients. Some are likely to wrongly credit the nostrum for their good fortune, and promoters who are untrained in oncology can easily mistake such testimonials as evidence of effectiveness.]
The FDA itemized Cancell's ingredients as inositol, nitric acid, sodium sulfate, potassium hydroxide, sulfuric acid, and catechol (Sheridan has said that he also uses crocinic acid). According to Dr. Tadeusz Malinski, Associate Professor of Analytical Chemistry at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, the dark brown liquid contains at least a dozen compounds, none of which are likely to be active against cancer.
No severe reactions or deaths have been reported, but Sheridan says that patients may experience "temporary, moderate fatigue" after taking Cancell. The most dangerous feature is the promoter's insistence that patients abandon other forms of cancer therapy while using Cancell. In 1989, the FDA obtained a permanent injunction to stop the distribution of Cancell in interstate commerce, but the nostrum is still being illegally obtained outside of Michigan.
A promising development in curtailing abuses by DCs is a newsletter, Chiropractic Legal Update, which features reports on legal difficulties experienced by DCs, and developments among regulators and others who are working against health care abuses. The newsletter is published by Health Services Publications, Ltd (P.O. Box 206, Fincastle, VA 24090), and is written and edited by attorneys and a prominent DC, Louis Sportelli, former Chairman of the American Chiropractic Association Board of Governors. Sportelli is not a reformer in the style of NACM or NCAHF, but a believer in subluxations and the superiority of his guild. Nevertheless, through CLU he is making a contribution toward reform. Reports on the fates of violators that appear in CLU should scare the bejeebers out of free-wheeling DCs. Hopefully, the effect will be to create a kind of defacto consumer protection by defining what is expected of health care providers in today's world and reduce abuses by unsmart DCs. Some of the practice tips, which include aspects of filing insurance claims that are less apt to be challenged, may be viewed as simply schooling in more clever deception, but they may also improve chiropractic in the marketplace. For example, excessive treatments, misrepresenting credentials, and misleading advertising are discouraged. Although NCAHF prefers the internalization of ethical values and scientific integrity in the reform of chiropractic, in a world lacking perfection, we're happy for improved behavior that comes through fear of punishment which appeals to the Saddam Husseins of the world. The pragmatic approach CLU represents may get more of a certain type of needed reform very quickly.
Dr. Sportelli graciously supplied NCAHF with a copy of Risk Management in Chiropractic, the group's book on developing malpractice prevention strategies. Contained are easy-to-read guidelines for good office practice, and primer on principles of law that anyone in health care would find useful. It is available for $89 + $6 shipping & handling.
Writing in much the same spirit, American Chiropractic Association General Counsel George McAndrews -- who represented the plaintiffs in the Wilk vs AMA chiropractic antitrust suit -- trys to educate naive DCs on cleaning up their acts now that the AMA boycott is over. He warns DCs that listing their practice building training as background information in their credentials can undercut their credibility. McAndrews says, "I am always amazed when I see a doctor of chiropractic actually list attendance at a practice management seminar(s) as part of his or her curriculum vitae . . somebody has failed horribly in communicating . . that the medical community . . ridicules that type of program . . " McAndrews cites an article written by attorney James G. Noland, of Austin, Texas, who published an article on how to cross examine DCs in a way that will cause them to hang themselves. Noland lists seven books and the Texas Journal of Chiropractic as sources that speak for themselves about the bizarre beliefs and practices of many DCs. McAndrews arranged to have Noland's article "Dealing with chiropractors" reprinted in the October, 1990 ACA Journal. McAndrews advises DCs not to merely regard Noland's criticisms as trivial, trash or part of the AMA boycott, but that they use it as an opportunity to correct abuses within the profession.