How Many People Will be Killed by Misused Chemotherapy?

Just before last Thanksgiving, I received a call from a diplomat who heads the Einstein Institute of Europe to which I'd recently been elected. We were talking at length about the use of natural complementary therapies when he revealed that he had just been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. He wanted to know if shark cartilage, about which I am somewhat an authority, could help. I explained that shark cartilage, by inhibiting new blood vessel development is often very effective on solid tumors, but for a blood cancer such as leukemia which does not need a blood vessel network, it was not effective. I advised him, however, that stimulation of the natural immune system by products such as D-fraction of mushroom, or the treated rice bran product MGN-3, which has been shown by UCLA published research to sharply and quickly enhance the killer cells of the immune system, or going on a natural diet like the Gerson Therapy, might help.

A week later, he again called, telling me that his medical doctor advised chemotherapy and asking for my thoughts on whether he could still take a product like the MGN-3 or follow the Gerson Therapy along with the chemo. I told him that based on what I read and heard, chemotherapy, properly administered, was often helpful with leukemia but that the natural therapies could and, in my opinion, should, be used to complement or be substituted for chemotherapy. Certainly, these natural therapies would be far safer, I explained. These suggestions were overridden by his medical doctors, and shortly before Christmas, he was admitted to the hospital for chemotherapy.

What prompted my writing this editorial piece is that yesterday, I learned that following three chemotherapy sessions and shortly after Christmas, this robust and good man died. I am sure that the reported cause of death was cancer or more specifically leukemia, but it is clearly evident that he, like countless other innocent victims, died from the side effects of poisonous chemotherapy. These circumstances, with which I was personally involved, remind me of the case of well-known actor Michael Landon of "Bonanza" and "Little House on the Prairie." Landon was diagnosed with early, pancreatic cancer, I am told. He sought out and announced publicly that he was going to use natural therapies, which, had they worked would have thrown a monkey wrench into the medical establishment. Frantic conversations were held with his agent and family, and Mr. Landon was persuaded to enter a hospital for chemotherapy. Three days later I am told, Landon supposedly died from cancer. People familiar with the case knew that, even under the worst conditions, he should have lived for three or four months, and yet he died in three days. He, along with my diplomat friend and, undoubtedly, hundreds if not thousands of others, are killed by this harsh therapy anal no outcry is sounded

The power of the medical establishment and the drug companies is such that these stories are covered up and buried along with the unfortunate victims. However, if one death occurs with an alternative treatment, such as a recent one in Canada involving shark cartilage, there are headlines throughout the world even though the patient may have been "half dead" from conventional therapies administered prior to pursuing natural alternatives. Nothing is ever mentioned of the early unsuccessful conventional therapy but all the blame is put on the alternative treatment.

Those of us in all phases of complementary or alternative therapy are up against this prejudice from the media, and it's the media that piques the attention of the public. While we continue to attract the attention of more people, and the wide national and international coverage of my work has played an important role, we still are only reaching the tip of the iceberg. Attending and speaking at health conferences simply lets us address the same people representing only a small percentage of the population over and over again. We in the alternative medicine industry thus compete mightily among ourselves for a part of this small percentage. The vast majority of the public never has had the opportunity to hear the wisdom disseminated or learn of the effective products offered at these health conferences. So, I spend a considerable amount of time trying to reach a broader audience.

I am often criticized for the abundance of media coverage my work attracts. My rebuttal is that all the radio and television interviews bring the messages to men and women in the street who, rarely, if ever, attend these health conferences, but should be aware of and interested in alternative therapies.

The medical establishment and the drug companies have traditionally dictated which messages appear in the media; only recently is our voice being heard and our words appearing in print. Yes, we are making progress, but we have a long way to go. This past September 1998, Dr. David Williams devoted all 8 pages of his leading health newsletter Alternatives to the new immune stimulator MGN-3. He noted that "If MGN-3 were a drug, it would be front page news. It would be the top story on every newscast in the country. Doctors would now be prescribing it as an adjunctive therapy for most major diseases, and pharmaceutical companies would be making billions off of it." Why is this product overlooked, just as the peer review articles on which it is based have been overlooked by both the general media and the naturopathic press, except for a few advertisements?

Perhaps, the alternative press is dominated by the scholars of regions of the country, largely the Northwest and to a lesser degree the East. A breakthrough that doesn't receive the blessing of one of its scholars will often not be covered, even by the alternative press. Possibly it is because the alternative movement is intimidated by the powers, direct or indirect, of the medical establishment and simply is afraid to speak out. Possibly it is due to economic rather than medical interests prevailing, the very economic interests that we blame conventional medicine for exercising. The answer, I believe, is most likely a combination of all of the above.

Because I did not come from the healthcare industry clique but rather from the corporate world, I have been cast as an outsider. Fortunately I have strong credentials and the tenacity to carry this right forward. I've enjoyed good relationships with thoughtful and open-minded members of the popular media, and have been able to tell my story through three books that have sold well and are fully supported by a good publisher. In addition, the issues addressed in my public appearances and numerous interviews have caught the fascination of enough of the public to let me grow.

The alternative medicine industry has been good to me, but I feel that I have served its growth and acceptance, as well. I've discovered that the alternative industry, already facing an unfriendly press, can be its own worst enemy. Alternative doctors, naturopaths and suppliers often are selfishly unwilling to support one another if doing so might threaten their own economic interests. I hope that an editorial such as this will make us all -- and I mean all -- reassess our position and try to work together for the benefit of the whole alternative movement.

Article copyright Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients.

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By I. William Lane

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