when quack marketing crosses the line

September 16, 2009

Sometimes I’m convinced that there’s a mystical place in which there’s a fountain of witlessness and not only are there people who drink from it, but some come back for seconds and thirds. One such person is a rather ghoulish alt-med promoter named Mike Adams, who’s primary occupation is convincing people that cancers can be cured by a vegan diet and lamenting how celebrities are being systematically poisoned by evil doctors and pharmaceutical companies engaged in a conspiracy to suppress “alternative medicine” in the name of profit. Worse yet, he races to type out his infuriating lamentations before the bodies of those in question had a chance to cool. So obviously, as soon as Patrick Swayze succumbed to pancreatic cancer, Mike wasted no time in spitting out his typical hackneyed tripe

Beloved actor Patrick Swayze died yesterday evening after a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Having put his faith in conventional chemotherapy, he largely dismissed ideas that nutrition, superfoods or “alternative medicine” might save him, instead betting his life on the chemotherapy approach which seeks to poison the body into a state of remission instead of nourishing it into a state of health. […]

Could Patrick Swayze have saved his own life with natural medicine? Absolutely. Without question. Even late-stage pancreatic cancer can be reversed (yes, reversed) with full-on naturopathic treatments involving Chinese herbal medicine, deep body detoxification that includes sweat saunas and colon cleansing, radical changes in diet from “dead” foods to “live” foods, a healthy dose of vitamin D and the daily consumption of raw anti-cancer living juices made from fresh, organic produce like cabbage, broccoli and garlic.

Obviously Mike has never actually seen or dealt with a pancreatic cancer patient or talked to an actual doctor with a real medical degree. Pancreatic cancer is an extremely aggressive disease that’s very difficult to detect early enough to treat with any chance of success and the prognosis for those diagnosed is usually very poor. While the brightest minds in oncology work on cutting edge research in targeting and suppressing tumors to save lives, this bozo is actually talking about sweating and eating veggies as the ultimate cure for any cancer, and accusing drug companies of “keeping natural cures a big secret” so they can make more money? This is inexcusable idiocy that should carry with it legal responsibility and it’s inane on every level, from the science to the business. Nothing about his statements makes any logical sense when put in relevant context.

Imagine for a moment that just eating vegetables cures any Stage IV cancer. Do you have any idea how fast a pharmaceutical company would be packaging and selling whatever enzymes suppress tumor activity? You’d hear a sonic boom as the scientists rush to their labs with lettuce, carrots and broccoli and executives would be giving speeches on how they can not only supply a cure for cancer, but they don’t need to spend billions of dollars on developing a new drug, just cover the costs of production. Big Pharma is and always has been into making easy money and vegetable extracts as cancer cures is about as easy as it gets. For them to keep this a secret so they could plow tens of billions of dollars into oncology research that may or may not pan out and probably won’t be able to cover the development costs, makes absolutely no sense. Either Big Pharma execs and the vast army of researchers they employ are clueless, or Adams simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Call me crazy but I’m willing to bet on the latter.

From a scientific standpoint, Mike’s claims are basically just a string of meaningless alt med buzzwords that are of absolutely no use to any doctor with a grip on what actually causes diseases. What toxins should we be getting rid of? What are they? How did we get them? How do we live with them in between diseases? What’s the toxin accumulation threshold? Nobody in the alt med world knows. They just invoke this stuff to sound like they actually studied something that passes the smell test of scientific jargon. Likewise, what are all of these potent anti-cancer juices? How do they work? How have they been tested? What’s the active ingredient? And if this stuff works as well as Adams vows it does, where are all the people who were cured by his therapy? How come we don’t see them on National Geographic or featured in the news? Big Pharma conspiracy? Uh-uh. In the real world, you’re going to have to do better than that. Appeals to conspiracy are the adult version of saying that the dog ate your homework. Even if it did, you should be able to re-write it.

By the way, has Mike ever heard of Steve Jobs who tried to treat his pancreatic cancer with alternative and folk medicine only to realize that his only chance to survive was a surgery by real doctors? Of course he has! He even tried to give public health advice to Jobs on his blog, admitting he didn’t have access to the relevant medical data but without letting such little things as zero medical training or knowing the patient’s history get in the way of going in with both barrels loaded with pure insipidity. So even in the face of evidence that alternative medicine is useless against a serious disease which requires attention from actual doctors with a legitimate medical education, he’s still trying to push his pseudo-cures.

Here’s the bottom line. Mike Adams is a good, old-fashioned snake oil salesman. It doesn’t matter whether he really believes what he writes. What matters is that his advice to eschew medicine that actually produces real results in favor of pseudoscience that comes with no explanations and is sold on the basis of vague rhetoric about “toxins” and “poisons” designed to scare patients into trusting their lives to a bunch of quacks, is an inexcusable public health hazard. Has anybody told Mike that selling false hope to people who are seriously ill to line your pockets is just evil and when you ask them not to help themselves to make a buck, it makes you a lesser human being? I wonder what Mike will do if he needs real medical attention. Something tells me that he won’t just be munching on broccoli and giving himself enemas in a sauna…

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  • Alternative medicine undoubtedly has the lion’s share of bunk science and quack cures… but (saw that coming, I hope) let’s take a look at how a typical drug company fares when it comes to flim-flam:

    Pfizer Pharmaceutical

    2004 – Sued over Lipitor Marketing (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York)

    2004 – Sued over improper marketing of Neurontin

    2004 – Sued over Zoloft side effect cover-up

    2005 – Sued for over-marketing Lipitor (U.S. District Court in Boston)

    2007 – Sued for “over-marketing” Viagra

    2009 – Sued for off-label marketing of Bextra, Geodon, Zyvox, Lyrica

    One company, a handful of series charges in the last five years.

    This list is far from exhaustive and the only case which I’ve confirmed as settled (against Pfizer) is from 2009 but hopefully this gives an idea of the rampant malfeasance which pharmaceutical corporations are capable of (see The Last Psychiatrist‘s take on the overprescribing culture these practices foster).

    Caveat emptor – take the herbal extracts and the pills with a grain of salt.

  • Lev G. Fedyniak, MD

    While I am a physician, I started out by way of alternative medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, to be specific.

    While I am not a overt fan of Mike Adams, I think he serves to point out that there are alternatives to conventional thinking, and that has extreme value.

    Conventional, allopathic medicine is narrow-minded and arrogant. I ought to know! I remember not that long ago, in the 1970s the top cardiologist in the US trying to disabuse the public of any value in nutrition related to cardiovascular disease. He was specifically denouncing Nathan Pritikin. Come to find out some years later that Pritikin pretty much had it right! And Pritikin, in his day, could have been considered as extreme as Mike Adams!

    For years, acupuncture and Chinese herbs were poo-pooed as useless quackery. Now, all of a sudden, they have value and are recognized as viable medical approaches. And pharma companies are fast to try and develop synthetic versions of the main ingredient in both Chinese and other herbs.

    The problem with the argument about conventional oncology therapy with indiviuals like Mike Adams is that they’re rememebring traditional chemotherapies, where indeed the cure was sometimes worse- and more deadly- than the disease. But the new biologics, for example, are quite different and have much more impact with fewer side-effects. And genetic based medicine with designer medicines based on your own specific genetic make-up may be the “magic bullet” in the end.

    And pharma companies are just that- companies, in business to make money. There’s no money for pharma in nutrition, even if it works. And it often does. But remember that healthcare, incl. pharma, is an evolutionary process. Pick any point in time however, and you can make a case for anything you want.

    Remember that NO ONE THING WORKS 100% OF THE TIME. Not chemo, not herbs, not nutrition, not acupuncture, not biologicals. Yet each are a weapon in the armamentum of fighting cancer and each has its place. And sometimes in combination.

    So, while you may not agree with Mike Adams and might find him extreme, I find that he forces us to examine other options, to not let us get too cozy with big business or big government. And I find that to be a valuable thing!

    Lev G. Fedyniak, MD

  • Greg Fish

    “Conventional, allopathic medicine is narrow-minded and arrogant.”

    And alternate medicine is not at all. I mean it only claims that doctors who actually went to med school are all a bunch of dopes and their proven treatments are actually all totally worthless while poking people with needles and having them drink special water will cure everything from cold to cancer by getting rid of mythical toxins that cause anything and everything.

    Kettle, this is pot. Come in kettle…

    “For years, acupuncture and Chinese herbs were poo-pooed as useless quackery. Now, all of a sudden, they have value and are recognized as viable medical approaches.”

    Really? By who? Because the last clinical study on acupuncture showed it was no better than a placebo. So if your goal is to make people think that you might be treating something without actually doing anything, acupuncture is the way to go. Ditto for any and all herbal medicine. If you want to ease pain, vicodin will trump fancy needles any day of the week.

    If you bothered to read some of the links, you would’ve noticed that there’s an entire subset of pharmacology that studies herbs for medicinal value and makes them into medication. Aspirin and some chemotherapy drugs are actually based on extracts from plants. Painkillers are being infused with 100% natural venom to provide more efficient pain relief. How are you a doctor and unaware of this? Oh yeah, you just author feel good alt med articles around the web like this one. And this one. And this one. As well as a manual on how to be a health writer and how much you can make from it.

    Funny thing is that in the manual you wrote: “The kiss of death in health writing is not doing the research to get your facts straight.” In your comment, and your articles, you certainly don’t seem to be able to follow your own advice.

    I’m honestly surprised. Having lived in Ukraine for a good stretch, I was pretty sure that doctors there didn’t cut their teeth on Chinese folk remedies but were actually instructed in anatomy, basic pharmacology and biology.

    “There’s no money for pharma in nutrition, even if it works.”

    Have you not read the post? I explain exactly why and how Big Phrama would want to make a fortune on herbs and nutritional medicine if it was shown as effective as their current drugs, many of which are now being sold as generics. Alt med providers make billions of dollars selling this stuff. Are you telling me that pharmaceutical companies can’t do the same thing because they couldn’t make a profit in a multi-billion dollar industry they could easily control?

  • cresur

    Way to go, gfish. The nerve of some people…

  • The cure rate for pancreatic cancer is very low, maybe 2-3%. The allopathic approach is not working. It may be more scientifically “valid”, but it obviously isn’t working. It is also very destructive to the immune system and the person as a whole.

    The “natural” or alternative apporach is more systemic in its approach. It seeks to help the person from a holistic viewpoint. It recognizes there is a relationship between the mind and the body, and that physical illness is often related to attitudes and beliefs, lifestyle, diet, etc.

    I would not go to a homeopathic doctor to set a broken leg. But I would to help with allergies.The allopathic system is great for mechanical problems of the body, but not so good for metabolic problems like diabetes, cancer, etc.

    If you would read the literature on energy medicine and so-called alternatives, you would find that even the medical establishment is beginning to understand the relationship between how we think and our health. Because the mind is involved, you can’t always tie up cures with a nice red ribbon. But there are “alternative” therapies that work, even though we are not sure why.

    There are several bloggers out there like you who seem to have a closed mind in the health area. I am not an apologist for alternative medicine. There are many quacks just like in allopathic medicine. It is reasonable to be skeptical and question. It is not reasonable to call someone a snake oil salesman. Maybe Adams is overselling his point, but to discount the benefits of the points he mentions is absurd. People are being cured by alternative approaches.

  • Greg Fish

    “The cure rate for pancreatic cancer is very low, maybe 2-3%. The allopathic approach is not working.”

    Medicine is either evidence-based or it’s not. If scientifically based medical approach isn’t doing much against a disease today doesn’t mean we should declare it a failure. It’s like saying that because in the 1940s launching humans into space was out of our reach, we should just give up on rocket science. With more time and more research, there will be better treatments and potential cures.

    I don’t know where you get the numbers you used but there is no clear cut cure for cancers right now. There are only treatments which send the disease into remission, hopefully indefinitely, but there’s always the risk of a recurrence. There is no cure of pancreatic cancer, only a surgery that tries to remove the tumor and palliative care. To provide a “cure rate” for a disease that has no cure doesn’t make sense.

    “It is also very destructive to the immune system and the person as a whole.”

    Chemotherapy can impact the immune system and it does contain very potent and very powerful chemicals. Why? Because it actually has to kill the tumor, not just add a few veggies to your diet and call it a day.

    “The ‘natural’ or alternative apporach [sic] is more systemic in its approach. It seeks to help the person from a holistic viewpoint.”

    Doctors have a holistic approach to patients’ health. It’s called diet and exercise. It’s a lot cheaper than going to a homeopath and probably gives you better results since you’d be active and watching what you eat.

    “It recognizes there is a relationship between the mind and the body, and that physical illness is often related to attitudes and beliefs, lifestyle, diet, etc.”

    Lifestyle? Maybe in some cases when we’re talking about conditions that are a result of obesity or hazardous behavior. But beliefs? You know, there’s something known as the germ theory of disease. Very useful. Mainly because it teaches that diseases have real causes and your belief systems have nothing to do with whether you get sick or not, only your actions and exposure to pathogens.

    As for the relationship between the mind and body, the mind is an organ. That’s the medical relationship. Philosophical issues are the realm of pontificators, not doctors.

    “There are several bloggers out there like you who seem to have a closed mind in the health area.”

    Calling me close-minded or telling me to “read up” on something isn’t going to work. Why? Because I read the applicable literature in real, peer reviewed journals and start from the standpoint of whether there’s scientific evidence for a claim being made by alt med proponents or not. Just because someone doesn’t agree with you after doing the requisite research doesn’t mean he’s close-minded. He just reviewed the data and doesn’t agree with your conclusion.

    “It is reasonable to be skeptical and question. It is not reasonable to call someone a snake oil salesman.”

    Selling garlic juice as a cure for Stage IV pancreatic cancer is selling snake oil. It’s as simple as that. There has never been a single demonstrable, verifiable study which shows that this approach works and there’s never been a confirmed testimony of anyone who was actually cured by this method.

    “…to discount the benefits of the points he mentions is absurd. People are being cured by alternative approaches.”

    So let me get this straight. Someone who doesn’t have medical training, makes his points on senseless conspiracy theories and gives health advice to people who’s medical histories he doesn’t know is telling cancer patients that a vegan diet will save them from their diseases. And ignoring “the benefits” of this outright quackery is absurd? In what world?

    Also, if so many people are being cured by alternative medicine, how come it’s not from bronchitis, pneumonia, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or any of the other serious and complex diseases? And why are all the testimonials just laying around on the web or are self-diagnosed and self-reported? Why does every alt med study show that when it comes to treating people, the herbs and magic water fall flat on their face?

    Say what you will about chemotherapy but there are thousands of people who beat their cancers after completing their treatments. They’re out there and their stories come with lengthy notes, x-rays, MRIs and other relevant paperwork. In fact, chemo gives patients with certain cancers survival odds of greater than 90% if their disease is detected early enough. What are the survival odds of the same patients with alternative medicine and where’s the paperwork to back up those stats?

  • reggie

    Nicely done, Greg.

  • Jypson

    Greg, you should make some kind of keychain that plays you ripping into peoples rediculous beliefs. Then we could simply take out our Gregaphone (can I TM that?) and lay waste to the horde of ninnies that constantly yap empty statements on various subjects. You could have seperate buttons for various arguments.

    Evolution is a belief just like creationism….BAM, Gregaphone(TM) preset 1!
    Aliens have totally abducted people before….BAM, Gregaphone(TM) preset 2!

    You could make millions!

  • Jessica

    I used to like Mike Adams ans some of his views. But When a lot of my friends from Ecuador tell me that He is invading with Americans the native lands of Ecuador, and now He wants to stablish an American Colony, this is causing the land in Vilcabamba to raise in price, so now the proper Ecuadorian people can afford the land!, and also He didnt to a research in Vilcabamba (which is a really small town) on what is going to happen with the ecosystems there, if He brings so many people there. He is promoting big time! property in Vilcabamba. He talks about the pharmaceutical companies and how they cheat on people but He is doing exactly the same!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Anon

    Whether you are for or against natural medicine is irrelevant in my eyes. To each his own. What I do find most disturbing is how any comment that disagrees with articles on the NaturalNews.com site is almost immediately removed. Where is the free thinking in that? Where is the debate? How is one to make up their mind if one side of the story is being suppressed? And, worse yet, do we know the motives behind the suppression, are we being sold something more than just a news item from this site? If you don’t believe me, try it. Post a polite but opposing view under the comment section and see how long it stays on the website.

  • There is something even better that natural medicine and synthetic pharmacuetical medicine – and that is energy medicine or sometimes called consciousness healing. Everyone knows about the placebos (fake pills made of sugar or flour) that can have the same results as the real medicine. But, now a the Houston Medical Center, they tested placebo surgery with astounding results. Patients told that they were going to have knee surgery were cured, even though the surgery was faked. As someone said previously, the field of healing and medicine changes. Here is the youtube video that disusses the results at the Houston Medical Center plus a lot more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_CB-6u9sqk&sns=fb

  • Payze Dues

    Anyone who thinks the medical establishment would ever be permitted to introduce anything other than the “treatment” of disease, much less incorporate a natural (un-patentable) CURE (yes, they exist), is out of their Oxy-Contin-pickin’ MIND. YOU, my friend, are the “douche”.