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Charlatans and Chicanery (Part 2)

Published: November 4, 2010

Hot off the heels of the Dr. Andrew Wakefield verdict, another physician has been struck-off of the British Medical Register by the General Medical Council. Dr. Robert Trossel was found by the GMC to be in breach of good medical practice by exploiting vulnerable patients and causing mental, financial, and possibly physical harm. As it turns out, Dr. Robert Trossel was charging upwards of $16,000 to patients with multiple sclerosis, claiming he could cure the incurable by using unproven and illegal stem cell treatments.

In part one of this series, we explored the pathophysiology of multiple sclerosis, and the ridiculous stem cell treatment that Dr. Trossel was claiming could cure MS. Not only had this treatment been proven to be wholly ineffectual, but a BBC investigation uncovered the truth behind Dr. Trossel’s stem cell supplier, Advanced Cell Theraputics.

It turns out that Advance Cell Therapeutics is a company run out of South Africa by a couple known as Stephen Van Rooyen and Laura Brown. After two employee whistleblowers went to the BBC news, it was discovered that ACT was the reincarnation of an American company by the name of Biomark. Shockingly, the owners of Biomark, Van Rooyen and Brown, were fugitives on the run from the FBI for their fraudulent acts in the United States. It seems that these two criminals had simply packed up their business and moved it across the Atlantic once the FBI had figured out what they were doing.

So what were these two fugitives (with the assistance of several physicians like Dr. Trossel) hocking to the downtrodden people who suffered from an incurable disease? The BBC investigators tracked the source of ACT’s stem cells to a California biotech company named Allcells. On the company’s website, Allcells very clearly states that their stem cells are to be used for research purposes only. In fact, the cells that ACT was purchasing from Allcells were not even approved to be used in animal test subjects, due to possible bacterial or viral contamination. Yes, you read that correctly, ACT and Dr. Trossel were injecting humans with stem cells not even approved for use in lab rats. Upon receiving the news of ACT’s misuse of his products, Jay Tong, general manager of Allcells regrettably asked, “Has anyone died?” Fortunatley, Mr. Tong can sleep well at night, for despite his product being illegally injected into nearly 800 patients, no one died. Needless to say, Allcells immediately cut all business with ACT.
The more I researched this story, the more engrossed I became by it. The audacity of Stephen Van Rooyen and Laura Brown, who while on the run from the FBI continued to operate an illegitimate and fraudulent stem cell therapy business, is just sickening. The immoral and unethical behavior of Dr. Robert Trossel, a physician whose life should be dedicated to curing the sick, is unforgivable. In 2007 the British General Medical council “strictly limited” Dr. Trossel’s practice during their investigation. In September of 2010 he was officially struck from the British Medical Register. That same month several victims of Dr. Trossel filed a lawsuit against him, asking for compensation for their losses. As for Stephen Van Rooyen and Laura Brown, Advanced Cell Therapeutics has been exposed as a fraud, and extradition proceedings are currently underway.

This scam is on par with that of John “Goat Gland” Brinkley (see my May 25th, 2010 blog entry) in terms of emotional and financial loss. Thankfully the BBC investigation uncovered the truth before anyone lost their lives, but the shattered hope and despair of those 800 patients is all but incurable.

Here at Sacramento Men’s Health we have often spoken on topics of controversial medicine. Vaccinations, alternative medicines, pro-biotics, caffeine, and alcohol have all been subject to evaluation. While we have determined some medical practices to be absolutely ludicrous, practitioners who promote their services usually believe that they will work. While separating you from your cash might be the ultimate goal, they generally don’t intend to do any direct physical harm. Unfortunately, there are also people in this world who would gladly cause you pain and suffering in an effort to advance themselves.

Here is the bottom line: If a treatment seems too good to be true, it probably is. Furthermore, it is important to realize that there are a vast number of people in this nation whose sole purpose in life is to safely and effectively advance medical treatment. The FDA, CDC, AMA, NIH, and a whole host of acronymed organizations spend everyday servicing the American public, developing and testing the safest way to make your lives better. What’s more, you as an American do not have to take the recommendations of these organizations on blind faith alone; you have the power to do the research yourself. Look for accredited scientific journals from sources such as pubmed.gov or simply head on down to the library and check out a couple of books on human physiology.

As part of your ongoing research I would like to remind you that Sacramento Men’s Health will continue to do our best to bring you the most pertinent information on topics about your health. If you have a question, concern, or would like some more information on a topic of interest, be sure to contact us via email, Twitter, Facebook, or simply leave a comment on this blog. Thanks for reading.