Scroll to the bottom to report someone who’s been making dodgy health claims! Sign the change.org campaign to stop this here!
I recently went on CoffeZilla’s podcast today, and outlined a few experiences I had with dodgy MLMers and alternative clinics who advertise on Facebook, netting them millions, and Facebook tens to hundreds of thousands. Here’s a bunch of evidence and screenshots of other conversations I’ve had with scammers/MLM grifters. It’s REALLY sad to see.
For those who don’t know me… My name is Nikhil. I’m a medical researcher, medical student, and ex cancer patient.
I’ve been on both sides of the medical bed in my role as a patient, future doctor, and have also been in the background too – working on, and advocating for medical research. Again, in both my capacities as a professional AND a ‘consumer.’
I’ve looked up the literature, evaluated trials and fought to get the medicine which has probably kept me here (azacitidine, which was in early phase trials for my condition, when I’d relapsed, and needed it most). I’ve also been on numerous alternative therapies, from low sugar diets and alkaline water, to tumeric, Chinese herbs, and even medical marijuana. Both for cancer, and the resultant chronic, and potentially fatal illness my treatment has left me with (graft versus host disease).
I know what it’s like to be desperate. I know how crappy doctors can be when considering you as a COMPLETE patient, and person – and why and how complimentary medicine DOES make a difference. Indeed – a massage therapist, and dietician have changed my life. I’m on COQ10, Fish oil and am involved in other complimentary medicine too. Indeed – UpToDate, a tool pretty much every doctor uses every day to guide treatment actually recommends these two as first line therapy for lipid and cholesterol control.
But I also know the importance of medical science. I also know numerous friends who’ve been turned away from options which gave them a chance, and ended up dying. And in this post, you’ll read a story of HOW I MYSELF WAS ALMOST CONNED into trying Sodium Bicarbonate instead of real medicine when I’d relapsed, and given a 10% chance of surviving, and why we need to PROSECUTE PEOPLE WHO SPREAD MISINFORMATION FOR PROFIT – OR WITHOUT DISCLAIMERS (Click here to lend your voice to the the Change.Org campaign now)
Alternative medicine can be amazing. Many, if not most medical therapies DID come from nature, and knowledge of traditional medicine. And I’d say the majority of naturopaths, massage therapists and yoga teachers only encourage you to be more healthy, mindful individuals.
But especially today, where memes on the internet are unquestioned truth, whilst scientific articles and doctors are doubted (and routinely made to be subjects of conspiracy theories), alternative medicine can be dangerous. The following examples may shock you. But it happens all the time. And it’s literally killing people. Cancer patients who use alternative medicine as opposed to proven therapies have up to a 5.7x higher chance of death!
A video from my series – Medical Factz – that outlines the ridiculous “Cancer is a Fungus, and sodium bicarbonate is the cure” theory that started from fraud, and ended in jailtime for manslaughter, and millions of others being deceived.
Recently, Facebook took action after a natural birth Facebook Group urged an endangered patient to not seek medical treatment at a hospital. The baby passed away.
Right: Another pernicious danger seen often in Facebook groups… Toby is a juice advocate who sells juicing guides and products. He has no clue what cystic fibrosis is. Yet he is still trying to scam them to make a few Dollars. It’s sickening. Vertex is a pharmaceutical company who’s creating treatment for CF, by the way.
Left: One of the biggest proponents of unproven lies about health has to be the antivaccination movement. Find out how one man fraudulently wrote one paper (composed of made up patients and made up results) which caused this movement to go, pardon the pun, viral (he now speaks at conferences for tens, to hundreds of thousands).
This is just the tip of the iceberg. From treating children who contract various illnesses with essential oils and tumeric rather than getting them medical attention, to misleading desperate cancer patients with promises of miracle cures (something which has killed at least 2 friends of mine, to date), to prescribing natural therapy regimes which have left babies malnourished, likely suffering from developmental delays for life, we seem to hear about things going wrong for people every day these days.
How I was nearly killed by bad advice.
The picture below outlines a scam I almost fell for. When I’d relapsed, I was given a less than 10% chance of surviving. Palliative care was suggested as an option for me. A second bone marrow transplant was a long-shot, but the only curative option.
At this time, a family friend put my family in contact with a researcher and scientist named Dr J, who promised to have a cure for me.
I was desperate. Willing to try anything. But luckily, I also had a year of medical knowledge under my belt.
We went in to see ‘Dr’ J one day at his apartment. He went into this theory of how sodium bicarbonate could cure cancer. One common, popular alternative therapy promoted by many, is the idea that “cancer thrives in acid, and therefore making yourself more alkaline will cure it”. He also purported another common alternative therapy – that “cancer loves, and is fueled by glucose, therefore low-sugar diets will cure it.” The former is largely known to be false. Cancers, due to their rapid, anaerobic metabolism of energy emit large amounts of lactic acid which PRODUCE an acidic environment. Not the other way around. And in any case – ‘alkaline diets’ or alkaline water will only result in less acidic urine, and slightly more alkaline saliva (not associated with alkaline blood). Your body’s buffer systems keep your blood’s pH in a 0.1 window. Even 0.01 higher or lower than normal ranges result in medical emergency. There’s no way for alkalinity to make it TO the cancer.
When I asked him about how you could make tumor sites more alkaline… he had no response. And when I asked him a basic metabolism question any 1st year student in any health degree would understand (‘if cancer feeds off glucose… your body will produce glucose from elsewhere by breaking down fats and protein if need be. Why wouldn’t the cancer just keep using that glucose preferrentially?)… he again, couldn’t answer me.
He showed me a few case studies from decades ago of 1 or 2 people who seemed to have had tumours regress after trying sodium bicarbonate. But even then I’d been reading on spontaneous regressions, and even then, I knew that if only a few case studies could be produced in the decades since we had this ‘common knowledge’ of how to cure cancer… then it was unlikely to be representative, or statistically significant. And after all this, he turned his attention towards my parents and started his sales pitch on why “Amway vitamins” could cure me. Again, no clear linkages as to why his vitamins were better (or why vitamins could cure cancer for that matter) were made. I later found out that Amway is a company with a pyramid-scheme model, designed to make money through the perpetual, impossible, addition of members who go on to onsell product, and earn commissions on all members they bring into the program. “Dr” J was probably locked in this trap himself.
John Oliver, in his brilliant style, breaks down the fraud that is the many mutli-level marketing companies that exist worldwide.
Family and friends pressured me down his pathway. They said it couldn’t hurt. They told me to believe in him. They took me to a seminar where he waxed on and on, and brought up people with chronic conditions cured by his miracle therapies (when likely, their changed lifestyle habits were the real fix), where he wanted me to speak, to endorse his treatments.
If he, a scientist working at the University of Sydney, couldn’t answer the questions of a 1st year medical student, why should I believe him?
Instead, I went out and looked up every journal I could, and every clinical trial going on in my disease around the world (something easier to do than expected – thanks to this amazing site that anyone can use called ClinicalTrials.gov) – I looked through all my options and presented one – Azacitidine – as a promising option to use to increase my odds post transplant to my doctor. With my doctor’s help, I got it.
It’s likely because of that drug, and hundreds of thousands of hours of work from scientists, and doctors around the world, that I’m still here today.
Yet, if I hadn’t had the knowledge I did, “Dr” J above could have killed me.
If you’re in a similar position – but don’t have medical training, please, PLEASE do a simple search on ClinicalTrials.Gov and/or your national clinical trial database for options. When I was looking up my own therapy – it helped me see trends of new therapies and backed my case to my doctor to get me the drug I needed. It’s simple to use – I’ve suggested it to numerous patients who’ve found second options and benefited from REAL SCIENCE through this. Please – try this first!
So why does this happen? Isn’t it illegal?
Consumer law protection exists for this kind of stuff. Yet misinformation like the above is rife within the multi-billion dollar alternative medical industry. You can’t sell TVs or Fridges based off false statements and claims. But somehow, it’s OK to gamble with other peoples’ lives, in health.
Why? Well, I’m not a lawyer. I’d love to hear from any medical malpractice lawyers out there who’d like to offer their own perspectives. But one major issue is that legislation against this kind of thing, around the world often lacks teeth.
This great article discussing the UK’s Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 in regards to alternative medicine – goes into some of the issues. Interpretations of the law are often not as clear as their intentions, in the eyes of lawyers and judges. Though it seemingly is clear that the defendent, not accuser, has to prove the claims they make are true, in practice, it often is up to the accuser to prove something’s false. Proving a negative is very difficult. And in a field where not much research is done… this becomes tougher. In addition, a lot of the time, enforcement isn’t followed up on laws. The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Australia), and numerous precedents and investigations done by the FTC also mark many of these practices as illegal.
Yet millions get away with this. Indeed, social media and fake news is a big proponent of this too. There are thousands of influencers with millions of followers making millions of dollars pedaling misleading, and often dangerous misinformation. Wellness is a half a trillion dollar, largely unregulated industry. Chinese Medicine, which I tried, were found to have 127 different types of fungal contaminants in just 15 herbal mixes. And innocuously, there are thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, advocating for unproven therapies in Facebook groups – turning people away from real therapies – sometimes profiting, sometimes spreading misinformation. People and groups like this, I see everyday in cancer groups where I talk and interact with other patients.
A dangerous meme from a dangerous page. Mamograms are PROVEN to save lives – and their risks and benefits have been studied and found to be effective in reducing mortality in high level studies. The amount of radiation exposure is safe and though there are new therapies coming through the pipeline – Thermographs are shown to be INFERIOR to mamographs. Natural News is a notorious ‘news site’ which spreads dangerous misinformation.
Why are they never sued? Well, sometimes they are. Robert O Young, a proponent of the “cancer is acidic, and alkalysing the body is the cure” lost a lawsuit that forces him to fork over $105million to his victims. Dr Simoncini, proponent of the “cancer is a fungus and sodium bicarb is the cure” alternative theory that has been thoroughly debunked is serving a 5 year jail sentence for manslaughter, after he continued to treat people for tens of thousands of dollars a pop at his clinic, despite being convicted of manslaughter and being deregistered earlier in 2006 as well. Doctors prescribing miracle “Defeat Autism Now” therapy regimes which have no scientific basis are currently being sued too.
But often, quacks and frauds USE the law to continue shady practices. Another naturopath and proponent of the sodium bicarbonate cures cancer movement is suing a whistleblower to ensure she can keep her operation running. A senior member of the renowned site Quackwatch was also sued for defamation.
And often, this stuff goes unchecked on social media. Not just from unscrupulous people like Toby (pictured above), but also from “Influencers,” and “Wellness Gurus and Coaches” who post deliberately misleading posts to millions of followers to sell their own products, or that of other, often unproven, wellness therapies.
An example of one of Facebook’s most virulent anti-science influencer. Sure, it isn’t one of his more ludicrous posts which does things like dissuade people from getting proven, effective therapies for their serious illness, but it shows how far some of these people are willing to go to make a quick buck. Click here to check out a video I made spoofing many of those viral ‘health fact’ videos you see these days.
But you know what, I’m sick of this.
Things like this seem innocuous. But it literally kills millions every year. It scams people, many of whom are already under heavy financial strain following intense treatments, of tens of thousands. It’s taken the lives of at least 2 close friends who had other, better options still available to them, and likely many more people I’ve known too.
Alternative and complimentary medicine can be amazing. The fact that practitioners actually sit down, and take the time to listen to you as a whole person is a big reason why it’s so popular. There are many massage therapists, yoga instructors, aromatherapists, dietitians and naturopaths out there who do know their stuff, work with doctors, abide by laws – and they help DO help millions. I benefit from many of the above.
But it’s when they do things like this that they become dangerous.
I believe we need to crack down on this industry, and the crooks who lead millions astray every year. We need to #MakeAlternativesGreatAgain – and when people make false health claims – we need to #LockEmUp – for the good of society – if they make unfounded health claims. If you agree – check out this change.org campaign I’m running soon.
1) IF YOU MAKE CLAIMS PERTAINING TO HEALTH – claiming a therapy WILL cure or fix a condition, or encourage others to try such therapies, without any evidence to back up your claims, without inserting disclaimers or saying “May” – YOU SHOULD BE CULPABLE, AND YOU SHOULD GO TO JAIL if your advice ends up harming someone.
2) – If you profit from the sales, in any way, of products with purported health benefits, YOU SHOULD HAVE TO MAKE THAT CLEAR, and it SHOULD BE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, to check the validity of those health claims.
I’ll even go so far as to say:
3) If you share misinformation, without any reasonable scientific or other evidence behind it, and it ends up harming someone – YOU SHOULD BE PROSECUTED AS WELL.
If not… scumbags like these will continue to exist, and prosper off the suffering of good people. Check out the Change.org campaign I’ve made and add your voice to this campaign for science and reason.
Bell Gibson fraudulently made millions after faking that she cured brain cancer with diet and alternative therapies. Millions of dollars escaped fines. But how many she led astray of real options will probably never be known. Full article here. She joins other fitness and wellness ‘experts,’ such as Sarah Stevenson who’ve falsely claimed they’d beaten a cancer which spontaneously regresses in over 1/4 people due to diet and wellness alone, and then gone on to fraudulently provide wellness coaching sessions, for $300 per 50 minutes (rates doctors who’ve studied for decades don’t charge).
There are numerous examples of scumbags like this out there. You may well already be following them. If you are, and you don’t see links to journals, or any kind of evidence which backs up their claim – do me a favour. Unfollow them. And if they say something which you feel may be harmful to society – tag me, @nikhilautar, or use the #LockEmUp to help bring them down.
What I’m doing about it.
I’ll be running this campaign soon, this is one thing. But my Startup – Centered Around You – actually aims to be the first app of its kind to not just provide evidence based wellness advice – but TEST IT TOO. A combination of machine learning, my own passion for research, and inputs from world leading clinicians, researchers, and coders/designers, advised by CEOs, senior VPs and heads of national operations of international and ASX listed firms advise us. We won Australian Student Startup of the Year not long ago. Along with numerous other prizes (we made the finals of the Global Impact Challenge, won NSW Student Startup of the Year in a separate competition, and have received numerous other grants and rewards for our work).
Our medical devices will also make life safer and easier for elderly and disabled patients. We are testing with some of Australia’s largest nursing home chains in the near future.
And our products have also generated interest and pre-sales from people interested in getting a better night’s sleep too!
Check out www.GetToSleepEasy and CAroundYou.com for more information.
I’m always here to talk. You can reach me (I am incredibly busy, but strive to read all my emails) at info [at [ nikhilautar.com – or via this contact form.
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Common, Inaccurate Medical Claims being Bandied About Online
Cancer is a fungus?
Nikhil breaks this one down below!
Vitamins cure cancer; Vitamin C Cures Cancer?
Vitamins are often claimed to be efficacious in cancer treatment when this is far from the case. SBS did a feature on this recently. A compounding pharmacist was telling patients – as A NON CLINICIAN – someone who can’t legally advise on clinical judgements according to Australian, TGA legal guidelines – claimed that Vitamin C supplements could cure cancer or help patients. The 2 largest systematic reviews – the highest quality of evidence possible – have said a LOT more evidence is required. There hasn’t been phase 3, randomised controlled trials for this. It is NOT indicated by the TGA as a treatment for cancer so even if her clinic is supported by GPs – its use is questionable and something I would be interested in reporting to authorities. Would you want big pharma skipping protocols and promoting unfounded claims before approval? No… Why should someone with NO training in this space get a pass? Multiple studies have discontinued high dose therapy use due to high toxicity. It should NOT be advocated for as a viable treatment. She did just that on national TV.
Could it help? Possibly – early studies have shown some improvement. Almost no cures. It it generally well tolerated. But toxicities have also been noted. I’ve been in a desperate position before… There are many options MUCH higher on my list of things I’d try if things got more dire.
Vitamin B6 and B12 was found in a prospective, observational study of over 77,000 patients (one of the highest quality long term therapies) have been associated with 30 – 40% higher risks of lung cancer (a 2x higher risk for patients taking high doses). Vit b12 has been shown to increase esophageal cancer as well. Many studies show no positive impact on survival. SBS – the news channel which put this together an ‘unbiased show’ where professionals with years of experience and with backing of millions of patients worth of data in research were given an equal platform to individuals who ‘just felt better’ – even reported on an American study which showed vitamin supplements increased risk of all causes of death. Indeed – vitamins nearly killed me.
How cancer patients in particular are at risk
Cancer patients who take alternative treatments are more l
Some alternative treatments also reduce the efficacy of treatments or prom0te tumour growth! For example, antioxidants may actually cause cancers to grow once established by reducing cancer-killing, toxic reactive oxidative species (ROS). Some drugs which mediate tumour cell death through inducing more ROS’s will also be less effective if you’re on a high antioxidant diet.
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