CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POSTING - ARTICLE BY DR. RALPH MOSS ON ESCOZUL
(As an aside, it is encouraging that at least the scorpions are not killed in the making of the medicine. Bordier keeps them in boxes filled with damp earth and with an ample supply of the insects that they like to eat. Starting a year after they are born he periodically extracts the poison from the scorpions by applying a mild electric shock to the insects, causing them to release their venom. This process is repeated about once every 20 days, after which the scorpions are returned to their natural habitat. It is to be hoped that the increasing popularity of this remedy will not result in the extinction of this species, as unscrupulous operators begin seeking a slice of the profits.)
Lack of Knowledge
Superficially, at least, first reports about blue scorpion venom are encouraging. The acquisition of reliable knowledge about Escozul is, however, hampered by several formidable problems:
First is the US trade embargo on Cuba, which makes scientific communication and exchange, as well as travel, difficult, if not impossible. We US citizens may be missing out on more than Cuban cigars as a result of this embargo. It would seem to be a matter of urgency for both the American and the Cuban government to find out if Escozul really works. A sensible foreign policy would put aside political differences in a co-operative search for a cure. Perhaps growing American interest in Escozul will lead to a beneficial outcome in public policy. For now, however, we are reduced to surfing the Internet, since direct contact is nearly impossible.
Another problem is a lack of scientific publications, even in Spanish, on the topic. Cuba has a sophisticated biotech industry that exports a variety of medicines and diagnostics to more than 35 countries around the globe (Sunderland 2002). There is apparently no lack of capable researchers. But there is no reference to Escozul per se in the standard database of medical journal articles, PubMed, nor even an article on the blue scorpion from whose venom Escozul is produced. If such research could not be published in the US due to the trade embargo, there are certainly excellent non-US journals that would be interested in such articles. But promoters of this treatment have seemingly not been too inclined to communicate their findings in a rigorous way to biomedical scientists around the world.
In my opinion, it is also foolhardy to treat 50,000 humans without first conducting any potency standardization testing, laboratory and animal studies, phase I-II studies in humans, and without any institutional review board (IRB) ethical supervision of the project. The potential for harm is real, even if many people anecdotally report that the treatment is non-toxic.
Meanwhile, it has to be said that the claims reported for the efficacy of Escozul seem wildly exaggerated. Particularly disturbing are the assertions (contained in several articles on the Internet) that the treatment was successful in nearly 97 percent of patients who had not undergone previous chemotherapy or surgery. It is not clear exactly what Bordier means by “success.” According to a Mexican Web site:
“Cuban doctor Misael Bordier cautioned that while his patients were not cured of their cancers when treated with the venom of the Escozul scorpion, ‘97 percent of them experience improvements in their quality of life and see the size of their tumours greatly reduced.’”
This would of course need to be carefully documented. Meanwhile, there is ample reason to be skeptical. Over the years this type of sensational claim has been made often, but has never panned out. In fact, as a general rule, the more outrageous the claim, the more likely the treatment is to be a fraud. What worries me most is that exaggerated claims for the phenomenal efficacy of Escozul may present an irresistible attraction to many patients (especially the less skeptical), prompting them to avoid the conventional treatment that is being urged on them and to take this venom treatment instead. While I have written often enough about the limitations of conventional therapy, we must also recognize that avoiding treatment could be disastrous for someone who, for example, has an operable tumor but refuses curative surgery in favor of an uncertain venom treatment. One could easily imagine people dying as a result of such a mistake.
A Remedy With a Sting in the Tail
According to another Internet article (by a Cuban journalist named Mar Marin), among those who came to Dr. Bordier after surgery or chemotherapy, only 40 percent obtained good results with Escozul, and the mortality rate was 60 percent. “We don’t know what causes the high mortality rate in these patients, but we do know we’ve been able to improve the quality of life of every patient,” Bordier is quoted as saying.
I am disturbed by this reported mortality rate of 60 percent among those who had had prior conventional therapy. I am not sure what Dr. Bordier is trying to say to here. Is he claiming that despite chemotherapy, 40 percent of the patients were cured? Or is he alluding to some possibly harmful synergy when these two approaches are combined, leading to a surprisingly high mortality rate?
Although in general I believe that conventional and alternative treatments can be fruitfully integrated, we must never rule out the possibility that combining various agents could actually be harmful to patients. Only carefully conducted - and published - studies can answer these questions and yield dependable results. No such studies have yet been done, and given the current political impasse it may be difficult to arrange any studies that would convince both Cuban and American experts. For the good of humanity, however, it would be worth trying.