Friday, July 8, 2022

#2549: Robin Berzin

Robin Berzin is the founder of the concierge functional medicine practice Parsley Health, a seemingly successful enterprise that has grown to encompass at least a couple of major cities. Functional medicine is, of course, complete and utter quackery. It is, however, popular, and has gotten quite a bit ofpositive press for instance from the Cleveland Clinic, which has a financial stake in it and whose decisions on such matters are apparently taken by the university administration and marketing department, not by anyone who cares about science, truth, evidence or accountability – and there are some at Cleveland. According to Berzin, at least, “holistic primary care” is the “future of medicine.” That would, needless to say, be bad.


Berzin, however, is market savvy and slick, and Parsley Health is apparently good at efficiency, kindness and creating an atmosphere of care. And their marketing materials are full of cutting-edge but medically meaningless wellness buzzwords, such as references to “toxins and food allergies. Parsley Health focuses on “the root cause of disease”, whatever that means (it’s standard quack speak), and “doesn’t just prescribe drugs”. In reality, functional medicine is striking for its focus on massive overtesting and overtreatment, including everything from traditional Chinese medicine and homeopathy to copious amounts of expensive and useless supplements. One of the primary tenets of functional medicine, so-called “biochemical individuality” is in fact precisely the medically completely unjustified and unjustifiable principle of administering massive doses of vitamins and other supplements in order to achieve “optimum health.” Parsley Health may not “just prescribe drugs” – they’ll prescribe you anything that will get you to open your wallet.


It’s worth illustrating the point (these are 2018 numbers): A Parsley Health membership costs around $5 a day (that’s a small price for preventable health strategies that encompass all of one’s physical and emotional well-being, says Berzin). There are, in fact, two plans and a service: The first service costs $500 for a 75-minute doctor visit, 45-minute coaching session, and “basic biomarker testing,” which is pure woo, and access to an online portal. The “Complete Care” plan is $150 a month, and includes, in addition, advanced biomarker testing,” which is apparently better and tests for instance for various toxins and heavy metals you are guaranteed not to have issues with – we suspect they’ll tell you differently. And yes, with the numbers of tests in question – you can apparently get over 1000 biomarkers tested – Parley Health will find something outside the normal range, and they will have an expensive program to help you remedy it. The $250/month “premium care” plan, meanwhile, gets you more visits and access to “priority visits” within 48 hours of calling.


Meanwhile, Berzin herself is busy retweeting antivaccine and antifluoridation nonsense. She claims that she’snot antivaccine, of course, but immediately launches into too many, too soon talk and promises that her pediatric practice (yes, of course she does) won’t vaccinate everyone. Elsewhere, she talks about how she tested high in mercury before getting pregnant and therefore did a heavy metal detox before trying to have a baby. You should not follow in her footsteps.


Diagnosis: A scam. Berzin, of course, doesn’t view it as a scam. But your scam is a scam even if you’re not aware that it’s a scam. There should be a special place in hell reserved for people like Robin Berzin.


Hat-tip: Respectful Insolence

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