Wednesday, February 26, 2020

#2312: Murray Susser

The Alliance for Natural Health USA, formerly the American Association for Health Freedom, is a lobbying organization founded by Julian Whitaker whose goal is to convince government of the validity of various types of quackery and dubious health claims through political influence (“health freedom”) rather than science. In particular, the group has lobbied energetically for passing the serially defeated federal Access to Medical Treatment act, which would allow quacks to prey freely on consumers, in particular people in difficult or desperate situations, and they have prepared several statements in favor of free marketing of fraudulent health products and methods, including emergency petitions to block the FDA from regulating or supporting regulations of dietary supplements (e.g. arguing against regulations of ephedra products such as ma huang, which contain dangerous drugs and have been associated with thousands of adverse events, including many deaths). The organization has also filed an amicus curiae brief supporting a California lawsuit in which parents of a child with brain cancer sought damages from an oncologist because he failed to recommend antineoplastons, Stanislaw Burzynski’s alternative cancer treatment supported by neither biology nor experimental evidence. Sponsors and contributors to the organization’s efforts, meanwhile, are primarily dietary supplement companies and commercial labs that market fraudulent tests such as hair analysis. The group’s board of directors include (or at least has included) such characters as Woodson Merrell, Jonathan Wright, Shari Lieberman, Al Czap, Bernie Siegel, John Robbins and Robert Rowen; none other than Sherri Tenpenny has been its vice president. 

The main target of the present entry, however, is the organization’s former president, Murray Susser. Now Susser is – or at least used to be – an MD. He also used to be chairman of the medical advisory board of Gero Vita International, an infamous supplement company whose claims were subject to a series of investigations by an impressive range of government bodies, including congressional hearings. His own practice, the Longevity Medical Center in Los Angeles, claimed to use “use Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Nutrition, Chelation Therapy, Heavy Metal Detoxification, Physical Therapy, Stress Management, Weight Management, Oxidative Therapies, and Detoxification Therapy.” Moreover, Susser’s ads more than suggest that he is a keeper of the secrets to halting the aging process and that he has “solved the mystery of chronic fatigue syndrome.” His website does not mention the fact that he has been disciplined several times by the California state medical board (1997 – Susser had e.g. failed to diagnose gallstones in one patient and colon cancer in two others, and had instead ordered inappropriate tests, failed to order appropriate tests, and prescribed vitamins and other inappropriate treatments – 2000, 2005, 2010, 2016, 2017 and 2018) e.g. for “unprofessional conduct, gross negligence, incompetence, repeated negligent acts, and excessive use of diagnostic procedures” and for “negligence and improper prescribing”, as well as by the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine and the New York Board for Professional Misconduct. Indeed, Susser seems to have finally lost his license in 2018. It is unclear whether that will stop him. (After all, he surrendered his New York license back in 1997, and that did not stop him.)

Susser’s primary target victims are (or were) people with complex or diffuse conditions – his website mentions “[l]yme disease, chronic fatigue” in particular – that will allow him to prescribe a number of expensive and completely ineffective treatment regimes and unsupported (and unsupportable) diagnoses. 

Susser is also a past-president of the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), the primary promoter of chelation therapy (which, given that it is as dangerous as it is useless, is a particular concern of medical boards). He has also been associated with the pseudoscience group ILADS.

Diagnosis: What is really instructive about Murray Susser is the position of authority he has managed to retain on the altmed scene, despite his obvious dishonesty (or incompetence). Hopefully neutralized, but you never know with this kind of people.

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