Monday, June 20, 2022

#2546: Burton & Arthur Berkson

The Berkson protocol, also referred to as ‘the ALA-LDN protocol’, is a relatively obscure type of alternative cancer quackery, pushed primarily at the Integrative Medical Center of New Mexico, where Burton Berkson practices together with his son Arthur Berkson, a graduate of a two-year fellowship at Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona (Andrew Weil’s cult organization). The treatment involves intravenous α-lipoic acid and low-dose naltrexone, as well as some other medications and a strict dietary regimen and exercise program. The Berksons have published a number of “papers” on their protocol, but the papers are primarily case reports (i.e. testimonials) published in garbage “complementary and alternative medicine” journals, and a far cry from constituting evidence remotely sufficient for taking their claims seriously. Indeed, the fact that they only publish the results of a few case series over a 20-year “study” period, and no data on overall survival rates for patients treated with ALA-LDN, is itself plausible evidence against any claims they might make for efficacy. You can read more about the Berkson protocol here. Nonetheless, they apparently have some fans.


Low-dose naltrexone is a familiar alternative medicine favorite – it had some biological plausibility, and its disappointment in real studies has predictably not prevented quacks from using it to promote it as a cure for virtually anything and everything. As for α-lipoic acid, it’s one of those compounds that have seen some promising in-vitro studies, but lacks evidence of efficacy in clinical settings. Burt Berkson himself published a book some 25 years ago with the title Alpha Lipoic Acid Breakthrough: The Superb Antioxidant That May Slow Aging, Repair Liver Damage, and Reduce the Risk of Cancer, Heart Disease, and Diabetes. Yup, another panacea. The book was shit then, and doesn’t seem to have been updated.


Diagnosis: Yes, another crackpot shit cure people in desperate situations are understandably lured into throwing money at. The Berksons presumably mean well, but good intentions just isn’t good enough.


Hat-tip: Respectful Insolence

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