Bioethics Cancer Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

It’s nice to be noticed

Remember how I alluded to the fact that perhaps I’ve been doing a little too much blogging about dichloroacetate and the unscrupulous “entrepreneurs” who are taking advantage of desperate cancer patients to sell the stuff to them? Well, I can’t resist mentioning something truly amusing that I just noticed.

The “health freedom” warriors and “entrepreneurs” responsible for The DCA Site and appear to have noticed me and my humble efforts.

How do I know that they’ve noticed me? Remember the long exchange between Heather Nordstrom and two people questioning the ethics and legality of selling a drug that has only shown promise in animal models of cancer but has yet to be tested in humans for cancer from which I quoted liberally and on which I commented? To refresh your memory, it was an exchange between someone going under the ‘nym Sprite8 and another going under the ‘nym CJohn Zammit, both of whom questioned what Heather and her stepfather were doing in selling DCA from an unclear source to desperate patients. One of them, CJohn Zammit, begged her not to do it and to concentrate efforts on promoting rapid phase II clinical trials of the drug against cancer and (this latter part is where I part ways with CJohn and strenuously disagree) to encourage oncologists to use it “off-label.”

All gone. If you click on the links in my original post, most of them don’t exist anymore. Gee, you don’t think that came about because of li’l ol’ me, do you?

But it gets better.

Remember the disclaimer on the on the site that was such a hilariously inept attempt to deny that they were selling DCA for human use that I couldn’t resist slapping it down with a little Respectful Insolence™ (without the “Respectful” part, that is)? This is what it said on Wednesday morning:

For veterinary use only. DCA is not approved for use by humans. We are neither doctors nor veterinarians and cannot make statements about the medical condition of your pets. Please note we make no claims nor give any guarantees. The information on this site should not be considered complete, nor should it be relied upon to suggest a course of treatment for a particular individual. This information is for educational purposes only. It should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation or the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider, or veterinarian. Always consult with your physician or veterinarian before embarking on a new medical treatment, diet or fitness program.

This is what I said about it:

Funny, I thought was selling DCA for use in animals only. Why, then, are Heather and her family making such a big deal out of mentioning physicians and treatments for individuals? It couldn’t be that Heather and her stepfather are being, as I said before, disingenuous, could it? You’re far too cynical; Heather is an idealist, after all.

And, joy of joys, this is what the disclaimer says now:

For veterinary use only. DCA is not approved for use by humans. We are neither doctors nor veterinarians and cannot make statements about medical conditions. Please note we make no claims nor give any guarantees. The information on this site should not be considered complete, nor should it be relied upon to suggest a course of treatment for a particular animal. This information is for educational purposes only. It should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation or the advice of your veterinarian.

(Not surprisingly, they didn’t get rid of this part of their disclaimer: “To insure the product is safe for all buyers, there can be no refunds or returns. All sales are final.” Of course they are.)

In any case, notice how Heather and family blatantly eliminated any mention of the treatment of a “particular individual” (substituting the word “animal”) and altered the part about not using their website “in place of a visit, call, consultation or the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider, or veterinarian.” Gee, you don’t think they’re trying to weasel out of responsibility or to cover their tracks that made it obvious that they were selling the drug for human use? It’s a good thing that I foresaw this rather obvious possibility and made it a point to download a web archive of the relevant pages to which I had linked, isn’t it? Otherwise, I might have felt very guilty for tipping them off.

You know, it warms the cockles of the heart to know that one’s efforts are having an effect, however small. In any case, do me a favor: Please click on The DCA Site and repeatedly, to let Heather know that her attempts to erase the evidence of her lies have been noticed. And, Heather, if you’re reading this, please reconsider what you’re doing. Selling a non-FDA-approved drug that’s never been tested in humans against cancer to desperate terminally ill cancer patients is digustingly unethical and almost certainly illegal. Altering your website and removing inconveniently embarrassing threads from the discussion forums won’t change that.

ADDENDUM: Now that I look at it again, the disclaimer is back to the old form on the front page of the site, but the new form is present on this page and pretty much every other page on the website.

Curiouser and curiouser. I wonder what “changes” Heather et al will make next.

I also notice that Heather posted a longer and more extensive disclaimer on the DCA site, listed as having been edited on 2/24/07 at 2:49 AM EST. Some excerpts:

We do not advocate the use of DCA for human cancer at this stage and time. We are aware that DCA is being used for illness in animals and is available to consumers through pet websites for that purpose. We are aware that DCA is used in humans for rare metabolic conditions. We are aware that DCA has not been proven to be a cure for cancer in humans and it is illegal to claim that it is a cure, and that in the USA it is illegal to claim a cure for cancer other than the FDA approved methods.

No, Heather, it’s not illegal to claim a cure for cancer. It’s illegal to sell or administer to humans a drug or compound that you claim to be a “cure for cancer” when there is no scientific evidence to show that it is a cure for cancer in humans. Believe me, if DCA shows promise against cancer in the clinical trials being arranged, you can bet that the FDA will approve it for use in cancer pretty fast. I’m pretty sure that it’s also illegal to sell a drug like DCA “for pets” when it is painfully obvious from the forums at The DCA Site that no one visiting there is looking for DCA to treat their pets with cancer. The only people looking for the drug on your forums either have cancer themselves or have loved ones with cancer. You know that damned well. Nice altie conspiracy-mongering, though.

More disingenuousness:

You should not use the information on theDCAsite for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. You should always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional supplement, or adopting any treatment for a health problem.

Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

If you do anything recommended on this web site, without the supervision of a licensed medical doctor, you do so at your own risk.

Information contained on theDCAsite is suppose to be educational and general in nature and is not meant to be a substitute for the advice provided by a health professional.

This page and any other page available on theDCAsite may reflect personal opinions of the author, which are not necessarily shared by the owner of theDCAsite.


Nothing on this site should be considered a cure for cancer or any other “incurable” diseases.

Give me a break.

ADDENDUM #2: I’ve also noticed that Heather has stripped out the reference to using “laser” light to drive the synthesize of DCA from this page. Hilarious!

ADDENDUM: Walnut has posted his critique on Daily Kos as well.

All Orac posts on DCA:

  1. In which my words will be misinterpreted as “proof” that I am a “pharma shill”
  2. Will donations fund dichloroacetate (DCA) clinical trials?
  3. Too fast to label others as “conspiracy-mongers”?
  4. Dichloroacetate: One more time…
  5. Laying the cluestick on DaveScot over dichloroacetate (DCA) and cancer
  6. A couple of more cluesticks on dichloroacetate (DCA) and cancer
  7. Where to buy dichloroacetate (DCA)? Dichloroacetate suppliers, even?
  8. An uninformative “experiment” on dichloroacetate
  9. Slumming around The DCA Site (, appalled at what I’m finding
  10. Slumming around The DCA Site (, the finale (for now)
  11. It’s nice to be noticed
  12. The deadly deviousness of the cancer cell, or how dichloroacetate (DCA) might fail
  13. The dichloroacetate (DCA) self-medication phenomenon hits the mainstream media
  14. Dichloroacetate (DCA) and cancer: Magical thinking versus Tumor Biology 101
  15. Checking in with The DCA Site
  16. Dichloroacetate and The DCA Site: A low bar for “success”
  17. Dichloroacetate (DCA): A scientist’s worst nightmare?
  18. Dichloroacetate and The DCA Site: A low bar for “success” (part 2)
  19. “Clinical research” on dichloroacetate by A travesty of science
  20. A family practitioner and epidemiologist are prescribing dichloracetate (DCA) in Canada
  21. An “arrogant medico” makes one last comment on dichloroacetate (DCA)

Posts by fellow ScienceBlogger Abel Pharmboy:

  1. The dichloroacetate (DCA) cancer kerfuffle
  2. Where to buy dichloroacetate…
  3. Local look at dichloroacetate (DCA) hysteria
  4. Edmonton pharmacist asked to stop selling dichloroacetate (DCA)
  5. Four days, four dichloroacetate (DCA) newspaper articles
  6. Perversion of good science
  7. CBC’s ‘The Current’ on dichloroacetate (DCA)

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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