Hundreds of multiple sclerosis patients worldwide have fallen victim to the latest fraudulent medical practice. Doug Broeska, who called himself the “CEO” of his own company, “Regentek” out of Winnipeg, Canada, has been completely discredited after offering hundreds of “stem cell” procedures and “CCSVI” treatments out of a hospital in India.
Patients paid upward of $35,000- $45,000 for these “procedures” that claimed to be able to greatly improve their MS symptoms. The patients were asked to pay for travel, accommodations, and the extremely expensive procedures. Patients were told they were part of a research study by a “brilliant researcher from Winnipeg with a PhD,” advertising that their procedure was capable of “stopping MS in it’s tracks.” Unfortunately, it has now become apparent that the lead researcher had no PhD, and was preying on patients for profit. (Winnipeg Free Press, 2015.)
The medical ethics committee of Inamdar Hospital in India, where Broeska was “practicing,” asked him to step down last month after it was discovered that he had no credentials, and his study “violated international ethical standards.” The investigation was done by the Indian Council of Medical Research, and was conducted after the organization received numerous patient complaints.
Unfortunately, MS patients are extremely vulnerable to these types of scams. There are countless scam artists waiting in the wings, ready to prey on the desperation of patients. These scams can range from pricey supplements touting outrageous claims of MS treatment, to dangerous, untested procedures such as the one performed by Broeska’s organization. Stop and think for a moment about this. Broeska was “investigating” intrathecal and intravenous autologous stem cell treatments, which are dangerous and invasive procedures. “Intrathecal procedures involve injecting stem cells directly into the surrounding tissues of the spinal cord. Think of the tragic consequences when this procedure is botched by untrained, unlicensed providers. The risk of infection alone is astronomical, and potentially life threatening.
No patient should ever fall victim to one of these scams. Several patients mortgaged homes, took out huge loans, and spent life savings on these procedures. At the very least, this was devastating financially for these patients. At worst, it could have been fatal.
Broeska’s previous company was a lumber business. Yes, a lumber business. How one makes the jump from lumber to human lives is baffling to me. The ethics committee of the Indian hospital also received claims that patients were “blackmailed” into stopping certain life saving medications without justification. MS patients were taken off of their approved disease-modifying drugs in order to take part in this sham of a treatment. This entire story is enough to make you nauseated.
Please, please do your research. Make sure you understand who your providers are, where they received medical training, and exactly what their licensure is. This information is all readily available through organizations in the US such as the American Medical Association, as well as each state’s licensing board of medicine. Do not spend a dime in order to be a part of a research study. Studies conducted by major university hospitals should cost nothing. If you are being asked to spend money, be suspicious. If the treatment you are considering is unproven and untested, and is not recommended by your treating physician, I would advise against it. It is frustrating to wait for the proper clinical studies to be conducted, but there is a reason for this process. It takes time to determine the safety of medical treatments, and no one should be eager to rush into a treatment until that process has been completed.
Multiple sclerosis is a frightening disease. These fraudulent providers and their “treatments” are even more terrifying. Do not fall victim to the next scam.
Meagan Freeman is a mother of 6, wife, and Family Nurse Practitioner from Northern California. She has rekindled her interest in writing since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2009, and blogs frequently on her site, Multiple Sclerosis, Motherhood, and Other Traumatic Experiences. She is also a recurring guest blogger for Race to Erase MS.