'Alternative chemo' too alternative for Health website
Adverts promising an unproven cancer treatment have popped up on govt websites much to the horror of the minister
An advert promising “alternative cancer chemo” that pops up on a government website page offering information about the Department of Health, has set off alarm bells.
The adverts featured last week stated: “cancer is no longer a dead sentence”(sic).
They promise a treatment that “unlike chemotherapy will kill only cancer cells”.According to the UK Cancer Research Institute, conventional chemotherapy also kills healthy cells. “It affects healthy body tissues where the cells are constantly growing and dividing.”
The advert links to CancerSA.net, a site run by Centurion-based general practitioner Eugene Pretorius.
And, Pretorius says: “GPs can do anything, even brain surgery, as long as they are willing to accept responsibility if something goes wrong.”
He says his website is honest about offering alternative treatments. His therapy – giving the body large amounts of insulin and then using much lower doses of chemotherapy than recommended – is not proven by scientific trials.
The Quackwatch website describes this treatment as unproven. “Insulin potentiation therapy (IPT) is one of several unproven, dangerous and/or alternative treatments that are promoted by a group of medical practitioners without trustworthy evidence that it works.”Pretorius admitted that he didn’t have scientific studies to show that IPT worked, instead asking: “Who is going to pay for trials?
“Pharmaceutical companies won’t pay for trials that show less of their chemotherapy drug can work,” he claimed.
Health spokesperson Popo Maja was horrified to learn about the adverts when asked why the Department of Health website was advertising unproven treatments which could look like an endorsement to a lay person. He said the department would urgently investigate the matter.
Pretorius said he did not specifically advertise on the government site. After initially saying he had “no idea how the advert got there”, he later explained he used Google advertising.
Tech expert Arthur Goldstuck explained that Google ads bid for search terms.
“These are targeted AdWords, where advertisers bid on keywords and the winning bidders get priority when someone searches on that word. It allows one to buy, for example, “department of health”, and your ad comes up when someone searches for the term.”
Goldstuck said a bigger concern is that the government website is running Google ads. “That makes it appear to be an amateur site that is desperate for revenue. The further unfortunate aspect is that such a revenue is likely to be so low it will be a pittance. No corporate or government site should be carrying Google ads as the messaging in the ads almost instantly undermines the positioning of the organisation.”Campaigning for Cancer NGO founder Lauren Pretorius said the NGO always tells cancer patients not to follow treatments offered solely on the Internet without checking their validity with their doctor and scientific journals.
“Do not trust any promises of miracle treatments, magical drugs or any other statements that are not supported by evidence,” Pretorius said.
“Many reliable websites have a seal of certification from a trusted accrediting organisation like the Health On the Net Foundation. It’s a good idea to verify whether the website which you are visiting is certified by the HON code.”
Pretorius, however maintains “GPs can do anything” when asked if he was allowed to offer insulin and low doses of chemotherapy drugs as he was not an oncologist.
Medical lawyer Neil Kirby said that although technically a GP can administer anything if registered, if something goes wrong the doctor will definitely face negligence charges if his protocol is not evidence-based.
Pretorius has previously been sued for negligence damages by a stage three testicular cancer patient who claimed the Insulin potentiation therapy treatment didn’t work.
Pretorius won the case in the High Court and then at the Supreme Court of Appeal last year, as the judges found the patient couldn’t prove Pretorius’s treatment was the reason his cancer wasn’t cured.
The patient, Jaron du Preez, 38, subsequently received conventional chemotherapy and went into remission.