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The Marino Center for Integrative Health: Hooey Galore

Two weeks ago I promised that I would discuss the Marino Center for Integrative Health, identified in the recent Bravewell report as having a “hospital affiliation” with the Newton-Wellesley Hospital (NWH) in Newton, Massachusetts, which is where I work. I also promised in that post that I’d provide examples of ‘integrative medicine’ practitioners offering false information about the methods that they endorse. I’d previously made that assertion here, and Jann Bellamy subsequently discussed its legal and ethical implications here. The Marino Center is a wellspring of such examples.

A Misleading ‘Affiliation’

Let’s quickly dispel the “hospital affiliation” claim. According to the Marino Center website:

Hospital Affiliations

In support of our services and to ensure that our patients have access to exceptional tertiary care, the Marino Center maintains deeply established relationships and affiliations for referrals and admitting privileges with major medical facilities in the Boston area.

The Marino Center:

  • Is a proud member of the Partners Healthcare family
  • Is affiliated with Newton Wellesley Hospital
  • Makes referrals to Mass General Hospital, Dana Farber, Children’s Hospital and more

Well, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Marino Center is a ‘member’ of the Partners Healthcare family, which includes not only the Newton-Wellesley Hospital, but lesser known entities such as the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. After all, there are already unfortunate pseudomedical schemes involving Partners entities, such as the Osher Center for Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies and, even under my own roof (I shudder as I write this), a Reiki Workshop. Nevertheless, it’s telling, I hope, that not only does the Marino Center fail to appear under any list of Partners affiliates, Community Health Partnerships, Wellness, Prevention, or any other conceivable category, but it fails to yield a single ‘hit’ when entered as a search term on the Partners website (the term ‘integrative’ yields seven hits, but none appears to be about ‘CAM,’ except possibly for an RSS feed that I’ve no patience to peruse. Is it possible that Partners is embarrassed by the Osher Center? I hope that, too).

I’ve previously asserted that the NWH is not affiliated with the Marino Center, other than that some Marino Center physicians have been—against my judgment, not that I was consulted—granted hospital staff privileges. I made this assertion in my original Bravewell post a couple of weeks ago, after having questioned the NWH Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Les Selbovitz, who verified it; nothing on the NWH website suggests otherwise.

I’ve no reason to doubt the Marino Center’s third bullet above, “makes referrals to Mass General Hospital,” etc., but this is something that any physician can do, regardless of affiliation. I suspect that if there were an ‘integrative hospital‘ in Boston, reason forbid, the Marino Center would make referrals to it.

False and Misleading Information about ‘Services’

Let’s get to the meat of the problem.

For years, the Marino Center website included this:

Medical Services

Medical specialties include Internal Medicine, Family Practice, Medical Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Neurology, Urology, Gynecology, Rehabilitation Medicine and Pain Management.

And Eric Healing, perhaps? Apparently not, but it might as well be included. “Medical” acupuncture? Oh, the spin. Elsewhere on the Marino site, until very recently, were chiropractic, craniosacral ‘therapy,’ ‘nutritional services…to help rid your body of toxins,’ herbs, ‘infusion therapy,’ ‘chelation therapy,’ and more. I’ll elaborate on a few of these.

Homeopathy

There was a self-described homeopath listed on the Marino website until about 2005. Even after he disappeared, the site’s explanation of homeopathy, featuring a hodgepodge of misleading-if-factual statements, half-truths, and utter nonsense, persisted:

Homeopathy is a system of medicine founded and developed by the German physician, Samuel Hahnemann more than two centuries ago. In fact many of today’s finest American medical schools and hospitals actually originated as homeopathic colleges and hospitals. The effective use of this method of care has been well documented throughout the years and although its effects can be powerful and dramatic, homeopathy’s mode of action is gentle. In 1938 the FDA declared homeopathic remedies to be safe, and substantiated claims of their clinical effectiveness even in treating serious diseases when using practitioner-recommended remedies.

Homeopathic remedies are prepared from a wide variety of substances including plants, minerals, and animal products. Because the effectiveness of a remedy has less to do with content than with the precision of its “match” with the patient, homeopathic medicine is said to operate according to what is known as: The Law of Similars, “Let like substances treat like conditions.”

Vaccinations are developed according to a similar concept. For example, a vaccination containing a small amount of the Cowpox bacillus [sic] causes the body to develop antibodies and immunity to the similar, serious disease, Smallpox. Homeopathy expands on this idea in two ways:

1) The homeopathic “like” substance or remedy is customized to meet the specific needs of an individual in all of his/her complexity.

2) Homeopathic remedies are far more dilute (weaker in concentration) than vaccinations. It is believd the more dilute a constitutional dose of a homeopathic remedy becomes, the more “energetic,” or clinically powerful it is.

How to get started
The selection of a homeopathic medicine relies on a thorough understanding of patient personality including typical likes and dislikes, diet and exercisepatterns and other traits, in order offer an adult or child a well-matched constitutional remedy. When the proper prescription is delivered, its effectiveness is demonstrated not only by the elimination or alleviation of symptoms, but also at the highest levels of brain function – emotions, attitudes, and behaviors.

In order to develop a homeopathic medical history an initial consultation is required. This in-depth discussion can last up to 1½ hours and may cover a wide range of topics, including your food cravings, habits, personality traits, and attitude towards the illness or symptoms being addressed.

After this evaluation, your homeopathic practitioner is able to recommend one or more homeopathic remedies, and advise you on the most effective ways of taking these remedies. Homeopathic remedies consist of extremely dilute preparations of natural substances, which are inexpensive and available without a prescription. An experienced homeopathic practitioner can help a patient find the best remedy or remedies for his/her particular symptoms and personality.

Following the initial consultation you may want to return for one or more follow-up visits to “fine tune” the use of homeopathy or address additional problems or concerns.

Homeopathy and Children
If conventional medical approaches have been ineffective in treating your child’s problems, or you are concerned about side effects of medications or other treatments, gentler, more subtly-acting medical systems such as homeopathy may be helpful. Homeopathy’s individualized approach is designed to address underlying problems contributing to your child’s symptoms or behaviors.

Homeopathy may be if your child suffers from Failure to Thrive, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Persistent Colic, Chronic Ear Infections, or Asthma.

What Conditions Can Homeopathy Help?
Homeopathy can be a gentle and safe method of treating numerous conditions including:

Mental Health

  • Chronic Depression
  • Phobias
  • Panic and Anxiety Disorders
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Unresolved Grief
  • Addictive Behavior

OB/GYN

  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
  • Endometriosis
  • Menopausal Symptoms

Gastroenterology

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Persistent Nausea or Reflux

Dermatology

  • Post-Herpetic Pain
  • Chronic Eczema

First Aid/Emergency
(Telephone or Self-Care Support)

  • Fever Control
  • Insect Bites and Stings
  • Bruises and Abrasions
  • Sprains
  • Allergic Reactions
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Colds and Sore Throats

Contact Us
To schedule a homeopathic evaluation and treatment session, please contact the Marino Center For Progressive Health by using the information here.

Dear Readers, such ‘information’ is fatuous, reckless tommyrot. For accurate information about homeopathy, I invite you to revisit my first-ever series on SBM, beginning here.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

A similar meal of misinformation awaits, but I’ll only bore you with some of it:

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?

In general, TCM is a holistic medical system consisting of acupuncture, herbal medicine, meditation and diet. The first TCM book was published more than 2,000 years ago. Through the generations, the wisdom of thousands of volumes of medical literature and countless clinical experiences have been passed down for our use. TCM has developed greatly within the last 30 years by integrating its practices with modern medicine in China.

…Our goal is to make this holistic, physical, and spiritual healing practice available to anyone who could benefit from it.

What Is Acupuncture?
In the holistic philosophy of TCM, all parts of our bodies are seen as inter-connected. Energy and signal transactions (Qi flow) are carried through pathways called meridians, which are distributed on the surface of the body. It is believed that blockages of the Qi flow through meridians cause imbalances which, in turn, result in illness. Acupuncture attempts to heal by restoring the flow of Qi through the meridians–allowing the body to heal itself. Modern techniques like finger pressure, laser, heat, maxa, and electro-magnetic therapies have also been developed based on the theory of acupuncture.

What Conditions can Acupuncture Help?
The World Health Organization has publicly announced that the following conditions are suitable for acupuncture treatment:

1. Neurological and muscular disorders

2. Respiratory Disorders:
Bronchial asthma (in children and adult when uncomplicated)

Gastrointestinal Disorders:
Esophageal and cardio spasm, hiccup, gastroptosis, acute or chronic gastritis, sour stomach, duodenal ulcers, colonitis, acute bacillary dysentery, constipation, diarrhea, and paralytic ileus.

4. Eye Disorders:
Acute conjunctivitis, central retinitis, nearsightedness (in children), and cataracts without complications.

5. Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders:
Toothaches, gingivitis, otitis, sinusitis, rhinitis, nasal catarrh, and acute tonsilliti. In general, acupuncture can be used for treating almost all kinds of pain, paralysis or neural dysfunction, allergies, immune imbalance and most gynecological problems.

What are Chinese Herbs?

While nature may produce disease, it also produces healing. Chinese herbs have a long history of successfully treating many types of diseases. Countless reports show that Chinese Herbs may aid in healing where traditional medicines are less effective.

Are Chinese Herbs Safe?
Yes. Over 30 years of toxicology studies have shown that Chinese Herbs are safe and have fewer side effects than chemical medications…

“There is nothing between Heaven and Earth but Qi and its laws”

– ancient Chinese saying

Behold the awesome power that signal transactions and ancient Chinese sayings hold over hopelessly gullible honkies! Makes me embarrassed to be one, sometimes. An accurate summary of the relevant material: acupuncture has no specific effect on any disease; the philosophical bases for what Marino calls TCM are not based in observable reality; the term TCM is only about 50 years old, having been invented in the People’s Republic of China as an appeal to Western audiences; it is an awkward, arbitrary cobbling of several, disparate and sometimes contradictory ideas and methods that existed at various times and places in the long, pre-scientific history of the very large region that is China; TCM can’t, by any stretch of the imagination, be construed as holistic, because it knows very little of anatomy, physiology, and pathology, and nothing whatsoever of microscopic or molecular matters; over 30 years of toxicology studies have shown that many Chinese Herbs are not safe.

“Nutrition”

Why the quotation marks? Well, nutrition is not “CAM,” but “nutrition” is:

Why Cleanse?

The modernization of the American diet (changing agricultural practices, fast foods and more refined foods) has greatly upset the balance of health in this country. Just as our planet has its chemical waste problems our smaller environment, the body, is also greatly threatened.

Toxins may accumulate in the colon and liver and may lead to fatigue, headaches, premenstrual tension and other chronic symptoms. We may take these symptoms for granted without realizing that they represent a state of ill health.

Who Should Cleanse?

Dietary cleansing helps to cleanse and revitalize the body. It helps to improve health and vitality in healthy individuals and is particularly encouraged for individuals who what to improve poor eating habits and those with diet-related illnesses such as:

  • fibromyalgia
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood sugar
  • arthritis
  • allergies
  • some fatigue problems
  • chronic skin problems
  • gastrointestine disturbances

What to Expect

There is nothing like a dietary cleansing program to ensure lasting will power and inner strength. [etc.]

That last line almost has me convinced.

Chelation and the Law

I hope you’re still with me, because I’ve saved the best for last. Chelation ‘therapy,’ for those who don’t know, is among the very worst forms of quackery perpetrated by licensed physicians in the U.S. The treatment is both ineffective and dangerous; this has been known since the early 1960s. The history of the fringe group of physicians who peddle it, several of whom are convicted felons, is inextricably intertwined with Laetrile, the most lucrative health scam in American history. For nearly a decade, the NIH has been funding the unnecessary, dangerous and unethical Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy for coronary artery disease (TACT). To do this it has recruited several of the aforementioned felons, whom it now calls “respected experts,” to act as investigators and consultants. All of this is explained and documented in detail here. I’ve previously discussed it on SBM here, here, here, here, here, and here.

At least until 2010, the Marino Center website offered this:

Chelation Therapy

Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is our nation’s number one killer, leading to over 500,000 deaths in America every year. Our bodies’ blood vessels are constantly being damaged – by high blood pressure, toxins in our diet and environment, and by the effects of stress. The body’s attempts to repair this damage lead to a build up of cholesterol and calcium – plaque – in arteries throughout the body. This is a contributing factor to death and debility from:

  • heart attack,
  • stroke and
  • poor circulation to extremities.

Conventional medical approaches to these problems include prevention (by reducing risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol) and treatment with medications aimed at reducing symptoms, or treatment with invasive procedures (angioplasty, stents or bypass surgery).

Since the 1950’s, EDTA Chelation Therapy has offered patients an alternative. EDTA Chelation Therapy is given as a series of 20-30 weekly infusions, each lasting 3 hours. This therapy, which is FDA-approved for the removal of lead, is thought to reverse atherosclerosis when used in a program including vitamins, stress reduction, and lifestyle changes.

The Marino Center ‘s EDTA Chelation Therapy is administered according to protocols established by the American College of Advancement of Medicine.

The American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), which calls itself the “voice of integrative medicine,” is the Mother of all Pseudomedical Pseudoprofessional Organizations. Its ‘protocols’ for “EDTA Chelation Therapy” call for Na2EDTA, which has never been FDA-approved for the removal of lead—rather than the safer CaNAEDTA, which has been so approved. The misleading statement about lead was echoed for years in the protocols and consent forms of the NIH trial itself, until we complained, and even then the Office for Human Research Protections somehow allowed the trial to proceed. 

At the same time that the Marino Center was plugging chelation, it was also one of the “community chelation sites” for the TACT:

Current research projects/studies include:

  • National Institute of Health sponsored study- Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT)

Have You Ever Had a Heart Attack?

Are you age 50 or older?

If you answered, “yes” to both of these questions, you may be eligible to take part in a national study of an investigational treatment – chelation therapy and vitamin therapy – for people with heart disease.

What is chelation therapy?

Chelation therapy is an investigational therapy using an amino acid (EDTA)*. It is added to the blood through a vein. Some people believe that chelation therapy may help treat heart disease. However, this has not been scientifically proven. This study will seek to find out whether chelation therapy is safe, and effective in treating heart disease.

What will the study involve?

As a study participant, you will be assigned to receive chelation therapy or its placebo (inactive treatment). In addition, you will take either high-dose vitamin and mineral supplements or identical placebo pills. All participants will receive low-dose vitamin and mineral supplements. It is important that you continue to take your standard heart disease medications.

What are the costs?

Study-related treatments will be provided at no cost. Other medical costs remain your responsibility. For more information call Barbara Feinberg at 617 661 6225 (x 302) or ask your Marino Center Physician for more information.

*Calling EDTA an “amino acid” may be technically true but is entirely misleading. EDTA is quite different from any of the amino acids in our proteins. Nevertheless, the designation ‘amino acid’ is how quacks rationalize chelation as “natural.”

Here’s an item in the Code of Federal Regulations:

Sec. 312.7 Promotion of investigational drugs.

(a) Promotion of an investigational new drug. A sponsor or investigator, or any person acting on behalf of a sponsor or investigator, shall not represent in a promotional context that an investigational new drug is safe or effective for the purposes for which it is under investigation or otherwise promote the drug. This provision is not intended to restrict the full exchange of scientific information concerning the drug, including dissemination of scientific findings in scientific or lay media. Rather, its intent is to restrict promotional claims of safety or effectiveness of the drug for a use for which it is under investigation and to preclude commercialization of the drug before it is approved for commercial distribution.

(b) Commercial distribution of an investigational new drug. A sponsor or investigator shall not commercially distribute or test market an investigational new drug.

Please understand that those regulations are not matters of picking nits. Violating them necessarily introduces intolerable bias into a study, both by influencing the views of subjects and by diverting potential subjects away from the study to receive the experimental treatment in preference to the placebo. The Marino Center is hardly alone in having violated these regulations—almost all of the approximately 100 TACT “community chelation sites” have done the same thing, and so far neither the OHRP nor the FDA appears to have responded—but that does not excuse the practice. Along with countless other problems, however, it will likely render the trial uninterpretable.

And More

There has been other misleading information on the Marino website over the years—chiropractic mythology, shilling for ‘vitamins and supplements,’ ‘environmental medicine,’ and more. Very recently the website has been changed to a new look, and some of the previous material is absent. I don’t know whether this is because it has yet to be reinstated, or whether the Marino Center has decided to be more subtle in the public domain. Time will tell.

In summary, the Marino Center for Integrative Health, a center worthy of having been included in the recent Bravewell Report on “Integrative Medicine in America,” upon whose Board sits the Director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic, has repeatedly decided that when it comes to informed consent and “CAM,” the truth is irrelevant.

 

Posted in: Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Medical Ethics, Science and Medicine, Science and the Media

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