Vibrant Denver businesswoman and philanthropist possible victim of colchicine quackery

Just a hypothesis here.

A vibrant, 55-year-old Denver-area furniture executive, Lesile Fishbein, is possibly near death according to The Denver Post:

The bubbly Fishbein, one of the most recognizable faces in the metro area because of her television ads for her company, Kacey Fine Furniture, was admitted to Presbyterian/St. Luke's Hospital for emergency treatment on Tuesday. She had been given an injection for chronic back pain and suffered a serious reaction, the friends said. She was later placed on life-support, which was removed Friday evening. [emphasis mine]

The natural product and gout-relieving drug, colchicine, has been the cause of several deaths last year due to its inappropriate use in treating back pain and calculation errors by compounding pharmacies that provide the drug to alternative medicine practitioners. The FDA has recently announced action against those providing unapproved colchicine injectable formulations due to combined reports of at least 50 adverse reactions and 23 deaths.

I have no claim to any inside information but this very sad case smells funny to me. Potentially fatal reactions to a steroid injection for chronic back pain are incredibly rare, if non-existent. The Denver area has a high concentration of alternative medicine practitioners and I suspect that Mrs Fishbein did not receive a steroid but rather colchicine. An excellent drug when given orally, particularly for pain associated with gout, colchicine has a very low therapeutic index for safety when given as an injectable medication, hence the FDA action cited above.

I truly hope that I am wrong. Regardless, Mrs Fishbein has been part of the social fabric of Denver for many years and I enjoyed watching her commercials during my time in the Queen City of the Plains. Beyond this, she has contributed tremendously to causes throughout the Front Range area of Colorado.

Denver may lose a valued member of the business and philanthropic community. If her life has been threatened by the unapproved and reckless use of a natural product, I would hope that the practitioner responsible is prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Our warmest wishes go out to Mr Sam Fishbein and the entire family.

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Wow. I'd never heard of colchicine quackery. Colchicine is serious medicine. Aside from gout, familial mediterranean fever, and perhaps a few other things, coclchicine isn't used much. It's not safe in people with renal dyfunction. There are a host of potential problems with it.

That being said, I still use it, but the, I know what I'm doing...

PalMD -

I have actually specifically asked about colchicine, in interviews with people running the various (read, innumerable) alternative medicine schools in the Portland area. I'm working on an article for one of the Portland weeklies, partly inspired by three deaths in Portland, due to miscalculated doses of colchicine. The doses were ten times the labeled potency.

I'll admit that I may be biasing the interviews, a bit towards my theory, but the answers I get are baring me out. In short, I suspect that there is a campaign afoot to put alty meds on equal footing with EBM. Even the tendency that people out here in the heart of alty medicine land have, to label all alternative medicine as homeopathic medicine, promotes the idea that everything falling under that header is of equal efficacy.

This is why I think we're seeing the push by alties to use such drugs as colchicine, which is not only "natural," it's also a prescription drug, albeit for gout. This is also, I suspect, the reason that DCA has had the push that it has. This one has both the advantage of showing that not all alties are against using pharmaceuticals, when they believe it can be effective for treating a horrible class of disease.

But what it ultimately boils down to, is attempting to "prove" efficacy, by association. The alties are thrilled to get their bullshit into legitimate medical schools, because it feeds the efficacy by association. The med schools are happy to have them because it's becoming a massive cash cow. While some of them actually are doing some legitimate research, into some alternative treatments, it is rare enough and even that which is happening is often less than impressive.

Of course, this work may end up being rather in vain, as it is looking less likely it will get published. My first piece for them, discussing denialism, with a focus on HIV/AIDS denial, has been bumped three times now. I am nearing ready to give up on it and post it to my blog - I spent more time than I should have, for something I won't get paid for, but it's done and I want to get it out there. I am afraid the same may end up happening with my CAM piece. Most of the leg work is done and I might as well use it. So it goes.

Related to Ed?

Interesting, and scary. Where are you trying to publish?

Unfortunately, at this point, it seems to be the blogosphere that is doing the most bloviating about cult medicine. Sad. It just shows their hypocricy, how easily they move from one treatment or modality to another, based on what they've been caught with last.

PalMD -

Ed's one of my big brothers.

I'm trying to publish in one of Portland's alt-weeklies. I was going to write the story on CAM first, but they actually just published another story by a writer actually went to a number of CAM centers in the area, looking into the newest and strangest of "treatments." So they wanted to wait a few months on another alty hit piece. (they get a lot of extremely angry letters when they publish this kind of thing, here in the heart of CAM country.) So they had me write the one about denialism first, something I actually spent time talking to real, live HIV/AIDS denialists to write. You probably have seen what it's like to deal with them online. It's a whole lot worse in real life. Vacillating between the urge to smack my head into a brick wall, and theirs.