Follow the Money
People who think they have Morgellons often have a hard time convincing their doctor that they have Morgellons. Despite the reams of information printed out from the internet, and the collections of fibers they bring to the Doctors office, they are invariably diagnosed with something like atopic dermitis, or eczema.
If they continue to insist that fibers are sprouting from their skin, then they may be eventually diagnosed with some kind of delusional disorder.
Because of this, the Morgellons sufferers seek out doctors and other medical professionals who are predisposed to diagnosing Morgellons when a patient believes they have it.
Who are these medical professionals? Why to they offer this diagnosis? Well, it turns out they are very few in number, and they might be doing it for sound business reasons.
The one most active in the news right now is Virginia R. Savely, RN, (aka Ginger Savely). Savely is a Family Nurse Practitioner. She recently moved from Texas to San Francisco, because she could no longer find a doctor in Austin who would supervise her practice. The problem was that she was treating people who had been diagnosed with Chronic Lyme (a debatable disease in itself), with long term antibiotic therapy, something that is not approved by the Texas Medical Board, and is generally regarded to have only placebo effect.
Some quotes for the above article:
- Savely said she doesn't blame her upcoming move on her supervising physician. She knows that many traditional doctors consider her a quack, she said.
- "In all the practice years of doing this, I haven't seen the (ill) effects" of long-term antibiotics, said Savely, who thinks she developed Lyme after camping in Maryland in 1987 and recovered after a year of antibiotics.
- "There's no value in giving prolonged antibiotics," said Dr. Lisa Ellis, who works in an infectious disease practice group in Austin.
- Savely was disciplined last year by the state Board of Nurse of Examiners for not following certain protocols and record-keeping requirements in treating a Lyme patient.
- A 2003 study of 129 Lyme patients, co-authored by Dr. Mark Klempner at Boston University School of Medicine, concluded that a long course of antibiotics was no more useful in treating cognitive symptoms, such as memory and attention problems, than a placebo.
But Dr. Raphael Stricker, who supervises Savely's San Francisco practice, said the research was flawed because it considered "long-term" treatment to be three months, and the dose for two of those months was too low to be effective.
So, Savely moved to SF to work with Dr. Raphael Stricker. Stricker has an impressive looking resume, and currently works as Medical Director at Union Square Medical Associates (USMA).
USMA pushes six things:
Fertility treatment, specifically a novel treatment of "immunological abortion" with "intravenous immunoglobulin" (an infusion of antibodies from blood donors).
Viagra - If you want it, it costs $400 for an initial consult, then $15 per tablet. They will accept accept your personal check, major credit cards (VISA or MasterCard), and (oddly enough) cash.
Weight Loss - with "magical" medications
AIDS treatment - but only with DNBC (Dinitrochlorobenzene), a novel treatment with limited, yet promising clinical studies.
Lyme disease - which is not very common is California. Stricker recommend extended courses of antibiotics.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy - usually used to treat decompression sickness, now an experimental treatment for many conditions.
What's common about these treatments? The common factor is they are NOT COVERED BY MEDICAL INSURANCE.
Now, I'm sure Dr. Stricker is a fully qualified doctor - but it seems like the USMA is focused on selling Viagra, diet pills, and unconventional, expensive, "therapies" that often require multiple treatments.
In short, the collection of treatments on offer at the USMA seems ideally suited to establishing patients as revenue streams. Since the treatments do not need to be justified to the insurance companies, they can be continued for as long as the patient feels that they need them. As long as the patient can afford it, the USMA is able to give it.
Dr. Stricker is also on the Medical Advisory Board of the Morgellons Research Foundation.
Back to Savely - in Austin she had 400 Lyme patients, to whom she was prescribing long term antibiotic treatments. All these patients make up Savely's livelihood. She also had "over 50" Morgellon's patients, who she gave much the same treatment as her Lyme patients. Savely was making a living by prescribing a treatment not approved by the Texas Medical Board. They ran her out of town, and now she has set up shop with a like-minded Doctor in San Francisco, and continues to publicise Morgellons, which will inevitably lead to more patients coming her way.
There is nothing wrong with earning money - but when dealing with health issues, the patient needs to be aware of potential conflicts of interest that the medical professional treating them might have. Do they want to make you well, or do they want to sell you something?