Guest Blogger

Snake Oil for Meth Addiction - Only $15,000

Filed By Guest Blogger | January 23, 2008 11:10 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: crystal meth, gay men, gay men's health, Prometa, substance abuse

Editor's note: This guest post is by Jim Pickett who runs the LifeLube blog and is co-chair of Chicago's LGBT Task Force on Substance Use and Abuse (formerly the Chicago Crystal Meth Task Force.)

Jim Pickett Action.jpg

Prometa is a controversial and unproven treatment protocol for alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine addiction that is being heavily marketed by the Hythiam company. Since gay men are disproportionately dealing with crystal meth problems, we are in Hythiam's unscrupulous sites.

So what's the skinny on Prometa?

Basically this drug protocol uses three already FDA approved drugs for an off-label use. Off-label use is the practice of prescribing drugs for a purpose outside the scope of the drug's approved label. The drugs used in Prometa have yet to be proven safe and effective for treatment of crystal meth addiction. That's a big deal. It means that data from randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have yet to be published. A trial is currently underway at UCLA and we might see some results in the next quarter.

Hythiam has touted a number of studies, that don't meet the above criteria, but as we know, when you don't have a placebo control or randomization (where neither the patients nor the investigators know who is taking the active agent and who is essentially getting a sugar pill), we can't really know whether the drug treatment being tested actually works or not.

The treatment costs $15,000 for crystal and cocaine treatment and a few grand less for alcohol treatment. It involves three drugs: 1. intravenous infusions of Flumazinil, a reversal agent for benzodiazepines like Valium and Klonopin 2. hydroxyzine, an antihistamine, and 3. Neurontin, as an anti-seizure medication frequently used "off prescription" as a treatment for a number of ailments, including alcoholism and hearing loss.

Hythiam doesn't need FDA approval for their scheme, because it is only selling a "protocol" and is not the maker, nor the seller of these drugs. So, no approval needed, and Hythiam, by clearly putting profits before proof, doesn't seem to care a rat's patoot about science, though they do pretend.

A Prometa study recently concluded in Dallas (and conducted by a Prometa practioner) showed some diminishment of cravings, but look closely and you will see that the majority of folks in the study continued to use crystal! Cravings be damned.

MSNBC reported that authorities in Pierce County, Washington froze funding for an $800,000 pilot program using Prometa citing "irregularities" in a testing after a damaging audit.

Don't be a sucker. We all need to be good consumers of substance abuse treatment, and need to be wary of swamp land, snake oil, and anything that comes across as magical or miraculous. If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Would you respond to that email from the wealthy Nigerian widow who wants to give you a percentage of her $15 million for a little help with international banking?

We all deserve substance abuse treatment that has met the rigorous demands of science and has been proven to work.

Prometa is not the first, and won't be the last, shady marketing scheme to prey on vulnerable people, like gay men and their friends and lovers in the throes of a tina meltdown. It behooves us all to be smart, savvy and critical.

By the way, if a placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind clinical trial proves that Prometa is effective at treating crystal meth addiction, I will be in the front of the line doing high kicks and twirling my tassles. But not before.

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Would you respond to that email from the wealthy Nigerian widow who wants to give you a percentage of her $15 million for a little help with international banking?

Wait. You mean that widow was lying to me? Damn.

Seriously though, is this any different from all of the pills that the pharmaceutical industry constantly tries to push on us? There's a damn pill for "restless leg syndrome" now. There are anti-depressants and other mood stabilizers that they'll admit to not even knowing what they really do!

The American big-drug companies aren't interested in our health. They're interested in pushing drugs themselves.

I hear ya!

The difference here is that Hythiam is not a drug company per se - they are marketing a selling a "protocol" of drugs that have already been approved - for other things - by the FDA.

This slippery angle is their explanation for why they didn't need to do full-on safety and efficacy testing before they went hog wild trying to sell their "protocol."


See Dallas Morning News from Sunday - their house of cards continues to fall apart...

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 25, 2008 5:51 AM

What's also amazing about this is that the story hasn't gotten greater attention. Its disgusting that a company would be so consumed by money that they would offer a treatment for meth addiction without the science to back it up.

You should have seen the Hythiam CEO Terren Peizer on 60 Minutes in early December, BAWLING. He was ever so emotional at the impact he was having being able to help crystal meth addicts. Unreal. If he really cared about crystal meth addicts and their families, he would have done the research ahead of the marketing and 15k sales tag.