TIJUANA – A clinic that allegedly charged $15,000 for an alternative cancer treatment involving an electromagnetic device has been shut down, and its Canadian owners are being sued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
The offices of Cell Specific Cancer Therapy, or CSCT, in Tijuana's Rio Zone were closed last week by Mexican authorities. Yesterday, FTC officials in Washington, D.C., announced that the agency had filed a complaint against the British Columbia-based owner for making false claims on its Internet site.
According to the FTC, CSCT touted Zoetron Therapy as a way to combat several types of cancers, including breast, lung, brain and liver. The FTC said the treatments weren't successful; in some cases, patients had forgone traditional cancer therapies such as radiation and chemotherapy for treatment with the Zoetron machine.
"This case and other cooperative efforts with Canada and Mexico will show fraudulent operators that they will not be able to evade law enforcement by operating in one country and targeting consumers of another," said Howard Beales, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, at a news conference in Washington.
For decades, Tijuana has been a center for alternative clinics that treat cancer and other terminal diseases with methods that haven't been sanctioned by the traditional medical communities on either side of the border. Many of the patients are from the United States.
According to the FTC, patients wired $15,000 to CSCT's Canadian office and arranged to go to the Tijuana clinic for up to eight weeks. By the time some of them left the clinic, their condition had deteriorated so much they couldn't be treated effectively by other means, the FTC said.
Stephen Barrett, a physician who heads a consumer health watchdog group called Quackwatch, said CSCT moved its clinic to Tijuana from the Dominican Republic in 1998.
Mexican federal health inspectors swept through the CSCT's sixth-floor offices last week and closed the clinic for offering an unapproved treatment. Employees refused to come to the door later that day, and yesterday a metal blind was pulled over the door.
"We are taking action . . . so that all units that offer health services follow federal health standards," said Francisco Vera, Baja California's health secretary, whose department assisted in the operation.
The FTC filed suit against CSCT Inc. in a federal court in Chicago earlier this month. The court has issued an injunction freezing the defendants' assets and prohibiting CSCT from making claims that Zoetron kills cancer cells. The court also ordered the Web site shut down.
Cooperation from the Canadian and Mexican governments was crucial to the FTC's action. The three governments worked together through the Mexico-U.S.-Canada Health Fraud Work Group.
Sandra Dibble: (619) 293-1716; firstname.lastname@example.org