X-Message-Number: 21873
From: "aschwin de wolf" <>
Subject: =?iso-8859-1?Q?Gutknecht's_body_of_research_turns_heads?=
Date: Wed, 4 Jun 2003 08:11:14 -0400


JUNE 4, 2003

Gutknecht's body of research turns heads
By Sam Dealey

In seeking to do away with restrictions on importing foreign-made drugs,
Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) has aligned himself with a controversial group
embroiled in a long-standing feud with the Food and Drug Administration
In floor statements and press conferences, Gutknecht has cited the Alcor
Life Extension Foundation (LEF) on the disparate drug pricing. In 22
references over the last three years - including five times last month - the
five-term lawmaker used the foundation to bolster his charges.
There is the anti-allergy drug Claritin, for example. "The thing that
bothers me is that the average price for Claritin in the United States was
about $63.06 for a 30-day supply," Gutknecht said last July. "That same drug
sold on average in Europe for $16.05.
"These are not my numbers. This is from [LEF]. It is an independent
foundation that has been studying this issue for more than 10 years."
But LEF's practices are of a type to which both the FDA and pharmaceutical
industry vigorously object.
Foundation executives have recommended medicines be used to treat conditions
other than those for which they were developed.
"The ironic thing," says one drug lobbyist, "is these guys are the
poster-child for why Gutknecht's proposals are exactly the wrong idea."
LEF did not return calls seeking comment. Gutknecht's office said the
lawmaker was unaware of questions regarding LEF's treatment advocacy.
"We can't comment on what the LEF is doing with the use of prescription
drugs," said Gutknecht spokesman Bryan Anderson. "It's just nice to have an
outside group that's done the research so [critics] can't say, 'Oh, well,
those are just his numbers.' It's useful information for the congressman and
for the American people."
"This is the primary issue that he's worked with him on," he added. "I don't
know what their politics are on the other issues."
In 1990, an LEF director recommended a treatment for Parkinson's disease as
a way to stave off Alzheimer's, increase longevity and improve sexual
appetite. Scientific studies had only shown these effects in laboratory
"The promotion of the drug in this way is quite horrific and highly
irresponsible," Merton Sandler, a leading Parkinson's researcher at the
Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London, said at the time. "There is
some evidence that [the drug] selegiline can extend the lifespan in rats but
not in any other species. We certainly have no data to extrapolate this to
The FDA has raided the group's offices several times in the past 20 years,
and a host of charges have been leveled against its directors, including the
unlawful importation, sale and dispensing of unapproved drugs. Although its
directors were indicted in Florida in 1991, the charges were dropped by the
U.S. Attorney in 1996.
For its part, LEF has spared no effort to denigrate the FDA.
"I contend that the [FDA], along with the pharmaceutical drug cartels they
support, are engaged in a conspiracy to commit genocide against the American
people," LEF principal Bill Faloon charged in a radio ad. "We estimate that
the FDA, by denying the public access to life-saving drugs, is responsible
for the murder of millions of people, and we do intend to bring them up on
war-criminal charges."
For starters, Gutknecht enjoys impeccable credentials as a pro-life
conservative with a near-perfect voting record from the National Right to
Life Committee. LEF supports stem-cell and fetal tissue research, a major
no-no for those opposed to abortion.
But it is LEF's research in other areas that has brought it the most
attention. In the field of cryonics, Alcor is regarded as on the outer
fringe. Arthur Rowe, a prominent cryobiologist skeptical of human
reanimation, once described LEF's efforts as "trying to turn a hamburger
back into a cow."
In December 1987, LEF president Saul Kent withdrew his ailing octogenarian
mother from a nursing home and brought her to the group's Riverside County
offices in California. Days later, a team of surgeons severed her head from
her body for deep-freezing - and someday, they hope, reanimation.
Requests to cremate decapitated bodies tend to turn the heads of officials,
and when the petition came for Kent's mother, the county coroner
investigated. Kent and LEF claimed the woman died of pneumonia, but an
autopsy of the body revealed high levels of barbiturates. The county coroner
ruled the death a homicide. LEF's offices were raided and six employees
LEF claimed the barbiturates were injected into Dora Kent's body after she
died in order to preserve the brain cells. Tests conducted by the coroner
were inconclusive.
"It would be an asset if we had some cooperation - like getting the head
back," Dan Cupido, the lead investigator at the Riverside coroner's office,
told the Los Angeles Times.
Investigators sought a court injunction to defrost the heads of Dora Kent
and a handful of others in the care of LEF, but a judge rebuffed their
efforts. After three years investigators gave up.

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