I know that several people have already listened to my interview with Dr. Burt Berkson and have found him to be truly inspirational. My decision to transcribe the interview (a very time-consuming process!) began because I wanted my 92-year old Mom to be able to hear it. I knew she would love it: She has been a fan of using innovative treatments, ever since she was 11 years old, when her own mother’s life was saved by going to Germany in the 1920s to receive a treatment -– radiation –- which was not yet available in the US. Since my Mom is now hard of hearing, I knew it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for her to listen to it. Hence, the transcript that follows.
I hope that others of you who are hard of hearing, as well as those without good computer speakers -- and others, who would simply rather read than listen -- will enjoy the printed version this terrific interview!
Hello, this is Julia Schopick, for HonestMedicine.com. Today, I am honored to have as my guest one of the few people in this world I consider to be a true visionary: Dr. Burt Berkson.
Dr. Berkson’s story, which you’ll hear today, is also the incredible story of how the pharmaceutical industry has kept one very valuable, inexpensive (non-income producing) treatment from becoming standard of care, even though it has cured many patients with some of the most life-threatening conditions for over 30 years.
This treatment is alpha lipoic acid, an antioxidant therapy that Dr. Berkson has been using successfully since the mid-1970s -- first to treat people with terminal liver disease; and then, in ensuing years, also to treat people with many other diseases and conditions, including diabetic neuropathy, several autoimmune diseases, and the very deadly pancreatic cancer -– the cancer that is considered to be one of the most hopeless.
You’ll notice that I haven't started out by listing Dr. Berkson’s credentials. Frankly, that’s because he has so many. Reading them would take too much time away from our interview. Instead, I am posting them on HonestMedicine.com.
Suffice it to say that Dr. Berkson has both an MD degree and a PhD –- the PhD degree came first. In addition, for 23 years he was the principal FDA investigator for the intravenous use of alpha lipoic acid. He is also the expert consultant to the Centers for Disease Control on alpha lipoic acid and liver poisoning. Dr. Berkson has published scientific papers in medical journals throughout Europe, and is an active scientific writer, researcher, and speaker. He is the author of 4 books, including The Alpha Lipoic Acid Breakthrough. I’ll have links to all his books on the website at the end of this transcript.
Today, Dr. Berkson has a very busy nutritional and integrative medicine practice in Las Cruces, NM, where patients come to him from all over the world. He is also an adjunct professor of applied biology at New Mexico State University.
JULIA SCHOPICK – Welcome, Dr. Berkson. The dramatic story of how you first used Alpha Lipoic Acid when you were a young medical resident is the stuff movies are made of. Hearing and reading about your experience was a paradigm-shifting event for me because it taught me, very sadly, that the medical establishment is NOT in the business of saving lives. Can you please tell us the story?
DR. BERKSON: I was a resident in internal medicine in a teaching hospital in Cleveland Ohio, and one day the chief of medicine came by and said, I am very upset with you.” And I said “Why?”. (I thought he was kidding.) And he said, “You have no deaths on your service. Most people have seen several deaths by now and you haven't seen any.” And I told him that I really try to keep people alive. He said, “It’s very unusual. I’m going to give you two people who will surely die. They have acute and fulminant liver disease. They ate poisonous mushrooms, and the expert on liver disease said we cannot get a transplant for them, and nothing can save them. So I want you to go upstairs, watch them die, take notes and present this to grand medical rounds.”
And I went upstairs and I looked at these two very sick people. And as a medical doctor, especially in internal medicine, you're supposed to follow the orders of the chief, just like a private would follow the orders of a sergeant. But I had six years of education above my medical training, for a masters and a PhD in microbiology and cell biology, and I was always looking for new things. So I called Washington and spoke to the head of the National Institutes of Health in Internal Medicine, Dr. Fred Bartter, and I asked him, “Is there anything in the world that he knew of that might regenerate a liver?” And he said he was studying alpha lipoic acid because he knew it would reverse diabetic neuropathy and other complications of diabetes. But when he gave it to people, it seemed to regenerate their organs. It seemed to stimulate their stem cells and to start growing and regenerating new organ tissue.