Sometimes the media gets it right.

From time to time, SBM has reported on the disheartening credulity of reporters when they cover so-called “alternative” medicine. Denver’s Channel 7, an ABC affiliate, is a happy exception to the rule. Reporter Theresa Marchetta first broke the story of Brandon and Heather Credeur, chiropractors practicing “Functional Endocrinology.” And for three years Marchetta, with the assistance of reporter Phil Tenser, followed up, interviewing hundreds of patients who lost thousands of dollars paid to the Functional Endocrinology Center of Colorado for treatment of their diabetes and other endocrine disorders. They’ve reported regularly as the Credeurs legal travails progressed through various judicial and administrative forums. Channel 7 and its reporters deserve substantial credit for pursing this story. The Credeurs might have escaped further censure without their persistence.

Another recurring frustration at SBM is medicine’s embrace of alternative medicine, expressed repeatedly at SBM in posts on quackademic medicine and the branding device known as integrative medicine. We’ve also lamented the seeming complicity of the state medical societies in allowing quackery to be legalized in the form of complementary and alternative medicine provider practice acts.

But sometimes medicine gets it right.

The Colorado Medical Board has somewhat redeemed itself in ordering Brandon and Health Credeur to cease and desist the unlicensed practice of medicine. That’s right. A medical board has finally put its collective foot down and pushed back against chiropractic’s increasingly aggressive push to practice medicine.

And sometimes SBM appears to be making inroads into the hostile incursion of alternative medicine.

I recently discovered that if you google “functional endocrinology”, first up on the list is CAM Docket: Functional Endocrinology, the very post updated today. Admittedly, it appears at the head of a depressingly long list of chiropractic websites advertising the practice, but at least we get a first crack at anyone who might be considering paying thousands of dollars and wasting time, and perhaps their health, on this useless nonsense.

A trifecta in the war on quackery! Revel in this victory, supporters of science-based medicine, for it is small and the victory may be fleeting. Let’s see how the battle is going.

In our last episode . . .

To summarize from the previous post, chiropractors Brandon and Health Credeur own Functional Endocrinology of Colorado. They attracted patients with free “gourmet dinners” and advertising, including a website, promoting their ability to treat diabetes with functional endocrinology. As is typical of alternative medicine pitches, their advertising offered a lot of MD-bashing and blather about getting to the “root cause” of diabetes, but little in the way of specifics and nothing in the way of actual evidence, only testimonials. Brandon Credeur claimed to be able to “reverse diabetes” in as little as three weeks. According to patients, actual treatments consisted of a diet book, supplements and chiropractic adjustments, for which they spent thousands of dollars. (One caller to the clinic was quoted a figure of more than $8,000 for treatments.) Some patients were not aware that the Credeurs were not MDs or endocrinologists.

Brandon Credeur also sold functional endocrinology practice building seminars, via a company called Functional Medicine Marketing, to other chiropractors. He bragged about hauling in hundreds of thousands of dollars per month and spoke of patients as if they were simply opportunities for self-enrichment.

The Colorado Board of Chiropractors filed a multi-count complaint against the Credeurs but wound up giving them only a slap on the wrist for errors in documentation. With a stipulation that they would improve on this, the Credeurs were back to shilling for their diabetes treatments. But some patients, outraged at the chiropractic board’s decision, banded together and filed a lawsuit against the Credeurs.

The battle continues

Channel 7 is still on the case. As it reported on June 13, 2013, the Medical Board of Colorado ordered the Credeurs to cease and desist the unlicensed practice of medicine. The Credeurs requested a full hearing on the matter, which they have a right to do under Colorado law. This meant that the Medical Board had to file a formal Notice of Charges fully setting forth its allegations of unlicensed practice and it did so on August 27, 2013. The Credeurs have not yet filed their Answer but a four-day hearing has been set for April 14, 2014.

The Medical Board is in interesting territory here. It does not have jurisdiction to discipline the Credeurs regarding their practice of chiropractic, including the suspension or revocation of their licenses. The Chiropractic Board has the exclusive authority to do that. It can only pursue them for practicing medicine without a license.

At the heart of the Medical Board’s allegations are the Credeurs’ statements on their website, which, according to the Board, suggest to the public that they

  • have an effective treatment or cure for endocrine dysfunction this is mutually exclusive to conventional medical endocrinology treatment by a licensed physician;
  • can permanently reduce and eliminate the risk factors of diabetes;
  • can eliminate low thyroid symptoms exclusively through chiropractic practice; and
  • can assume sole responsibility for treatment of patients regarding medications requiring a prescription by a physician without professional collaboration with or referral to a licensed physician.

(As to the last allegation, although this is not mentioned in the Notice of Charges, Channel 7 caught someone in the Credeurs’ office telling another person that “Synthroid promotes diabetes.”)

In addition, the Medical Board charges that the Credeurs’ website fails to indicate that they are chiropractors and that their services are exclusively chiropractic.

As examples of their alleged practice of medicine, the Notice of Charges quotes from the Credeur’s website. Here’s one example:

In functional endocrinology, the doctor identifies that function has been lost and asks a much more important question: Why has function been lost? And what can we do to restore function? In other words, the doctor looks to find the ROOT CAUSE or mechanism involved with any loss of function, which ultimately reveals why a set of symptoms is there in the first place, or why the patient has a particular disease label. . . . The point is the example and distinction made between the drug therapy model that is traditional medicine and a doctor who looks at mechanisms (i.e., contributing causes) and thus a doctor who practices within the model of “Functional Endocrinology.”

Ah yes, it’s that famous “root cause,” in CAPS, underlined, and boldfaced, in case you didn’t get the point. The website is still up and continues to make these claims.

The Chiropractic Board appears to agree with the Medical Board that chiropractors should not advise patients about their prescription medications and that they should confer with licensed physicians. The Chiropractic Board made similar charges in its complaint against the Credeurs, although the issue was never tried because of the parties’ stipulated settlement. And the Chiropractic Board agrees that it should be clear to patients that the practitioner is a chiropractor.

The two boards differ as to whether chiropractors can diagnose and treat endocrine dysfunction, diabetes and low thyroid. The Chiropractic Board went out of its way to reaffirm that treatment of endocrine system “ailments” is within the chiropractic scope of practice:

The Board affirms that the scope of chiropractic practice includes diagnoses and treatment of human ailments, including those affecting the endocrine system. [Credeur] and the Board expressly agree that it is appropriate for [him] to use the term “functional endocrinology” in his practice name and to describe his services provided that he continues to disclose his credentials “D.C.” when referring to himself as “doctor” to make clear that he is a chiropractor and that his services are provided pursuant to his chiropractic credentials.

(Emphasis added.)

Under Colorado law [Sec. 12-32-102(1.7), C.R.S.], the practice of chiropractic is premised on the subluxation, that is, the notion that “disease is attributable to the abnormal functioning of the human nervous system,” in the words of the Colorado chiropractic practice act. While chiropractic practice includes “diagnosing and analyzing of human ailments,” treatment is limited to “elimination of the abnormal functioning of the human nervous system by adjustment or manipulation” of joints. However, it also includes the use of “nutritional . . . remedial measures for the promotion, maintenance, and restoration of health, the prevention of disease, and the treatment of human ailments.” In addition, Colorado law gives chiropractors the authority to use venipuncture for diagnostic purposes.

The Chiropractic Board and the Credeurs appear to interpret a chiropractor’s legal authority to diagnose “human ailments” as unlimited by the fact that, in the chiropractic view of things, disease is attributable to the subluxation, even though that is how Colorado law specifically defines chiropractic practice. In essence, they ignore this limitation and interpret scope of their legal authority to diagnose to be the same as that of a medical doctor, although actual treatment is limited to dietary supplements and other “nutritional measures” and adjustments to eliminate subluxations.

Interestingly, while the Notice of Charges refers to diagnosis, its emphasis is on the fact that the Credeurs held themselves out as being qualified to treat, “exclusively through chiropractic practice,” diabetes, thyroid disorders, and endocrine dysfunction. Here, the board is on solid ground factually. There is no good evidence that functional endocrinology is effective for any condition or disease. However, whether that means they were engaged in the unlawful practice of medicine is not clear to me, although I am not familiar with Colorado law on the subject nor am I privy to what the Board’s strategy might be here.

Even if the Credeurs prevail, it is important that the Medical Board took action to protect the practice of medicine from further encroachment by chiropractors. If the Board can’t prove that the website representations constitute the practice of medicine, perhaps it will spur the state legislature to amend the chiropractic practice act to ensure that these and other diseases are out of the reach of chiropractors seeking to poach on medical territory.

As to their other legal troubles, Channel 7 reports that the Credeurs settled at least one class action complaint brought by former patients. The Credeurs filed for bankruptcy in August, listing assets of about one million dollars and liabilities of about three million. They report as a potential liability a lawsuit filed by patients, which they value at $100,000, and as a potential asset a possible suit against Channel 7 and other media for defamation and interference with contract.

The father of functional endocrinology?

One interesting tidbit in the bankruptcy documents is a description of a dispute between the Credeurs and a disgruntled former student at one of their Functional Medicine Marketing seminars. According to the student, the Functional Medicine Marketing system was, among other deficiencies, merely a rehash of a diabetes treatment plan developed by chiropractor Datis Kharrazian.

As it turns out, Datis Kharrazian is a San Diego chiropractor who appears to be the father of functional endocrinology. He’s written a book on the subject and runs seminars for chiropractors as well as other practitioners. He is also a Diplomate of the International Board of Applied Kinesiology and teaches at the Carrick Institute, if that tells you anything.

Here’s a description a functional endocrinology course available from Kharrazian.

Functional Endocrinology, 16 hours

This seminar teaches health care practitioners how to support hormonal balance by analyzing salivary and serum testing, then applying the appropriate nutritional support.

So that’s how you do it!

For a more critical look at Kharrazian than his website offers, he is featured on the website “Science Questions with Surprising Answers” as a case study under the topic, “How can I tell if a doctor is a quack?” Guess what the conclusion is.

Brandon Credeur’s pupil

The previous post on functional endocrinology also featured one of Brandon Credeur’s seminar students and fellow Parker College of Chiropractic classmate, Brandon Babcock, of Utah. Like his teacher, Babcock claimed the ability to “reverse” diabetes with functional endocrinology and had patients paying thousands of dollars for his services. He, too, drew patients in with free “gourmet dinners” and, according to patients, failed to tell them he is a chiropractor. As an additional flourish, Babcock allegedly engaged in a financial scheme to defraud patients, which earned him an 11-count felony charge. According to the court clerk’s office (as of Tuesday), that case goes to trial tomorrow. The city of West Jordan, Utah, revoked his business license due to the pending charges. Per an emergency order, his license to practice was temporarily suspended pending a further hearing but, according to state records, the license expired in 2012.

I suppose this gets one functional endocrinology practitioner off the streets, at least for now.

Functional Endocrinology for everyone!

Despite these small victories in Colorado and Utah, the practice of functional endocrinology persists around the country, as a quick google search will demonstrate.

Functional Endocrinology of Ohio

These chiropractors claim they can treat a wide range of diseases and conditions with functional medicine, cold lasers, trigenics, detoxification, and functional endocrinology. The latter is used to treat diabetes, among other things.

At Functional Endocrinology of Ohio, we have a proven track record of turning back the hands of time on diabetes (and other conditions). Our clients reduce their need for diabetic medication (including insulin) as well as other medications and, in some cases, eliminate the need for medications altogether with the help of their medical doctor. By finding out the cause of their diabetes, we are able to bring the body chemistry back into alignment, reverse diabetes, and improve the patient’s overall health dramatically.

Healing Partnership; Encinitas, California

This practitioner, Bryan Stern, LAc, has been a student in chiropractic, naturopathic and oriental medicine schools, but is practicing under an acupuncture license. Apparently he leaves no quackery stone unturned. According to his CV, he has studied cranial therapy, electromagnetic field therapies, advanced bio-electronic diagnosis, biological detoxification, Vegatest, photon resonance testing, vector point cranial therapies, contact reflex analysis, neuro emotional technique and quantum neurology (more on this below). He studied functional endocrinology under the tutelage of the aforementioned Datis Kharrazian. Here’s some of what he has to say on that subject:

Functional Endocrinology

A New Paradigm in Balancing Hormones

The dominant approach in western medicine when it comes to balancing hormones is based on the assumption that there are no restorative capabilities of the endocrine system; that is, if function is lost replacement therapy is the primary alternative.

However, physicians that provide hormone replacement without consideration to the causative reasons for the imbalance, as well as the alterations that might be created by the replacement, have no respect or understanding for [sic] human physiology.

I think we all know who has “no respect or understanding for human physiology” and it’s not physicians.

The Hayden Institute; Houston, Texas

Practitioners include a chiropractor/acupuncturist and a chiropractor/ applied clinical nutritionist/quantum neurologist. (Read Steve Novella’s post from yesterday to learn more about this “institute” and “quantum neurology.”) Among other services is the practice of functional endocrinology:

Using a Functional Endocrinology approach to health, a practitioner at The Hayden Institute reviews your history, blood and saliva tests, signs and symptoms in order to create a specific nutritional program for you. Functional Endocrinology focuses on identifying hormonal imbalance in the body when symptoms begin to develop rather than waiting for the organs or glands to be in a diseased state.

(Emphasis in original.)

Suncoast Functional Health Center; Sarasota, Florida

The practitioner is a chiropractor and another student of Dartis Kharrazian.

A medical doctor who specializes in the endocrine system is referred to as an endocrinologist. The prescribe medications and hormones in an attempt to address a dysfunctional or diseased endocrine system. Many times, these drugs carry a significant risk of dangerous side effects, and in fact, may not offer a viable long term solution to your problems. . . .

Below is an example of how we choose to shift the model

1 Thyroid doesn’t produce proper levels of hormones

2 Doctor [of chiropractic] determines the cause(s) associated with the loss of proper thyroid function

3 Doctor [of chiropractic] works to restore proper thyroid function using adjunctive and supportive therapy, so the body can once again produce proper levels of hormones ON ITS OWN for a lifetime.

I could go on, but I think you get the depressing picture.

Under the umbrella of their broad practice acts, chiropractors create, out of whole cloth, entirely new forms of quackery, which they then pass on to other chiropractors and alternative medicine practitioners. This ever-expanding galaxy of quackery won’t be stopped until the state legislatures act to limit the scope of alternative medicine provider practice acts and reign in their governing boards. Unfortunately, the trend is in the opposite direction.

Posted by Jann Bellamy

Jann J. Bellamy is a Florida attorney and lives in Tallahassee. She is one of the founders and Board members of the Society for Science-Based Medicine (SfSBM) dedicated to providing accurate information about CAM and advocating for state and federal laws that incorporate a science-based standard for all health care practitioners. She tracks state and federal bills that would allow pseudoscience in health care for the SfSBM website.  Her posts are archived here.