Friday, April 18, 2003

Board rebukes AIDS evaluator

Doctor had helped Heimlich associate

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A medical review board says a prominent Los Angeles AIDS researcher violated federal rules for taking part in a controversial experiment, sponsored by Cincinnati's Dr. Henry Heimlich, to inject AIDS patients in China with malaria.

The University of California at Los Angeles board found Dr. John Fahey evaluated medical data and biological samples from China without any approval, a violation of federal human research standards and university policy.

The university's investigation raised questions about Heimlich's work at Cincinnati's nonprofit Heimlich Institute, which is partnered with Deaconess Hospital.

Heimlich, who developed the Heimlich maneuver to expel food and other items from the throats of choking victims, has for two decades been pushing malaria as a possible cure for AIDS.

His theory: High fever and other immune responses to malaria can destroy the HIV virus that causes AIDS. His experiments have been criticized by world heath organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In a statement Thursday, Heimlich said he has spent his medical career trying to save lives.

"I believe malariotherapy offers a promising and inexpensive way to help the millions of people around the world suffering from AIDS," Heimlich said. "Malariotherapy is safe. Malariotherapy was the accepted and effective treatment for syphilis of the brain for many decades."

He added that malaria treatments do not harm patients, as some critics have charged.

Fahey has denied any direct involvement with Heimlich's China experiment. In a statement this week, he said that he helped a Chinese doctor analyze data as part of a UCLA training program. The doctor, Xiao Ping Chen, worked with Heimlich on the malariotherapy experiments.

Fahey said he "regrets the misunderstanding this matter has caused" and wants to put the episode behind him.

But documents obtained by the Enquirer show that Fahey and another UCLA researcher, Najib Aziz, were actively involved in the malaria experiments from 1996 to 1999.

E-mails and letters written on UCLA stationary by Fahey detail how doctors helped Heimlich set up experiments, analyzed data, provided chemicals, made multiple trips to China and offered to obtain funding through UCLA grants.

In a February interview, Heimlich said Fahey was involved in the original work in China and used university labs to help analyze data.

The medical board found that Fahey, a microbiology professor, was indirectly involved in the experiments.

The board cleared Aziz of any rules violations, saying he was working under Fahey.

University administrators, who maintain that the school has never approved any research involving malariotherapy, will review the findings to consider what discipline, if any, will be imposed.

Heimlich said Thursday that Fahey is a good man.

"I am gratified that UCLA has characterized his behavior as an honest mistake," Heimlich said.


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