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Why helminthic therapy is so cheap

I have seen a lot of posts and received a lot of emails about what we charge over the years. It gets tiresome having the same conversation once a month or so, so here is an explanation I am hoping I can just point people to in the future when the subject comes up.

Believe it or not they come down about equal between our prices being a remarkable bargain and those who believe it should be a lot cheaper.

Before I get into it let me remind everyone that it is our objective to popularise this therapy to that it becomes widely available, and in so doing to drive down the price. The only way to accomplish what we want requires a strong and dedicated company focused on nothing else. That in turn requires people work on it full time, the only way we can pay for that is to charge prices which will allow it. Michelle and I do not own a car, or a house, we have no savings or insurance, all our possessions fit in two back packs. We own and have next to nothing. No one here is even comfortably well off. So if you are pissed off about what we charge console yourself with the knowledge that we are broke.

For those of you saying to yourselves “if they cut the price people would buy more helminths and they would make way more money”, think again. This is not price elastic, that is total sales will not rise enough to compensate for any cut in price, in fact the opposite is true. This is price inelastic, we would make more money if we raised our prices, and we would work less, too. Most people do not base decisions on medical care on price, primarily. They are focused on quality of service, safety, efficacy and want a trustworthy provider. No one offering cut-price helminths would be able to offer the level of service and support we do. “Cheap blood sucking parasites over the internet from strangers available here! One time clearance sale, this week only!” I don’t think so.

Those who believe it should be a lot cheaper, I am often quoted prices of $50 or so as being reasonable, obviously have no understanding of what it takes to provide a product or service. All they see is the raw material cost, and having no experience running a business they have no idea about all the other factors that go into price.

I don’t believe this is the place to explain issues like fixed and variable costs, amortisation, marginal pricing, overhead, arbitrage, competitive vs. cost-based pricing, etc. Suffice to say the cost of real estate, marketing, insurance, equipment, materials and chemicals, marketing, sales, hosting, legal expenses, risk, profit, fees for hosting and credit card processing, and many others all go into price.

Nor do I believe that anyone is that interested in a detailed price comparison of helminthic therapy with competing therapies. But as an example Tysabri for MS costs about $140,000.00 over five years for the drug alone, never mind the blood tests and medical care also required. For the same period of time, safer and with better results for MS, you would pay $3,050.00 (2010) for hookworm from Autoimmune Therapies.

Nor is that comparison exceptional, it is the norm. You would pay about $55,000.00 for TSO over five years. Over ten times what we charge, and the only directly comparable therapy available.

By those measures our prices are very low.

Risk is another issue that affects price in any business. Think of various third-world agricultural commodities like Copra or Cocoa, Palm Oil, Coffee, now think of those third-word agricultural commodities that are not available from the corner store. A similar dynamic is at work here, and reasonably so given our flight from the US and our likely lifetime separation from our children.

Would you be willing to sell something cheaply that might result in your going to jail? Again, I would argue that on that basis our prices are very low.

Nor do we just sell helminths, a host of necessary services go into providing helminths, above and beyond dose preparation, particularly when one’s goal is more than turning a profit:

Information: before and after the sale, not just providing it but gathering it to improve what everyone wants, the rate at which people get better and the degree to which they when they respond. Formulating protocols to deal with every eventuality post infection. All of that takes a lot of time. Surveys, aggregating the results and trying to draw conclusions about what the information means. At some point in the future all that will be known and understood, and it will no longer be charged for.

Tailoring therapy to the individual: This is not a therapy where one dose fits all, it goes beyond balancing the desire for the biggest therapeutic impact on the first dose and avoiding unpleasant temporary side-effects from taking too many the first time. When someone buys therapy from us they are not just buying a single dose of helminths. They are buying that and the ability to add supplemental doses within the first year for just the cost of shipping, a 25% discount on supplemental organisms, reinfection for just the cost of shipping if they lose their infection, a 25% discount on then current prices when reinfection becomes necessary in five or so years when the first dose dies of old age, consideration and advice by us regarding our observations on the use of traditional therapies in conjunction with helminths, our experience reducing dependence on other drugs and how best to go about it, etc.

We promise everyone that we will do whatever is possible to make them well, and we do exactly that.

Discounts for those deserving: In the last week we decided to provide combination therapy for free to a sixty-plus year-old woman with primary progressive MS who is on social security. Those with the ability to pay full price are in effect paying for her therapy, and we have done this more than once.

Programs for unstudied diseases: before leave the US we provided therapy on a deferred payment basis to anyone with a disease, like Diabetes or Rheumatoid Arthritis, for which we had no experience and for which there is no science yet. Those with diseases we believe could respond were able to obtain therapy for just the cost of shipping. If after a year they decided it had not worked if they told us they had eliminated the helminths they owed us nothing. If they decided to keep them because they had benefited they owed us for therapy, with the option to pay over time.

We did this, and a successor program where therapy is discounted by almost 2/3, because we are working constantly to expand the amount of information on helminthic therapy’s potential, which we believe is enormous, and to add to the store of knowledge. We are able to do this because of the fees paid by those willing and able to do so.

Variability in the level of service required: Rather than charge for each of our services currently included in the cost of helminthic therapy: replacement of doses blocked or lost in shipping for free, reinfection for the cost of shipping regardless of the cause of the loss of helminths, stool tests to confirm infection because most western labs are incompetent to do the test, ongoing advice before and after treatment for as long as the client hosts the helminths, discounts on future purchases of any therapy we sell, access to a private forum, blog site and mailing list, setting up and managing this forum and various sites with information about this therapy and the issues surrounding it, we included those costs in the price of therapy.

We do this because response, what is required to get well, varies so much from person to person, and because people would be unwilling to pay for all these services individually, and because there is no practical way to cleave those services from the provision of the helminths in terms of pricing. This of course means that some people are paying for services they many never use. But many others are receiving services beyond that which they paid for, and if we did not roll all those services up in the price it would be too confusing to be able to sell, and less efficient.

People are not buying hookworm or whipworm from us, they are purchasing the chance to be well. There is far more to accomplishing that, and maintaining it once attained, than just shipping some hookworm or whipworm.

You can argue that you may not want or require those services, but we are not willing to abandon our goal of making this therapy accepted, or our goal of 100% response rates for all diseases we routinely treat. To do that we need to steer a course that is quite particular, and that requires us to behave as we do. If you don’t like that you have the option to obtain helminths independently of us.

Take one example of our experience and why we believe our approach is required: Debora Wade’s, who I feel comfortable discussing because she is so open about it and has documented it so extensively online. Debora purchased Multi-dose therapy from us when it did not exist. That is we created multi-dose therapy, where treatment with hookworm consists of 3 or more doses over time, at her request.

We planned on providing her 3 doses, but we priced it on the basis of two doses, that is we did not charge her 3x single dose therapy, we charged her 2x because we believed it was too expensive. Not that we did not feel it was justified, we were expecting to do three times the work. We ended up providing her with around ten doses at no additional charge. I also took risks at the time, which she had not paid for, to provide her with helminths at her home because the impact of travel on her health was so great.

After improving initially she lost her helminths after about six months, and because her side effect reaction had been so strong, and because we mis understood one another so badly and she did not trust me she was afraid to reinfect. I persisted, despite many differences between Debora and I, and at great cost to us in many ways, and was finally able to persuade her to reinfect bout fifteen months ago.

We spent so much time on Debora’s case, man-weeks or -months, that even though Debora paid almost $8K to us we probably ended up earning minimum wage or less.

The result is that Debora has reported to us in the latest survey that her response, in her own words, is a 4.0 out of a possible 5.0, where 5.0 is drug free remission (I asked DW’s permission to publish her survey result). Obviously this might change, for better or worse, as we do not have long term information.

Doing this for Debora required countless conversations and discussions with her and internally here. It required a great deal of thought, and argument, and research. Finding, downloading and reading and discussing dozens of scientific papers. The background was an often shrill and very public series of arguments between Debora and I.

A lot of sleepless nights thinking about it, worrying about her and how to make her well, about whether or not it would work. How much do you think a doctor would have charged for such a service?

I am certain that no other business or group of people would have persisted with Debora at such great cost in the way we did.

We did so because to be able to treat Crohn’s effectively we needed to learn how to treat Debora successfully. We learned things we use with every Crohn’s patient we have, things that have raised our success rate and improved the end result for many, when if we had just treated her as an opportunity to sell some helminths her case would have been a failure from which nothing would have been learned. if we just sold helminths as cheaply as possible as so many advocate I know this therapy would not be as advanced as it is, and it may have disappeared. The information we gather and provide is crucial to helminthic therapy’s development and success.

When people buy therapy from us they are getting the commitment that we will work tirelessly and do everything we reasonably can to help them get well. We are not just simply selling them a package of hookworms or whipworms.

Did Debora pay a lot of money? Yes. Did we make a lot of money off Debora? Not on an hourly basis, no. Was it worth it? Yes, if viewed from our point of view.

From Debora’s point of view? I have no idea. But I do know that after over twenty years and countless traditional drugs that Debora’s Crohn’s is doing very well for the first time in a long time, and thanks to hookworm alone.

We have done the same for others as for Debora many, many times. We will continue to do so.

Over time we have adapted our treatment protocols, added whipworm to deal with Ulcerative Colitis, and adapted our policies. At each step this has been to the benefit of our clients, and to our sometimes substantial cost.

Once we had obtained whipworm we offered them for just the cost of shipping to every one of our existing clients to that point, so that those who had not benefited from hookworm alone or who had only seen a partial result could have another shot at getting better.

Do you think other companies or people would have made that choice? Do you think that having failed with hookworm people would have been prepared to pony up for whipworm even if prices were lower? I don’t, and all those failures with hookworm we turned into successes with whipworm would not have happened, would not have become part of the public record if we just treated this as an opportunity to sell helminths at the lowest possible price. Helminthic therapy would not be as far advanced.

It is our policy that this process will repeated if we ever acquire other potentially beneficial organisms. This has resulted in some of our UC clients getting better when hookworm alone proved to be of no use for Ulcerative Colitis for just the cost of shipping to that group. They did not pay for this when they bought hookworm from us, and had no reasonable expectation that it or any other organisms would be offered in this way.

At some point helminthic therapy will be widely available, and the situation will have changed so that instead of being an experimental therapy regarded as lunacy by most it will be accepted as something obvious, as part of the medical landscape. When that happens the cost of therapy will no longer includes so many factors, like risk or the acquisition of knowledge or providing it to the client. Those services will be provided to you by your doctor, not by whatever company will be selling you helminths.

Which is something else to consider, pioneers like us do not profit from their efforts, it is those who follow. We have no expectation of getting rich, and if you are interested we are broke.

If anyone disagrees with us in terms of pricing or our policies they always have the option do obtain helminths independently of us and to start a business selling them, or, to give them away if that is their wish.

What they do not have the right to do is to criticise our prices when utterly ignorant of the factors that go into our pricing and without consideration of the services we provide surrounding the delivery of the helminths themselves.

Every time someone expresses an opinion here many people will read it. Many are not equipped to evaluate what they read here, they see opposing view points, worry that we don’t know what we are talking about or that we are crooks, and make the best decision they can based on the available information.

You may be raising a valid point, you may also be putting off dozens of people who are seriously sick who we could make better, and who may chose not proceed with helminthic therapy because you have posted something that frightens them that has no basis in fact.

If you sincerely disagree with our point of view, or believe that while it is valid there exists a place in the market for a company providing helminths without all the supporting services, you are welcome to do so.

Go to the tropics and risk violence and infection with diseases you don’t want.

Learn how to use a microscope, centrifuge and micropipette, and buy all of the above.

Buy and learn how to use the chemicals and antibiotics required.

Learn how to set up and administer a web site, databases, security, back-up and redundancy, and a business entity and associated bank accounts and ability to process credit cards suitable to do what is required.

Learn how to advise people on what dose to use, which organisms are appropriate for their disease, age, gender, etc.

Research and write various web sites to provide supporting information, create and manage an online forum or forums to create and support a community.

Accept the responsibility that goes with offering something like this when profoundly sick people, often at the end of their financial and physical ropes, are depending on you. When you are the last hope for someone facing surgery, death and bankruptcy, lie in bed at night considering every syllable of what you say to them.

Don’t forget about their spouses, parents and children who are in turn dependent on them, and therefore, on you.

Accept the risk, as we did in advance of it happening, that the FDA or similar may drive you away from your children, your home, the place you have lived your entire life.

Set up a travel bag with everything you will own if such a thing happens, and put a few thousand dollars in it so you can get to a safe place, remembering that everything you own will be contained in that bag and that that money will be all you have.

Remember that even calling your children could expose you to arrest.

In addition remember that you will be working in an environment that is very different from the one I saw when considering this. More research, more widely discussed and understood, many websites and blogs discussing this, news and media coverage. You will not have to sacrifice your career, mortgage your house, endure ridicule or doubt as I did, or impoverish your family, in an environment where there was very little evidence to support your ideas and beliefs. No one had seen their asthma go into remission before I started doing this, never mind their Crohn’s or MS, their Ulcerative Colitis or Sjogren’s. None of these things were known.

When you take that responsibility and do all those things, then, and only then, if you still disagree with our pricing you will have earned the right to debate us on the issue of pricing.

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Recent test results for Jasper Lawrence

I am the primary reservoir for production of doses of hookworm and whipworm for AIT’s version of helminthic therapy, and recently there has been some speculation as to my current status re infection with Hepatitis, HIV, etc.

As you can see (you can download the test results here: “Jasper Test Results 10-2010.pdf”) I am negative for everything I was tested for. I had these tests in early October, 2010, they sent the letter at the end of the month. Being slow to post them was simply a matter of losing a letter in a move and then the holidays preventing my getting a replacement copy.

Although I think only a handful of people have ever asked me about such test results (in over three years of being in business providing hookworm and whipworm) those that do are very interested in the results. Perhaps others that are very interested don’t mention it for some reason? As I explain later, I am not sure such concern is appropriate.

Part of the delay posting these results was a desire to combine the Strongyloides results with those just posted in one post, but I have given up waiting for the letter. I have of course called multiple times about getting a copy but I am still waiting. We have also had a lot of problems with mail here for the last month because of the weather, so it is probable it was lost in transit. I will post it as soon as I get it, which will probably be tomorrow now I have relented and put these results up.

The only value in the test is to reassure people, falsely I would argue. Anyone preparing doses of this type for other people has to take steps as if the host is infected with everything, to do otherwise would be irresponsible.

The reasons for this are manifold.

First, you cannot test for every possible pathogen. I doubt I have enough blood for such a comprehensive panel, even if I had the money.

Secondly, a negative test result, unless the disease is an exotic, hard-to-encounter-unless-you-travel-to-some-weird place, organism like Strongyloides, cannot be entirely relied upon because most tests are for antibodies, not for the actual pathogen.

So there is inevitably a period of time, referred to as the Window, in someone recently infected who carries one of these diseases where they are not yet producing any, or sufficient, antibodies to show up on a test.

If you are at all familiar with the HIV test you already know this. The interval between exposure to HIV and being able to test positive is up to six months, and in rare cases say when there is coincident Hepatitis C exposure (or use of prophylactic therapy), even longer. Even if you are being tested monthly, or more frequently, for every human disease going, you still do not know whether or not you have picked up something since your last test, or if they are in the Window period.

Third, some diseases cannot be tested for, although the pathogen has been identified.

Fourth, some diseases clearly have an infectious component, but that vector or agent has yet to be identified.

So the results have no effect on dose preparation, and although it is reassuring to know that your reservoir is not a cesspool of human disease such reassurance is illusory.

What you should really be concerned about is whether the person preparing the dose has the requisite knowledge, skills and experience, and is caring and attentive each and every time they are in the lab.

After all if GlaxoSmithKine can screw it up in a multi-million dollar facility staffed with PhDs and highly trained technicians, who presumably were being inspected by the FDA periodically, then the most important factor has to be the professionalism and care of the person preparing the doses: http://business-ethics.com/2010/10/26/1740-glaxosmithkline-to-pay-750-million-fine-whistleblower-to-get-96-million/

Having said all that if it is important to you I am happy to submit to any test you desire, at any time, so long as you are willing to pay for it if you want me tested outside our normal schedule of once every two months, for the diseases given during organ donation.

Thanks,

Jasper

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What is helminthic therapy?

Helminthic therapy: the reason for this site

First, a nit. Helminthic therapy (hell min thick) is the correct term for treatment with helminths, not the term worm therapy (see reasoning here) It is certainly the term used by scientists and those in the know, so if you want to find good information you will have to use the term scientists use. Any research into the epidemiology of various diseases, or human or animal studies will refer to helminths or helminthic. So if, for instance you want to find read the original science about helminthic therapy and your disease you will have to use “helminth + [your disease name here]” to find anything useful.

Pubmed is a great resource for peer-reviewed papers on medical research and is published and maintained by the National Institutes for Health. End of nit.

Because I pioneered the availability of helminthic therapy based on the use of symbionts with humans as their definitive hosts I thought those interested in helminthic therapy might be interested in knowing more about the person responsible for taking it out of the research laboratory and making it available to the public.

So this site, when finished, will provide a short biography so that you can understand my background and how I came to be doing this rather strange business, as well as providing links to other sites and businesses I have been involved in over the years.

Since most people’s interest in me will be in connection helminthic therapy I will concentrate on posting about that.

What is Helminthic therapy

Helminthic therapy involves deliberate infection with or exposure to helminths or their ova.

Here are some useful links for those of you interested in the science:

Autoimmune Therapies website (check out the various pages devoted to particular diseases, as well as the About page, Safety page, Links and News.

Helminthic therapy is a technique for treating the “modern diseases” involving immune dysregulation (including autoimmunity) and chronic inflammation, that increasingly afflict the populations of developed or developing countries and which are rare or unknown in populations living in the kinds of conitions in which humans evolved.

Helminthic therapy is an attempt to restore some of the organisms that we co-evolved with, that shaped our immune system. Briefly, helminths educate our immune system through exposure early in life, and while we host them down regulate our inflammatory response. In the west where helminths are almost unknown the result is large numbers of people with poorly regulated, over active immune systems and an explosion of diseases involving chronic inflammation.

Disease like allergies and asthma, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, and Sjögren’s Syndrome, are almost unknown in the developing world, largely it is now believed because helminth infection, and infection with a much larger variety and frequency of various protozoa and bacteria, is still so common.

Helminths, like any organism that lives in or on us, has to prevent their destruction by our immune system, and have evolved ways to turn our immune systems down. Because helminth infection, with multiple helminths, used to universal throughout our evolutionary history, our immune systems have evolved to account for their anti-inflammatory effect. Remove helminths, or worms, and their affect on our immune systems, and the result is an out-of-control immune system much more prone to chronic inflammatory reactions, causing allergies, asthma, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, etc., etc., etc.

This might sound like a repulsive concept, and it is, but consider that about 90% of the cells in or on you right now are not self tissue. This is possible because bacteria, viruses and moulds are so much smaller than human cells.

In 1976 a researcher called Turton infected himself with  hookworm (a type of helminth) so that he would have a reservoir of hookworm to study, and reported unexpectedly that his lifelong seasonal allergies disappeared so long as he was infected with the hookworms.

But, the seemingly radical idea that helminths (probiotic worms) might be related in some way to asthma predates Turton by sixty-three years. In 1913 Herrick wrote that ‘Common to both bronchial asthma and helminth infection is an increase of the eosinophils (eosinophils in a normal person indicate infection with a helminth) of the blood. One day we’ll ask the significance of this eosinophilia in this association’.

Unfortunately for allergy and asthma sufferers it wasn’t until 1986, almost 75 years later, with the publication of the hygiene hypothesis by Godrey in the Lancet that investigation of this idea got underway.

In 1986 Godfrey proposed that a lack of exposure to infectious organisms in childhood was responsible for the increase in allergies, and demonstrated this with a study of large families. He showed that children in large families were less likely to develop allergies. He reasoned that they were exposed to more childhood diseases and that this was responsible for their reduced rates of allergy. His theory came to be known as the Hygiene Hypothesis.

Of course many immunological disorders can be triggered by various immune insults, including infections or disease. So the Hygiene Hypothesis was later refined based on the work of hundreds of studies to become the Old Friends Hypothesis.

The Old Friends Hypothesis states that by introducing sewers, antibiotics, shoes, clean drinking water and vaccinations, we have reduced by a very large amount the variety and quantitie of benign infectious organisms that we are exposed to. Particularly helminths, or worms, that have been entirely eliminated in the industrialized world.

By elminating worms, bacteria and protozoa from our bodies we have deprived our immune systems of the stimulation and “practice” that it evolved to account for. Infection with worms and protozoa and a much larger variety and quantity of bacteria and viruses used to be universal. Their elimination deprives our immune systems of the kind of stimulation it evolved to account for as a certainty. Without that training and presentation of appropriate targets, ones it evolved to “expect”, our immune system instead attacks our own tissues (this is autoimmunity) or benign pathogens like pollen and cat dander causing tissue damage (this is immune dysregulation).

By these definitions diseases like asthma and allergies are not autoimmune diseases, but most people don’t know, or care (nor should they), about the difference. In fact their is a debate within the scientific community right now about adding another classification to encompass non-autoimmune diseases involving chronic inflammation because these are in fact the most common types of immunological diseases. Very few diseases that are called autoimmune diseases by lay people actually meet the criteria for autoimmunity.

Helminthic therapy works by giving our bodies and immune systems benign, appropriate targets that allow our immune system to fulfill the purpose for which they evolved. Helminthic therapy works by giving the immune system the right targets and “distracting” our immune system from attacking the wrong things: us (autoimmune diseases) and pollen or cat dander (allergies or asthma), or the food we eat (Crohn’s, UC, IBS, Celiac disease), or our nerves (multiple sclerosis), or thyroid (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) or our mucus membranes (Sjogren’s Syndrome), etc.

Helminths also secrete or excrete various immuno modulatory molecules that have profound impacts on the functioning of the immune system. Simply put the immune system of a person infected with hookworm or whipworm appears to be better regulated, produce fewer pro inflammatory components, and more anti inflammatory components.

Although deliberately infecting oneself with parasites is at first a strange and hard to accept concept when one thinks about it not being infected with these organisms is what is strange. We evolved with a much larger variety of organisms, including helminths, inhabiting our bodies throughout our lives. The potential application of worm therapy is incredibly broad. Most of our modern diseases, even things like depression and autism for just two examples, involve inflammation as a causative factor.

The impact of helminthic therapy on inflammation is profound. The most extreme inflammatory reaction is anaphylaxis in which the body’s immune system insulted by something like a bee sting, goes into uncontrolled overdrive and if untreated will kill. Infection with helminths has such a profound effect on the immune system that those hosting helminths do not ever get anaphylaxis, so the impact on the immune system of helminths is profound. Anaphylaxis is an extreme form of allergy, most commonly associated with peanut allergy.

I used to suffer from awful asthma and allergies, to the extent that I could only breath comfortably if using oral prednisone in such high doses that I developed lipomas and became for the first time in my life very obese.

My aunt told me about a documentary she had seen on the BBC about worms and asthma and after investigating it and trying everything I could think of to obtain hookworm (one of the worms used in helminthic therapy) I went first to Cameroon and later to Belize to obtain hookworms.

Since I founded Autoimmmune Therapies in 2006 we have treated dozens of clients with a variety of diseases: allergies (food and airborn), multiple sclerosis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and autism. The results have been remarkable, far better than those possible using modern drugs. Why this technique is not more widely available or known is a constant source of wonder for me.

However a small industry has grown up around helminthic therapy, including providers and support groups on Yahoo and Facebook.

More to come later.

Jasper Lawrence