Reports from Cuba: Cuban scorpion venom scam claims life of cancer patient in Mexico

14yMedio reports from Havana via Translating Cuba:

The Cuban Scorpion Venom Scam Claims the Life of a Cancer Patient in Mexico

Castro Ochoa had been treating his patients with “alternative” treatments for years.

Carlos Miguel Castro Ochoa, a rural healer from the Mexican municipality of Ixmiquilpan, in the state of Hidalgo, faces trial after the death of a patient whose cancer he had promised to cure with blue scorpion venom from Cuba. The “naturopathic doctor,” as he presents himself, charged about 17,000 pesos in advance – about 1,000 dollars – for the treatment with Escozul, a product manufactured in Cuba.

According to the Mexican press, Castro Ochoa supplied his patient with “large bottles with homemade printed labels,” whose doses were applied orally using a dropper. It was “a substance coming from Cuba without the necessary Mexican health permits.” Although the note does not reveal the name of the medicine, it publishes an image of its label, which corresponds to the old format of Escozul bottles.

Castro Ochoa had been treating his patients with “alternative” treatments for years and “dozens of people came to the improvised office inside his home” on Calero Street in the rural town of El Nith. Last December, the relatives of the patient – who died in the emergency room of a hospital in Ixmiquilpan – demanded money from Castro Ochoa and he “responded with threats” and claimed that “the authorities could not do anything to him.”

It is not the first time that Castro Ochoa has faced problems with the Justice Department, but – according to the newspaper Milenio – he is spared because “he is of foreign origin.” The healer promised those who came to him to be treated for advance stage cancer and diabetes, leukemia, epilepsy, sexual dysfunctions, kidney stones and other ailments, always having to pay in advance, they clarify.

A municipal ruling from Ixmiquilpan, published in 2007, prohibited “healers and fortune tellers” from operating in any of its locations and expelled repeat offenders, the newspaper claims. However, Castro Ochoa evaded the law due to his “alleged foreign origin.”

Facebook and Telegram groups that sell both “drugs” as a cancer cure are common in Mexico. One of these groups, attended by a user who identifies himself as “Doctor Alejandro CR,” sells Vidatox as a “general homeopathic treatment” and disqualifies Escozul as “a very expensive treatment.”

“I bring Vidatox directly from Cuba,” explains Alejandro CR bluntly. “Bringing it to Mexico is difficult, sometimes it gets confiscated. That is why you will find other people on the Internet who, like me, sell it here.” Escozul, which is less affordable, he adds, requires “going to Cuba, where they do a study and personalize the doses according to the type of cancer. Treatments with Escozul can last for years.”

The “doctor” warns against “advertisements that say that Vidatox does not work” and explains its reason for being: “It is a commercial competition”, lies launched by Escozul because “they do not agree that Vidatox exists with a much lower price than what they charge.” Next, Alejandro CR tells his potential clients to contact him privately for more information.

Escozul is one of the two compounds derived from the venom of the blue scorpion (Rhopalurus junceus) that Cuban Public Health promotes and sells at a high price abroad. Manufactured by Lifescozul Laboratories – which has several branches in the region, including Mexico – the product is presented as “the most advanced formulation of blue scorpion venom.”

The mind behind Escozul is the microbiologist Alexis Díaz, the same scientist who in 2011, when working for the State-owned Labiofam, began selling Vidatox, to which he attributed “proven antitumor, analgesic and anti-inflammatory efficacy.” Since then, Cuba has insisted on the healing properties of scorpion venom and has published numerous “scientific” articles attempting to demonstrate its effectiveness and promote its purchase.

The Lifescozul team, very active on social networks and with headquarters in the expensive international clinic La Pradera – founded by Fidel Castro in Havana in 1996 – offers very expensive treatments to its patients. In order to be treated in Cuba, you will have to pay $1,200 or more. If you want the medication to be sent to your country, you have to pay between $80 and $110 per month for the duration of the treatment.

In 2021, Escozul signed two contracts in Mexico with the companies Pharmométrica and Research Pro. In 2022, they closed a deal with the Tecnológico de Monterrey, to give more scientific weight to Escozul’s work. Dr. Díaz’s ambition: to obtain the Health Registration of the product, which would allow its authorized sale throughout the world.

Apparent rivals in the public sphere, Escozul and Vidatox have a common origin in Havana and the improvised merchants who sell them – such as Castro Ochoa and Alejandro CR – do not distinguish these nuances when it comes to profiting from a product whose origin is unknown.

The medical reality, however, is clear: it is not scientifically proven that scorpion venom can cure cancer. The prestigious Memorial Sloan Kettering cancer research center – founded in 1884 in the United States – has explained that the benefits attributed to Escozul or Vidatox “are largely based on anecdotes, testimonies and experiments that may not have been correctly carried out.” And he adds that “in Cuba, where these products originate, the Government rejected the use of Escozul in 2009 for not having enough information.”

Translated by Norma Whiting

1 thought on “Reports from Cuba: Cuban scorpion venom scam claims life of cancer patient in Mexico”

  1. This guy is very small potatoes compared to AMLO, Mexico’s elected president, who’s wasted huge sums of money (not his, of course) on beyond dubious and potentially dangerous Cuban vaccines which he has tried to push on his own people, including children. Cuba, of course, is only interested in the benjamins.

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