Those little red pills have “magic” power to poison

We posted this story in leftovers yesterday but I found more and it’s important and it’s worth highlighting just for the weirdness.

Swiss Man Takes Pill Of ‘Dead Priest Hair’ To Treat Bell’s Palsy, Gets Lead Poisoning Instead.

A man in Switzerland was discovered to have suffered from lead poisoning after ingesting pills that he thought contained the hair of a dead Bhutanese priest. The man, originally from the country of Bhutan — whose state religion is Vajrayana Buddhism — thought the alternative medicine would treat his Bell’s palsy.

Yes. You read that right. He KNEW it supposedly had “dead priest hair” in it. Yuck. The patient thought this had magical therapeutic value. The pellets were coated with a red paint which was where the high concentration of lead was found. Lead poisoning is rare anymore since lead paint and leaded gas have been removed from use.

Here is the case report which was from Nov 2013.

Traditional medicine: a rare cause of lead poisoning in Western countries – F1000Research.

A 42-year-old man from Bhutan was admitted to the emergency department with a 5-day history of abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Enhanced abdominal CT scan was found negative, however laboratory tests showed hemolytic anemia and basophilic stippling which are often seen in lead and heavy metal poisoning. Additional tests revealed a high level of lead in blood and urine. The patient was administered a chelator treatment with rapid improvement of the symptoms. A detailed interview revealed that the patient had been taking daily Bhutanese traditional medicines to treat a Bell’s palsy from which he had been suffering for a few months. The analysis of these medicines confirmed the presence of a high level of lead.

The analysis of the two pellets (0.5–1 cm Ø) showed the presence of a high level of lead on the surrounding red paint. From Muller, et al.

The analysis of the two pellets (0.5–1 cm Ø) showed the presence of a high level of lead on the surrounding red paint. From Muller, et al.

As this report notes: alternative and “complementary” “medicines” (Shall we call them detrimental compounds instead? That seems more suitable.) have increasingly been identified as the source of metal poisoning. CAM treatments themselves are increasing in use.

Prevalence of use of complementary/alternative medicine: a systematic review.

The important thing to note about CAM is that they are inadequately tested for safety and efficacy. You learn they are hazardous TOO LATE. We have too many stories to list regarding the UNsafe CAM treatments, here are just a few. There is no good excuse for their use.

Do something about this: Join the Society for Science Based Medicine.

Tip: Mark Crislip

  5 comments for “Those little red pills have “magic” power to poison

  1. cplamb
    January 15, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    Is the lead from the hair or the binders and colorings? If this man had just swallowed the dead priest’s hair would it have done any harm?

    • eddi
      January 16, 2014 at 5:04 AM

      The red paint is the source of the lead, according to the picture caption. Old-fashioned red paint started with red lead. I bet this stuff is the same.

  2. January 15, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    It would seem, from the picture, that the pills were originally discovered amongst the wreckage of the Roswell UFO…

  3. Peebs
    January 15, 2014 at 6:34 PM

    Bells Palsy would be a perfect condition to treat with CAM.

    There’s no SBM which will treat it. It just gets better on its own. Albeit after a few months.

    Taking any CAM will drain the wallet and, after regression to the Mean, claim the credit.

  4. bill horn
    January 17, 2014 at 6:30 PM

    I’d suggest, since individuals choose which CAM treatments they want we reflect this by adding Selected to the name, thus SCAM treatments.

Comments are closed.