April 25, 2010 (La Mesa) – Last weekend, CBS “60 Minutes” ran a story titled “21st Century Snake Oil” accusing Lawrence R. Stowe of Stowe Bio Therapy Medical Oasis in La Mesa of running a con scheme to bilk dying patients.
After the 60 Minutes show aired, the Attorney General’s office, the California Medical Board and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration confirmed that they have launched investigations, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Now Stowe has closed his storefront in La Mesa’s downtown village.
Stowe is not licensed to practice medicine in the U.S. He claims to have two PhD degrees but according to 60 Minutes, has only one PhD in chemical engineering and has worked for an oil company. But according to CBS, Stowe has been selling `21st Century snake oil’ to patients and claimed that stem-cell treatments could cure Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS), multiple sclerosis, cancer and Parkinson’s disease. The brochure falsely claims Stowe has an “FDA-approved stem cell based approach to regenerative healing” and projects a net income of $71 million by the third year of operation for Stowe Foundation, a nonprofit started in 2003.
In a private placement offering, Stowe BioTherapy, Inc.touted stem cell research as “the greening of medicine” but also promised to green investors pockets by refocusing “medicine’s objectives and profitability” through the Internet as well as centers in San Diego, Fort Worth, Texas, and the Rio valley Medical Center operated by Frank J. Morales. Morales obtained a medical degree from a Caribbean school, CETEC, which was later shut down for selling diplomas.
Dr. Morales is no stranger to controversy. He is currently a codefendant with Immunosyn Corporation and others in a class-action lawsuit which alleges that he sold the plaintiff a purported cure for multiple sclerosis.
Tests revealed the “cure” was a dilute salt solution with no active ingredients.
CBS used a hidden camera to record Stowe trying to coax an ALS patient into forking over $125,000 for a “permanent fix” for ALS, an incurable disease. He said the treatment has enabled ALS patients to get out of wheelchairs. The treatment was to include stem cell injections as well as herbs, vitamins and vaccines.
While stem cells have shown promise in treatment of some conditions, that has not been the case with ALS or many other diseases that Stowe claimed he could cure.
No patient has ever been cured of ALS or had symptoms reversed, even temporarily from any type of treatment, CBS reported. Confronted by CBS interviewers, Stowe first lied and claimed he only treats multiple schlerosis patients, then later admitted that Stowe Foundation has never gotten an ALS patient out of a wheelchair. View the 60 Minutes video.
A January 23, 2008 article titled “Genie Machine” in the San Diego Reader described Stowe’s belief that biotherapy assesses the “bioterrain” of cells and energy fields surrounding cells, then uses “sound, light and vibrational characteristics to reset energy disturbances” and trigger healing. The article is no longer available on the Reader’s website, but a cached version describes writer Eva Kelly’s visit to Jim Felt, executive director at Stowe Biotherapy, to take the “Genie Machine” for a test drive. She described having voice characteristics analyzed and lying on a heated gel bed with liquid crystals.
“A warm hum of vibration from the bed ran up my legs and back while kaleidoscopic visions danced within my goggles,” Kelly wrote. “The vibration seemed to blend with the humming tones in my headphones. After a haze of time had passed, I switched to the second set of goggles. Blue light effects crackled over my closed eyes like reverse lightning — black bolts on a blue sky. The vibration intensified; I felt a kneading sensation through my body. Light and vibration dominated my senses, with sound in the background. Then everything tapered off.” Kelly claimed that colors looked brighter and images sharper after the “treatment.”
Stowe Bio Therapy shut the doors of its La Mesa facility following the 60 Minutes exposure. The site has since reopened as a chiropractic clinic.
According to the Union-Tribune, Stowe defends his practice and says CBS left out evidences that support his claims. “The foundation isn’t providing false hope,” he reportedly stated.
Stowe Bio Therapy was not a member of the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce, Chamber president Mary England confirmed. The company remains listed, however, on the La Mesa Village Merchants Association website, which pledges to help consumers find “quality businesses.”