Dr Zhang’s miracle cure! by Andy Kliman

They have found a cure for Diabetes! That’s right, a cure. Sorry, in my excitement I failed to say that ‘they’ is in fact the Dr Zhang Clinic in Crouch End. The Chinese only speaking Dr, whom was never explicitly identified as the eponymous Dr Zhang, through her interpreter told me, to my face, that they can cure diabetes. I was stunned so I asked her to repeat it, just to be clear, and she said, “we can cure diabetes”.

Now the sign outside the shop says, ‘we can help with ..’ and the first thing you see is Diabetes. Now I’m a bit of an old sceptic and so I thought I’d pop in quickly (this wasn’t a consultation) and ask exactly what help they can offer, expecting to get some of the usual ‘woo’ from them to do with shakra and chi, but I wasn’t expecting a cure.

I honestly can’t believe they would stand there and tell me they can cure diabetes. I mean, massive research institutes in the US and the UK are working night and day to cure one of the most costly and growing health problems across the globe and all they actually need to do is to go to the Dr Zhang Clinic and they will mix up some herbal tea and cure diabetes. Please, don’t thank me for passing this on.

So how does it work? Well I have to say they weren’t explicit about this but the tea keeps blood sugar under control and the acupuncture also helps – although they didn’t bother much with this as the tea seemed to be the real money maker – I mean benefit.

When I challenged them and told them I was writing this blog I was told that I don’t understand. You see Chinese medicine, as practiced by the Dr Zhang Clinic, concentrates not on the pancreas but on the real “cause” of diabetes, “heat energy in the liver being high”. I’ve got a hot liver. ‘Heat energy’ is a funny phrase because as we all know, heat is energy. So according to them I have an over energetic liver and that’s the real cause of diabetes.

Now it starts getting serious because they explained the details of how it works. So firstly I have to stay on my western meds and jointly take the herbal tea concoction they put together. I tried asking what is in the mix and how it worked, chemically like. The answer was that it works to cure the diabetes. I abandoned this line of questioning. But the next stage of the treatment is to come off the western meds (metformin and Glicklazide in my case, both drugs I understand and know what they do – chemically like) after about three months of joint use. I could then drink the tea alone – once in the morning and once at night.

So how long would I be on this herbal tea? No idea, they said. It could be an indeterminate period of time because it works very slowly, maybe a year or maybe a few years and then I could stop and would be cured. And how much does this magical tea cost? Well it’s £35 a week. According to them the tea taste horrible and capsules were available – I did not enquire as to the cost of these.

£1820 a year – that’s a lot, but to cure diabetes! So not wanting to fork out such a large amount of money and come of my prescribed pills without a clear reason why I asked them for the evidence that it works, studies, academic papers, people who have been cured by them? Unfortunately the only evidence they could offer was that somewhere, in the great annals of Chinese medicine someone was probably cured, but they don’t know whom. And they haven’t cured anyone themselves because the treatment is so costly no one does it for the full length of time.

I was expecting them to talk about exercise and diet and other lifestyle choices to go alongside the tea – the stuff that, along with my medication, helps keep blood sugar under control, but nothing. Diabetes UK offers helpful information on all these as well as links to research, papers, studies and news about current drugs and developments in diabetes care. Science has produced huge breakthroughs in the care and medication of diabetics. The medicine I take every day, paid for through the NHS, helps me control my diabetes which without any treatment would kill me.

The advice Dr Zhang’s Clinic are offering is likely harmful and definitely costly. Having diabetes is shit. Luckily I don’t suffer from neuropathic pain that shoots up and down legs and arms, but many do. £2000 a year is not prohibitive to someone who is suffering, in pain, and depressed and I am worried that some people might take a chance on Dr Zhang’s miracle cure.

Or maybe it really does work – in which case I encourage everyone who is diabetic or knows someone who is diabetic to call them up or pop in and ask them to explain exactly – and I mean medically – how it works. If you aren’t convinced and you don’t think they are being entirely honest then please call Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06 and make a complaint.

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Hi Jamie – hope you’re doing ok.

With the research we fund we’re working towards improving the lives of people with diabetes, and hopefully will find a cure in the future. It can be so hard to manage diabetes and it can sometimes take control of your life. However, there is no reason that someone with diabetes cannot do anything that people without the condition can do. Have you read Helen May’s posts on this site? She gets up to all sorts of adventures and she has Type 1 diabetes – nothing gets in her way of climbing mountains, jumping out of plane or sailing in rough seas!

If you ever want to speak to someone about diabetes or how it makes you feel, call or email our Careline as they’re really helpful and are in touch with many people who feel the same way as you. You might also want to have a look at our Facebook page – lots of people who have diabetes post on there, but we also get many people who have family members with diabetes who get lots of help and advice.

All the best,

Diabetes UK

do you think that the uk or us are near to finding a cure for this horribile illness as my dad is diabetic am diabetic and so is my 10 year old sister . i just feel diabetis is controling our lifes . if you have any advice could you email me thnx jamie.

Great post Andy – I think one of mine is appearing later this week on a very similar topic (how to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority about misleading claims made on websites) so that’s good timing!

We could probably do an entire series of posts on how to tackle dodgy science! Are you aware of the Nightingale Collaboration (http://www.nightingale-collaboration.org/, see especially their Tools and Resources: http://www.nightingale-collaboration.org/making-a-complaint/tools-a-resources.html) and the Fishbarrel Chrome plugin (http://adventuresinnonsense.blogspot.com/2011/04/fishbarrel-easy-way-to-report.html). The former is providing tools to people who want to challenge nonsense and the latter was created to make it easier to process a web-based complaint.

If anyone claims to cure diabetes they are *probably* indirectly breaking the law because they are *probably* advertising a ‘treatment’ directly to the public – see the Medicines (Advertising) Regulations of 1994 for more info http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1994/1932/schedule/1/made. It’s a bit of a grey area though. There’s no ‘Diabetes Act’ in the same way that there’s a Cancer Act of 1939 which makes it unambiguously illegal to claim to be able to treat cancer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancer_Act_1939

I say a bit more about this sort of thing in my blog post so I’d better not write it all here or no-one will read it ;)

Best wishes,

Jo Brodie
Science Information Officer, Diabetes UK (opinions are my own though)

I’m horrified but not suprised. We tried to look up how much sugar is in homeopathic tablets, to see whether my partner could take part in the 10:23 Campaign action in February. We didn’t find out, all we found were people telling you that you could cure diabetes by taking these pills, made out of milk sugars, for about a year and it would bring your body back in balance without the need for medications. Terrifying.

Thanks for a great post Andy and congratulations on tackling the vendors of this ‘cure’. Apart from the financial costs, it’s awful to think that anyone with diabetes might risk their health by stopping their prescribed medication based on bad advice. There are so many dodgy claims and products out there, especially on the internet; I’ve written about a couple of them on my website and as soon as you see the word ‘cure’ in relation to diabetes you can be pretty sure it’s a scam. The other giveaway is someone promising that they alone know the ‘truth’ about diabetes and they are prepared to share it with you – for a fee! Keep up the good work.