So many products have no medical research, it’s hard to say no to one that does. Avemar is sold widely and used by many practitioners, so why would I not recommend it? I don’t, and here’s why.
Patented back in 1998, fermented wheat germ extract (Avemar) was supposedly Dr.Hidvégi’s life work. He based it on Dr. Gyorgi’s idea that compounds like it might balance blood sugars. So how did we get from balancing blood sugars to curing cancer?
The company isn’t saying, but I suspect that this particular extract tastes terrible. The initial studies talked about basically a paste you had to eat. They’ve added more water and an orange flavor, but that usually is a sign of something fairly unpalatable.
But there are studies. We’ve got test tube studies, rat studies, and an open label human trial for colon cancer patients. Overall, the results are all very positive. An article by another enthusiastic practitioner pushing the product for all cancers brought it to my attention.
Let’s skip the other studies and move right into the human trial. The open-label trial showed that the product lowers recurrence and metastasis. So sign me up, right?
Not necessarily. The open label trial started with this selection process: “Patients were asked if they prefer to take MSC (Avemar), and thus enrolled in the MSC cohort. Those patients who refused to take the preparation formed the control cohort.” In other words, those who wanted to try anything to get better took the product, while those who couldn’t be bothered didn’t. The researchers note that there were more advanced cancers in the study group, as well as that the control group was older. Both groups got other treatments, including radiation and chemotherapy, and there wasn’t any difference in outcomes between the two groups due to those treatments. Those taking the product took nine mg of it, once a day in water, for months. The effect was startling: “MSC decreased the risk of death among colorectal cancer patients by nearly 70%.”
A 70% reduction is astounding, especially if we’re talking about metastatic patients who made up almost a quarter of those taking the product.
So…where are our follow-up studies? The initial open-label study was published in 2003, and we’ve seen many other test-tube studies since. But these are in other areas, things like Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis. Avemar is still being discussed as an addition to chemotherapy because it may help with side effects, but there hasn’t been another study published on a human colon cancer trial since. The initial study was funded by a grant from the Hungarian government, so maybe that grant wasn’t renewed? My suspicion is that a second study did not show as significant a benefit, and they never published it. Instead, they did what every drug manufacturer does. Look for other possible uses for your drug rather than trying to find a new one.
So, since Dr. Hidvégi is listed as a co-author for several of the Avemar studies, I thought I would look more closely at his life’s work. Interestingly, he seems to have spent much of his career working in the grain industry, switching over to working in the supplement field in 1990. His first patented product was called Esterin (an alfalfa based extract), which supposedly lowered cholesterol.
Now, there’s a lot of research on alfalfa saponins and lowered cholesterol. It stretches farther back than Dr. Hidvégi. But even in 2014 we’re still looking at rat studies. That didn’t stop Dr. Hidvégi from patenting his compound, exclusively marketing it through a single U.S. company as Cholestaid or on Amazon as Cholestsorb. It’s not available anymore, and a lawsuit in 2004 details how GNC repackaged it for years.
Here’s the updated history, then, of Dr. Dr. Hidvégi. He started his own company to sell a patented product, Avemar, after failing to sell another patented product Esterin. With Esterin he made the mistake of reselling it to many supplement companies, but now he’s figured out that exclusivity is the key.
All of this is interesting, but is it relevant? Yes. Because now we come to cost. A thirty day supply of Avemar will cost around $200. That’s an absurd price, unless you’re a drug manufacturer, which is where Avemar is going with the current research. Rather than focus on the retail crowd, Dr. Hidvégi is angling his product to be included in with chemotherapy. Given that chemo tends to run $1500 a treatment, a $200 add-on makes a lot of sense.
But in terms of cancer patients, a $200 price tag means trading food for Avemar. And that price tag does not meet the minimum requirements for matching the one human trial. The trial subjects took nine mg of Avemar a day, while the daily dose given for $200 is 5.5 mg. So to match the only human trial, patients would need to double their dosage at $400 a month.
Even that dosage might not be enough. Japanese researchers found a benefit from Avemar, but at a dose in rates of one mg for every two pounds of body weight. To afford that, a 100 pound patient would need ten standard packets a day at a cost of $2000 (maybe less. They sell it cheaper in bulk).
If Avemar were priced affordably, I would consider it. The side-effect picture is very mild, and -especially for metastatic patients- the open label results were very hopeful. But given the cost, and the lack of any further studies despite drug-level prices, I’d have to pass on Avemar.