A Skeptical Look at the Activities of
Farrah Agustin-Bunch, M.D.

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

The Web site of the Dr. Farrah Agustin-Bunch Natural Medical Center describes the facility as "the world leader in cancer treatment." [1] The site further states:

No other cancer clinic, of any kind, has such a highly documented success rate. . . . We will not make flowery misleading statements, nor do we claim a cure-all for cancer or any other diseases. We simply feel that we have the most successful and efficient methods of treating cancer anywhere in the world today. . . [2]

The clinic is located in Victoria, Tarlac in the Philippines. Its Facebook page, which has more than 3 million followers and 3 million "likes," states that the business opened in 2002. The clinic's medical director, who commonly refers to herself as "Dr. Farrah," is licensed under the name Farrah-Arsenia Corpuz Agustin, M.D. This article explains why I believe that she is not trustworthy.

Background History

Dr. Farrah received her medical degree from Saint Louis University in Baguio. She also completed a Holistic Health Practice course from the Natural Healing College in Los Angeles, California, which is a non-accredited correspondence school. The clinic Web site states:

The site further describes Boston C as a "scientific blend of herbs and extracts" that evolved from a concoction developed by her grandfather in the early 1980s and improved by her father in 1988. It is claimed to work by (a) cleansing the body of toxins, (b) stimulating the immune system, and (c) strengthening vital organs, which, she claims, enables the body to fight disease on its own. The product is also claimed to purifiy the blood, increase the appetite for healthful foods, and provide more than 30 other benefits [3].

Dr. Farrah also maintains a blog in which she and others criticize drug companies, standard medical treatments, doctors in general, government regulation, and vaccination.

Product Claims

The Boston C Herbs Web site—"The Official Web site of Boston-C Herbal Products"—has been online for more than ten years. It describes the product line, most of which are bottled beverages, as "A coconut-based, fruit and herbal extracts to combat cancer." Other ingredients are said to be "Garlic, Soursop (Guyabano), Bitter Melon (Ampalaya), Lemon Grass (Tanglad), Tomato, kamias, Salay, Pandan, Star Apple (Caimito) , Lagerstroemia speciosa (Banaba Leaves), Ascorbic Acid and Citric Acid." Its home page states:

A Filipino Herbal Scientist, ANTONIO R. AGUSTIN, has discovered a coconut based dietary drink supplements that are highly potent, safe and an effective cure for cancer. According to him, he was able to prove that the Boston-C Herbal Supplements are really effective in combating stage IV cancer diseases when simultaneously used with chemotherapy, cobalt or radiation therapy. Whereas, ninety percent (90%) of tumors disappeared in just 10 days of accelerated treatment. This involves administering intravenously Boston-C herbs special solution to terminally ill patients under the administration and supervision of a physician. Tumors of any size could disappear completely even before the treatment is over; provided that the total treatment is observed properly to the letter. Through the years, the BOSTON-C Herbal Supplements have also been able to heal Prostrate [sic], Bone and Brain cancers, Bronchial Asthma, Cirrhosis of the Liver, Diabetes Mellitus, Edema, Sinusitis, Emphysema, Hemorrhoid, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Viral, Bacterial Infection, and Psoriasis; as well as hasten the recovery of people who have suffered from a stroke and rehabilitate the kidneys of those undergoing dialysis. . . . This God given supplement can cure all illnesses that science or modern medicine cannot cure.

Its products page states:

Boston-C Herbal Products is a purified extract of Nata de Coco and other herbal plants. It is very rich in vitamin C, which serves as an anti-oxidant; and contains other phytochemicals known for their curative effects. Although Boston-C Herbal Products are classified by the BFAD as a Herbal Food supplement, both biological testing and actual experience show that Boston-C herbal extracts go very well beyond that. In 2002 and 2003, the U.P. Institute of Biology conducted laboratory tests using Boston C herbal extracts in different dilutions on lung adenocarcinoma, colon carcinoma, jurkat cell lymphoma, bladder carcinoma; while a prominent Asian Biotechnology Laboratory tested it on lung and cervical cancer cells for presentation to the World Health Organization. The official results of these scientific laboratory tests clearly revealed and certified that even in its most diluted form, the Boston C herbal extracts were still able to kill off more than half the population of cancer cells within 3-5 days, depending on the type of cancer. The implications of these test results are staggering. This means that when taken in its undiluted form and on a daily basis for a period of time, the herbal concoction will surely rid the body of cancer. And since these herbal extracts have an almost zero toxicity level, it can be taken liberally without damaging the rest of the body; thus making it the better and safer alternative to an operation, chemotherapy and radiation. It also means that cancer survivors now have a non-toxic daily maintenance drink that can greatly prevent any future recurrence of cancer.

The passage that I have highlighted above is misleading. The fact that a substance can kill cancer cells in a laboratory does not prove it will have any practical use in patients. Most such products either fail to work or are too toxic when administered in doses high enough to kill cancer cells within the body. To prove that a product is safe and effective in humans it is necessary to have clinical trials.

The claims made for Boston-C Supercyeton-S Herbs include:

A high level tumor breaker found effective against metastatic cancer of the brain, ovary, liver, lung, colon, bones, lymphoma, leukemia, NPCA, cervical CA, melanoma, thymoma, mesothelioma, Hepa B, skin and pancreas. Dramatic results in 7 days! It is also a potent neutralizer against chemical and radiation poisoning. Supercyeton-S can blend very well with chemo or radiation. Ten out of ten Stage IV metastatic cancer positively responded after 2 months of using the combination, no recurrence noted for ten years! It eliminates the toxic side effects such as vomiting, falling hair, weight loss, dizziness and weariness. Supercyeton-S is also found to have healing effects on certain types of diseases such as epilepsy, Parkinsons syndrome, Alzheimers disease, toxic thyroid, apnea, psoriasis, emphysema, food poisoning, dengue fever, hemophilia, pneumonia, falling hair, constipation, asthma, diabetic wounds, chronic renal failure, septicemia and over fatigue! In some cases it can reverse comatose condition. Several cases were already documented. The onset of action is in seconds. Good effects can be felt right away. Kills cancer cells by seconds according to lab test. Initial dose, one liter right away. . . . — Sir Ton R. Agustin, Herbal Scientist.

The highlighted passage strikes me as highly improbable. If such a case series actually exists, why is it not described in detail on Dr. Farrah's Web sites or published in a scientific journal? But even if such a series could be generated, it would not prove that the herbal product made standard treatment more effective. Demonstrating efficacy would require clinical trials in which patients who receive standsrd treatment are compared to similar patients who receive standard treatment plus Boston-C treatment.

Regulatory Action

The Republic Act No. 9711, also known as the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009, prohibits the manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, offering for sale, distribution, transfer, non-consumer use, promotion, advertising, or sponsorship of health products without proper authorization from the Philippines Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In June 2017, August 2017, and January 2018, the Philippines FDA advised consumers not to buy or use a total of 12 Boston C products. The advisories also (a) warned that these products had not gone through the agency's registration process and were not authorized for sale, (b) noted that food products, including food supplements, should not bear any misleading, deceptive, and false claims in their labels and/or any promotional materials that will provide erroneous impression on products' character or identity, and (c) urged local government units to ensure that the designated products were not sold or made available within their jurisdictions [4-6].

Press reports indicate that the clinic ignored a subsequent FDA order to stop selling the products and that in July 2018, the FDA conducted a court-approved search and seized quantities valued at 850,000 Philippine pesos. In August 2018, the FDA ordered the clinic to shut down, and an FDA official said that there might be a fine of 1 million Philippine pesos [7].

Following the raid, Dr. Farrah blogged that she was being treated unfairly:

I have made many enemies in Big Pharma and many Doctors in Big Medicine because I cannot be controlled by them and openly criticize the ineffectiveness of "conventional" medicine. I refuse the Big Pharma payoffs and work for patient interests, not those of multinational drug companies. The presidents of 5 medical associations here in the Philippines have complained to numerous government agencies about me since the effectiveness and affordability of Natural medicine has now become a serious threat to their healthcare "business". They forgot about the Traditional and Alternative Medicines Act of 1997 apparently. I even wrote all of them to try and understand their ridiculously aggressive stance but they returned my packages.

They know the best way to delegitimize someone is to attack them with false allegations. Their petty complaint has been dismissed nearly everywhere. But, due to "politics" and significant political pressure, I was in fact visited by 30 FDA "agents" on July 27, under a false complaint from these presidents who have never actually been to my facility. They even had an ABS-CBN news crew here with them. I showed them hospitality, gave them a nice interview and toured them around my facility. They even got to examine a mountain of successful patient records. When you are operating completely legally, you have nothing to hide. This is why I welcomed them into my clinic and home with open arms [8].

She stated that her clinic was open and would remain open 24/7. However, two days later she announced on Facebook that it would shut down:

Today, the lives my children, my patients and I were threatened if I remain open. I need to temporarily close for the safety of my kids and patients. This breaks my heart to do this. This time will also give me the opportunity to deal with the many issues coming from government offices and agencies initiated from the complaints filed by certain medical societies. These resulted in the filing of several cases against me, raids of my property and clinic as well as a prohibition now for me to manufacture health products. I'm also unable to currently administer and distribute them to my patients. My license to practice medicine could be revoked if I continue my service to patients right now. I cannot provide Boston C or any other of my inventions to any patients until these government issues are resolved. To do so could end my career as a doctor. I'm cooperating with the government offices and agencies and resorting to all remedies available to me under the law to remedy this. I deeply apologize for the inconvenience and suffering that this could cause many of you and your loved ones. This is not what I want to happen to my patients. It saddens me beyond measure.

Why You Should Be Skeptical

The reasons why you should be skeptical of Dr. Farrah include the following:

References

  1. Home page. Dr. Farrah Agustin-Bunch Natural Medical Center. Accessed Aug 21, 2018.
  2. About us. Dr. Farrah Agustin-Bunch Natural Medical Center. Accessed Aug 21, 2018.
  3. All about Boston C. Dr. Farrah Agustin-Bunch Natural Medical Center. Accessed Aug 21, 2018.
  4. Punio, NCG. FDA Advisory No. 2017-168. Philippines Department of Health, June 13, 2017.
  5. Punio, NCG. FDA Advisory No. 2017-239. Philippines Department of Health, Aug 11, 2017.
  6. Punio, NCG. FDA Advisory No. 2018-017. Philippines Department of Health, Jan 23, 2018.
  7. Adelaida M. FDA shuts down Tarlac pharmacy for selling unregistered products. Inquirer.net, Aug 17, 2018.
  8. Agustin F. David (Dr. Farrah) vs. Goliath (Big Pharma/Big Medicine/Big Government), Aug 17, 2018.

This article was posted on August 25, 2018.

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