Victoria Wulsin Linked to
Unethical "Malariotherapy" Experiments
Robert S. Baratz, MD, PhD, DDS
Victoria Wells Wulsin, MD, DrPH, who has run twice for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, has been linked to unethical human experiments in which malaria infection was used as a treatment for HIV infection. These "experiments," which were conducted in Africa, were either conceived, coordinated, devised, supervised, funded, or otherwise managed by Henry Heimlich, MD (popularizer of the "Heimlich Maneuver" for treating choking) and/or the Heimlich Institute in Cincinnati. State filings show that The Heimlich Institute has been part of the Deaconess Associations Inc. since 1998.
Dr. Heimlich speculates that the high fever would kill the AIDS virus. There is no rational basis for this notion. His experiments were despicable because the experimental subjects were not treated for their HIV and some were infected with malaria by either injecting them with human blood that contained malaria parasites (and perhaps other pathogens) or by allowing them to contract malaria from mosquitoes. Malaria is a dangerous disease that kills millions worldwide annually. It can produce recurring high fevers; liver, spleen and kidney damage; and a host of other complications. People with malaria are very sick. Heimlich's experimental subjects were allowed to have at least ten cycles of recurrent fevers over several weeks before they were offered treatment for the malaria. Most had bed-shaking rigors.
Heimlich had previously claimed that both cancer and Lyme disease could be cured with similar malaria injections. Records show he conducted human experiments on patients from the United States in Mexico and Panama. This work was condemned by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No patients ever had a treatment success. Shortly thereafter, Heimlich began claiming “malariotherapy” could treat HIV infection.
HIV infection depletes the body of its ability to fight off parasites. Thus the experimental subjects became sicker than would occur without HIV and, predictably, their HIV infections also worsened. Some later died. These experiments were on a par with the worst Nazi medical crimes. There are also parallels between the 40-year failure to treat syphilis in poor black men in the infamous Tuskegee Study and Heimlich's failure to treat HIV in poor black people in Africa. In both cases, the lack of proper treatment also caused innocent family members to be infected.
In 2004, Heimlich engaged Dr. Wulsin to review his work on "malariotherapy" and write a business plan for promoting it. Wulsin concluded that "the preponderance of evidence indicates that neither malaria nor immunotherapy will cure HIV/AIDS" and that the Heimlich Institute had been too secretive about its work. Despite claims by Heimlich that no active work on malariotherapy was being done, Wulsin’s report shows that it was . When it became clear that others would make the report public, she released it but added an executive summary in which she claimed that her involvement with the Heimlich Institute was "strictly limited" to a research review. However, the body of the report indicates that she had access to experimental data, knew that something was radically wrong, and was aware of ethical violations that she should have reported to Office of the Inspector General and the Office for Human Research Protection of the Department of Health and Human Services. The report also indicates that an "American sponsor" was collaborating with Heimlich, but Wulsin has refused to reveal the sponsor's name.
As early as 1993, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (an agency for whom Wulsin has worked) condemned the malaria experiments . Instead of being stopped, the studies were shifted from Mexico to Panama and then to China. In 2000, after indicating that the China study was flawed , the FDA ordered that patient recruiting be stopped as it clamped down a rogue Institutional Review Board that supposedly oversaw that study. However, the work continued in East Africa.
Wulsin, per her own admission, evaluated the literature, reviewed data, and even euphemistically renamed the malaria treatments “immunotherapy.” She also knew who was funding this work and where it was being conducted. Instead of turning in the individuals involved to regulatory and other authorities, she kept the matter quiet, failed to condemn the work, suggested that the Heimlich Institute continue it in the future, and accepted payment as a consultant. I am stunned that a doctor trained in public health would try to cover and obfuscate any such activity. Consider these points:
- More than ten years before Wulsin wrote her report, the Los Angeles
Times revealed that something was wrong . Subsequent
exposure in the New York Times  and many other media outlets
made the information readily available. Yet she did not address the problems
noted by the press.
- Wulsin stated that her report was only a literature
review. But the raw data she analyzed in her report showed
that humans were used as guinea pigs.
- Wulsin claimed she was fired after she report failed
to promote the malaria experiments. However, the report is not negative.
A basic read shows it renames malariotherapy "immunotherapy" and
outlines a program to make it a cornerstone of the future of the Heimlich
Institute. It is hardly what one would call critical.
- There are conflicting dates of when her
consultancy allegedly occurred. ON 1/21/05, The Cincinnati Business Courier reported:
Dr. Victoria Wells is an epidemiologist who specializes in women's health issues, particularly the spread of AIDS in Africa. Last February, she was hired by the Heimlich Institute to do a four-month literature review of malariotherapy, a review that ended with her recommendation that the institute should not continue active research. "A group in Africa is doing research on this and is at the six- to nine-month state of follow-up," Wells said. "I recommended the institute wait to see what those results showed before pursuing it further." 
This clashes with Wulsin’s report of December 2004 and her statements that she was fired just after generating her draft report. How could she have written the report after she was reportedly fired?
- Despite a claim of 200 references, Wulsin's report lists only 54, and
all are without volume and page numbers. The report is not rigorous and
fails to mention the obvious fact that when people have both malaria and
HIV, both illnesses are made significantly worse.
- Some press reports claimed that the location of the studies
and the identify of the “American sponsor” of the East African
experiments were unknown. However, one report stated that the information
was known but wouldn’t be disclosed to the reporter. A subsequent
report did reveal where some of these experiments were being done.
- I cannot believe that the East African data
appeared at the doorstep of the Heimlich Institute or that the Institute
had “nothing” to
do with the experiments. Heimlich has said repeatedly in press reports that
he had met with multiple doctors from East Africa to arrange such experiments.
There are more inconsistencies in the statements of Heimlich Institute
personnel about the East African experiments, as indeed there
are with statements of Wulsin, who clearly knows more than she has revealed.
- The public tax returns of the Heimlich Institute and the Deaconess Associations seem to show money moving back and forth, and line items for HIV and malaria-related work. Were any of these funds going to East Africa? If not, where did they go?
In 2005, Radar Magazine reported an interview with a man described as an Ethiopian immigrant who makes his living renting out cars in the San Francisco area, but works for Heimlich in spare time, "doing everything from "recruiting the patients to working with the doctors here and there and everywhere." The man claimed that the patients were recruited by looking for people with HIV who reside in areas where HIV is epidemic. However, he confirmed that the researchers were asked to delay treatment and did so .
The Deaconess Associations, home of the Heimlich Institute, receives federal money and must comply with requirements for human research. A full investigation of the Heimlich Institute is also warranted.
Was Wulsin unaware of the wealth of stories detailing the sordid facts about the malaria therapy experiments in major, respected, media? Somehow these are missing from her report. In 2006, I asked the Ohio Medical Board to investigate all of this. On February 27, 2008, I held a videotaped press conference in Cincinnati to call further attention to Wulsin's conduct. The board investigated but "determined that no further action was needed," but Wulsin's connection to Heimlich became an important campaign issue. On November 4, 2008, she lost the election by a vote of 45% to 37%.
- Wulsin VW. Immunotherapy and Beyond: Heimlich Institute. Dec 2004.
- Induced malaria infection for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. CDC memo, April 29, 1993.
- Marciello SA. Warning letter to L. Terry Chappell, M. D., Secretary, Great Lakes College of Clinical Medicine IRB, March 9, 2000.
- Warrick P. Heimlich's audacious maneuver. Los Angeles Times, Oct 30, 1994.
- McNeil DG Jr. Malarial treatment for Chinese AIDS patients prompts inquiry in U.S. New York Times, March 4, 2003.
- Monk D, Tortora A. Family ties unraveling: Henry Heimlich faces firing squad of criticism from surprising source. Cincinnati Business Courier, Jan 21, 2005.
- Francis T. Outmaneuvered. Radar Magazine, November 10-11, 2005.
This article was updated on November 29, 2008.