Dog dewormer gets scarce amid rumors of efficacy in cancer

Lee Han-soo  Published 2019.09.24  12:41  Updated 2019.09.24 12:41


Korean cancer patients are rushing to pharmacies to buy fenbendazole, a dog parasiticide, as a YouTube video has gone viral claiming that the drug cured a U.S. terminal cancer patient.

Joe Tippens, a former small cell lung cancer patient who claims he was cured of his disease after taking fenbendazole, a dog parasiticide, holds his grandson. (Captured from YouTube)

The YouTube video mentions Joe Tippens, a U.S. patient diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in 2016. According to the video, doctors told Tippens that he had only three months as cancer had spread to his whole body, including the liver, pancreas, bladder, stomach and bone, in January 2017.

Later, while attending a clinical trial at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, Tippens allegedly stumbled upon a veterinarian's statement on an online forum. It argued that dog dewormers were effective in treating various types of cancers in rat experiments and that a scientist who had stage 4 brain cancer saw his cancer cells disappear after taking the drug for six weeks.

Tippens also found an article in the journal Scientific Reports that mentioned fenbendazole starves and kills the cancer cells.

After taking the drug for three months, Tippen's positron emission tomography (PET) scan showed no sign of cancer and an additional PET scan in September of last year confirmed that he was cured of cancer. The video has spread rapidly in the Korean cancer patient community and social media. At the same time, those who wanted to buy fenbendazole have flocked to animal hospitals and pharmacies.

Pharmacies report that they have run out of stock for the dog vermicide and they are receiving frequent calls about whether they have any fenbendazole in stock.

"We have run out of fenbendazole after the news about the drug curing cancer went viral," an internet user claiming to be a pharmacist wrote online. "I am still getting calls from various cancer patients if I have the drug, and when will I receive additional batches."

Merck’s dog parasiticide Panacur C (fenbendazole) that Joe Tippens took

The pharmacist said that he does not know when he will be able to replenish his stock, adding he had heard that even the companies that distribute the drug have run out of inventory.

Despite the recent rave to obtain fenbendazole, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety cautioned local cancer patients against taking it due to possible side effects

"Fenbendazole has not been tested in humans, and cancer patients should not take the drug," the ministry said. "The journal mentioned in the YouTube video that claims that fenbendazole is effective in treating cancer is an experimental study on non-human cells, and there have been no human studies conducted on the drug.

If patients take fenbendazole after their physical strength has been weakened from chemotherapy, side effects can occur, the ministry added.

A search in PubMed, a search engine accessing the MEDLINE database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics, also confirmed the ministry's claims.

While searching for researches related to fenbendazole and cancer, Korea Biomedical Review has found about 20 laboratory and animal studies.

However, there were only four – two laboratory studies and two animal experiments – that were directly related to fenbendazole in treating cancer, while one of the four researches concluded that fenbendazole has no effect on curing cancer.

None of the researches were conducted on humans.

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