Cancer patients from around the world have been travelling to Cuba for years to be treated for cancer with venom extracted from the blue scorpion. It all started in the 1980s when biologist Misael Bordier Chivas was carrying out experiments with animal toxins and found that the scorpion venom decreased the size of tumours in rats and dogs. Then, in 1993, a Cuban whose daughter had pancreatic cancer heard about the scorpion venom story and approached Chivas who consented to give the girl some venom mixed with distilled water. She recovered and is alive today. After a few more such accounts surfaced, Cuba’s state owned pharmaceutical company, Labiofam, carried out safety tests and found the venom to be harmless to people.
Although there were no tests of efficacy, Labiofam began to raise scorpions, shock them with electricity to trigger release of the venom, and distribute it to anyone willing to sign an informed consent form. Labiofam claims to have studied the effects of the venom on some 10,000 people but the company has published none of its research.
Demand did, however, became so great that Labiofam had to change its tack because it could not supply enough of the venom. So the company decided to produce a homeopathic version of the venom. This of course meant that there would never be a shortage because of the extensive dilution required by homeopathy. The curious business here is that homeopathic scorpion venom treatment doesn’t even make sense in the bizarre world of homeopathy. According to the tenets of homeopathy, if a homeopathic solution of the venom is to cure cancer, the venom itself should cause the disease. There is no evidence that it does. Under the name Vidatox, the homeopathic version is now sold to Cubans for 4 cents and to foreigners for $220. It is not backed by Cuba’s Regulatory Bureau for Health Protection.
Could there be something to the original version of the venom being effective? Perhaps. Stranger things have happened. But all we have are some anecdotes that are almost impossible to confirm. In the meantime there are practitioners in several countries who offer the venom treatment to desperate people. Are they actually using blue scorpion venom? Who knows? Maybe someday, someone will carry out proper research and find that there is some component in blue scorpion venom that has anti-cancer properties. Cuba has an excellent pharmaceutical research community and one would have expected to see some publications about the venom if there had been some significant evidence of any sort of efficacy. That has not happened. I think there is something we can safely conclude. Even if there is something to the story of blue scorpion venom curing cancer, the homeopathic version will not work.