Chapter 10 - Research in the United States
Two of the most prestigious researchers in this country are Dr. Sidney Cohen and Dr. Keith S. Ditman. They have conducted what might be considered the most extensive and intensive "open studies" research on Gerovital H3 in this country. As you will recall, Dr. Cohen was and is one of the most powerful medical figures in Washington, being former director of the Division of Narcotic Addiction and Drug Abuse at the National Institute of Mental Health, and a clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA. It was he who set up the double-blind tests for GH3. In addition, he and Dr. Ditman.— one of the nation s preeminent thinkers in pharmacological psychiatry—conducted the first test in Phase I of the GH3 program. Dr. Ditman is medical director of the renowned Vista Hill Foundation in San Diego.
I know both doctors quite well, having wined and dined with them on several occasions while investigating GH3; after interviewing them, I talked with some of their patients, among them Richard Conte, the movie star, and Peter Hurkos, the famed psychic.
First we shall examine the Cohen-Ditman report, delivered in Miami, October 1973, at a joint meeting of the American Gerontological Society and the American Geriatric Association. I was at this three-day meeting, where a whole day was devoted to findings on GH3. Their paper was published in Psychosomatics. (See Ap- * pendix 3.) Dr. Cohen also reported their findings at the annual meeting of the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine in November 1973.,
The initial study was made of 41 patients, 17 of them listed as "normal." Seven had major medical problems, ranging from high blood pressure to heart conditions and arthritis; 17 had psychiatric problems severe enough to be treated by Dr. Ditman. This was a cross-section of the aging American male and female, with ages ranging from 40 to 85.
Later the doctors told me they were engaged in a continuing study involving 150 patients, including those who participated in the first experiment. Results are still favorable.
Each person was given a complete medical and psychiatric examination before and after the study, which lasted for four weeks.
Our ubiquitous friend depression was at the top of the list of ailments, which included insomnia, lack of energy, memory failure, arthritis, allergies, impaired circulation, impotence--—the complaints so familiar to us by now as symptoms of aging.
Each received the standard treatment as advocated by Dr. Aslan, 100—200 milligrams of GH3 three times a week for four weeks, administered intramuscularly. We should emphasize that Dr. Aslan s treatment should be followed for at least a year—preferably for life. To put GH3 on trial for only one month puts a most unfair and arbitrary condition on objective testing. I wholeheartedly agree wfth Dr. Aslan in her careful, long-term evaluation; since the results have been so favorable in every recent test (including the double-blind, as we shall see), GH3 is probably even more efficacious than Dr. Aslan has claimed.
Cohen and Ditman's results: of 41 patients, 35 reported a "prompt and dramatic" improvement in feelings of depression, relief of insomnia, and general sense of well-being. Now, these reactions could be considered "subjective," that is, caused by the patients knowing they were receiving something supposed to be beneficial--—the placebo effect, which is known to exert a beneficent influence on 35% to 40% of patients. Such is the power of the human brain.
However, as we have seen, the results of so many other tests so closely approximated the Cohen-Ditman findings that the mass of evidence far outweighs the element of chance, or coincidence, or the placebo effect.
One striking, objective finding which cannot be considered a placebo or psychogenic effect is that very high cholesterol levels (usually associated with potential heart disease) were reduced in eight of nine patients. Mean serum cholesterol fell from 339.3 to 288.5 milligrams, a rather significant reduction in just four weeks. The cholesterol levels are still falling in these and other patients in the continuing study. These findings corroborate those of Dr. Aslan. (Additional confirmation is afforded by the work of Dr. Luigi Bucci: see Appendixes 4-6.)
Drs. Cohen and Ditman termed the results "encouraging and intriguing." Dr. Cohen told me he had used procaine many years before with obvious success on about a dozen patients. He was employing it as a last-ditch emergency measure, much as Ana Aslan had first injected procaine into a medical student suffering from an excruciatingly painful arthritic "locked knee." The student was relieved in a matter of minutes. No doctors at that time recognized procaine's antiaging value.
An example of how Dr. Cohen first used procaine: A Los Angeles police officer had been shct and then beaten severely over the head in a fracas with some mobsters. "Long after the head injury, I saw the patient for intractable headache as a result of his postoperative trauma," Dr. Cohen recounts. "No amount of medication could stop these incapacitating headaches. Knowing about the effects of procaine, I decided to try it. There was nothing else to do. I gave him 1000 milligrams of procaine, which relieved his constant headaches. He would return to the hospital whenever they recurred for more procaine. He improved in every aspect."
Dr. Cohen told me that is when he gained respect for the efficacy of procaine in large doses. Being a pharmacologist as well as a psychiatrist, Dr. Cohen is one of the most knowledgeable scientists in this country. Possessed with unusual originality, he is not afraid to try new procedures.
One of Dr. Ditman's patients was Richard Conte, the well-known movie star. ‘I met him several times during my visits to Los Angeles. We became friends, not only because of his participation in the GH3 experiment, but because he had an "alive" brain, was warm, sympathetic, and wanted to do his part to help the human race--—just as he was helped by GH3. He didn t object to admitting he was "rejuvenated" by GH3. Others in his category who are known to be taking GH3—in fact, who swear by it privately, as having greatly aided them in their search to preserve eternal youth—will not admit publicly they are using an anti-aging drug. They want the world to think they are ageless by some miraculous intervention, or more likely, by divine right of preservation of the ego.
Richard Conte and several others do not fall into the "secrecy" class. He was intelligent and genuinely interested in world problems. He was happy to be a gladiator for the substance which helped him dramatically when nothing else did.
"I got Gerovital first in Europe;" he told me. "It really gave me more energy and I felt better than I had in years. After all, I m no spring chicken, but I feel like one now."
Conte said that when Dr. Ditman offered to put him on the experimental testing program, he was only too happy to agree. "Supervised testing is of course a lot better than taking it on your own," he said, "but I'd advise anybody to take it as I did—if they can get it. It's perfectly safe, as we all know by now." He leaned over the table. I was talking with him in Los Angeles, where I was also interviewing many other Cohen-Ditman patients.
"Herb, I am going to show you something you won't believe. Or maybe you will, since you've been studying GH3 for quite a time.
"Look at the front part of my scalp. There you will see undeniable proof of what I mean about GH3." I looked and it was undeniable. There were many new hairs growing.
"A year ago, that area was, ah, shall we say, receding. Now you can see for yourself what's happening. New hair. In addition to everything else that's good."
I knew that many patients under Ana Aslan's supervision had new hair growth as well as recoloration of gray hair--—by well-documented evidence--—but this was the first time I had seen personally new hair growth. No doubt it was due to how long it takes for this to occur at least a year or two—or never, for most people thus far. It depends on the individual and the circumstances, I have found. It has been hypothesized that hair grows back as a result of GH3's stimulatory action on the endocrine glands, chiefly the pituitary and adrenals.
But, however it occurs, it is an astounding sight. We have been led to believe that no medication can alter, stop, or reverse balding—unless the balding was due to relatively rare diseases which respond to certain relatively rare treatments. For male pattern balding associated with aging, alas, nothing.
"You know, of course, that hair regrowth is just part of an overall beneficial effect on the whole body," Conte said.
Yes, I did know, but it was still amazing to see it. I looked at him closely. It was true: his face and the texture of his skin certainly belied the appearance of a 63-year-old man. And no makeup. Later, when we went to lunch, I noticed the buoyancy in his walk. "It can t affect the body without affecting the brain," he told me.
"I now feel so different; I am more interested, more alert and alive. Let's face it--—I was beginning to go downhill--everybody does, but now I have an entirely new perspective--a fresh way of looking at life."
But the problem wasn't just in the mind, as our medical men are so eager to deduce. Richard Conte had a high serum cholesterol when tested at the start of the study (500--600). The GH3 treatment brought down the cholesterol level to within relatively normal values within a month (approximately 300). These are objective results, not subjective, not the result of wishful thinking. None of the other high-level cholesterol patients even knew their cholesterol was down until later.
It is my sad duty to report that since the foregoing was written, Richard Conte died of a. massive heart attack on May 16,1975.
Naturally distressed because I had come to feel very close to Richard, 1 called his widow, Colleen Conte. She confirmed the beneficial effects of her husband's three year treatment with GH3.
"The Gerovital treatments definitely helped my husband in many ways," she said. "He was full of energy most of the time, and he was especially proud of his new hair growth. But for the past two years, he was living under great emotional strain caused by something beyond his control. He had a minor heart attack a year ago, but he made a very fast recovery which astonished the doctors."
Colleen told me the emotional strain (the nature of which. I cannot reveal here, except to say it was most profound) grew in intensity instead of diminishing, until, after Richard walked the floor sleepless for several nights, his heart rebelled and stopped beating.
Colleen began first-aid measures, including sharp blows to the breastbone. She called the paramedics, who finally started up his heart again after many hours. Conte was placed in intensive care for thirteen days—in vain. The fu11 story is not for this book but for the book Colleen is writing about their life together and about those thirteen days of their fighting for her husband's life.
Colleen told me that while GH3 "could cure many thousands of people all over the world of many things, it could not cure an overburdened heart."
She told me more of GH3 s virtues: "You should see my grandparents. My grandfather is 79, my grandmother 82. My grandmother was a former concert pianist, but arthritis set in so badly she could no longer play the piano. My grandfather could not walk well because of arthritis and had a constant pain in his shoulder. Both had other symptoms of old age and both were greatly depressed mentally."
"How are they now?" I asked.
"Well, after a couple of years taking GH3, my grandmother s arthritis is completely gone and she plays the piano again. My grandfather walks normally and the pain in his shoulder has gone. Their depresslons have lifted. Both feel wonderful. In fact, they flew in for Richard's funeral. It was the first time my grandmother had ever been on an airplane. I think GH3 speaks for itself."
I agree, Colleen.