SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Parker Jensen, the 13-year-old boy who captured national attention when his parents fled Utah to avoid court-ordered chemotherapy, has finally met face-to-face with the doctor who claims to have shepherded him through illness using alternative medicine.
The Jensen family, of Sandy, finally met with Viennese physician George Birkmayer before an alternative medicine conference in Anaheim, Calif. on March 6-7. Birkmayer has provided Parker with a supplemental lozenge called ENADA, which he describes as "biological rocket fuel," but which mainstream doctors doubt has any medical benefits.
Parker caught the spotlight last year when his parents defied a court order and the recommendations of several doctors as they searched for alternative treatments for his cancer. Parker started taking ENADA on June 19, 2003, a little more than a month after a cancerous pea-sized tumor was removed from under his tongue, and just two days after a juvenile court judge in Utah began deliberating a medical neglect case against his parents.
At the time, state officials were almost universally convinced Parker would succumb to a disease called Ewing's sarcoma, a rare cancer that primarily strikes children, and die without chemotherapy.
The Jensens steadfastly refused, saying they preferred alternative medicine to chemotherapy, which they considered too hazardous and worried could make Parker sterile.
Both the Jensens and Birkmayer say Parker only needed the tumor removed, and was fine after that. Birkmayer has since pronounced him 100 percent fit, and said the fruity lozenges he has prescribed will ensure he stays that way.
Even though Parker has taken Birkmayer's trademark supplement for more than eight months, his first face-to-face meeting with his doctor took place over dinner at the Hilton in Anaheim on March 5. Before that, his parents, Daren and Barbara Jensen, had consulted with Birkmayer by phone on about 10 occasions.
Birkmayer, who received his medical degree from the University of Munich, also has a strong aversion to chemotherapy and radiation.
"All of my cancer patients I treat with natural substances," he said.
Besides, chemotherapy for Parker would be ridiculous since he doesn't have cancer, Birkmayer insists. He doubts the original diagnosis of Ewing's sarcoma, but does say Parker probably had some sort of cancer.
Instead, Birkmayer prescribed an antioxidant cocktail, anchored by ENADAlert, which he said should ward off any future tumors. Parker is also taking antioxidants Coenzyme Q10, vitamin C and selenium.
Together, these pills are supposed to boost Parker's immune system and increase his cellular energy. State officials balked at Birkmayer's medical opinion, but ultimately dropped the high-profile case Oct. 24, saying it would be fruitless to force chemotherapy on Parker.
Parker says ENADA is working.
"It gives me a lot of energy," he told The Salt Lake Tribune at the conference. "I take it before snowboarding, because all that powder wears you out."
In December, the Jensens sent a tissue sample from Parker's mouth to Stanford University. No cancerous cells were found, they say.
Birkmayer has provided ENADA, which costs $32.95 per month in pill form and $69.95 for the flavored lozenges at retail locations, for free to the Jensens.
The Jensens are big proponents of ENADA. Other members of the family use the pills when they feel a cold coming on, Barbara Jensen said.
But mainstream doctors say they doubt the supplement will have much effect.
"It probably doesn't do any harm," said Kent DiFiori, an oncologist with Utah Cancer Specialists. "But who knows if it does any good or not?"
The main ingredient in ENADA is NADH, a coenzyme present in every living cell.
Joy E. Swanson, from the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University, says she has never heard of NADH being used as an antioxidant.
"I would say in time this will be found to be false," Swanson said.
NADH is "one of the most ubiquitous biochemicals in the body" and adding more will probably have little effect, she added.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)