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The non-medical practitioner allegedly administered high doses of the untested cancer drug 3BP at his practice. The trial puts the controversial treatment and Germany's alternative healers in the spotlight.
A non-medical practitioner in Germany denied he was at fault in three charges of involuntary manslaughter on the opening day of his trial Friday.
The 61-year-old is said to have given infusions of 3-Bromopyruvate (3BP) ― a new cancer therapy that has not undergone clinical trials ― to four patients in high doses in 2016. Three of them died.
The practitioner, referred to as R. due to German privacy laws, faced three counts of negligent killing and violations of the German Medicine Act.
He told the court he was sorry but did not make any mistakes and his equipment was sound, according to local media.
The controversial case has shone a light on Germany's healers who don't have full medical training.
Prosecutors claim the man used a dose of the alternative, biological therapy 3BP three to six times too high.
Three patients from nearby Belgium and the Netherlands were said to have died of brain failure as a result. The therapy was suspended in the fourth patient after the first infusion.
The new drug has been hailed by some researchers as a potential breakthrough but full clinical trials have yet to be conducted.
As of 2016 it had not been prohibited in Germany but was also not authorized as an approved drug. Prosecutors say that even doses that are slightly too high can have fatal effects.
The therapy is thought to work by starving cancer cells that rely on glucose while leaving healthy ones alone. But limited initial experiments have shown it has a clear degree of toxicity.
The therapy was advertised in Dutch at €10,000 ($11,230) for a ten-week course to patients mostly from neighboring countries.
Investigators in the case had looked into the patient files of the practice and scrutinized a total of around 70 other deaths.
The 2016 deaths fed a nationwide debate about alternative medicine in general, leading to calls for reform in June 2018.
The German Patient Protection Foundation told news agency dpa that national standards for non-medical practitioners were so out of shape that patients couldn't tell between a serious provider and a charlatan.
"It must not be the case that it is still easier in Germany to become a non-medical practitioner than a nurse," chairman Eugen Brysch told dpa.
"Heilpraktiker" are allowed to practice a limited form of medicine with fewer powers and less training than a doctor.
The Association of German Alternative Practitioners (BDH) said there are 47,000 non-medical professionals in Germany who treat more than 46 million patients a year. They are generally not covered by health insurance.
ta/rt (dpa, AFP)