Dr. Thomas Cowan

Over the last 15 years, Thomas Cowan has established himself as a hot alternative doc who handles complex health challenges ranging from hyperthyroid conditions to digestive and metabolic problems to cancer.

It is this last matter, cancer, that has landed the founding board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation in very deep in hot water—he had his medical license revoked in California earlier this year for “unprofessional conduct” and “gross negligence”; the revocation was stayed as part of  a five-year probation agreement, during which he must be supervised by another physician, known as a “practice monitor,” and be “prohibited from providing cancer treatment to patients,” according to the “settlement and disciplinary agreement.” He must also take a number of medical-related courses on prescribing medications and keeping proper records.

It is almost certainly a bitter pill to swallow for the doc who has drawn patients from around the country and around the world to line up for his $350 initial phone consultations—no insurance accepted. I say “almost certainly” because Cowan declined via email to comment on the agreement he signed, or to speak with me about it. In fact, he said his “preference would be to leave it alone.”

I decided to write about it in part because of his prominence in the alternative field. I have met a number of people from around the country who have consulted with him—nearly always by telephone.

I also decided to write about it because it’s unusual for the medical establishment to go after one of its own, unless the offenses are truly offensive to those running things. The medical authorities very likely thought long and hard before going after Cowan, since he has been outspoken in a couple of books and in talks he gives about his view of the failings of conventional approaches for any number of health issues; his latest book is “Human Heart, Cosmic Heart: A Doctor’s Quest to Understand, Treat, and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease”. The book includes this endorsement from Weston A. Price Foundation founder and president, Sally Fallon Morell: “What happens when the medical profession views the heart as a mechanical pump? We get ghoulish surgeries, medications with horrible side effects, and soulless low-fat diets.”

You might expect Cowan and the people who support him at the Weston A. Price Foundation to be outspoken in their opposition to the doctor’s censure by the medical establishment. Yet I could find nothing anywhere on the Internet about Cowan’s settlement and disciplinary order, including on his web site, where he has potential patients fill in forms online. (The settlement and disciplinary order came to me via a source who prefers not to be identified.) The only possible allowance for the order on Cowan’s web site is that he says initial phone appointments for out of state patients are “currently unavailable.” (The order provides that “all patients being treated by [Cowan] shall be notified that  (he) is prohibited from providing cancer treatment to patients. Any new patients must be provided this notification at the time of their initial appointment.” The probation agreement was signed last March, and was scheduled to take effect earlier this month.

Why did the Medical Board of California come down so hard on Cowan? If you read through the agreement covering the probation, it has to do with his treatment of one woman with metastatic cancer between 2013 and 2015, who apparently complained to authorities about Cowan’s treatment methods. Among the reasons cited by the agreement are the following:

  • Treating the patient by phone;
  • Failure to examine the patient’s records;
  • Failing to conduct a physical examination of the patient;
  • Encouraging her to obtain a drug not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Association, known as GcMAF.

What is the real reason? Certainly a big part has to do with encouraging the patient to seek out a non-approved drug. According to the agreement, Cowan consulted with the patient four times via phone in 2013 and 2014. “He never saw her in person. (Cowan) did not advise (the patient) of the potential risks of evaluating a patient by telephone without examining the patient in person. In February 2015, (patient)….learned that GcMAF was potentially unsafe. On her last telephonic visit with (Cowan) on February 9, 2015, she advised (Cowan) that she was concerned about the health consequences of having taken an unsafe medication for fifteen months. Respondent did not document this discussion in his chart notes.”

The drug, GcMAF, has become controversial because of wild initial claims that it cures cancer, followed by studies and analyses throwing cold water on those claims. Wikipedia has an overview, with all kinds of specific source citations.

If you want a sense of how Cowan approaches medicine, and cancer in particular, you might take a look at a couple of YouTube videos from a 2009 presentation he did on cancer. The first presents his admittedly casual approach to medicine, and the second his alternative explanation of cancer.