Joyce Brown is allergic to more than 65 substances, some of which cause allergy flare-ups so severe that her strategy for recovery was to "go to bed and wait until it went away."
It wasn't until Brown underwent a controversial urine injection therapy prescribed by Dr. Jorge R. Borrell that her condition improved.
"I was pretty much incapacitated by my allergies until I was treated by him," said Brown, who attends law school in Brea. "Now, they don't bother me as much."
But since last month, when state medical officials moved to revoke Borrell's license after receiving complaints from three patients, Brown and other patients at Allergy Control Medical Group clinics in Canoga Park and Anaheim have been unable to receive booster shots for their conditions. While Borrell is fighting the board's decision, the state has ordered him to suspend urine injection therapy.
"I've had many phone calls from patients encouraging me to keep doing this," Borrell said Friday. "There's a sizable number of persons that have tried the traditional medicines, and now they're looking for alternate methods."
Borrell's problems with officials continued on Friday, when two federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents showed up at his Anaheim clinic and asked him to surrender his license to prescribe drugs. The agents left after speaking to Borrell's attorney, who told them that the license revocation is being appealed.
John Martsch, a DEA assistant special agent in charge, said the visit by the two agents was "normal procedure" and not related to publicity about Borrell's case.
However, Borrell said the DEA request amounted to "harassment." As for the decision to suspend his license, Borrell said, "This was a political decision, not a scientific one." He said his therapy has a proven success record with his patients.
But according to the state board, the track record of urine injection therapy is unknown, and the practice is "an extreme departure from the standard of care in California."
Borrell, 69, maintains that the board's action resulted from a lack of understanding of his treatment methods. The urine is sterilized in three steps before being injected, and Borrell said none of his 4,000 urine therapy patients have died or been hospitalized as a result of the treatment.
He has operated clinics in Anaheim and Canoga Park for about 12 years.
He says the therapy works this way:
About 12 hours before the injection, the patient stops drinking liquids. About nine hours later, the patient exposes himself to the material he or she is allergic to, causing the body to experience an allergic reaction.
The reaction triggers the creation of chemicals within the body that appear in the urine in about three hours, he said. Borrell then spins the urine sample in a centrifuge to remove particles, and the liquid is subsequently drained through two different mesh filters.
This urine, reportedly filled with antibodies to the allergens, is then injected into the patient's buttocks. A series of eight weekly injections costs about $480, Borrell said.
He blames the controversy on a "cultural hang-up" because doctors are personally repulsed by the idea of injecting people with urine. But he points out that diseases such as polio are prevented by injecting people with the polio virus, so why not apply the same concept to treating allergies?
"Here you have a folk remedy that has been used for thousands of years," Borrell said. "The doctors think that since it goes against what they practice, it's wrong."
Borrell will have another chance to defend his therapy on March 8, when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Miriam A. Vogel considers an appeal of his license revocation.