In memoriam Dr. Abram Hoffer (1917-2009)
Abram HofferIn the first years of the fifties Dr. Abram Hoffer introduced the new concept of treating illness with high dosages of nutrients. This was a very important contribution to medicine and to the well-being of so many persons. He noticed that there was a similarity in symptoms of pellagra, the vitamin B3 deficiency disease, and in his patients with schizophrenia. He hypothesized that his patients needed higher dosages of the vitamin to respond. And he seemed to be right. Two time Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling was impressed by the achievements of Abram Hoffer and coined the term 'orthomolecular medicine' (Science 1968; 160:265-71). His colleague psychiatrists were not grateful for this new therapeutic approach, which would minimize the use of drugs. Abram Hoffer about this: 'I give my critics full credit for having delayed the full introduction of orthomolecular medicine into the medical world and for having denied life, health and happiness for innumerable patients. Supporters of old paradigms never realize how much damage they do by their remarkable rigidity and adherence to old theories.' So I am very, very glad to quote him in his last email to me: 'we are starting to flourish. I think we have turned the corner.' What struck me most of Abram Hoffer were his sharp analyses, together with his humour. One of his statements: "my patient is cured when he is able to pay income tax". The care for his patients always came first.

Dr. Gert Schuitemaker
Past President of the ISOM



OBITUARY written by John Hoffer, MD, PhD

Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD. Died in Victoria on May 27, 2009 after a brief illness.
Born November 11, 1917 on a farm in Hoffer, Saskatchewan, Abram Hoffer attended a one-room schoolhouse and studied on horseback, eventually graduating from the University of Saskatchewan (BSA, MSA), the University of Minnesota (PhD) and the University of Toronto (MD). He specialized in psychiatry and was, for many years, director of psychiatric research for the Saskatchewan Department of Public Health and associate professor of medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon. In these capacities he carried out groundbreaking research in several areas, ultimately authoring more than 500 peer-reviewed and popular articles and more than 30 academic monographs and popular books. He challenged the then-dominant view of schizophrenia as a psychological disorder caused by poor mothering, and contributed importantly to the formation of the field of neuropsychopharmacology. He co-authored research on the genetics of schizophrenia with the renowned geneticist, Ernst Mayer. He co-discovered the first effective lipid-lowering agent, the B vitamin niacin. He developed a controversial treatment for acute schizophrenia based on the principles of respect, shelter, sound nutrition, appropriate medication and the administration of large doses of certain water-soluble vitamins, in the process carrying out among the first controlled clinical trials in psychiatry. He advanced a plausible biochemical hypothesis to explain the cause of schizophrenia and how niacin and vitamin C could eliminate its symptoms and prevent relapses. Intrigued by the concept of metabolic "models of madness," he and his research colleagues, notably his close collaborator Humphry Osmond, studied the properties of the hallucinogens and pioneered the use of LSD, which in conjunction with skilled compassionate psychotherapy, was found to be an effective treatment for alcoholism. His work with alcoholism led to a close friendship with Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. He organized a self-help organization for people with schizophrenia, Schizophrenics Anonymous. Participants at SA meetings occasionally exchanged the friendly greeting, "Salutations and hallucinations!" His colleague and friend, the American chemist Linus Pauling, championed the biochemical model for treating schizophrenia that was developed in Saskatchewan and provided a conceptual underpinning for the notion that large doses of certain naturally occurring substances can favorably alter disordered brain biochemistry, coining the term "orthomolecular psychiatry."
Abram Hoffer moved to Victoria in 1976 where he practiced psychiatry for many years, becoming a founding member and president of the Senior Physicians Association of British Columbia. Sometimes criticized from afar for his controversial views, he was beloved by his many patients and close colleagues. He devoted his life to the goal of curing - not palliating - schizophrenia. His son Bill died in 1998 and his wife Rose died in 2001. He is survived by his daughter, Miriam (and her husband Guy Ewing), by his son John (and his wife Yehudit Silverman), and by four grandchildren: Adam, Megan, Joshua and Rebecca. At his request, the funeral will be private. We are immensely grateful to the nurses and physicians on West 2 of the Royal Jubilee Hospital. We are indebted to Dr. James Spence for his thoughtful and compassionate attention. Donations can be sent to the International Schizophrenia Foundation, founded by Abram Hoffer.