MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Mike Cummings recently stated on this blog “I’m not into blog banter.” Is he perhaps referring to some ‘alternative facts’? The truth seems to be that he blogs happily, regularly and – I am sad to say – disgracefully. This is a quote from his new post about the discussions regarding an acupuncture trial which was in the press a few days ago, (and also has been discussed on this blog):

START OF QUOTE

So there has been a big response to this paper press released by BMJ on behalf of the journal Acupuncture in Medicine. The response has been influenced by the usual characters – retired professors who are professional bloggers and vocal critics of anything in the realm of complementary medicine. They thrive on oiling up and flexing their EBM muscles for a baying mob of fellow sceptics (see my ‘stereotypical mental image’ here). Their target in this instant is a relatively small trial on acupuncture for infantile colic.[1] Deserving of being press released by virtue of being the largest to date in the field, but by no means because it gave a definitive answer to the question of the efficacy of acupuncture in the condition. We need to wait for an SR where the data from the 4 trials to date can be combined. On this occasion I had the pleasure of joining a short segment on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 led by John Humphreys. My protagonist was the ever-amusing David Colquhoun (DC), who spent his short air-time complaining that the journal was even allowed to be published in the first place. You can learn all about DC care of Wikipedia – he seems to have a surprisingly long write up for someone whose profession career was devoted to single ion channels, perhaps because a significant section of the page is devoted to his activities as a quack-busting blogger. So why would BBC Radio 4 invite a retired basic scientist and professional sceptic blogger to be interviewed alongside one of the journal editors – a clinician with expertise in acupuncture (WMA)? At no point was it made manifest that only one of the two had ever been in a position to try to help parents with a baby that they think cries excessively. Of course there are a lot of potential causes of excessive crying, but I am sure DC would agree that it is unlikely to be attributable to a single ion channel…

END OF QUOTE

I encourage everyone to read Cummings post in full; it’s full of surprises. Here I just want to comment very briefly why I find his post disgraceful (the Cummings quotes are in bold followed by my comments):

….usual characters….. Disrespectful to the point of being derogatory, in my view

….retired professors….. Not true, non-retired professionals commented as well

….professional bloggers…. Meaning people who earn their income by blogging? Certainly not true!

….vocal critics of anything in the realm of complementary medicine…. Critic not of ‘anything’ but merely of things that are false or misleading like the trial in question

….a baying mob of fellow sceptics…. Unquestionably meant to be insulting and arguably libelous

….Deserving of being press released by virtue of being the largest to date in the field…. Large is not necessarily a virtue that merits a press-release, particularly, if it is not matched with quality

….We need to wait for an SR where the data from the 4 trials to date can be combined…. More than doubtful that we ‘need to wait’. The 4 trials in question are all very weak and therefore cannot provide a firm answer via a systematic review

….the ever-amusing David Colquhoun…. Derogatory to the extreme

….why would BBC Radio 4 invite a retired basic scientist and professional sceptic blogger…. The answer could be because he understands science and has vast experience exposing false claims

….only one of the two had ever been in a position to try to help parents with a baby that they think cries excessively…. This does not necessarily mean that such a person understands science, and Cummings might even be an example for this

….is unlikely to be attributable to a single ion channel…. Even Cummings’ attempts at humour are quite appalling.

 

The comments of Dr Mike Cummings MB ChB Dip Med Ac, I am afraid, befit an ill-educated acupuncturist who feels personally hurt because his views have been challenged and who is not quite bright enough to have a rational discussion about his favourite subject, particularly with someone who has a superior grasp of the issues at hand (which are clearly not ‘how to stick a needle in a baby’). However, Cummings is not a simple acupuncturist; he happens to be a member of the medical profession, a medical director of the British Medical Acupuncture Society and (as he seems keen to point out) a journal editor. With these credentials, he should, in my view, be able to argue a bit more intelligently, truthfully and a lot more gracefully.

Sad, really!

One could almost think he wants to give acupuncture a bad name!!!

14 Responses to Acupuncture and the disgraceful Dr Cummings

  • Edzard said:

    [Mike Cummings] happens to be…medical director of the British Medical Acupuncture Society and (as he seems keen to point out)

    …or not as the case may be: there is no CoI statement yet again under this new blog post.

  • As a fellow physician who has attempted to partake in a courteous debate with him on this blog, I take Dr Cumming’s impertinent slurs very personally.
    Dr Cummings has with this preposterous post positioned himself securely at or even below Dana Ullman’s level. Recognising that Dr Cummings should have a better working intelligence than Dullman (Dr Cummings managed to get through medical school), he lacks Ullman’s excuse of ignorance.

  • Are you sure Cummings isn’t a chiro? He writes like one.

  • “At no point was it made manifest that only one of the two had ever been in a position to try to help parents with a baby that they think cries excessively.”

    This is clinical arrogance of the first degree. It characterizes a person who thinks he knows best, regardless of any evidence or reasoned debate. Oh yes, and of course it’s purely an appeal to authority.

  • As a retired professor I also take offence. Learning to be a scientist is like learning to ride a bicycle, once learnt never forgotten. My role as a “quackbuster” is dependent on my knowledge of scientific philosophy. So even as a retired professor of surgery I can remain a scientist up until I am diagnosed with dementia. Should you hear me endorsing the the principle that water retains the memory of molecules that have long been washed away, then you might raise concern about my cognitive ability. However I am beginning to see the meridians on the body surface glowing in UV light as the flux of the energy fields is perturbed by the misalignment of my vertebrae. Should I see someone about that?

  • I am a bit concerned that much of the comments about Dr Cummings’s ad hominem attacks are themselves ad hominem.
    But the Radio 4 piece showed Professor Colquhoun, and science, in a good light.

    The best Dr Cummings could say about acupuncture treatment of babies’ colic was there was a “suggestion it might be useful.”
    Yes – he suggested it! Why I have no idea.
    And pigs might fly.

    Quite why the BMJ Group bother with a journal like AIM is beyond me.
    I will ask.

    Dr Cummings also claimed there were “very few funders prepared to do trials.”
    Surely, that is not so.
    The manufacturers of needles have surely already carried out trials of the products they sell to practitioners.
    Haven’t they?
    Surely no practitioner would use needles that had not been trialed?
    Would they?
    How would a practitioner know (without trials) that there was any beneficial effect?
    Or has Dr Cummings been duped into using a methodology for which there is no plausible evidence of benefit beyond that of a theatrical placebo (as a wise man once said – or two of them actually!).

    • “Quite why the BMJ Group bother with a journal like AIM is beyond me.”
      the journal is an automatic subscription for all society members and therefore it makes good money!!!
      “The manufacturers of needles have surely already carried out trials of the products they sell to practitioners.”
      to the best of my knowledge not.

      • I can see why acupuncturists would want a journal to feed their obsession, but quite why the BMJ Group acquiesces with one remains beyond me.
        Unless pure greed is indeed the answer.
        In which case, ethics have left the stage.
        I will inquire further of Fiona Godlee, (who has been very active to support EBM), and I may put up a motion on the issue to the BMA’s annual conference (of which I am a representative member).

  • Richard Feynman may have had the “post-hoc ergo propter-hoc” fallacy in mind, when he said the first rule of science is not to fool oneself.

    Assuming causal connections between proximate events is an intuitive response that has served humans well over evolutionary time but it is a deadly sin when it comes to science.

    Cummings took up acupuncture practise after trying it himself – believing it to have worked. Having carried that personal conviction with him in his clinical profession, he is now forced into denial of the weight of evidence against the efficacy of acupunture, or else to admit that he succumbed to the fallacy. Sadly, he seems unable to face the scientific facts.

    The “Medical” in “Medical Acupuncture” is a sham honorific. The self-deception derives from the abandonment of the counter-scientific traditional Chinese “theory” of acupuncture. By dumping the notions of “qi”, “yin and yang” etc. the BMAS thinks they join the ranks of science by virtue of empirical evidence alone. Attempts to conjure up a possible scientifically sound mechanism for acupuncture are pretty much confined to pain conditions and are nothing more than useless hand-waving in the absence of convincing clinical evidence that acupuncture works.

    Twenty years and thousands of clinical trials have failed to show that it works any better than placebo. Yet Cummings says that more time and more trials are needed.

    If that is to be so let babies not be treated as test subjects! Informed consent should involve trial subjects being told that twenty years and thousands of trials have been unable to show that acupuncture is anything more than a placebo.

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