MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

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I have been collecting pictures posted by homeopaths on Twitter. When I say collection, I am exaggerating: it takes only about 10 minutes to find what I posted below.

Let’s hope that my collection cures some people from the desire to try homeopathy.

For those who, after having had a look at the pictures, still believe that there might be something in it, I have this challenge:

SHOW ME GOOD EVIDENCE FOR THE CLAIMS MADE BELOW, AND I WILL SEND YOU A FREE COPY OF MY  RECENT BOOK ON THE SUBJECT.

[please click to see them full size]

It is bad enough to mislead adult patients into believing that chiropractic is effective for conditions for which it is clearly not. However, it is far worse, in my view, to do that for paediatric conditions.

There is no doubt that chiropractors continue to treat children and advertise their services for childhood conditions. I am not aware of good evidence to show that chiropractic is effective for any childhood condition at all. Yet, whenever I or anyone else says so, we get ignored. Chiropractors do not accept this sort of criticism. This blog provides more than ample evidence for that, I believe.

Perhaps chiropractors are not good at reading?

Perhaps they only understand pictures?

As for my previous post, I have assembled here a few pictures posted by chiropractors on Twitter. They all relate to chiropractic treatments for children.

Why did I do that?

Because I hope that the many chiropractors who read my blog could now point us to the evidence that support the claims made in these advertisements. If they cannot do that, it would be an ethical imperative for them to clearly state that these posts are deceitful. If they fail to do this, they are tolerating quackery in their own ranks without objection – and that would render them unethical!

Or have I got this wrong???

[please click to see them full size]

 

In her article “Chiropractors are Bullshit” SciBabe discussed her views on the chiropractic profession. Now the chiro ‘Dr’ Michael Braccio has published a rebuttal (excerpts from it are below). Here I will provide a rebuttal of his rebuttal. For clarity, the bold quotes are by SciBabe (as quoted by the ‘Dr’), what follows is the rebuttal by the ‘Dr‘ himself and my re-rebuttal is in italics.

“There is scant medical evidence that a chiropractor is your best treatment option for…anything”

Since most people initially seek care from a chiropractor for low back pain, it seems appropriate to focus there. The most recent clinical practice guidelines recommend heat, exercise, spinal manipulation, acupuncture, and massage as first-line therapies for low back pain. All of these services (with the exception of acupuncture) are services commonly provided by chiropractors for low back pain.

The current low back pain guidelines used to advise healthcare providers on the  can be found here: American College of Physicians (ACP), National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Towards Optimized Practice (TOP), and Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT).

Guidelines are often not up-to date. NICE no longer recommends chiropractic for back pain. All the hundreds of non-back pain claims made by chiros are even less well supported by evidence.

“Medical doctors often refer patients to the proper experts, and outside of a narrow scope of experts, this rarely includes someone who is a ‘duly-licensed non-M.D.,” because that person’s views on medicine would not be aligned with their standards of care.” 

Clinical practice guidelines are intended to provide healthcare professionals with information on the most effective treatment options for various conditions based on the current research. As stated above, the current standards of care for low back pain include spinal manipulation and other therapies commonly provided by chiropractors.

Guidelines are often not up-to date. It is true that proper doctors rarely refer to chiros.

“We didn’t have proper scanning equipment to identify issues in the spine” 

Imaging technique has definitely improved since the 19th century, however, this statement reflects an inadequate understanding of low back pain (and pain in general). Abnormal radiographic findings in the spine are common in asymptomatic individuals and are more closely associated with age than they are pain severity. In fact, the current practice guidelines for low back pain discourages routine imaging due to the high false positive rates.

Yet far too many chiros do use imaging – not for diagnostic but for financial reasons, I suspect.

“It appears there is a link between chiropractic manipulation and risk of stroke due to potential artery dissection.”

The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association (also endorsed by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and Congress of Neurological Surgeons) released a scientific statement stating that the association between stroke and chiropractic manipulation was not well established and probably low. These patients are likely already presenting with a stroke that is in progress, regardless of treatment provided.

I am not sure what a ‘low association’ is. The risk of stroke is, however, real. To deny it is a violation of the precautionary principle that governs all healthcare.

“Chiropractic beliefs are dangerously far removed from mainstream medicine, and the vocation’s practices have been linked to strokes, herniated discs, and even death.”

This statement is made without context. All medical interventions have an associated risk when performed, but their occurrence rates vary. The risk of death from cervical manipulation has been estimated to be 1 in greater than 3,330,000 to 3,730,000 manipulations while the risk of death from gastrointestinal bleeding from NSAIDs is estimated to be 1 in 1,200 patients.

Medical error has also been reported as the third leading cause of death in the United States and many of the commonly used medications have also been linked to adverse events such as stroke and death (ibuprofen, tramadol, and duloxetine).

Even if all of this were true (which it isn’t), it would not be a good reason to tolerate unnecessary harm by chiros (look up ‘tu quoque fallacy).

“Chiropractors can also cause damage by being used for primary care or emergency medical needs, as their training is not appropriate for such care…The chiropractor somehow missed that her son’s arm was broken, and the injury was not detected until many days later when they visited an emergency room.”

I am not privy to the case referred to above to specifically comment on it, but it is inappropriate to condemn an entire profession based on a single case. In SciBabe’s interview on the Joe Rogan Experience, she describes her experience with spinal manipulation performed by her Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) for an episode of low back pain. It turned out that her lower back pain was caused by a fractured rib (fractures are a contraindication for spinal manipulation) which was also somehow missed. It is biased to berate the entire chiropractic profession based on a single case and not hold other healthcare professions to a similar standard.

Yes, that would be biased! But the case was a mere example, one of many. It is undeniable that chiros want to be upgraded to primary care physicians, a role for which they are not sufficiently educated or trained.

And finally, “don’t let a chiropractor fool you by reciting the warning label from a vaccine that they’re not qualified to administer.” 

Similarly, please do not take medial advice from someone who is not licensed to administer it.

I am not sure I understand the rebuttal here. Yet, avoiding chiros is sound advice, particularly when it comes to vaccination advice.

MY CONCLUSION + ADVICE:

Dr’ Braccio is using very tired pseudo-arguments which have all been addressed and invalidated hundreds of times.

My advice to him: book yourself urgently on a course of critical thinking.

My advice to consumers: ask yourself who has an axe to grind; perhaps ‘Dr’ Braccio is worried about his and his colleagues cash-flow? Neither SciBabe nor I have such reasons to misguide you.

The current Cochrane review of acupuncture for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) included 5 RCTs and concluded that thus far, only a limited number of RCTs have been reported. At present, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of acupuncture for treatment of ovulation disorders in women with PCOS.

A new study was aimed at assessing whether active acupuncture, either alone or combined with clomiphene, increases the likelihood of live births among women with PCOS.  A double-blind (clomiphene vs placebo), single-blind (active vs control acupuncture) factorial trial was conducted at 27 hospitals in mainland China between July 6, 2012, and November 18, 2014, with 10 months of pregnancy follow-up until October 7, 2015. Chinese women with polycystic ovary syndrome were randomized in a 1:1:1:1 ratio to 4 groups. Active or control acupuncture administered twice a week for 30 minutes per treatment and clomiphene or placebo administered for 5 days per cycle, for up to 4 cycles. The active acupuncture group received deep needle insertion with combined manual and low-frequency electrical stimulation; the control acupuncture group received superficial needle insertion, no manual stimulation, and mock electricity. The primary outcome was live birth.

Among the 1000 randomized women, 250 were randomized to each group, and 926 women completed the trial. Live births occurred in

  • 69 of 235 women (29.4%) in the active acupuncture plus clomiphene group,
  • 66 of 236 (28.0%) in the control acupuncture plus clomiphene group,
  • 31 of 223 (13.9%) in the active acupuncture plus placebo group,
  • 39 of 232 (16.8%) in the control acupuncture plus placebo group.

There was no significant interaction between active acupuncture and clomiphene, so main effects were evaluated. The live birth rate was significantly higher in the women treated with clomiphene than with placebo and not significantly different between women treated with active vs control acupuncture.

The authors concluded that among Chinese women with polycystic ovary syndrome, the use of acupuncture with or without clomiphene, compared with control acupuncture and placebo, did not increase live births. This finding does not support acupuncture as an infertility treatment in such women.

There is much evidence to show that nearly 100% of all acupuncture trials originating from China report positive findings regardless of the condition treated. This led to the assumption by myself and several other experts that such studies are best ignored.

This study is from China and does not report positive results. What is more, it is well-designed and well-reported. This trial therefore is a most laudable exception, and I applaud the authors for their courage and good science.

Does this mean that in future we can trust all Chinese acupuncture trials?

One swallow does not make a summer. And I will remain very sceptical. But perhaps this new study is a sign indicating that things are beginning to change. Perhaps Chinese acupuncture researchers are starting to join the 21st century?

The last time I reported about Kate Birch, I ended my post stating that I became so angry that I was about to write something that I might later regret. Let’s see whether I can restrain myself again.

Kate published another book: The Solution  Homeoprophylaxis: The Vaccine Alternative. Here is the press release for her new rant:

Modern parents and even medical practitioners often pose the question of whether the benefits of reducing the incidence of acute diseases through vaccinations is worth the risks of the increased incidence of immune system imbalanceas a result of those same vaccines. This often leads many into questioning if vaccinations for children are indeed safe.

Despite the fact that most medical practitioners refute the possibility that vaccines can cause harm to the immune system, and that their purpose and efficacy have been instilled in people’s minds for the last 200 years, many parents still are looking for possible alternative ways of preventing and treating infants from the so many forms of infectious, contagious acute diseases.

Certified classical homeopaths and authors Kate Birch and Cilla Whatcott want the world to know that there is an alternative path to the use of vaccination which is a more effective and less expensive method of helping to build immunity towards infectious disease. The Solution ~ Homeoprophylaxis: The Vaccine Alternative offers parents a wealth of useful information on the effective prevention of infectious diseases through homeoprophylaxis. The book introduces the basic principles of HP, and an overview of the immune system and how it iacs intended to work with infectious disease, what vaccines actually do in the immune system and a clinical overview of the homeopathic treatment of childhood eruptive diseases, febrile illnesses, and tropical diseases.

This book is written in simple language to help parents navigate the question of immune system development, infectious disease prevention with homeoprophylaxis and if vaccines are really doing what they are intended to do. The authors clearly explain and differentiate important terminology such as immunology, vaccination, and immunization. What is amazing with this book is that Birch and Whatcott offer the world a different view on disease prevention and the use of HP as an immune system educator, and cite multiple references to clinical research and real time applications of the use of HP for disease prevention.

The Solution is a must-read for every parent, health care provider, and any concerned citizen who has questions about the current day vaccine paradigm. As adverse reactions and associated health problems are becoming more and more prevalent in children after receiving vaccinations The Solution offers another way.

END OF QUOTE

We have discussed homeoprophylaxis (HP) many times before on this blog (see here, here, here, and here, for instance) It seems to be a subject that does not go away. HP-fans tend to claim that:

  • conventional vaccinations are dangerous
  • conventional vaccinations are ineffective
  • the public is being conned by BIG PHARMA
  • homeopathy works like vaccination
  • highly diluted homeopathic nosodes stimulate the immune system
  • highly diluted homeopathic nosodes are effective for the prevention of infectious diseases
  • they are much safer than conventional vaccinations

None of this is true!

The concept of HP lives off the herd immunity we have via conventional vaccinations and, at the same time, endangers this very immunity. It is a danger for both the public and the individual who might believe in it. In my view, promoting HP is unethical, irresponsible and possibly even criminal.

The claim that Cannabis can cure cancer is all over the Internet. Such promotion is regularly enhanced by announcements of VIPs that they intend to try Cannabis when affected by cancer.

As her back pain turned out to be caused by metastases from her earlier breast cancer, Olivia Newton-John now intends to complete a course of photon radiation therapy along with alternative therapies for improving her quality of life. “I decided on my direction of therapies after consultation with my doctors and natural therapists and the medical team at my Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne”, she said. Newton-John had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. At that time, she initially tried acupuncture and homeopathy and only later underwent chemotherapy. Olivia Newton-John’s daughter, Chloe Lattanzi, has stated that her mother would now use cannabis oil to aid in her fight against cancer. Lattanzi owns a marijuana farm and said that her mother would use natural healing remedies plus modern medicine in addition to cannabis oil to help her battle the deadly disease for the second time.

So, how realistic is the assumption that Cannabis does anything for cancer patients? Cannabis produces a resin containing pharmacologically active compounds called cannabinoids. Some cannabinoids are known for their psychoactive properties. Cannabis has therefore been used for medicinal and recreational purposed since ancient times. Today, the recreational use of Cannabis is illegal in many states, including the UK.

The main active cannabinoids are delta-9-THC and cannabidiol (CBD); the latter compound may relieve pain, lower inflammation, and decrease anxiety without causing the “high” of delta-9-THC. Cannabis and cannabinoids have been studied in the laboratory and the clinic for relief of pain, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, and loss of appetite. There also is some evidence that they can alleviate the side-effects of cancer therapies. Two cannabinoids have even been approved by the regulators in some countries for the prevention and treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting. Some test tube results have suggested that Cannabis can kill cancer cells. However, there are no clinical trials yet, and therefore not enough evidence exists to recommend that patients use Cannabis as a treatment for cancer.

The possibility that Cannabis might be useful for cancer patients currently attracts much original research. The most recent review states that “favorable outcomes are demonstrated for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and cancer-related pain, with evidence of advantageous neurological interactions. Benefit in the treatment of anorexia, insomnia and anxiety is also suggested. Short- and long-term side effects appear to be manageable and to subside after discontinuation of the drug. Finally, cannabinoids have shown anti-neoplastic effects in preclinical studies in a wide range of cancer cells and some animal models. Further research is needed before cannabis can become a part of evidence-based oncology practice.”

Similarly, the conclusions by our ‘CAMcancer’ initiative were cautious: ” The antiemetic efficacy of the cannabinoid dronabinol (THC), when compared to standard antiemetics that were in use before the development of 5-HT3 antagonists for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, has been established in a meta-analysis. The question of whether cannabis-based medicines have a place in the era of modern antiemetic medication, e.g. for patients with refractory nausea and vomiting despite antiemetic prophylaxis according to current standards, remains uncertain but warrants further research. Limited evidence is available to support the use of cannabis-based medicines in the therapy of radiotherapy-related nausea and multifactorial nausea in advanced cancer patients. The use of cannabis-based medicines for appetite loss and other symptoms associated with cancer cachexia is still unclear at present, since trial results have not only varied widely but also been criticised for the methodology employed (including diversity in stages of cachexia in the patients included and possibly too a low dose of THC/medical cannabis). For cancer pain, several randomised controlled trials of cannabis-based medicines in cancer patients with various pain syndromes have indicated an analgesic effect comparable to weak opioids. The role of cannabinoid medicines as add-on medication for pain that is insufficiently relieved by strong opioids is currently being investigated in several clinical studies and has shown some promising results so far.”

So, the evidence suggests that Cannabis might be helpful in the supportive and palliative treatment of cancer by reducing some of the symptoms from which cancer patients may suffer. But there is no good evidence to show that it can change the natural history of any type of cancer. Even with the symptomatic use of Cannabis, we need to consider at least two caveats.

Firstly, we have no good evidence to suggest that Cannabis is significantly more effective than conventional therapies. A Cochrane review, for instance concluded that ” Cannabinoids can lead to an increase in appetite in patients with HIV wasting syndrome but the therapy with megestrol acetate is superior to treatment with cannabinoids. The included studies were not of sufficient duration to answer questions concerning the long-term efficacy, tolerability and safety of therapy with cannabis or cannabinoids. Due to the sparse amount of data it is not possible to recommend a favoured use of cannabis or cannabinoids at this point.”

Secondly, the Cannabis trials tend to be of low quality. Another Cochrane review concluded that “Cannabis-based medications may be useful for treating refractory chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. However, methodological limitations of the trials limit our conclusions and further research reflecting current chemotherapy regimens and newer anti-emetic drugs is likely to modify these conclusions.”

Back to Olivia Newton-John; her case is, I think, telling. It seems that, by initially using alternative therapies instead of conventional treatments for her breast cancer in 1992, she worsened her prognosis. Now that the cancer has returned, she has learnt her lesson and opts for the best conventional oncology can offer her. Yet, her liking for alternative medicine has not disappeared completely. This confirms what I have observed all too frequently: for many of its fans, alternative medicine is a belief system that is largely untouchable by evidence.

Belgian researchers (if I remember correctly, I was the external examiner of the PhD of one of them) conducted a survey aimed at examining the beliefs about the cracking sounds often heard during high-velocity low-amplitude (HVLA) thrusts in individuals with and without personal experience of this technique.

The researchers included 100 individuals. Among them, 60 had no history of spinal manipulation, including 40 who were asymptomatic with or without a past history of spinal pain and 20 who had nonspecific spinal pain. The remaining 40 patients had a history of spinal manipulation; among them, 20 were asymptomatic and 20 had spinal pain. Participants attended a one-on-one interview during which they completed a questionnaire about their history of spinal manipulation and their beliefs regarding sounds heard during spinal manipulation.

Mean age was 43.5±15.4 years. The sounds were ascribed to vertebral repositioning by 49% of participants and to friction between two vertebras by 23% of participants; only 9% of participants correctly ascribed the sound to the release of gas. The sound was mistakenly considered to indicate successful spinal manipulation by 40% of participants. No differences in beliefs were found between the groups with and without a history of spinal manipulation.

The authors concluded that certain beliefs have documented adverse effects. This study showed a high prevalence of unfounded beliefs regarding spinal manipulation. These beliefs deserve greater attention from healthcare providers, particularly those who practice spinal manipulation.

So, what causes the sound often heard during spinal manipulation? This is how one chiropractor explains it: “In simple terms, the sound of cavitation means that the vertebrae are being gently and properly realigned. The sound of dissolved air bubbles in the fluid around the vertebrae releasing is what makes the pop.” And this is what another chiro states: “The actual pop is called a cavitation, and it’s the release of gas that makes the popping sound. The joints of the spine are called synovial joints (check out this simple and detailed description here) and they produce a fluid called synovial fluid. Synovial fluid lubricates the joint (for movement) and nourishes it. The byproducts formed in the production of synovial fluid are gasses – oxygen, nitrogen and CO2. When a joint is gapped, or opened up, the gas is released and you hear a distinctive popping sound. It’s very similar to the release of gas bubbles when you cork a champagne bottle, and equally pleasant in its after effects.” Finally NHS Choices tells us this: “During spinal manipulation, you may experience a popping sensation in your joints and hear a popping or cracking sound. It is thought this is caused by gas bubbles in the fluids that surround your joints – this is a normal part of spinal manipulation and other manual treatments.”

In reality the pop is much to do about nothing. If you pull hard on one of your fingers, chances are that you generate the same phenomenon and sound. As with your finger, the pop from the vertebral joints has no therapeutic value.

Guest post by Frank Van der Kooy

The BlueBoxTM homeopathic remedy kit, produced by Pegasus Homeopathics, contains 28 easy-to-use remedies for the treatment of just about everything, and therefore; “The BlueBox™ is a must have for every home”. Their marketing strategy is focussed on children and on the ease-of-mind of their parents, with Pegasus telling us that it: “Treats the whole family from infants to the elderly; Safe for babies as well as pregnant and breast feeding mums; Readily taken by children, no alcohol or nasty-tasting syrups; Can’t overdose – even if a child swallows the contents of a bottle it’s the same as one dose.” One of the 28 remedies in this kit is called Anti-virabac 200C, described as a; “natural antibiotic, safe for those allergic to penicillin. Indications: A homeopathic ‘antibiotic’ for use in viral and bacterial infections, that is best implemented at the earliest stage of the infection. Safe for use in penicillin-allergic individuals.”

There is a lot wrong with this, but let’s just focus on what this remedy contains. It is a mixture of nine homeopathic remedies, including Belladonna 200C and Gunpowder 30C, with the purpose of the latter being; “Localises the infection preventing deeper penetration into tissues.” The 200C and 30C indicates that these substances have been diluted by a factor of 10400 and 1060 respectively, and consequently neither contain a single molecule of the original substance. This might be a good thing, especially for Belladonna which is a highly poisonous herb, and something that you definitely do not want to give to your children.  Incorrectly diluted Belladonna (in a different homeopathic remedy) has recently been implicated in the deaths of ten infants in the US. As for the Gunpowder 30C, well, some homeopaths are known for diluting the Berlin Wall for the treatment of depression, and a whole host of other conditions, so why not gunpowder?

But let’s step into the mind of a homeopath, and try and explain the logic behind the Gunpowder 30C. Here goes: Gunpowder is used to fire a bullet which will, depending on the entry location,, cause serious harm or death. If you are only wounded, the wound can become infected, the infection might spread throughout your body, and eventually you may die. Using the homeopathic principle of ‘like-cures-like’, it therefore ‘stands to reason’ that when you dilute gunpowder, by a factor of 1060, it will localise and prevent the infection from spreading any further. Because the underlined words look alike, it is irrefutable scientific evidence that Gunpowder 30C is a remarkably effective remedy. I am however only guessing here, but it is clear that the amount of science involved is truly mindboggling (any homeopath reading this, please correct me if I am wrong). A quick search reveals that homeopathic gunpowder is more commonly used for the treatment of septic wounds in people and animals, which I guess, makes more sense in a homeopathic sort of way.

Let’s say that I do not have any scientific background and that I’ve decided to buy the BlueBoxTM. Before coming to this decision, I’ve spoken to a homeopath (a specialist), I’ve discussed it with the extremely helpful people at the pharmacy, I’ve read all the info on the website of Pegasus (the producers), and I’ve even gone as far as to read the lengthy WHO report, which recommends that homeopathy should be integrated with conventional healthcare. All-in-all, it paints a very positive picture and I, and many others, will feel confident in the safety and effectiveness of this product. And hence, I will happily give these remedies to my children. Why not?

But what now if my young child die, due to an infection that I’ve treated with anti-virabac 200C? The infection worsened very quickly, within 48 hours, and upon hospitalisation it was already too late to save his life. At the end of the day, this remedy contains nothing other than the diluent, and will do absolutely nothing against any infection. A fact that is reflected in the Australian NHMRC homeopathy report, where they clearly state that: “People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.” Tragically, this happens quite often, with an unknown number of people dying because they have chosen ineffective homeopathic remedies. Gunpowder 30C for the treatment of infectious diseases and/or septic wounds, really? The number of victims is unknown because the BlueBoxTM, and all other homeopathic remedies, are bought over-the-counter. There is no paper trail and hence no system in place to document ‘adverse events’. So, if you or your child dies, the cause of death will simply read infectious disease or septic wound – and that will probably be the end of it.

Who is to blame for this situation?  The homeopath, pharmacist and all other role players are legally doing what they are doing. They are allowed to sell you water as a treatment for many different medical conditions.  You, on the other hand, as a parent who’s child died because of these  ineffective remedies, can however be taken to court and you might even be send to jail – and this is the ‘Homeopathy Paradox’.

This is also where the important role of Vice Chancellors (VC) come into play. They are instrumental in deciding on what path science will take in a specific country. Their role is becoming more important, especially in light of some politicians nowadays resorting to all kinds of alternative facts.  Take someone like Prof Barney Glover, VC of Western Sydney University (WSU), and also the current Chair of ‘Universities Australia – The Voice of Australia’s Universities’. He has influence over the whole scientific landscape in Australia, and quite recently gave a very good speech at the National Press Club,  about the necessity and importance for universities to stand up for facts and the truth, because nobody else will.  This is very encouraging but, unfortunately, very misleading.

Prof Glover was notified in 2015, that he should urgently investigate the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), because of their continued (in)direct support of homeopathy and many other disproven complementary medicines. For example: the NICM had a big influence in compiling the WHO report, calling for the better integration of homeopathy (implying that it is an effective healthcare system) with conventional healthcare, and by way of their extended network, has tried to discredit and destroy the NHMRC report on homeopathy. Their incorrect and misleading response to the NHMRC report is now being used by homeopaths, all over the world, to continue to mislead the public regarding the effectiveness of homeopathy.

Unfortunately, neither the VC nor anyone else in WSU’s management has yet taken the very important step of standing up for science. Therefore the VC, and others, were nominated for the Bent Spoon Award in 2016. A nomination that they tried to block, but after independent review, did not manage to do so.  VC’s that do not stand up for science can therefore have a far-reaching impact, such as convincing me, who live on the other side of the world, to buy the BlueBoxTM, which in turn, might lead to my child’s death. Let’s call it the ‘butterfly effect’, with a ‘minor’ act (allowing pseudoscience at their university) on one side of the world, causing a lot of carnage on the other side of the world, or the world over.

(The reason for WSUs refusal to investigate the NICM seems to be as simple as increasing their external income. And it works, because quite recently the controversial supplement company Blackmores donated $10 million, and a year or so ago, the extremely controversial organisation, the Jacka Foundation, donated $4 million. These numbers appear to be enough for WSU to continue to hold their hand of protection over the NICM).

WSU is by no means the only university that has put money before science and ethics. Take for example the University of Johannesburg (UJ) who has a ‘Department of Homeopathy’ (they featured on this Blog before – see for instance  here).  A couple of days ago I emailed the Dept. of Homeopathy, asking for advice regarding homeopathic malaria remedies for my 6yo son before we travel to the Kruger park. They advised me that they do not sell it themselves, but that I should contact a specific pharmacy and ask for….wait for it….a banned herbal remedy and for homeopathic antimalarial drops – the latter, of course, does not contain anything other than solvent. This advice comes straight from a University, and although this issue is still unfolding, I am hopeful to have more luck with UJ’s VC – but I am not holding my breath. So, if you happen to work at any one of these two universities, could you kindly forward this article to your VC? For what it is worth.

 

Currently, we witness an unprecedented hype about the ALKALINE DIET. It seems to be everywhere: on TV, radio, in the dailies, magazines, books and the Internet. The diet is being promoted for an amazing array of conditions by a dazzling list of VIPs. To me this merely indicates that very important people have paid very little attention when it was explained to them how the body controls its pH. It seems that VIPs tend listen to stuff that is not only factually incorrect but potentially dangerous. (Perhaps ‘VIP’ stands for ‘very ignorant person’?) This website (one of millions on the subject) is as good an example as any for the level of misinformation that is currently out there:

START OF QUOTE

When a food is ingested, digested, and absorbed, each component of that food will present itself to the kidneys as either an acid-forming compound or a base-forming one. And when the sum total of all the acid-producing and the base-producing micro and macronutrients are tabulated, we’re left with a calculated acid-base load.

One common problem with most industrialized societies is that our diets produce what’s called a “low grade chronic metabolic acidosis.” This means we’re in a chronic state of high acidity. Since the body must, at all costs, operate at a stable pH, any dietary acid load ha to be neutralized by one of a number of homeostatic base-producing mechanisms. Although the pH of the body is maintained, many cells of the body will suffer.

A cancerous cell is acidic. If your body is in a constant state of over-acidification, it becomes impossible for healthy cells to regenerate. Cancer cells thrive in an overly acidic environment. By taking action to become more alkaline, you can make it more difficult for cancer cells to regenerate.

Eating an acid/alkaline balanced diet is the key to staying healthy. Understanding the pH of the foods that you eat is relative to the state of your body’s health.

The goal of the acid alkaline balance diet, also known as the alkaline diet and the alkaline ash diet, is to achieve an optimal balance between acid-forming and alkaline-forming foods. The anti cancer diet greatly reduces the strain on the body’s acid-detoxification systems.

END OF QUOTE  (I corrected several spelling mistakes)

Personally, I don’t care a hoot whether VIPs eat this or any other diet. When it comes to claiming that the ALKALINE DIET can treat or prevent cancer (or other serious conditions) I do, however, get concerned. Such claims will almost inevitably prompt patients to give up their treatments in the hope that the diet will do the trick. In other words, such claims endanger the lives of patients, and I find this intolerable. Tragically, a recent case seems to demonstrate how real this danger is.

So, allow me to put the record straight: there is no evidence that the Alkaline Diet is effective for the prevention or treatment of any disease, particularly not cancer. For those who find this hard to believe (vis a vis the current hype, this would hardly be surprising), here is the evidence.

One systematic review concluded that despite the promotion of the alkaline diet and alkaline water by the media and salespeople, there is almost no actual research to either support or disprove these ideas. This systematic review of the literature revealed a lack of evidence for or against diet acid load and/or alkaline water for the initiation or treatment of cancer. Promotion of alkaline diet and alkaline water to the public for cancer prevention or treatment is not justified.

Another group of researchers evaluated the following diets: raw vegetables and fruits, alkaline diet, macrobiotics, Gerson’s regime, Budwig’s and low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet. They did not find clinical evidence supporting any of the diets. Furthermore, case reports and pre-clinical data point to the potential harm of some of these diets. The authors concluded that considering the lack of evidence of benefits from cancer diets and potential harm by malnutrition, oncologists should engage more in counselling cancer patients on such diets. Our recommendations could be helpful in this process.

So, yet again we are confronted with the fact that the media create attention, hype and misinformation with no real substance whatsoever. It is high time, I think, that journalists are reminded of their duty to report truthfully and responsibly!!!

Health journalists must be reminded of the undeniable fact that misinformation kills people.

I came across this website which contains an undated ‘open letter’ that I find most remarkable – so much so that I feel I have to blog about it. All I did below was to abbreviate its text slightly and to omit its references which can, of course, be looked up in the original. The footnotes in square brackets are mine and refer to my comments below.

START OF QUOTE

It is now estimated that antibiotic resistant infections may kill an estimated [1] 10 million people a year and cost the world’s economies some $100 trillion annually by the year 2050… As some of America’s leading integrative medicine specialists [2], we believe it is time to look anew at a modality called homeopathic medicine.

As physicians [3], we are the first to acknowledge that the diagnostic and surgical tools of conventional medicine are scientific marvels – truly extraordinary and life saving. However, it is also a well-documented fact that many of the drugs currently used by conventional medicine carry risks that are often unacceptable, and in the case of bacterial infections – increasingly ineffective [4].

Signatories, and tens of thousands of our medical colleagues around the world, have repeatedly used homeopathic medicine to effectively and safely treat patients with a wide range of ailments, including serious, and in some cases, life threatening bacterial and viral infections, without the risk of creating further drug resistant organisms [5]. We reached our decision to employ these medicines after careful experimentation and observation, in search of a drug system that relieved suffering without potential toxic side and after-effects [6]…

Twelve independent research laboratories in North America, Russia, Europe and Asia have now confirmed that all classically-prepared homeopathic medicines studied contain various nanostructures, including source and silica nanoparticles which are heterogeneously dispersed in colloidal solution [7]. The above mentioned laboratories and others have found that homeopathic medicines, like modern engineered nanoparticles, have been found to act by modulating biological function of the allostatic stress response network, including cytokines, oxidative stress and heat shock proteins [8]. Additionally, there are hundreds of peer-reviewed studies including randomly controlled trials and large observational studies on individual cells, plants, animals and humans, that show homeopathic medicines are exceptionally safe [9] and have measurable and positive biological and therapeutic effects [10].

Reliable and extensive clinical and public health records have also been carefully examined internationally, looking for evidence of homeopathic medicine’s efficacy during some of the deadliest epidemics of the past 200 years. The main findings of this research show that when homeopathic medicine was employed during these deadly events, mortality rates were routinely very low. This constancy remained regardless of the homeopathic physician, time, place or type of epidemical disease, including diseases carrying a high mortality rate, such as cholera, smallpox, diphtheria, typhoid fever, yellow fever, influenza and pneumonia [11].

…we are calling for a collaborative effort to investigate the efficacy of homeopathic medicine in the treatment of patients with these increasingly dangerous infections whereby homeopathic medicine is used only as an adjunct to conventional therapies [12] …

END OF QUOTE

These are my footnotes, questions and comments:

[1] Does twice ‘estimated’ result in accuracy, according to homeopathic teaching?

[2] Are we impressed by people who call themselves ‘leading specialists’?

[3] I can see many signatories who I would hesitate to call ‘physicians’.

[4] In the case of antibiotics, it is mostly the over-use and not the drug per se that created their ineffectiveness.

[5] Using homeopathic remedies for infections is not effective and therefore also not safe.

[6] If that were true, they would have clinical trial evidence which they clearly have not.

[7] Even if this were true, it would not mean that the nano-particles cause therapeutic effects.

[8] Even if this were true, it would still not necessarily amount to clinical benefit in sick patients; where are the clinical trials showing that homeopathic remedies are effective antibiotics? I am not aware of any. The references provided certainly do not refer to such clinical studies.

[9] Yes, highly dilute homeopathic remedies contain no active ingredients and are therefore unlikely to cause direct adverse effects.

[10] The totality of the evidence from reliable clinical trials fails to show therapeutic effects.

[11] The epidemiological data can be interpreted in several ways, and the majority of non-homeopaths do not share this interpretation.

[12] About 500 clinical trials are available, and their results suffice to call for an end to such research; it’s a waste of resources – resources which are urgently needed to find solutions for the serious problem of antibiotic resistance.

Who is this letter addressed to? I could not find an answer to this question. It seems to be addressed to nobody – perhaps just as well!

Who would sign such an amateurish letter full of mistakes and dangerously misleading statements? The full (and embarrassingly long) list of signatories is here:

Stephen Albin, ND
Nathalie Allen, ND
Lisa Amerine, ND
David Anderson, MD
Kristy L. Anderson , ND
Yumi Ando, MD
A. M. Aurigemma, M.D.
Jyotsna Ayachit , M.D. CCH, DIH
Linda Baker, MD
Michael Baker, ND
Toni Bark, MD
Alex Bekker, MD
Iris Bell , MD, Ph.D.
Paul Bergquist, MD
Brian Berman, MD
Andrea Bitter, MD
Blossom Bitting, ND
Manon Bolliger , ND
Philip Bonnet, MD
Sue Boyle, ND
Mark Breiner, DDS
Maureen Bunce, MD
Anthony Capobianco, DO
Youngran Chung, MD
Mary Alice Cooper, MD
Mary Ellen Coulter, MD
Karin Cseak, DO
Stephen Davidson, DO
Tim Dooley, MD
Michelle Dossette, MD
Joseph Dubroff, ND
Robert Dumont, MD
Ronald Dushkin, MD
Samuelle Easton, ND
Rebecca Elmaleh, MD
Kristy Fassler, ND
Timothy W. Fior , MD
Laura Firetag, ND
Richard D Fischer , DDS, ND, MIAOMT, FAAO
D Fischer , DDS, ND, MIAOMT, FAAO
Mitchell A. Fleisher, M.D., D.Ht.
Ecaterina Floroiu, MD
Gary Fortinsky, DDS
Glenn Frieder, DC
Joyce Frye , DO
Susana Galle, ND, Ph.D.
Juan Gamba, MD
Stewart Garber, DC, Ph.D.
Harold Goodman, DO
George Guess, MD, DHt
Sohilraj Gupta, MD
Regina Gurevich, MD
Robert Hall, MD
Eashwar Hariharan, MD
Alice Harper, ND
Travis Herring, MD
Sharon Herzfeld, MD
Richard Hiltner, MD
Todd Hoover, MD
Torey Ivanic, PA-C
Jennifer Jacobs, MD
Naseem Jagani, MD
Chris Johnson, NS
Bernice Johnson, DC
Sandra Kamiak, MD
Emily Kane, ND
Polina Karmazin , MD
George Keeler , MD
Elena Klimenko, MD
Edward C. Kondrot, MD, MD(H)
Gary Krarcoff, NMD
Christine Kuhlman, ND
J.W. Kwee, MD
Julie Lachman, ND
Janet Lavatin, MD
Gail Littell, ND
Ian Luepker, ND
Linda Madore, ND
Larry Malerba, DO
Christopher Maloney, ND
Ruth Martens, MD, DHt
Robert Melo, MD
Bernardo A Merizalde, M.D.
Stephen A. Messer, MSEd, ND
Jeff Migdow, M.D.
Jacob Mirman, MD
Lucia Elena Mitrofan, MD
David Moreira, MD
Roger Morrison , M.D.
Richard Moskowitz, MD
Anca Nitulescu, MD
Nick Nossaman , MD, DHt
Stephanie Ogura, ND
Jamie Oskin, ND
Roy Ozanne, MD
Donna Panucci , DDS
Pamela Pappas, MD, MD(H)
Iva Peck, MD
Vladimir Petroci, MD
Luigi Pioli, MD
Liliana Plaesu, MD
Wendy Pollock, DC
Molly Punzo, MD
Danny Quaranto, MD
Ignatiadou Radmila, MD
Rakesh Raj, MD
Vinay Ranade, MD
Ioana Razi, MD
Sandy Reider, MD
Karl Robinson, MD
Henry Rostecki, DVM
Todd Rowe, MD MD(H)
DeeAnn Saber, NMD
Andre Saine , ND
Susanne Saltzman, MD
Lisa Samet , ND
Gundi Schulz, ND
Tova Sebaoun, MD
Irene Sebastian, MD
Joel Shepperd , MD
William Shevin , MD, D.Ht.
Jonathan Shore , MD
Hydie Sobel, MD
Rumen Stoychev, MD
Sergio Suárez, MD
Christine Sutton, ND
Michelle Thatcher, NMD
Anja Troje, MD, Ph.D.
Eric Udell, ND M.Ed.
Corey Weinstein, MD
Richard Weintraub, MD
Judith Weiss, MD
Ronald Whitmont, MD
Melanie Whittaker, ND, RN
Jacquelyn Wilson, MD
Linda Woodward, MD

I happen to know several of these ‘leading integrative medicine specialists’. What did they think when composing this letter?

The answer can only be NOT A LOT.

This is so cringingly embarrassing and pathetic that it beggars belief. If ‘integrative medicine’ ever did have anything resembling credibility, these ‘leading specialists’ would have destroyed it with their letter.

Antibiotic resistance is, of course, a huge, complex and very serious problem, and we need to solve it urgently – but surely not with lies, half-truths, wishful thinking and incompetence.

 

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