Edzard Ernst

MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

I have recently been alerted to this remarkable article. It starts by telling the story of a patient who got rid of his alcohol addiction by using a homeopathic remedy. The story ends with these words: “It’s been two years now since I have been sober and I have no plans to consume alcohol ever gain.” Then the article continues:

This was Rahul’s story. Do you find your story quite similar to Rahul’s? Do you feel yourself falling down the abyss of addiction? Like you’ve lost control over your actions? Then Be like Rahul and take the first step. Join the 45 day No Alcohol challenge and see the difference for yourself.

There are Homeopathic Ingredients which work wonders in Getting You Rid of Addiction to Alcohol. Alcoban is a Homeopathic Anti-Addiction Treatment that helps you Overcome Addiction Using Homeopathy. It is one of the Most Trusted Homeopathic Anti-Addiction Treatment in the world. It can help an addict Beat Any Type of Addiction whether its tobacco, alcohol, drugs or anything else. Regular intake of this homeopathic formula gradually decreases the cravings of drinking. Continuous and prolonged use of Alcoban drop decreases cravings of bad things. You can Get Rid of Alcoholism with Alcoban Homeopathic Drop.

All the Effective Homeopathic Ingredients For Anti-Addiction present in Alcoban are individually quite effective in dealing with various symptoms of addiction but when combined together they form a potent formula that can Curb Tobacco Craving, Treat Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, make you Stop Using Drugs. Alcoban is also tasteless and colorless which means that it can be given without addict’s knowledge.

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Naturally, I was interested, not because I am an alcoholic but because I was intrigued by the homeopathic remedy and what it might contain. The Alcoban website itself informs us that:

Alcoban Drop is homeopathic anti-addiction formulation made utilizing the benefits of selective homeopathic ingredients, which are further processed as defined in Homeopathy to induce reluctance towards habit-forming mood-altering substances. The substances used in Alcoban detoxify the body for toxic materials deposited in the system from prolonged use of any such substance.

Alcoban is a potent remedy to stop and recover from substance abuse without facing the extreme withdrawal symptoms.

  • Alcoban treatment suppresses cravings naturally.
  • Alcoban helps in anxiety as well as yearnings.
  • Alcoban is well suited to outpatient treatment.
  • Alcoban acts as an anti-addiction treatment for tobacco, alcohol, drug, and smoking addiction.
  • Alcoban treatment is holistic.

Precautions while using:

  • People with severe heart ailments or any other major disease should use Alcoban only after consulting their physician.
  • Pregnant or lactating females should avoid using it.
  • If there is excessive vomiting on using Alcoban, the doses should be reduced. If there is still no change, then it should be stopped completely.

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Sadly, I could not find any information about Alcoban’s ingredients. Nor did I find any evidence that the product is effective. But I don’t give up that easily. A Medline search produced one paper on homeopathy for alcoholism:

This paper discusses the use of homoeopathy in the work of a community alcohol team, focusing on the application of homoeopathy for treating sleep disorder in alcohol-dependent clients. This work is placed in the context of the historical use of homoeopathy for treating ‘alcoholism’ and of the increasing use of complementary therapies in mainstream health care and in drug and alcohol agencies. Issues of research methodology and measurement of outcomes are examined. Examples of some specific homoeopathic treatments, together with a case report, are given to illustrate the potential uses of this form of therapy. It is concluded that homoeopathy can provide a valid and effective therapy to help clients break the cycle of dependence on alcohol. A number of further research questions arise and much clinical and research work needs to be done by those attempting to bring complementary therapies into drug and alcohol treatment.

The article is 22 years old and tells us very little. In particular it does not amount to anything like evidence of efficacy, nor does this indicate that there is much research going on in this area.

What can we conclude from all this?

Not a lot!

Perhaps that Alcoban is not just tasteless and colourless, as the Indian manufacturer proudly points out, but also useless?

I recently received this unexpected and surprising email:

Dear Friend,

I wanted to point out an article that published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst that gets to the root of why we are not solving the nation’s current epidemics of chronic pain, obesity, opioids, suicide, and cardiovascular disease.

My co-authors included Dr. Eric Schoomaker, the former surgeon general of the Army; Dr. Tracy Gaudet, who leads cultural transformation at the Veterans Health Administration; and Dr. James Marzolf, the chief health and data analyst in Dr. Gaudet’s office.

In the article Finding the Cause of the Crises: Opioids, Pain, Suicide, Obesity, and Other “Epidemics”, we show how our nation’s response to our current epidemics are tackling the wrong problems.

For example, take the opioid epidemic. The response has been to restrict opioids and focus on other drugs. This narrow approach is compounding the problem. The root cause is that we don’t manage chronic pain appropriately. We need a major roll out of non-pharmacological approaches for pain.

Instead of treating pain with a pill, we need to pay attention to the whole person in mind, body, and spirit. When we do this, we may find that non-drug approaches to treating the person are more appropriate, and treat not only the pain, but the suffering that often accompanies it.

The article describes how systems like the Military and Veterans Health Administration are doing this with transformative approaches that embrace whole person, integrative health.

The good news is that the answers are out there. The entire nation can do this, and we can start now.

Be well.

Dr. Wayne Jonas

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In case you don’t know who my ‘friend’ Wayne is (I did mention him before here and here, for instance), here is a concise summary of his background. As you doubtlessly do know, the NEJM is a (perhaps even the most) respected medical journal. I therefore tried to find the article there and was amazed not to find it. Then I realised that Wayne said it was published not in the NEJM but in the ‘New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst’, a very different proposition.

The New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst brings health care executives, clinical leaders, and clinicians together to share innovative ideas and practical applications for enhancing the value of health care delivery. From a network of top thought leaders, experts, and advisors, our digital publication, quarterly events, and qualified Insights Council provide real-life examples and actionable solutions to help organizations address urgent challenges affecting health care.

But what about the paper that Wayne so warmly recommends? It turns out to be little more than a promotional stunt for integrative medicine. Here is an excerpt from it:

It is often a surprise to people that two of the largest health care systems in the country are trying to radically redesign what they do to provide more whole-person and integrative care. These two systems are run by the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and collectively care for over 20 million people. The nation can learn from their efforts.

The need for reform emerged after the turn of this century when leaders in the DoD and VHA began to hold informal meetings under the title “From Healthcare to Health.” Over the course of those meetings, the participants recognized the failure of their health care systems to get at the underlying causes of chronic disease. In 2009, they secured the support of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to change overall military doctrine and guidance to a radically holistic approach called “Total Force Fitness,” which subsequently led to health and community innovations. An example of these redesign innovations was the Defense and Veterans’ Pain Management Task Force and Report and the resulting strategy that preceded the National Academy of Medicine’s report on pain in America.

Other innovations included the Healthy Base Initiative and the Performance Triad, the latter of which focuses on the importance of asking all patients about their sleep, nutrition, and physical activity. All services — Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Special Forces — continue to shift to whole-person models that seek to implement behavioral and complementary approaches. For example, >6000 providers have been trained in and routinely use Battlefield Acupuncture for pain.

The transformation currently underway in the VHA, which goes under the name “Whole Health,” is also an offshoot of that leadership dialogue from 20 years ago. In the Whole Health approach, the emphasis is to empower and equip people to take charge of their health and well-being. In this approach, trained peers help veterans explore their sense of mission and purpose, and well-being programs focus on skill-building and support for self-care. These elements, in addition to person-centered, holistic clinical care, create the Whole Health delivery system. VHA facilities are shifting from a system designed around points of clinical care (in which the primary focus is on disease management) to one that is based in a partnership across time (in which the primary focus is on whole health). Clinical encounters are essential but not sufficient. This health system is designed to focus not only on treatment, but also on self-empowerment, self-healing, and self-care.

This radical redesign is built on decades of VHA work enhancing its integrative approaches with innovations such as Patient-Aligned Care Teams, Primary Care Mental Health Integration, peer-to-peer support, group access to mental health services, and the increasing use of complementary medicine approaches. These changes laid the groundwork for the kind of radical redesign now underway in the VHA and that is needed in all national health care delivery systems.

In 2011, the VHA established an Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation to further redefine health care delivery and to oversee this unique approach. Whole Health has begun rapid deployment across the entire VHA system, starting with 18 VHA medical centers in 2018 and with a planned expansion to all VHA medical centers by the end of 2022. System-wide implementation will require an estimated $556 million over 5 years.

When fully implemented, operating costs for this shift are projected to represent 1% of the VHA annual budget. This implementation will involve hiring almost 6,400 new staff, the majority for positions that did not previously exist in the VHA, including health coaches and peer health partners, nutritionists, acupuncturists, and yoga instructors. Whole Health is building access through group visits, peer-to-peer support, and the development of Personal Health Plans for every veteran — something everyone in the country could use. In addition, new payment codes have been created, allowing providers to capture and cover their time and efforts using relative value units (RVUs) and to track productivity.

Will Whole Health help to cure what ails health care? Current models suggest that it will. With improvement in health outcomes, there will be a reduction in the need for existing clinical and biomedical services. These models predict increased access and more proactive population health management. With the addition of these new Whole Health services, we project a 24.5% increase in access when fully deployed — without the addition of a single hospital bed or medical specialist. In addition, Whole Health exceeds cost neutrality and is conservatively estimated to return $2.19 for every dollar invested over 6 years.

These returns reflect net cost avoidance and are derived from reductions in the need and demand for existing clinical health services — exactly what the nation needs in order to reduce chronic disease crises and contain costs. The per capita savings or cost avoidance is modest, averaging $535 per veteran annually over the 6-year period. Cumulatively, however, this totals over $6.2 billion in cost avoidance. Given that the Whole Health approach will improve the health of veterans, many of whom are dealing with complex issues such as chronic pain, mental health conditions, and opioid use at a cost of about $1 per day per veteran, it is a financially sound, cost-effective change from the current health care paradigm.

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So, does this change my mind about integrative medicine?

I’m afraid not! And Wayne fails to provide the slightest evidence that his concepts amount to more than wishful thinking (note how he first mentions predictions of cost savings and, in the next paragraph, pretends they are a reality). I simply do not believe that adding a few unproven therapies to our routine healthcare and wrapping the mixture into politically correct platitudes will improve anything. This cannot work from a theoretical standpoint and, crucially, there is no empirical evidence that it does improve anything else but the income stream of charlatans.

If healthcare needs reform, then let’s reform it! Adding cow pie to apple pie is not a solution, it merely spoils what we have already. I am saying this now since 17 years when I published my first comment on integrative medicine. It was entitled Integrative medicine: not a carte blanche for untested nonsense. I do still think that it sums up the issue succinctly.

In 2010, we published an investigation which revealed that the majority of chiropractors and their associations in the English speaking world seem to make therapeutic claims that are not supported by sound evidence, whilst only 28% of chiropractor websites promote lower back pain, which is supported by some evidence. If you go on the Internet (or just study this blog), you can easily see that the advertising of chiropractors is still far from adequate. Recently, a researcher investigated this issue systematically.

The aims of this survey were to determine the frequency, type and nature of at-risk advertising by Australian chiropractors and physiotherapists and whether there is a correlation between professional association membership and advertising guideline compliance. A cross sectional audit examining practitioner advertising was performed on representative samples of Australian chiropractors and physiotherapists. Two auditors examined advertising by 380 physiotherapists and 359 chiropractors for material potentially in breach of the regulatory authorities’ advertising guidelines. The advertising appeared on practitioner websites and linked Facebook pages.

Two-hundred and fifty-eight (72%) audited chiropractors and 231 (61%) audited physiotherapists had breaches of the Advertising Guidelines on their websites and linked Facebook pages. The frequency of breaches by chiropractors was higher. The type and nature of the breaches by chiropractors was potentially more harmful. Membership in a professional association influenced neither the frequency nor the severity of breaches with chiropractors.

The nature (top graph) and the severity (bottom graph) of the false claims.

The author (who is affiliated with the Murdoch University, School of Chiropractic, Murdoch, Australia) concluded that advertising breaches were common in both samples even though regulators and professional associations provide practitioners with explicit information on how to comply with advertising guidelines. Breaches by chiropractors were more numerous and more serious due to their greater potential to lead consumers to make inappropriate and potentially harmful healthcare decisions.

In the discussion section of the paper, the author makes this important comment:

The chiropractic findings are of major concern for two reasons, the first being public safety. Society expects and accepts that professionals advertise their services to assist consumers in making informed choices. To meet societal expectations and legal obligations, advertising must be socially responsible, truthful, appropriate and not misleading or deceptive. Advertising that fails to meet these expectations has the potential to harm. To assist practitioners in fulfilling their obligations, regulators formulated specific rules about advertising of health services to protect the rights of consumers however the data indicate that both professions and chiropractors in particular are not fulfilling their obligations.

The second reason is the high percentage of chiropractors advertising in an unacceptable manner. This raises questions about the profession’s culture and understanding of its obligations under the social contract. It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine this; however, this topic has been the subject of papers by observers both within the profession and external to it over several decades. The consensus is, although the profession has many of the trappings of a mainstream healthcare provider, (legislative recognition, high utilization rates, growing global footprint etc.), it is lacking in other key areas such as civic professionalism and upholding the social contract, both of which are critical components within health care. This research reinforces that position.

You might say that the findings of this investigation apply only to Australia. This is true, of course, but I see so much nonsense in advertisements by chiropractors from any country, that I very much doubt that elsewhere the situation is any better.

The fact that homeopathy is under siege in France, has been discussed before. Now even the international media have picked up the story. Here are some excerpts from an interesting article in Bloomberg:

… The looming brawl gets to the heart of conflicting visions of the state’s involvement in the country’s health system at a time of eroding quality and services. Jobs are also at stake: France is home to Boiron SA, the leader in a global homeopathy market estimated at more than $30 billion.

Boiron’s pills and tinctures have long coexisted with conventional care in France, prescribed by regular doctors and dispensed in almost every pharmacy. Ending public support for the remedies would discredit homeopathy and “send a shock wave” through the industry worldwide, says Boiron’s chief executive officer, Valerie Poinsot. “We’ve been caught in this storm for the past year,” Poinsot says. “Why the hostility, when we contribute to caring for patients?”

Facing a possible backlash, Boiron, based in Lyon, teamed with rivals Weleda AG of Switzerland and closely held family group Lehning to fund a campaign called MyHomeoMyChoice. The push has garnered just over 1 million signatures in an online petition and placed bright-colored posters framed with the recognizable little white pills at pharmacies across the country. “Homeopathy has treated generations of French patients,” says one slogan. “Why deprive future generations?”

For now, French people can walk into any pharmacy and buy a tube of Arnica granules — recommended for shocks and bruises — or roughly a thousand other similar remedies for 1.6 euros ($1.80) with a prescription, because the state health system shoulders about 30% of its cost. In some cases, private insurers cover the remainder and patients pay nothing. That may all soon change. A science agency is wrapping up a study of the relative benefits of alternative medicine that will inform the government’s position: Keep the funding, trim it or scrap it altogether.

If the government cuts funding, Boiron would instantly feel the pain. Poinsot estimates that sales of reimbursed treatments could plummet by 50% in France, where the company brings in almost half its revenue. The company’s stock price has lost about 13% since May 15, when a French newspaper wrote that the panel reviewing homeopathy funding would probably rule against it…

In France, the controversy first erupted last year when the influential Le Figaro newspaper published a letter from a doctor’s collective called FakeMed lambasting alternative medicines. The authors called for ending support of “irrational and dangerous” therapies with “no scientific foundation.” The ensuing debate prompted Health Minister Agnes Buzyn to place funding under review and ask the country’s High Authority for Health to rule on homeopathy’s scientific merits…

David Beausire, a doctor in palliative care at the hospital in Mont de Marsan, in southwest France, is among those who signed the FakeMed letter. Beausire, who sees many terminally ill patients, said he regularly gets people who consult too late because they first explored alternative medicine paths that include homeopathy. “I am not an extremist,” he says. But homeopathy’s reimbursement by the state health system gives it legitimacy when “there’s no proof that it works.”…

Stung by accusations of quackery, Antoine Demonceaux, a doctor and homeopath in Reims, founded a group called SafeMed last November to relay the message that homeopathy has a role to play alongside standard care. He points to the growing number of cancer centers offering consultations to relieve treatment-related symptoms, such as nausea, with homeopathic medicine. Demonceaux says neither he nor his colleagues would ever use homeopathy as a substitute for treatments intended to, say, shrink tumors. “A general practitioner or a specialist who’d claim to be a homeopath and to cure cancer with homeopathy? Just sack him,” he says. “Let’s get real. We are doctors.”

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On the whole, this is a good report which – as far as I can see – describes the situation quite well and provides interesting details. What, however, with this articles and many like it is this: journalists (and others) are too often too lethargic or naïve to check the veracity of the claims that are being made during these disputes. For instance, it would not have been all that difficult to discover that:

  1. Hahnemann called clinicians who used homeopathy alongside conventional treatments ‘traitors‘! He categorically forbade it and denied that such an approach merits the name ‘HOMEOPATHY’. In other words, let’s get real and let’s not pull wool over the eyes of the public (and let’s be honest, it is not possible to practice homeopathy within the boundaries of medical ethics).
  2. Many homeopaths do advocate homeopathy as a sole treatment for cancer and other serious conditions (see for instance here, here and here).

The obvious risk of such lack of critical thinking is that homeopathy might be kept refundable on the basis of big, fat lies. And clearly, that would not be in the interest of anyone (with the exception of family Boiron, of course).

New evidence on adverse effects of manual therapy comes from an unexpected source. Here is the abstract of the paper:

The aim of this study was to investigate if mild or moderate adverse events after manual therapy has an impact on the chance to recover from back/neck pain in men and women. A prospective cohort study of 771 patients with at least three treatment sessions in a randomized controlled trial performed in January 2010 – December 2013. Adverse events within 24 h after each treatment were measured with questionnaires and categorized as: no, mild or moderate, based on bothersomeness. Outcome measure was the perceived recovery at seven weeks and at three months follow-up. Odds Ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated by Logistic regression to investigate the associations between the exposure and outcome, and to test and adjust for potential confounding. There were no statistically significant associations observed between the experience of mild or moderate adverse events and being recovered at the seven weeks follow-up. The only statistically significant association observed at the three months follow-up was for mild adverse events in men with an OR of 2.44, 95% CI: 1.24–4.80 in comparison to men with no adverse events. This study indicates that mild adverse events after manual therapy may be related to a better chance to recover in men.

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In my view this is a rather boring analysis of a bizarre hypothesis … were it not for a result that cropped up almost unintendedly: AE were reported in 81% of women and 66% of men. No severe irreversible AE were reported, but 178 AEs were rated as moderate to severe. As only symptoms within 24 h after the first three treatment session were reported, the true figures might even be larger.

These figures are considerably higher than previously reported. Our own systematic review of prospective studies suggested that AEs occur in approximately half of all patients receiving spinal manipulation. It follows, I think, that we have to discuss the question about risk versus benefit of manual treatments (such as spinal manipulations) even more critically than before.

I have become used to lamentably poor research in the realm of SCAM, particularly homeopathy. Thus, there is little that can amaze me these days; at least this is what I had thought. But this paper is an exception. The new trial is entitled ‘ETHICAL CLINICAL TRIAL OF LESSER KNOWN HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES IN INFERTILITY IN FEMALES’, and it is truly outstanding. Here is the abstract:

Background & Objective:  Homoeopathy with time honoured results, has a great number of cured cases of infertility, but without much evidence. So, it is imperative to show scientifically the scope of homoeopathy in treating infertility cases. Materials and Methodology: 7 lesser known medicines (Alteris farinosa, Janosia Ashoka, Viburnum opulus, Euphonium, Ustilago, Bacillus sycocuss, Bacillus morgan) were prescribed to the sample size (n=23), at the project site O.P.D/I.P.D. of Homoeopathy university, Saipura, Jaipur and Dr Madan Pratap Khunteta Homoeopathic Medical College, Hospital & Research Centre, Station Road, Jaipur & its extension O.P.D.’s. for study within 12 months. Result-In the present study 7 (30.43%) patients were prescribed Janosia Ashoka amongst whom 2(28.57%) showed marked improvement, while 5(71.43%) remained in the state of status quo. Conclusion- Study has shown encouraging and effective treatment in infertility in females.

It does not tell us much; therefore, let me copy several crucial passages from the paper itself:

Objectives of the study-

  • To study the efficacy of homoeopathic medicines in the treatment of infertility in females.
  • To enhance the knowledge of materia medica in cases of infertility in females.

Material and Methodology-

The study was conducted at O.P.D./I.P.D.of Homoeopathy University, Saipura, Sanganer and Dr M.P.K. Homoeopathic Medical College &Research Centre, Station Road, Jaipur from 2010 to 2013 for a total period of 3 Years. A sample size of n=23 and 7 lesser known remedies were selected for the studies.

Result-

Inferences- Based on clinical symptoms and pathological investigations. It was inferred that out of 23 patients taken for study, 2 (8.69%) patients showed marked improvement, while 21 (91.31%) patients remained in the state of status quo.

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No, I am not kidding you. There is no further relevant information about the trial methodology nor about the results. Therefore, I feel unable to even criticise this study; it is even too awful for a critique.

As I said: outstanding!

And all this could be quite funny – except, of course, some nutter will undoubtedly use this paper for claiming that there is evidence for homeopathy to efficiently treat female infertility.

You have to be a homeopath to call this an ethical trial!

I have recently given interviews to German, Austrian, French and Canadian journalists. They all had different perspectives, but they all had one question in common:

YOU ARE RETIRED AND COULD BE ENJOYING LIFE, WHY DO YOU CARRY ON WORKING?

And every time I was asked this question, I was surprised. To me, it seems perfectly natural to carry on. But having been asked several times, I did ponder: why do I do it? Here are some answers found through this exercise of introspection.

First let me list three reasons that my detractors regularly imply which, however, are all false:

  1. I do not do it for the money. In fact, I earn nothing from writing this blog and even have to pay for the pleasure.
  2. I do not do it because of a bad personal experience; such an event does simply not exist.
  3. I do not do it because I want to be famous.

So, why then?

The best reason I can give is that I feel a responsibility to do what I do. I am perhaps the only person on the planet who has studied so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) extensively and who, at the same time, has been critical about it. Practically all other full-time SCAM researchers are demonstrably less than critical about their subject (in case you know someone who isn’t, please tell me). And other SCAM critics are often (rightly or wrongly) dismissed by SCAM enthusiasts because they have never done original research on the subject. This does not easily work in my case.

The responsibility I feel relates to the abominable amount of false or unreliable information that is being published every day about SCAM. In my view, it harms and even endangers the life of many consumers and patients (see, for instance, this recent case). Confronted with this endless flow of seriously misleading information, I feel unable not to do anything about it. I thus see my work since retirement as an attempt to counter-balance this danger and to make a small contribution to progress.

If I am honest, I also have to admit that I am enjoying what I do. Thus the question ‘why don’t you enjoy life…?’ entirely misses the point. I have enough time to pursue my hobbies and, when I work on SCAM, I usually have plenty of fun.

In conclusion, I am retired and I enjoy life!

My friend and colleague Willem Betz has died on 8 June 2019. He was a physician and professor emeritus at the Belgian university Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Willem was a leading sceptic and a founding member of the Belgian sceptic organization SKEPP.

After having worked 20 years as a general practitioner, he made a career change and became a teacher of general practice and a researcher. As a clinician, he received training in several alternative therapies and practiced them of a short while. Soon, he started questioning the validity of these methods and thus became a dedicated sceptic. He served SKEPP as vice-president and as president and became a fellow of the Committee for Scientific Inquiry.

His last paper was published less than a year ago. Here is its abstract:

Conventional treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) is often disappointing. As a result, some of these patients seek salvation in traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM). The aim of this study is to describe how many patients with MS use T&CM and what their motives and expectations are in doing so. Methods. Ninety-nine patients with diagnosed MS, attending the service of ambulatory revalidation of the National Clinic for Multiple Sclerosis in Melsbroek (Belgium) were included in February 2004 in this retrospective study. All patients had MS resulting in motoric or psychosocial symptoms. The disability was not quantified for this study. Participants were interviewed by means of a structured questionnaire on their current treatment of MS including T&CM. Results. In total 44% of the participants had experiences with T&CM. The most frequently used T&CM were homeopathy and acupuncture. Participants using conventional treatment were more satisfied with the support (p=0.006) and the treatment outcome (0.018) than T&CM users. The use of T&CM was not related to gender, education, living conditions, causal treatment such as disease modifying-therapy (DMT), grade of disability or subtype of the disease. Conclusion. Patients diagnosed with MS seek hope in T&CM such as homeopathy or acupuncture. The results of this study suggest that MS patients need more professional support in their personal search for alternative therapies. Key point. 50% of patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis search relief in traditional and complementary medicine such as homeopathy or acupuncture. These patients often feel compelled to try every opportunity to heal, often stimulated or urged on by friends or relatives. Multiple sclerosis patients are more satisfied with their conventional treatment than with the traditional and complementary medicine.

Through his personality, enthusiasm, analytical mind, humour and dedication, Willem has inspired an entire generation of sceptics. We will miss you Willem.

In 1995, the Church of Scientology attempted to suppress the Fishman Affidavit which contained Church-copyrighted versions of Operating Thetan levels I-VII. This promptly resulted in hundreds of copies being circulated around the world.

In 2003, Barbra Streisand’s lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to the California Coastal Records Project about the inclusion of a photo of her Malibu beach house on their website. When the website operators rejected the demand, Streisand sued. Subsequently, the Los Angeles Superior Court dismissed the case and the worlds attention focussed on her villa (see below).

 

Today, there are numerous further cases where someone has tried to censor another party and the attempt spectacularly backfired thus resulting in the opposite effect. Ever since the events surrounding the Streisand affair, the phenomenon has been called the ‘Streisand Effect‘. But recently, German sceptics have proposed to re-name it in

THE ‘HEVERT EFFECT’.

The reason is that a firm producing homeopathic remedies in Germany, Hevert, sent a desist letter to German critics of homeopathy demanding they stop stating that homeopathy is not effective beyond placebo (I did mention the story in a previous post).

I do get the impression that Hevert are not very lucky with their PR. On their website, they claim that homeopathy activates the body’s own self-healing powers. I fear this is much more wishful thinking than fact; at least I know of no sound evidence that would prove this statement to be correct. They also claim that homeopathy is a naturopathic treatment method that was developed at the beginning of the 19th century by German physician and pharmacist Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). This does not seem correct either; homeopathy does not fall under the umbrella of naturopathic medicine, not least because it includes plenty of remedies as unnatural as the Berlin Wall. The Hevert website furthermore states that Hahnemann discovered that, with many substances, the healing powers are only released by potentization. He also discovered that toxic substances became valuable medicines when potentized. I fear that this is wrong too; in fact, Hahnemann discovered nothing of the sort – he merely postulated stuff that evidently turned out to be untrue.

Anyway, one of the recipients of the above mentioned desist letters, Natalie Grams, decided not to comply and rather risk the penalty of Euro 5 100. This news then resulted in a storm of angry protests. Germans do not like to be told what to say, and freedom of speech is valued highly these days. Numerous newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasts, blogs and tweets thus sided firmly with Dr Grams.

This week, even a prominent and rather excellent German TV satirical programme aired a long film mercilessly mocking Hevert and homeopathy (no, nothing to do with me!). It is is, in my view, the best critique of homeopathy ever broadcast on German TV. Even if you do not understand the language , it is worth watching, if only for the musical finale:

One theme that occurs repeatedly in the film is the concept of ‘the three pillars of homeopathy’:

  1. dilute;
  2. shake;
  3. waffle BS (the German original is even less polite [‘Scheisse labern’]).

The ‘three pillars’ have become an instant hit on twitter, with bloggers and elsewhere. They look destined to become the future hallmark of homeopathy. Hevert will now be asking themselves whether the thing with the desist letters was such a brilliant idea.

I suspect it wasn’t – perhaps only trumped by the idea to sell homeopathic remedies?

 

 

 

A few days ago, I received this email:

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xxyy

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Amazed and curious, I replied:

Thanks xxyy,

that sounds interesting; please let me know what costs are involved.

Regards

E Ernst

____________________________________________________

The answer came a few days later. Here is the passage that addressed my question:

Usually, Researchers want their articles converted into common man’s language and make them into a book. But if you have a special requirement, then please let us know, so that our writers can write according to your needs. And once the drafting has finished, we will send it for your review for scientific accuracy. This includes book cover & page design, ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for your book, proofreading service and publication fee. And Our service fee for this is $1895. And it will take around 1 month to complete your project. Last but not least, once your book is published, we will write a news article about you and your book and will publish it in major newspapers to get proper publicity.

Image result for ghost writer, comic

_______________________________________________________

I have to admit, I am still amazed! The price seems not high (though, judging from the quality of their English, the price/value balance might still be doubtful). Whenever I write a book, it takes me the best part of a year. Once I calculate a realistic $-figure for this effort, it would surely be more than one dimension higher.

So, am I going to have my next book ghost-written by this or any other service?

No, thanks!

(*Yes, I deleted the names)

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