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

Once upon a time, the University of Exeter prided itself of having the ‘1st chair in complementary medicine’ in the country. That was in 1993, when I was appointed to that position. I then recruited a team of motivated researchers, and we soon managed to become the world’s leading research group in our field. Together, we published more papers on alternative medicine in the peer reviewed medical literature than any other team before or since, and we managed to get an international reputation for high-quality critical assessments of alternative medicine. Unfortunately, not all people were happy; some even seemed to be distinctly unhappy because few of our findings were as they had hoped.

In 2012/13, I retired under circumstances that, I am afraid, were not to the credit or integrity of my peers (the full and rather sad story has been told in my memoir). Since then, I have the status of Emeritus Professor; in that role, I give occasional lectures, publish about one book per year, run this blog, and generally enjoy life. There is not much that can bother me these days…

…at least, this is what I thought until I saw this announcement by Exeter University.

It informed me that the University of Exeter has decided to “offer a range of complementary therapies at a discounted rate to Staff at both Streatham and St Lukes Campus.”

Treatments are not cheap but members will receive the following reductions:

  • 60 minutes + treatments £5.00 discount
  • 45 minute treatments £4.00 discount
  • 30 minute treatments £3.00 discount.

You want to know which therapies precisely are on offer?

Here is a selection of the treatments they are providing:

  • Hot Stone Back Massage
  • Reflexology
  • Pregnancy Massage
  • Indian Head Massage
  • Acupressure points
  • Yoga movements
  • Somatic movements
  • Chi  Qong
  • Nutrition based Ayurvedic system of health
  • Tai Yoga massage

Impressive?

Yes, most impressive – particularly as none of the therapies listed above are supported by anything that looks remotely like good evidence!

So, has my University gone raving mad?

Have they joined the legion of charlatans promoting nonsense?

Do they perhaps want to score even more brownie-points with HRH, the Prince of Wales?

One would assume so … but wait … they added a disclaimer to their announcement:

Whilst the University is pleased to welcome complementary practitioners to the campus and support greater access to a range of wellbeing services, we are not in a position to actively condone the effectiveness of such treatments. However, Reed Mews Wellbeing Centre wants to promote choice and encourage individuals to make informed decisions regarding the management of their health needs.

AHHH – I AM SO PLEASED – THAT’S ALRIGHT THEN!

49 Responses to Exeter University offers bogus treatments, but is ‘not in a position to actively condone the effectiveness of such treatments’

  • Edzard, you just don’t give up, do you?

    I have had about half of the listed treatments and the result: relaxed and even more positive mood than before the treatment.

    It may be difficult to scientifically demonstrate the medical effects of the treatments on specific conditions but, if there is an association between mental/psychological stress and susceptibility to development of physical illnesses that is unique to every individual depending on their particular susceptibilities then the ‘explanation’ for the benefits is known but not proven.

    Well done to University of Exeter for getting over their post-Ernst hangover.

    • “It may be difficult to scientifically demonstrate the medical effects of the treatments on specific conditions but, if there is an association between mental/psychological stress and susceptibility to development of physical illnesses that is unique to every individual depending on their particular susceptibilities then the ‘explanation’ for the benefits is known but not proven.”
      ONE DAY, EVEN YOU MIGHT COMPREHEND WHAT CLINICAL TRIALS CAN AND CANNOT ACHIEVE!

      • Thanks Dr. Ernst, that sounds like there is some hope for me.

        But what about you? Have you tried the therapies for yourself?

        The main point though Dr. Ernst is that your medical and research credentials are impeccable but your credentials in alternative medicine disciplines are zero. No qualifications in any of the disciplines, and, judging from what you have written, a very inept homeopathic practitioner.

        One day, maybe, you will get why having you writing all your books and blogs is enjoyable for me to read the words of a person who wants to know but does not know, and yet writes as if he knows

        • “No qualifications in any of the disciplines, and, judging from what you have written, a very inept homeopathic practitioner.”
          EVEN THE MOST IMPECABLE QUALIFICATIONS IN NONSENSE CAN ONLY AMOUNT TO NONSENSE!

        • “…judging from what you have written, a very inept homeopathic practitioner…”
          if you really had read what I have written, you would know that I am not a homeopathic practitioner at all – inept or ept.

      • In fairness, they are not stating what they are treating with the treatments. I am sure they are very effective at alleviating full wallet syndrome.

    • Dear Greg,
      You don’t get it, do you?
      For an educational establishment to give credence to such gibberish is irresponsible. The marketing of bogus treatments diverts folk from properly tested medical attention, diverts folks’ resources and potentially delays effective treatment.
      When a medical professional can do no more, (s)he tells the patient. Honesty allows coming to terms with a prognosis.
      When resorting to “treatments” that lack evidence or plausibility, how could a customer expect an honest and informed prognosis?
      These “remedies” and those peddling them are reprehensible diversions that cost more than money: they cost lives, they cost treasures memories for the grieving.
      If you’ve a need for comforting words or a desire for massage: seek therapy or a masseuse, please don’t add an ounce of credibility to a cul de sac of alt med.
      When I say “Dear Greg” I mean “it’s dear, Greg: dear as in expensive, costly, pricey, carries consequences and has an opportunity cost.”
      Okay so the university needs income streams, but why sell their credibility to the industry Cloth-Brained Charlie is so financially attached to?

      • Dear Rich

        Thank you for your thoughtful response.

        Just to be clear, I found the therapies that I tried (in Enst’s list) to be relaxing and mood enhancing. In my opinion, being relaxed and in a positive mood is good for one’s health.

        If you don’t think that this is true for you, that is your view and experience.

        Ps: no one is asking the taxpayer to fund the nation to get reflexology, massage and all the other enjoyable therapies, so you need not worry about your money being used for this.

        Take care.

      • Rich Wiltshir

        “For an educational establishment to give credence to such gibberish is irresponsible. The marketing of bogus treatments diverts folk from properly tested medical attention, diverts folks’ resources and potentially delays effective treatment.”

        What part of the world do you live in? The dark continent?

        ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3778453
        It examined a pain-management course offered at the University of Toronto between 2004 and 2010 that Persaud took while a student. For Persaud, the presented slides raised red flags because they seemed to downplay the negative effects of oxycodone and included an alleged direct quote from a 2006 CMAJ article saying placebo-controlled trials showed “strong” and “consistent” evidence that opioids relieve pain and improve function for patients with chronic, noncancer pain.
        The quote doesn’t exist in the cited article, however, nor does the original article use the words “strong” and “consistent” to describe the evidence.
        In addition, a textbook given to students was published by Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, and Persaud found that the lecturer, Dr. Roman Jovey, had received money from Purdue in the past.

        content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1883449,00
        “Now, however, it turns out that many professors and instructors are, legally, on the dole as well, and students are beginning to worry that what they’re being taught is just as one-sided as what patients are being prescribed. “……….”Of Harvard’s 8,900 professors and lecturers, 1,600 admit that either they or a family member have had some kind of business link to drug companies — sometimes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

        The Pharmaceutical Industry’s Role in U.S. Medical Education
        Pharmaceutical companies, recognizing the formative nature of the clinical years of medical education, seek to form relationships with medical students years before they are ready to independently practice medicine. “Why are these more expensive, possibly inferior drugs being prescribed instead of clinically recommended, evidence-based medications?”

        What do you expect these doctors and researchers do after their studies are over:

        citizensreport.org/2014/11/06/big-pharma-influencing-med-students-doctors
        “In 2006, the New England Journal of Medicine, known as the best medical journal in the world, published a report that compared three diabetes drugs. In the report, a conclusion was made that the drug maker Glaxo Smith Kline’s new prescription, Avandia, was the best.
        What was not made clear at the time was that all of the report’s 11 authors received money from the Glaxo Smith Kline. Four of the authors even worked for the pharmaceutical company.
        Within a few years, the new drug was pulled off the market. 100,000 people had suffered heart attacks. What made this journal article so scandalous was that the authors omitted vital safety information. Due to the authors’ ties with Glaxo Smith Kline, some would speculate that the safety information was purposely omitted.

        This is an endless list. At least Exeter University, has the moral courage to write “we are not in a position to actively condone the effectiveness of such treatments.”

        They are turning over a new leaf. Quite a change, after living with Edzard for 20 years.

        • Hi Greg,
          The irony of your response being “take care” gives me a chuckle.
          Delayed referral to a medical professional increases the likelihood of a greater treatment cost. As our beloved NHS is tax-payer funded, alt med is a burden on us all.
          To claim “x is true” when the evidence is either absent or contrary is irresponsible, costly, uncaring and arguably profiteering.
          I perceive the invalid claim “x is true” to be dishonest and exposes the claimant as either ignorant, incompetent or intentionally deceitful.

          Oh yes, I take care not to be duped by charlatans.

        • Iqbal, baby.
          Almost TLTR (too long to read), but I gave it a go and found none of your links worked, so have to scrutinise your words for their own worth.
          I’m in the UK and hugely fortunate to benefit from our overworked NHS.
          It’s overworked, underfunded and burdened by unnecessary costs such as security guards in A&E due to thugs’ abuse of staff, >£30m pa to religious sales reps in hospitals, ludicrous leaching by alt med imposition and patients with worsened or inflicted harm thanks to uninformed buffoons pretending to know better.
          Big Pharma’s your target and tool for diverting attention from the ineptitude of Big BS, so let’s acknowledge some of Big Pharma’s flaws: not sharing all data from trails or research of products that failed in the development stage, pricing for profit, targeting professionals with refined sales techniques and incentives, using marketing techniques that suggest medication’s necessary for ailments with a natural course that will expire anyway (for example, “after a week’s cold, I took Product Z and my sniffling ended within the next 7 days” for an ailment with a fortnight’s course”)
          Yup: Big Pharma has its flaws atop or aside its benefits, but I’ve yet to see any claim of alt med’s surviving the least scrutiny.

          Of course, Iqbal, I could be wrong and I strive to find weaknesses in the tentative conclusion that alt med is utter bilge. However, the wordsmithing, quote-mining, misrepresentation, sales methods, self-delusion and consequences of “practitioners” being tied to the industry as better income and prestige aren’t available elsewhere are telling characteristics of the claims and claimants for this bucket of silly and damaging I’ll-conceived gibberish.

          • What you don’t take in account Rich, is that ‘alt med’ has saved untold numbers of people from taking unnecessary and harmful drugs for naturally manageable and self-resloving ailments for centuries now. Think of the hundreds of millions of people that have been poisoned with fly by night ‘scientific medicine’ for ailments that did not require medication? Antibiotics is a prime example: Johnny has a sniffy cold Dr: antibiotics. The history of medicine, since Hahnemann’s days, has been a constant battle to stop the poisoning of the human race with unnecessary drugs and treatments. Got that Rich?

            Yes, unresolvable illnesses need drugs and medical intervention to try and manage and, in this unfortunate group of people, plying off ‘alternatives treatments’ is reprehensible and should be criminal.

          • Rich Wiltshir

            “I’m in the UK and hugely fortunate to benefit from our overworked NHS. It’s overworked, underfunded and burdened by unnecessary costs…………….ls, ludicrous leaching by alt med imposition and patients with worsened or inflicted harm thanks to uninformed buffoons pretending to know better.”

            It has nothing to do with NHS. Hospitals around the world are over worked and full of patients at all times. The reason is simple: patients do not get cured. And therefore they repeatedly visit such centers. America is considered to be the epicenter of great medical research. Americans are the most sick people in the world spending $3.5 trillion for 326 million people on health care. 70% of Americans are on prescription drugs. That is one perennially sick society. And this has to do with the medication that is offered not to cure : only remove symptoms or just manage condition. And many times add a new medical condition to the poor patient in the name of scientific medical treatment.
            A cured patient is poor business proposition.

            Goldman Sachs report: “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?”
            “The authors were apparently spooked by the tale of Gilead Sciences, who developed a Hepatitis C therapy that is more than 90% effective, making $12.5B in 2015 — the year of the therapy’s release — a number that fell to $4B this year. ”

            The fact is:

            “To think that a pharmaceutical or any other company would not attempt to stomp out competition that threatened to rival their products is just naïve. This is seen in business every day. Yet people seem to cast Big Pharma in a light of righteousness, as if they are some benevolent caregiver providing the country with loving health care; as if they are somehow exempt from the cut throat nature of American big business simply because their efforts are incorrectly seen as a public service, even though the evidence shows Big Pharma is not concerned with anything above and beyond its own profits.”

          • What you don’t take in account Rich, is that ‘alt med’ has saved untold numbers of people from taking unnecessary and harmful drugs for naturally manageable and self-resloving ailments for centuries now.

            Not alt-med, but non-med. They were saved because of not following contemporary medicine, not because of following alternative whatever.

            Discovering flaws in conventional medicine does not make alternative medicine methodologies effective. That is to say, those people that have been “killed” by conventional medicine would have been saved by doing nothing, not because of following some alternative modality. For this reason, dozens of alternative modalities have developed with one thing in common… saving people from conventional medicine by being absolutely equivalent to doing nothing.

            But not all people, only the very few cases of misfortune, mistake or, even, dire misconduct in conventional medicine, which end up in serious harm. The problem is that this observation is extrapolated to the rest of the patients (which are the lion’s share of the percentage) by alternative argumentation, and people believe alternative medicine can “heal” their problems somehow.

            When not a homeopath, it is straightforward to see and confirm how many people are successfully taken care of and being relieved of numerous pathologies at hospitals or any primary/secondary healthcare units, or at private practices, through all kinds of modalities, including medication and drugs of all kinds.

      • So Rich,

        “The marketing of bogus treatments diverts folk from properly tested medical attention, diverts folks’ resources and potentially delays effective treatment.”

        That sounds horrible!

        The marketing is for “oasis of calm”, stress relief, mental relaxation, etc. Specifically what properly tested medical attention are you referring to? What effective treatment are they being delayed from?

        What properly tested, effective treatment should Exeter actively condone for someone who “requires an oasis of calm”? Maybe you should start a petition, and gather signatures. Stop the Oasis of Calm delays! Or maybe, We Want Our Properly Tested Oasis of Calm – And We Want it NOW!

        Seriously, between Brexit and Trump…there’s no time to waste on bogus Oasis treatments.

        • JM,

          According to ‘Edzard’, medical knowledge only really began to develop post 1948 (before that humankind lived in the ‘dark ages’: people dropped dead in the streets at 31. Ask Edzard, he wrote this in one of his past (hilarious) replies to me.)

          Jashak made it clear; nothing can be believed or contemplated that has been put through the truth filter of RCT: everything outside the realms of RCT is pure delusion. This SCIENCE of RCT science is THE path to true knowledge, knowledge that separates the enlightened from the fools of the world.(Dr Rawlins has been waxing lyrical for years to get the fools, charlatans, frauds, criminals and quacks to get it, because, presumably, Dr Rawlins is an enlightened being.)

          Jashak: please would you talk us through the process of how proposal for an RCT is derived? What is the basis for something being considered as worthy for conducting a (proper) RCT?

          Jashak: Please also talk us through how something that is not investigated by RCT process (e.g. association between psychological distress and physical illness) can be investigated?

          Notice to Exeter University: the lobotomised Frankenstein group otherwise known as ee.com may issue a writ to you to carry out RCT on ‘Oasis of Calm’, and that, in meantime, you desist from promulgation of such preposterous and delusionary falsehoods!

          • Greg: I will not tolerate your insults (lobotomised Frankenstein group otherwise known as ee.com). please stop them or get banned from this blog.

          • Greg,
            as I said, I am interested in your opinions only as long as you refrain from demeaning comments or insults. Let me answer your comments directed at me:

            Greg: “Jashak made it clear; nothing can be believed or contemplated that has been put through the truth filter of RCT: everything outside the realms of RCT is pure delusion.”

            Answer:
            I never said this. Many things exist outside of RCTs.
            RCTs are just a very good tool to investigate if a certain MEDICAL TREATMENT works or not.

            Greg: “This SCIENCE of RCT science is THE path to true knowledge, knowledge that separates the enlightened from the fools of the world.”

            Answer:
            Personally, I do not feel “enlightened”. This is actually the big difference between the scientific approach and e.g. religion (or believers in alternative medicine). These people might fell “enlightened”, if you apply good science, you are always looking for “holes” or errors in your hypotheses/ideas. So most of the time, I feel sceptic about what I know and what I do. In contrast to “belivers”, I can be convinced that I am wrong… as long as you give me some reproducible evidence.
            I think that “Science” indeed is a great progress in human development. I am very interested about how nature “WORKS” and -when it comes to health issues- what I can rely on. I have been seriously ill in the past, but won´t bother you with the details.The scientific approach allows us to set up hypotheses (or models) and then test if these ideas are true or not.
            Of course, our knowledge about the world is (and always will be) limited. However, science has led to great progress, e.g. regarding technology (Computers, telephone, modern analytic instruments (MRT) etc.etc.etc.). If you deny science, you should be consequent and stop using these things.
            RCTs apply the scientific approach to health treatments and allow coming to a REPRODUCIBLE and GENERALIZABLE conclusions.

            Greg: “Jashak: please would you talk us through the process of how proposal for an RCT is derived? What is the basis for something being considered as worthy for conducting a (proper) RCT?”

            Answer:
            In contrast to Prof. Ernst, I am not an expert on RCTs. However, to my knowledge, it is possible to test pretty much all alternative treatments with properly designed RCTs. Importantly, you must be able to have a good plabeco control. E.g. for acupuncture, this would be a “placebo needle”, which does not penetrate the skin and is placed to areas outside of the “true” acupuncture spot.

            Greg: “Jashak: Please also talk us through how something that is not investigated by RCT process (e.g. association between psychological distress and physical illness) can be investigated?”

            Answer:
            Your question is very general. You first should formulate a concrete research question, addressing what exact “stress” and “illness” you want to investigate and how they are defined. Then you could setup an experiment (not necessarily an RCT) to test connections. For example, depending on the exact research question, you could do in vitro cell culture test or animal experiments (if the ethics justify this).

          • Greg,

            You wrote

            …nothing can be believed or contemplated that has been put through the truth filter of RCT: everything outside the realms of RCT is pure delusion. This SCIENCE of RCT science is THE path to true knowledge, knowledge that separates the enlightened from the fools of the world.

            While your statement drips with mocking irony, please allow me to point out that the RCT approach is, at root, precisely the same as chemists, physicists, biologists and all other scientists employ in almost all of their experiments. It’s no good measuring something experimental without an appropriate control, set up under exactly the same conditions as whatever’s being tested. To test efficacy of a treatment, you use a control group of humans treated with either a placebo or a comparator remedy that’s already demonstrated its efficacy.

            In most bench experiments the investigator is not blinded to the nature of the control, because they are making entirely objective measurements. However, in some situations, particularly when measured effects are expected to differ from controls only by a small amount or they depend on purely visual observations, blinding is the preferred approach. When the notorious Benveniste experiments on ‘water memory’ have been repeated with the operators counting cells under a microscope blinded as to whether they were looking at experimental or control preparations, the apparent effects vanished. In my own laboratory I have on several occasions insisted that some experiments be run with operators blinded as to whether they were examining test or control systems, just to confirm we weren’t fooling ourselves. Many of my colleagues have sometimes done the same.

            As to stress effects on physical illness responses, this has been examined for many years. A search on “psychological stress effects on treatment outcomes” in Google Scholar gives 2.7 million hits, though most of these are not concerned with the kind of mild stresses you appear to be thinking of, which respond to a bit of ‘tender, loving care’. If you can pick out the papers that are not concerned with severe disorders like post-traumatic stress syndrome you’ll see the kind of methodology used to test hypotheses relating stress to treatment outcome.

          • Let me recount an interesting personal anecdote:

            I once had an “argument” about whether the water of some tap was or wasn’t pleasant, the other person supported that the water from the specific tap had an unpleasant smell/taste. As pointless as it was, I did a small experiment, the simplest sort of single-blinded controlled trial design around.

            I filled up 12 identical glasses with water. 6 with bottled water and 6 with tap water, taking note of which glass contained which type of water. At the same time, I took a piece of paper and wrote 12 numbers, all only 0 or 1 (e.g. 0,0,1,1,0,1,0….), choosing them in random. I then told the person to similarly write somewhere else 12 times the number 0 or 1 in random. After that, I had the person taste water from each glass and write on another paper whether the glass contained tap or bottled water.

            The reason I wrote down the 12-tuple of random 0s and 1s and asked the person to do the same is, as I explained to that person, to have a(n elementary) quantification of the term “in random”. After uncovering and juxtaposing our lists, it was revealed that we had made the same binary choice 8 times out of 12, i.e. 8 of our 12 digits in their corresponding positions were identical. That means, at least to the extent that a single-sampling allows a generalization (it doesn’t), that by pure luck, the person had an approximate success rate of ~67% (8/12). This is to say that if the person had a 67% success rate when tracing which glass contained which type of water, it wouldn’t mean anything, as it had just been shown that 2 sets of 12 totally random and independent sequential binary decisions may easily overlap as much as 67%.

            Then, I took a look at the guesses and compared them with mine. Technically, one would have to repeat this experiment with the same person a couple of times to have a better control for the optimization, however, the results were quite telling. The person had found what all 12 glasses contained, successfully. 100% success with 12 binary guesses is quite hard to argue against for such a simple and pointless experiment. In all likelihood, the water of this tap has a “weird” smell/taste, and the person involved has the necessary smell-taste sensitivity to feel that, end of story.

            Despite the oversimplifications of my instantaneous design, at the spur of the moment, I believe it highlighted the points of a properly designed experiment, as well as the burden of accepting or rejecting the proof depending on the results and not on personal preference, liking, superstition, or vested interest.

            That said, you can test pretty much anything with a properly designed RCT. The difference between homeopaths and experienced scientists is that experienced scientists don’t hope for a positive result all that much. They know better than that, because when hoping strongly, one might start seeing things that are not there at all.

            […] everything outside the realms of RCT is pure delusion. This SCIENCE of RCT science is THE path to true knowledge, knowledge that separates the enlightened from the fools of the world.

            Well, substitute fools with deluded ones and you’re almost there. Otherwise, if you have an example for which a proper RCT would be fundamentally unsuitable as a test, let us know Greg, and we can talk about that in specific.

      • Quite apart from all the other reasons to avoid CAM—notably, the lack of evidence— it is the opening statement of your message, Rich Wiltshir, that always comes first to me:

        “The marketing of bogus treatments diverts folk from properly tested medical attention, diverts folks’ resources and potentially delays effective treatment.”

        Oh, yeah, and it kills prematurely.

    • Dear Greg,
      I can understand your comment… to a certain degree, that is.
      Who doesn´t enjoy a good massage? I guess pretty much everybody does. And good for you that the treatments had a positive effect on your mood. This, however, does not mean that these (or other “alternative”) treatments should be endorsed by publicly funded Universities.
      To my knowledge, massage therapy (as ALL other “alternative” treatments on the market) has not been shown to be effective in curing any illness or affliction in the long run (beyond the short-lived placebo effect, of course).
      So instead of promoting such “alternative” treatments that may provide some short-lived “feel good” moments for people as yourself, it would be more appropriate to promote treatments that have shown to be effective in the long run in randomized controlled trial (RCTs; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randomized_controlled_trial).
      You seem to be willing to share your feelings/opinions in this blog, which at least I can appreciate (as long as you refrain from being demeaning). However, you seem to lack some knowledge about the advantages that the scientific approach (i.e. RCTS) offers when it comes the evaluation of health treatment options.

      • Dear Jashak

        Have any RCT’s been done to study if there is an association between psychological ‘stress’ and physical illnesses?

        If so, what were the outcomes?

        Have RCT’s been done to demonstrate whether any of the listed modalities reduce psychological ‘stress’?

        Is so what were the outcomes?

        What you seem to not take into account is that the human race has been around for thousands of years. The first RCT was published in 1948:
        “Streptomycin treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randomized_controlled_trial).

        Before then, how did human beings manage for so long to figure anything out?

        • Have any RCT’s been done to study if there is an association between psychological ‘stress’ and physical illnesses?
          RCTs ARE NOT FOR FINDING ASSOCIATIONS OF THIS NATURE
          Have RCT’s been done to demonstrate whether any of the listed modalities reduce psychological ‘stress’?
          YES – IN GENERAL, NO BETTER THAN PLACEBO
          What you seem to not take into account is that the human race has been around for thousands of years. The first RCT was published in 1948:
          “Streptomycin treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randomized_controlled_trial).
          Before then, how did human beings manage for so long to figure anything out?
          THE HUMAN RACE MADE PRECIOUS LITTLE PROGRESS IN TERMS OF EFFECTIVE HEALTHCARE UNTIL VERY RECENTLY

          • Edzard

            “THE HUMAN RACE MADE PRECIOUS LITTLE PROGRESS IN TERMS OF EFFECTIVE HEALTHCARE UNTIL VERY RECENTLY”

            I doubt if there is a clear definition on what “effective health care means” as you grandly announce and link it to scientific medicine.

            For the benefit of your readers, try to explain the possible early death of an American placed in a Somali slum with all the right scientific drugs. And a Somali prospering in USA with no requirement for any drug.

            And link it to the new report :
            Child leukaemia linked to reduced exposure to germs

            nhs.uk_news_cancer_child-leukaemia-linked-reduced-exposure-germs

          • oh dear!

          • For the benefit of your readers, try to explain the possible early death of an American placed in a Somali slum with all the right scientific drugs. And a Somali prospering in USA with no requirement for any drug.

            Imagining things again, fellow Iqbal?

            Let me tell you how simple it is. Links between cause and effect in terms of pathology are very complicated. It’s much more complicated than “like cures like” or whatever else pleases your imagination.

        • Greg,
          the questions that you ask in your reply indicate that you do not seem to be very familiar with the method called “science” in general and RCTs in particular.
          If you have a real interest in getting some information on this topic, I recommend that you read one of the books on alternative medicine from E. Ernst (e.g. Homeopathy – The Undiluted Facts) or, if you speak German, the book “Gesundheit!: Ein Buch nicht ohne Nebenwirkungen” from N. Grams. Both books are quite easy to understand and a good read.
          I am a biologist and well aware that “the human race has been around for thousands of years”. But what does this prove in relation with massage therapy?! The flying dinosaur Pteranodon was around on this planet for over 10 million years, but I doubt that this had anything to do with Hot stone or pregnancy Massage.

    • Many of these procedures make people feel good. Not me–I cringe at the thought of being touched all over by a stranger. Doing things that make you feel good is not a bad idea, especially if you’re seriously ill, and real doctors have counselors and home health care aides to refer you to.

      Your mistake is in claiming that this particular subset of sorta good things had properties over and above normal self-care and that they deserve to be sold at a hospital.

      • Touch – warm, gentle, loving, caring, human touch is what very many people are suffering from a shortage of.

        This fact is used by people suffering from “healer-o-philia”* who yearn themselves for recognition, appreciation and gratitude, which is what they lack in their lives adn they find a longing for being the one who heals.

        Healerophiles sometimes invent their own fondling-therapy or take a short course in one of the many esoteric touch-services e.g. Rolfing, Bowen, Shiatsu or craniosacral adjustment etc.
        They then buy a massage couch and start a small business at home or on the high-street and get their own fulfilment out of providing human touch to those in need. Candlelights, aromatic oils, oriental trinkets and soothing sounds may add to the effect. Or some choose to role play doctor and put on a white robe and hang interesting anatomy charts on the walls in a bright, surgery-like setting, which also gives an air of respectability.

        A seasoned country doctor was once asked by a junior why he kept receiving an old spinster for weekly appointments where he gave her a thorough clinical examination and some strange manipulations – there was nothing wrong with her. The old doctor replied that she was certainly suffering from a condition. She suffered from chronic lack of human touch. “It is called skin-hunger” he said, ” and I am providing for her what she needs most in her life.

        Many healerophiles thus provide a sought after service, which can be acceptable as long as they do no harm and do not defraud their customers.
        Idiots who think that sticking with needles or producing bruise marks are necessary for healing should be regulated and given something useful to do – such as digging ditches or collecting trash.

        * I just made this word up. It might also be “sano-philia” to make it more latin-like. Or even “medico-philia”.

    • “…an even more positive mood…” Well done for demonstrating the kind of foolishness that drove me away from so-called alternative medicine and happily into the world of sensible, ethical people like Prof Ernst.

  • This discussion is bedeviled by the trick oft used by camists – conflating and confusing ‘therapies’ with ‘pleasantries’.

    Exeter University has announced that it is offering “a range of therapies”. A ‘therapy’ is defined as ‘a treatment to relieve or heal a disorder’ (Google); ‘treatment of bodily, mental or behavioural disorder’ (Merriam-Webster); ‘treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder’ (Oxford Dictionaries). So, EU is offering the means to heal disorders.

    But which disorders? From what conditions does EU imagine its students are suffering? How is it that the university’s student health service seems to have failed to treat these conditions? What evidence is there the ‘therapies’ offered by EU heal any disorder whatsoever. Or is EU simply pandering and misleading students as to the extent to which the university genuinely cares about them?

    There are two groups of treatments listed – some do indeed offer pleasure and are nice to have. As Rich Wiltshir says (above), “If you’ve a need for comforting words or a desire for massage: seek therapy or a masseuse, please don’t add an ounce of credibility to a cul de sac of alt med.”

    Like Christine Rose, I can see that offering massages and yoga classes might well be comforting – Chi Qong is related to yoga and meditation practices and probably does provide comfort (but “when used for medical conditions, there is no evidence that qigong provides health benefits” – Google). However, there is a second group of ‘therapies’ offered by EU which do not treat any disorders whatsoever, should not be characterised as a ‘therapy’, should not be listed with the ‘comforts’, and should not be endorsed by the university:

    Reflexology (“there are zones on the feet corresponding with organs of the body”); acupuncture (“there are medians along which ‘energy’ may be stimulated to move by needling ”); anything associated with Ayurveda (“the gods taught man which herbs to use to balance three elementary doshas ”), are systems of healthcare which are anachronistic, outmoded, based on imaginative elaborations not founded in any plausible rational science, are pseudo-scientific and for which there is no good reproducible evidence of any benefit on any specific pathological disorder.

    Exeter University deserves severe admonishment and censure for conflating some practices which may be pleasant and provide comfort (good) with those claimed by proponents to be ‘systems of health care’ but which are distinctly ‘alternative’ – they require practitioners and patients to have an alternative mind set to that which is rational and well founded.

    Exeter University should not be promoting irrationality and should be above endorsing false claims. What a shame it no longer has a department headed by a professor and dedicated to investigating these claims. EU is now hoist by its own petard.

    • I wonder why Exeter University did not advertise “a glass of red wine” or “a nice glass of Scotch Whisky” as a therapy. Maybe even two or three of those?!
      I find this therapy very relaxing and mood enhancing… actually when I think about it… it should definitely be covered by my health insurance!

    • “So, EU is offering the means to heal disorders.
      But which disorders? From what conditions does EU imagine its students are suffering?”
      Stress. From the looks of it.

      “Or is EU simply pandering and misleading students as to the extent to which the university genuinely cares about them?”
      Also from the looks of it, they’re offering their employees a discount on massage. A very small discount, but maybe it’s the thought that counts.

      “As Rich Wiltshir says (above), “If you’ve a need for comforting words or a desire for massage: seek therapy or a masseuse”
      EU is providing massage and gentle movement.

      “acupuncture (“there are medians along which ‘energy’ may be stimulated to move by needling ”);”
      They aren’t offering acupuncture.

      “…they require practitioners and patients to have an alternative mind set…”
      That’s a pretty weird conspiracy theory. It’s massage. It’s sounding like you could use one.

      • IM, I reiterate: ‘Massage’ and meditation might well provide comfort, be pleasant and relieve stress. But that is not what Exeter University are claiming.

        It claims it is offering ‘healing of disorders’ (that’s what is says on the tin containing ‘therapies’). And acupuncture is listed on the EU site I have accessed.

        It is the conflation of therapies with pleasantries and misleading of students which is offensive in an academic institution and is to be deprecated.

        Why can’t Exeter University make the distinction?
        Does it have a Professor in its Department of Pandering?

      • Richard,

        Post the link that you’re looking at. I went to the one in Edzard’s post. No mention of ‘healing of disorders’. No mention of acupuncture, either. They’re offering discounted massage.

        • jm: ExU claim it is offering ‘therapies’. That word means ‘the healing of disorders’ (not merely nice massage).

          One of the ‘therapists’ (claiming to heal disorders) promoted on the ExU website as quoted by EE above is Sonia Rashid.
          She states: “The techniques used may involve: Massage; Acupressure points;…”

          ‘Acus’ – Greek, ‘a needle’. ‘Acupressure points’: ‘pressure on a point from a needle’.
          How can we be sure there is no puncture of the epidermis? What would be the point of using the term ‘acu-‘ if a needle is not used and needling is not meant?

          Is Miss Rashid trying to fool not only her patients, but her fellow camists too? (And the ExU authorities?)

          The Latin for the Greek ‘acus’ is ‘belone’.
          I suggest ‘belonetherapy’ is the term which EU should employ.

          Why does ExU endorse nonsense?

          • Richard, in that case you should definitely contact EU.

            Ask them “How can we be sure there is no puncture of the epidermis? What would be the point of using the term ‘acu-‘ if a needle is not used and needling is not meant?”

            Please, please post their response :). It’d be interesting to see what their sense of humor is like.

            If they take you in any way seriously…then you could worry about them endorsing nonsense.

  • Big Pharma’s your target and tool for diverting attention from the ineptitude of Big BS, so let’s acknowledge some of Big Pharma’s flaws: not sharing all data from trails or research of products that failed in the development stage, pricing for profit, targeting professionals with refined sales techniques and incentives, using marketing techniques that suggest medication’s necessary for ailments with a natural course that will expire anyway (for example, “after a week’s cold, I took Product Z and my sniffling ended within the next 7 days” for an ailment with a fortnight’s course”)
    Yup: Big Pharma has its flaws atop or aside its benefits, but I’ve yet to see any claim of alt med’s surviving the least scrutiny.

  • “Big Pharma’s your target and tool for diverting attention from the ineptitude of Big BS, so let’s acknowledge some of Big Pharma’s flaws”.

    Thank you, whoever you are, but what has this (legitimate) concern (acknowledged by Prof Ernst) got to do with the subject of these posts?
    I smell a red herring!

    • Hi Richard,
      I think the “Big Pharma…” was one of mine, commented with the intent of summarising and identifying the irrelevance of attacking a viable method instead of woo-woo junkies sharing evidence of any validity. I think it was seeking to demonstrate, to Iqbal, awareness of weaknesses in genuine industry as well as bogus: though in reverse proportion.
      Alt Med etc is using a trick of creationists who rant at science and don’t support their assertions intelligently: even if evolution weren’t a demonstrably accurate description of our ~3bn year ancestry, proving so would add no credence to the “god did it” buffoonery. Similarly, magnifying Big Pharma’s “flaws” do nought to sustain woo-woo’s claims.

      I’ve read the replies to my earlier words and largely judge the efforts to go off topic as indication they’ve got nothing to support EU decision to offer “services” that lack credibility.

      Sorry for the long response & using yours to close the door to my contribution. It’s been an interesting thread to follow.
      Couldn’t help chuckling, as I defended (successfully) my home from a flash flood yesterday, that no active ingredients were present in the deluge.

    • “I smell a red herring!”

      This whole post is a red herring. They’re offering discounts for massage, for stress relief. Nothing diabolical.

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