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

The UK media have often disappointed me when reporting about matters related to alternative medicine. Yet, this is ‘small fry’ compared to their coverage of the EU during the last decades. Here I have selected 50 (there are plenty more) headlines from a long list of ‘alternative truths’ and Euromyths of their invented or misleading healthcare-related stories:

  1. New EU sulphur rules will cause problems with oil-fired Aga’s, Dec 2009
  2. EU ‘bans boozing’, Feb 2005
  3. UK diners will face £200m for EU allergen rules, Nov 2014
  4. False alarm over 999 calls, Dec 2006
  5. Ambulances turn yellow for Europe, Mar 2002
  6. EU to force St Johns Ambulances to replace its entire fleet, Apr 2002
  7. Human medicines to be forbidden for use on animals, Feb/Mar 1995
  8. Taxpayers money used to rehabilitate Peruvian drug addicts, Jul 2014
  9. EU bans children from blowing up balloons, Oct 2011
  10. EU health directive to prevent barmaids from showing cleavage, Nov 2005
  11. “EU red tape” is denying cancer patients access to new treatments, Jun 2016
  12. EC rules on levels of listeria threaten British cheeses, Feb 1995
  13. Sales of cigars to fall due to be sold individually with a health warning, Jan 1994
  14. Circus performers required to wear hard hats, Jul 2003
  15. EU responsible for your hay fever, May 2015
  16. Condom dimensions to be harmonised, Mar 2000
  17. Fishing boats obliged to carry condoms, Nov 1992
  18. EU to push for standard condom size, Oct 1994
  19. EU plans to liquify corpses and pour them down the drain, July 2010
  20. Traditional cricket teas will be subjected to random hygiene checks, Apr 1993
  21. EC to ban prawn cocktail crisps, Jan 1993
  22. Smoky bacon crisps to be banned, May 2003
  23. EU outlaws teeth whitening products, Feb 2003
  24. EU blocking vital checks on doctors’ qualifications, Apr 2016
  25. EU doctors in UK a threat to patients, Sep 2016
  26. UK hospital have to employ people who do not speak English, Apr 2012
  27. Hundreds of GPs to be forced to acquire additional qualifications, Sep 1994
  28. 58 hour working week will ground hospitals to a halt, Aug 2004
  29. UK doctors unable to treat off shore patients at night, Feb 1999
  30. HGV drivers not permitted to wear glasses, Feb 1996
  31. Regulators to set maximum heat of electric blankets, leaving pensioners cold, Oct 1993
  32. Organic farmers ordered by EU to use homeopathic medicine, Apr 2015
  33. Small inshore fishing boats to be forced to carry extensive medical kits, Dec 1994
  34. Rare meat to be banned due to “too much bacteria”, Sep 1993
  35. Street vendors face closure due to an EC food hygiene Directive, Nov 1992
  36. EC to stop UK citizens taking extra strong multi-vitamin pills, Feb 1993
  37. EU rights to reside in another member state, EU benefit claimants and NHS treatment entitlement, Feb 2013
  38. Brussels to ban herbal cures, Mar 1999
  39. License to be required to sell herbal medicines, Oct 1994
  40. Update on whether license to be required to sell herbal medicines, Nov 1994
  41. Horses to no longer receive medicine that would make them unsafe for consumption, Jan 1994
  42. Hysteria about listeria, Feb 1995
  43. European Commission approve unsafe high-risk medical devices, Jul 2016
  44. Medicines to receive Latin labelling, May 1999
  45. Soya milk indistinguishable from cow milk and thus to be banned, April 1995
  46. Scotch whisky must be handled as a dangerous chemical, Nov 1995
  47. EC hygiene rules force closure of abattoirs, Nov 1992
  48. EU ban on ciggie breaks? Just hot air, Jun 2007
  49. Brussels to reinstate tobacco subsidies, Feb 2013
  50. EU to ban vitamin supplements, Mar 2002

 

_________________________________________________________

Yes, some of this is so nonsensically idiotic that it could be quite funny.

But sadly, it is also very annoying, even infuriating. I am sure these relentless lies are partly the cause why Brexit is currently dividing the UK and threatening to become a monumental exercise in self-destruction.

 

4 Responses to Medical ‘Euromyths’: the UK media have an awful lot to answer for

  • Indeed!!!!!

  • Why don’t you write something on the flu vaccine fallacy? This year it is 12% ‘effective’, that is far worse than a placebo and all that weasel about matches, the process being wrong etc. are rather remarkable uses of dishonesty.

    • [sigh]

      Ernst is slagging off homeopathy, yet pharmaceuticals kill 100k a year

      I get comments of this nature all the time, sometimes by the dozen per day. As the argument is so very common, let me ONCE AGAIN explain what is wrong with it. Here are 10 very simple points for those who find it hard to understand the issue.

      1. My expertise is in alternative medicine and not in pharmacology. I know many pharmacologists who are competent to criticise aspects of pharmacotherapy and do so regularly. I do NOT consider myself competent to comment on pharmacotherapy.
      2. The fact that some things are not perfect in one area of health care (e. g. pharmacotherapy) does certainly not mean that one is not allowed to criticise shortcomings in other areas (e. g. homeopathy).
      3. As far as I can tell, it is not pharmaceuticals that ‘kill 100k a year’, but the issue is more complex: a sizable proportion of this tragic total is due to medical errors, for instance.
      4. The 100k figure seems to refer to the US where the vast majority of the population take pharmaceuticals but only about 2% of the population ever try homeopathy.
      5. Nobody seems to dispute that pharmaceuticals have beneficial effects beyond placebo; the general consensus regarding highly diluted homeopathics is that they have no effects beyond placebo.
      6. To judge the value of a therapy, it is naïve and dangerously misleading to consider just its risks. If we did that, aromatherapy would be preferable to surgery, reflexology would be better than chemotherapy and OF COURSE homeopathy would be better than pharmacotherapy. And if we then implemented this ‘wisdom’ into routine practice, we would hasten the deaths of millions.
      7. Any reasonable judgement of the value of any therapy must account for its documented risks in relation to its documented benefits. In other words, we must always try to weigh the two against each other and do a risk/benefit analysis.
      8. If a therapy is associated with finite risks and no benefits, its risk/benefit balance cannot possibly be positive. Where the benefit is non-existent or doubtful, even relatively small risks will inevitably tilt this balance in to the negative.
      9. This is precisely the situation that applies to homeopathy: its benefits beyond placebo are doubtful and its risks are fairly well documented.
      10. This means that homeopathy cannot be considered to be a therapy that is fit for purpose.

    • “the flu vaccine fallacy? This year it is 12% ‘effective’, that is far worse than a placebo”
      Could you give the reference for the trial comparing this year’s flu vaccine against a placebo so that I can see how this figure was arrived at?

      In any case, this year’s flu season hasn’t really got going yet, so it is difficult to know how effective the vaccine is going to be. Nor does a placebo give any protection against flu whatsoever. Even if the vaccine fails to prevent flu altogether, it can shorten the illness and reduce its severity, as well as reduce the risk of spreading it to other people.

      I don’t know what country you are writing from. In the UK there are two flu vaccines being given this year, depending primarily upon the age of the recipient (since different age groups will have had previous exposure to different strains), and also upon the risk of severe disease (e.g. in the immunosuppressed).

      The flu vaccine is always a bit of a gamble. The influenza virus changes its surface proteins regularly, which makes a vaccine that is fully effective against one strain become less effective against others. It takes several months to develop a vaccine against a specific strain of flu, and then it also takes time to put it into production (which, among other things, involves growing large numbers of viruses inside eggs before inactivating them). Worldwide, epidemiologists try to work out which strains are likely to be prevalent the following winter, and the vaccine will contain the three or four strains that they are most worried about. But by the very process they are always a few months behind, which means that the effectiveness of the vaccines vary from year to year.

      What virologists are particularly concerned about is the emergence of another pandemic, which is a matter of when, rather than if. At the end of the First World War, the flu pandemic killed 3% of the world’s population. Now we have easy air travel, which means that it can spread more quickly and more widely. Some of the deaths were from flu directly and some from secondary bacterial infection, and although we now have antibiotics agains the latter, we can’t rely on them due to widespread bacterial resistance (stemming from misprescribing and widescale use in agriculture to promote the growth of livestock – banned in the EU but common practice in the USA) and to no new antibiotic groups having been developed in the last few decades (they are not profitable for Big Pharma, and governments aren’t interested).

      Although flu is naturally a disease of birds, as it mutates so readily it can move to other hosts, including humans, and further mutations can increase its transmissability (how easily it is spread) and its virulence (how ill it makes you – in 1918/19, one in ten people infected died from it). Its severity also varies widely between individuals depending on the makeup of their immune system (we are all different) and in some cases you can have flu without realising it at all, and then transmit it to someone who dies from it.

      Our primary weapon against flu is vaccination, and even if it is only partly effective, it reduces the extent of spread, reduces the severity of the illness, reduces the risk of death in those exposed to the infection and particularly reduces the risk in the most vulnerable.

      All of this information is in the public domain, and your doctor should be able to explain it to you as well. I have no idea what you mean about matches, the process being wrong and dishonesty. Perhaps you could elucidate further?

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