Monthly Archives: December 2019
In so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), there is never a dull moment; for me, the last decade was hardly an exception.
2010: Simon Singh and I had just published our book ‘Trick of Treatment‘(see also below), and consequently, the SCAM community (after having been more than a little suspicious of me for years) decided to oust me. At my university, I had major battles after the complaint by Prince Charles’ private secretary regarding the ‘Smallwood report‘. I decided to preserve my department by going into early retirement.
2011: This plan did not work out. I did retire, but the department sadly was closed down. The deal was that I get re-employed by my university on a half-time basis and help to find and appoint a successor.
2012: This did not work out either. We did find one suitable candidate, but they offered him terms that were totally unacceptable. The result: no more ‘Complementary Medicine’ at Exeter (I must admit, that was tough!). My wife and I thus sold our flat in Exeter and moved into rural Suffolk.
2013: My wife fell seriously ill, and we decided to move to France for an entire year to get her cured. This turned out to be the right decision; today she is alive and kicking.
2014: To prevent slowly going insane over all this, I had started writing my memoir.
2015: The book was published under the title ‘A scientist in wonderland’ and got unbelievably positive reviews. Today, this memoir is available also in German, Spanish and Korean. In the same year, I received the ‘John Maddox Award for standing up for science‘. I donated the prize money to the ‘Good Thinking Society’.
2016: While lecturing in Germany, I was invited by Springer to publish a book with them, and I chose the subject of homeopathy. The book entitled ‘Homeopathy, the undiluted facts‘ was later also published in German.
2017: I was awarded an Ockham Award at the QED. Sadly, I could not attend in person but Simon Singh received it in my name. We sold our house in Suffolk, moved to Cambridge, and also spent much of our time in France.
2018: After a perfect co-operation with the ethicist, Kevin Smith‘, our Springer book on the ethical issues raised by SCAM was published. It is entitled ‘More good than harm? The moral maze of complementary and alternative medicine‘ and received an award from the BMA. The same year, I also published my book ‘SCAM‘ which shortly after also was published in German.
2019: I published, again with Springer, an analysis of 150 SCAM modalities. Ioannidis et al published an analysis of 100 000 scientists of all fields. It implied that I am the most ‘influential’ researcher in the area of SCAM. This came just as unexpected as the US ‘Bookauthority’ naming our book ‘Trick or Treatment’ amongst the ‘best mental health books of all times’.
(Oh, I almost forgot: I also published ~500 Medline-listed papers as well as >1 700 blog posts and gave about 300 invited lectures during the last 10 years. Retirement turned out to be busy indeed.)
Sadly, the last decade also meant losing several good friends. John Dormandy and Gustav Born are two I miss very badly.
Yes, it was a decade full of action, worries, happiness, achievements and also true sadness. I hope I will still be around in 10 years to report about the next one.
I WISH ALL MY READERS A HAPPY AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR.
Please allow me to quote from yet another paper that I published 20 years ago. It is a very brief comment on an article by Kaptchuk and Eisenberg which discussed the reasons for the considerable popularity of SCAM. In it, they stated that the attraction of alternative medicine is related to the power of its underlying shared beliefs and cultural assumptions. The fundamental premises are an advocacy of nature, vitalism, “science,” and spirituality. These themes offer patients a participatory experience of empowerment, authenticity, and enlarged self-identity when illness threatens their sense of intactness and connection to the world.
This failed to convince me and I decided to offer an alternative view. Here is the relevant passage:
… I would like to expand on a much more profane possible reason for the prevalence of alternative medicine. U.S. sales data of BMW cars (used as a marker of afﬂuence) were obtained from the BMW head ofﬁce in Munich, Germany. These data were correlated with both U.S. consumer use of herbal remedies and sales ﬁgures from the U.S. herbal mass market. Both latter data sets were taken from a recent overview of the U.S. herbal market. The correlation coefﬁcients were impressive (r = 0.870 and r = 0.929, respectively).
Of course, correlations of this type do not imply a causal relation. Nevertheless, they do put afﬂuence into the realm of factors to be considered seriously as explanations for the currently high prevalence of complementary medicine.
What I tried to imply in my comment is simple: many consumers in countries such as the US are well-off. Some seem to have so much money that they don’t know anymore what to do with it. Thus they spend it on all sorts of nonsense – some even spend it on SCAM! This was true, I think, 20 years ago – and it is true today.
I think that, during the last 20 years, this hypothesis has received much support – just think of our favourite SCAM merchant, Gwyneth Paltrow laughing all the way to the bank!
We were all born stupid, but it requires continuously hard work to remain dumb. A SCAM-obsessed, belligerent twit – the type we regularly encounter in the comments section of this blog – is not born but evolves during years of agonisingly tough work. At least, this is my impression. Certain traits (e. g. lack of self-doubt, bloody-mindedness, arrogance, egoism) might help, but the rest is a development that must follow certain steps.
An event is needed to start it all off. Often this is a very personal experience such as an illness which is unsuccessfully diagnosed and treated by a series of ungifted physicians. Eventually, our man (less frequently woman) comes across one particular SCAM. He tries it and his aliment subsequently is much-improved. Understandably, he is impressed and, unable to think critically, becomes a proponent of this particular SCAM.
Next our man takes the (not entirely irrational) step of reading all he can find about his newly discovered SCAM. Not having a science background, he falls for the plethora of uncritical BS that pollute the Internet. The more he reads, the more confident he becomes that SCAM is quite simply wonderful. And the more he studies, the clearer he realises that the news about the wonders of SCAM is being suppressed by the pharma/establishment mafia which is keen to hide the knowledge about SCAM for fear of losing their profits, jobs and income.
Naturally this insight triggers increasing resentment. How dare they suppress the information that would save thousands from suffering? How do they manage to sleep at night knowing that they are viciously hindering progress? Our man started his SCAM-journey by being mildly critical of conventional medicine (which could of course be a good thing). Now this sentiment is fast turning into a deep loathing. He is unable to see a single good point about conventional healthcare and he is becoming convinced that all who are engaged in it are cynically out to harm their fellow human beings. Consequently, he is less and less able to engage in a meaningful discussion with anyone who is not of his opinion.
Our man arrives at the point where he makes a conscious decision to reject any information that contradicts his by now ‘superior’ knowledge of health, medicine, science and SCAM. He has seen clearly that such information is false, biased or misleading. The people who call themselves experts are bought by Big Pharma and cannot be trusted. They control the medical press where they publish their evidence. Yet, our ignoramus knows that their evidence is false and their science is corrupt. Reliable evidence, our man decides, is defined as evidence supporting his views. People who disagree with him are his personal enemies.
Instead of reading any of the many papers that contradict his thinking, our man decides to dig deeper and deeper into BS. He now conducts ‘in-depth research’ by concentrating purely on what his gurus have put on the internet and published in their books. Peer review is not necessary; in conventional science, it is merely a smokescreen to hide the corrupt machinations of the establishment. In other words, our man has firmly established his home on ‘mount stupid’ (see below) and has turned into the belligerent fool we sometimes encounter on this blog. His over-confidence prevents him from descending into the ‘valley of despair’.
What he needs now is a pair of blinkers which allows our simpleton to eliminate all the disturbing information from ‘the enemy’. He now focusses on all the material that confirms his opinions. Any facts that might contradict them are denounced as propaganda from the ‘status quo’ and thus ignored. Accepted knowledge from the areas of physiology, pathology, pharmacology, etc. is pushed aside as just another bit of fake news from the medical mafia. He is unable to move on by learning; all he does is confirm his prior belief though a semblance of research. At this stage, our dimwit considers himself now a leading expert in his SCAM. His near-total lack of understanding of related issues and fields has become irrelevant. His self-confidence is at its peak, while his knowledge stagnates.
Our belligerent ignoramus is full of anger about the fact that his supreme expertise is not taken seriously outside the echo chamber of his SCAM. He thus decides to go on a mission and preach the gospel wherever he can find a platform. Others may politely caution him pointing out that he might have misunderstood many of the basic principles involved. He is, however, unperturbed and proud of the half-knowledge that he managed to acquire during the process he calls research. Confronted with the repeated rejection of his bizarre notions, he eventually gets aggressive and starts insulting those who fail to follow his delusions. His mission is preaching the gospel of SCAM and, for that purpose, all means are necessary and allowed.
Our cantankerous twit has developed a serious neurosis. Nothing can free him from his paranoid obsessions and conspiracy theories. One by one, his opponents realise the extent of his problems and abandon discussing with him. This merely confirms his prior belief that, on this blog, everyone is in the pocket of Big Pharma. Deeply disgusted he stops debating and looks for another forum where, at least for a while, he can display his profound ignorance.
I published this article 20 years ago! Yet, it is, I think, still relevant today. For the purpose of this blog, I have altered it marginally (mainly by using the acromym SCAM):
Whatever SCAM is, it is not an alternative to conventional medicine. Nevertheless, one might still ask why so many people pay for ‘unproven’ SCAM when they can have scientifically backed medicine at no extra expense. Chandola et al suggest that 44% who use CM hope for a cure, 30% fear adverse effects of mainstream drugs, and 27% are dissatisfied with conventional care. In a much larger survey conducted in the USA, Astin found that dissatisfaction with orthodox medicine was prevalent but did not predict use of SCAM. SCAM users tended to be better educated and to subscribe to a more ‘holistic’ philosophy of healthcare. Interestingly, they reported poorer health status than non-users. Moreover, SCAM attracts patients because it offers more personal autonomy or control and is less impersonal or high-tech than mainstream medicine. Finally patients, particularly those with chronic conditions, may simply try SCAM so as to leave no stone unturned.
‘Scientifically backed’ medicine may not be quite as helpful as one tends to assume at least not in the eyes of the patient. A survey of 1420 (mostly musculoskeletal) pain sufferers suggested that SCAMs were perceived as more successful than mainstream drugs. In fact, orthodox therapies such as parenteral injections and oral medications ranked only 8th and 11th, respectively. Perhaps more disturbingly, patients seem to experience the therapeutic encounter with SCAM practitioners as more satisfying, empathetic and informative than that with their general practitioners. While many physicians (rightly or wrongly) continue to see SCAM as a nuisance, maybe we should think again: SCAM’s popularity amounts to a biting criticism of mainstream medicine that ought to be taken seriously.
How are clinicians to reconcile the public demand for SCAM with the new zeal for evidence-based medicine? The apparently easy answer is to pursue a strategy of evidence-based SCAM. This is precisely what my department is doing. There are now about 2000 clinical trials in this diverse area. But clinical trials are often full of contradictions and seldom clarify clinical questions adequately. A US study, for instance, has contributed to increasing doubts about whether chiropractic is helpful for acute uncomplicated low back pain in a clinically relevant way. What we really need for informing clinicians’ decisions are systematic reviews incorporating the totality of the available data. For the past 5 years this has been the focus of my department’s work, and we have published a considerable number of such papers. The notion that SCAM is totally devoid of evidence is a cliché which, like many clichés, is not entirely true.
Undoubtedly, vast areas of uncertainty do remain. The more difficult question is, therefore, how should clinicians deal with their patients’ desire for SCAM in the absence of evidence? Embarrassingly few convincing answers are on offer. Physicians have become experts in dealing with uncertainty in many aspects of their work. A dose of common sense will usually go quite far. At the very least, doctors should know what type of treatments their patients are trying. Taking a detailed history should nowadays include asking specifically about use of SCAM. In order not to alienate patients, one should resist the temptation to be dismissive. If there are good reasons to warn of a certain form of SCAM, these are best offered in an objective manner. To give evidence-based advice, clinicians obviously have to be informed about the facts, and impartial information is hard to find. One ray of light in this relative darkness is the Cochrane Collaboration, which now has a ‘field’ working on SCAM. The number of systematic reviews available from the Cochrane database is growing rapidly.
Once a patient is using SCAM (with or against the doctor’s advice), it makes sense to monitor the effects. This increases the safety of the patient and contributes to the physician’s knowledge of and experience with SCAM. There is also a good argument for establishing working relationships with a selection of local SCAM therapists who have a good track record and adequate training. At present, communication between doctors and therapists is often poor or even non-existent. Surely this cannot be to the benefit of the patient.
For SCAM, the best chance of survival in a harsh climate of evidence-based medicine and increasing rationing of resources is to come up with the goods and demonstrate what treatments are effective, safe and cost-effective for which condition. For physicians, the best way of reconciling the ‘two worlds’ is to inform themselves adequately and guide their patients through the ‘SCAM maze’ with a generous helping of good common sense. For patients, last but not least, the best approach is to be cautious and remember that, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
END OF QUOTE
Twenty years, and little has changed:
- There still are vast areas of uncertainty.
- Imparcial information about SCAM is still scarce.
- Patient demand for SCAM is still considerable.
- The implied criticism of conventional medicine is still not taken seriously.
- The communication between doctors and SCAM practitioners is still lamentable.
- Most doctors still do not include questions about SCAM in their medical history taking.
- Arguably, SCAM has become even less evidence-based.
- Most doctors remain blissfully uninformed about SCAM.
- Most of the claims made for SCAM are too good to be true.
I think you get the gist.
The current Cochrane review of clinical trials testing the effectiveness of manipulation/mobilisation for neck pain concluded as follows:
Although support can be found for use of thoracic manipulation versus control for neck pain, function and QoL, results for cervical manipulation and mobilisation versus control are few and diverse. Publication bias cannot be ruled out. Research designed to protect against various biases is needed. Findings suggest that manipulation and mobilisation present similar results for every outcome at immediate/short/intermediate-term follow-up. Multiple cervical manipulation sessions may provide better pain relief and functional improvement than certain medications at immediate/intermediate/long-term follow-up. Since the risk of rare but serious adverse events for manipulation exists, further high-quality research focusing on mobilisation and comparing mobilisation or manipulation versus other treatment options is needed to guide clinicians in their optimal treatment choices.
Such a critical assessment must be tough for chiropractors who gain a substantial part of their income from treating such patients. What is the solution? Simple, convene a panel of chiros and issue recommendations that are more prone to stimulate their cash flow!
Exactly that seems to have just happened.
The purpose of the researchers was to develop best-practice recommendations for chiropractic management of adults with neck pain.
A steering committee of experts in chiropractic practice, education, and research drafted a set of recommendations based on the most current relevant clinical practice guidelines. Additional supportive literature was identified through targeted searches conducted by a health sciences librarian. A national panel of chiropractors representing expertise in practice, research, and teaching rated the recommendations using a modified Delphi process. The consensus process was conducted from August to November 2018. Fifty-six panelists rated the 50 statements and concepts and reached consensus on all statements within 3 rounds.
The statements and concepts covered aspects of the clinical encounter, ranging from informed consent through diagnosis, assessment, treatment planning and implementation, and concurrent management and referral for patients presenting with neck pain.
The authors concluded that these best-practice recommendations for chiropractic management of adults with neck pain are based on the best available scientific evidence. For uncomplicated neck pain, including neck pain with headache or radicular symptoms, chiropractic manipulation and multimodal care are recommended.
Let’s be clear what this amounts to: a panel of highly selected chiropractors (sponsored by a chiropractic organisation) has reached a consensus (and published it in a chiropractic) which allows them to continue to treat patients with neck pain.
Isn’t that just great?
Now let’s think ahead – what next?
I suggest the following:
- A panel of homeopaths recommending homeopathy.
- A panel of faith healers recommending faith healing.
- A panel of crystal healers recommending crystal healing.
- A panel of colon therapists recommending colonic irrigation.
- A panel of supplement manufacturers recommending to buy supplements.
I am sure you get the gist.
In the true Christmas spirit, I decided that I will give away presents to fans of homeopathy.
Here is the deal:
It is almost 2 years now that I asked all homeopaths, particularly those who believe that homeopathy works because it is ‘nano-medicine’, to answer the questions below:
- How (by what mechanism) does a nano-particle of coffee, for instance, affect the sleep centre in the brain to make the patient sleep? Or how does a nano-particle of the Berlin Wall or a duck liver affect anything at all in the human body?
- Most homeopathic remedies are consumed not as liquids but as ‘globuli’, i. e. tiny little pills made of lactose. They are prepared by spraying the liquid remedy on to them. The liquid subsequently evaporates. How is it that the information allegedly retained in the liquid does not evaporate with the diluent?
- The diluent usually is a water-alcohol mixture which inevitably contains impurities. In fact, a liquid C12 remedy contains dimensions more impurities than homeopathic stock. These impurities have, of course, also been vigorously shaken, i. e. potentised. How can we explain that their ‘potency’ has not been beefed up at each dilution step? Would this not necessitate a process where only some molecules in the diluent are agitated, while all the others remain absolutely still? How can we explain this concept?
- Some stock used in homeopathy is insoluble (for instance Berlin Wall). Such stock is not diluted but its concentration in the remedy is initially lowered by a process called ‘trituration’, a process which consists in grinding the source material in another solid material, usually lactose. Assuming that potentisation works in the way homeopaths think, how is information transferred from one solid material to another during trituration?
- Everything we drink is based on water containing molecules that have been inadvertently potentised in nature a million times and therefore should have hugely powerful effects on our bodies. How is it that we experience none of these effects each time we drink?
So far, I have not received any answers that stand up to scrutiny. Therefore, I now offer a present, free book on homeopathy,
to anyone who can provide a rational, scientifically sound answer to at least one of these questions. Just post your reply in the comments section. If it fulfils the above criteria, I will contact you, ask you for your postal address, and send you a free copy of my book.
Guest post by Richard Rasker
Almost two years ago, in March 2018, a group of 124 doctors and other medical professionals published an article in the French newspaper ‘Le Figaro’, warning the general public for the false promises, unproven claims and dangers of alternative medicine.
Homeopathy in particular is denounced as an unscientific belief in magic, utterly lacking in plausibility as well as in evidence of efficacy for any condition. Subjecting people to these kinds of unproven treatments is unethical, and may result in serious harm by delaying proper medical treatment. Also, homeopaths and other alternative practitioners often express anti-vaccine sentiments, endangering children by dissuading their parents from vaccination.
For these and several other reasons, these 124 medical professionals made an appeal for alternative and esoteric treatments to be excluded from the field of science-based medicine, and to stop reimbursement of homeopathic and other alternative treatments under France’s national health care insurance system.
In a somewhat belated response, French homeopaths are now filing no less than 63 disciplinary complaints with the French Medical Council against the signatories of the appeal in Le Figaro, apparently for “uncollegial behaviour” and “defiling medical ethics”. The homeopaths are represented by homeopathic doctor Daniel Scimeca, president of the French Federation of Homeopathic Societies, who also has close relations with Boiron laboratories, the biggest manufacturer of homeopathic products in the world.
At the time of this writing, 11 complaints have been adjudicated, resulting in 7 warnings, and 4 releases or dismissals. It is unclear how serious such a ‘warning’ should be taken, but it is clear that homeopaths are trying to punish real doctors for supporting and expressing an overwhelming scientific consensus, i.e. that there is no evidence whatsoever that homeopathy is actually good for anything.
And even though these French homeopaths do not resort to the sort of vile, underhanded media smear campaign perpetrated by the late Claus Fritzsche against Dr. Ernst, there are certain parallels – the most important of which is that proponents of unproven ‘medicine’ attempt to silence science-based criticism by unscientific means, instead of open discourse about the merits (or more precisely: the lack thereof) of their chosen profession.
I personally find it rather worrying that almost two-thirds of the complaints resulted in a slap on the wrist for the medical professional involved. Especially in a field that is so strongly dependent on both science and trust, well-founded criticism should be encouraged and made public, not punished and silenced.
At the heart of this story is Joseph Mercola, a dietary supplement entrepreneur and osteopath.
His website states that:
EVERYONE can benefit from Dr Mercola’s unparalleled knowledge. For expertise in alternative healthcare and high quality supplemental medicine, it’s hard to beat visionary Dr Joseph Mercola. The Chicago-based health wizard has his own website, Mercola.com (‘Take Control of Your Health’), but you can find so many of his health support products right here at Evolution Organics. Our customers swear by them. They love the diversity of the range, and that the products are priced affordably, meaning that everyone can benefit from Dr Mercola’s vast experience and unmatched know-how. And it’s not just men, women and children who can feel better ‘the Dr Mercola way’ – his brand includes health support products for pets, too.
However, an article in the Washington Post tells a different story; allow me to quote a few excerpts:
The Northern Virginia-based National Vaccine Information Center lists Mercola.com as a partner on its homepage and links to the website, where readers can learn about and purchase Mercola’s merchandise. Last month, Mercola wrote on his website that measles “continues to be a Trojan Horse for increasing vaccine mandates.” A page that was recently removed said that “vitamin C supplementation is a viable option for measles prevention.” Elsewhere on the site, a page about vitamin D includes the headline, “Avoid Flu Shots With the One Vitamin that Will Stop Flu in Its Tracks.”
Mercola … has also given at least $4 million to several groups that echo the anti-vaccine message… Mercola … offers “simple, inexpensive and safe alternatives to the conventional medical system, which is contributing to the premature death of millions and is causing needless pain and suffering in great part because multinational corporations want to increase their revenues.” … Supplements containing those vitamins are among Mercola’s “top products,” his website says… Earlier this month, Samoan anti-vaccine activist Edwin Tamasese, who touted vitamins as an alternative to vaccination, was arrested for allegedly claiming on social media that measles vaccinations would result in mass deaths…
The National Vaccine Information Center was founded in 1982 by Barbara Loe Fisher, who has said that her son was injured by a vaccine. The group claimed credit this year for helping to defeat legislation in a dozen states that would have made it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children. At the beginning of last year’s flu season, Fisher and Mercola appeared in a YouTube video urging people to be skeptical about flu shots. Mercola claimed that vaccines have been associated with “deaths and permanent neurological complications,” and he said vitamin D supplements were among “far more effective, less expensive and less risky alternatives.” … Fisher said in an interview that Mercola has asked for nothing in exchange for his donations and that the National Vaccine Information Center does not sell or advertise Mercola’s products on its site. “I do not take funding for a quid pro quo,” she said. “When [Mercola] called me, he said, ‘I admire your work. I’d like to help you.’ ” The center’s homepage, which the group says was visited more than 1.2 million times last year, displays Mercola.com’s logo. An affiliated website run by Fisher’s group refers numerous times to Mercola.com as one of the most popular health and wellness websites…
In recent years, the center has been at the forefront of a movement that has led some parents to forgo or delay immunizing their children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles… The Northern Virginia-based National Vaccine Information Center lists Mercola.com as a partner on its homepage and links to the website, where readers can learn about and purchase Mercola’s merchandise…Asked if his companies benefit from his donations to the anti-vaccine group, Mercola said in an email that “being an adversary to powerful industries is not a positive for a business like mine.” …
The FDA has taken no enforcement action against Mercola over his vaccine claims. The agency said in a statement that it has no role in approving dietary supplements or in evaluating claims about them — unless those products are purported to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure diseases and are reported to the agency as unapproved drugs. Agency officials did not answer questions about Mercola’s claims regarding vitamins C and D…
The resurgent movement found a handful of wealthy patrons, including hedge fund manager and philanthropist Bernard Selz and his wife, Lisa. The Selzes gave $200,000 to a legal fund for Wakefield in 2012, and they went on to give more than $3 million to anti-vaccine groups, including one that held forums this year in Brooklyn, the epicenter of the measles outbreak…
The $2.98 million Mercola has given to Fisher’s group since 2009 came from the Natural Health Research Foundation, a private foundation that is entirely funded by his business and that he leads as president, tax records show. The foundation has also given more than $3.3 million to the Organic Consumers Association, a health and environmental advocacy group, tax records show. On its website, the organization advertises Mercola’s products and reposts some of his content about vaccines and other topics, as well as articles by prominent anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. …
While Fisher emphasized that she does not promote any retailers’ products, she told potential sponsors of an anti-vaccine conference her group held in 2009 that the event could help them gain “access to both national and international markets” and “increase sales and visibility,” promotional material shows. Mercola attended the conference and received an “NVIC visionary award.” Mercola did not respond to questions about whether he was a sponsor. He donated $20,000 that year to the National Vaccine Information Center through his foundation. Without elaborating, Fisher said the money “was not an earmarked donation.” The following year, Fisher’s group and Mercola.com launched a website that tracks vaccine-related legislation in every state. The site provides activists with detailed information, including how to sign up for public comment to support or oppose legislation in their state, where to park to attend a public hearing and what color T-shirt to wear to rallies.
In 2011, Mercola co-sponsored a 15-second video ad on a Jumbotron in Times Square. The ad featured an image of a woman holding a baby with the message “Vaccines: Know the Risks.” Logos of both the National Vaccine Information Center and Mercola.com were prominently displayed…
In addition to the large contributions from Mercola, Fisher’s group has received financial support from Focus for Health. That foundation, funded by wealthy New Jersey businessman Barry Segal, gave Fisher’s group more than $400,000 from 2011 to 2017, according to tax records.
In September of this year, as flu season approached, Mercola and the National Vaccine Information Center co-sponsored their 10th annual “vaccine awareness week.” Mercola offered to match all donations made to the center that week up to $100,000, according to a video posted to his YouTube channel. In a video posted the following day, Fisher described her group’s recent successes in state legislatures across the country. Those states include Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon and Texas, Fisher said. “I look forward to another 30 years of working with you,” she told Mercola.
On this blog, I have repeatedly warned that many so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) practitioners recommend against vaccinations. Specifically implicated are:
- Physicians practising integrative medicine
- Doctors of anthroposophical medicine
We knew about the ‘ideology’ and the misinformation pushing SCAM-related anti-vaccination sentiments. The article in the Washington Post is a stark reminder of the financial interests behind all this. As a result, SCAM-use is associated with low vaccination-uptake (as we have discussed ad nauseam – see for instance here, here, here and here). Anyone who needs more information will find it by searching this blog. Anyone claiming that this is all my exaggeration might look at papers which have nothing to do with me (there are plenty more for those who are willing to conduct a Medline search):
- Lehrke P, Nuebling M, Hofmann F, Stoessel U. Attitudes of homeopathic physicians towards vaccination. Vaccine. 2001;19:4859–4864. doi: 10.1016/S0264-410X(01)00180-3. [PubMed]
- Halper J, Berger LR. Naturopaths and childhood immunizations: Heterodoxy among the unorthodox. Pediatrics. 1981;68:407–410. [PubMed]
- Colley F, Haas M. Attitudes on immunization: A survey of American chiropractors. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 1994;17:584–590. [PubMed]
This post is dedicated to all who claim that I never discuss anything positive about so-called alternative medicine (SCAM).
Autogenic training is a therapy developed in the 1920s by the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz (1884 – 1970). It is an auto-hypnotic relaxation technique popular in Germany but less so other countries. (The lack of international appreciation of autogenic training might be related to Schultz’ well-documented Nazi past. In 1935, he published an essay which supported compulsory sterilization of men to eliminate hereditary illnesses. Later he was appointed deputy director of the Göring Institute in Berlin. Through this institute, he had an active role in the extermination of mentally handicapped individuals in the framework of the ‘Aktion T4’, the Nazi’s infamous euthanasia programme.)
Autogenic training consists of mental exercises using instructions directed at different parts of the body to control bodily perceptions, such as ‘my right foot feels warm’ or ‘my left arm feels heavy’. Patients tend to report an intense sense of relaxation during and after autogenic training. Autogenic training is taught in a series of lessons by a qualified instructor.
Autogenic training should be practised regularly and does not require further supervision. It is thus an inexpensive therapy. The technique is claimed to help for a range of (mostly stress-related) conditions. However, the evidence from clinical trials is scarce and, not least due to methodological problems, less than convincing.
This systematic review was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of autogenic training on stress responses. A total 11 studies were included in a meta-analysis. They showed that autogenic training decreased anxiety and depression, and increased the high frequency of heart rate variability as well as a reduction of anxiety score by 1.37 points (n=85, SMD=-1.37: 95% CI -2.07 to -0.67), in the studies on short-term intervention targeting healthy adults.For depression, a reduction was noted of the symptom score by 0.29 point (n=327, SMD=-0.29: 95% CI -0.50 to -0.07) in the studies on long term intervention targeting the patient group.
The authors concluded that autogenic training is effective for adults’ stress management, and nurses will be able to effectively perform autogenic training programs for workers’ stress relief at the workplace.
I cannot access the full article because it was published in Korean. Nevertheless, I feel that the conclusions are probably correct.
Because I know (most of) the primary studies and three of the RCTs are my own.
(Yet, some of my critics continue to claim that I never conducted any positive studies of SCAM)
If you had thought that HRH Prince Charles, soon to be King, would calm down regarding his royal bee under his alternative bonnet, you evidently were mistaken. In June 2019, he became the patron of the ‘Faculty of Homeopathy‘ the professional organisation of UK doctor homeopaths. And a few days ago, it has been announced that he now has also become the patron of the ‘College of Medicine and Integrated Health’ (CMIH). The College chair, Michael Dixon, was quoted stating: ‘This is a great honour and will support us as an organisation committed to taking medicine beyond drugs and procedures. This generous royal endorsement will enable us to be ever more ambitious in our mission to achieve a more compassionate and sustainable health service.”
I find it hard to be surprised by Charles’ latest move. After all, the CHIM is the direct successor of Charles’ ‘Foundation for Integrated Health‘ (FIH). When this bizarre organisation had to close in 2010 amid claims of fraud, money laundering and misuse of charity status (its chief executive later went to prison!), Dixon quickly organised the creation of the CMIH. Even though he was clearly involved, Charles was probably wise to keep his distance after the scandal. But now, almost a decade later, the dust has settled and he feels he can again patronise (= become a patron).
Dixon who was the medical director of the FIH did not go to prison; why should he? He had done nothing wrong! On the contrary, he collected another gong and even aspired to become the president of the ‘Royal College of General Practitioners‘. He failed, but his honours and appointments are still second to none:
- LVO (2015)
- OBE (2001)
- Visiting Professor University College of London
- Visiting Professor Westminster University
- Honorary Senior Fellow, HSMC Birmingham University
- Honorary Senior Lecturer Peninsula Medical School, Exeter
- Medical Advisor to the Prince of Wales
Don’t I just admire my ex-friend Michael?!
And so should you!!!
Just read the abstract of his study of spiritual healing. If you are not impressed by this work of beauty, there must be something wrong with you.
This study was designed to examine the effects of a healer seeing chronically ill patients in a large semirural practice. The 57 patients were allocated alternately either to receive ten weekly healing sessions or to become waiting-list controls. Two weeks after completion of ‘healing’ 22 (81%) of the 27 study patients thought their symptoms had improved and 15 of these thought they had improved substantially. Study patients scored better than controls on both measures of symptoms (P < 0.05, P < 0.01), on anxiety and depression ratings (P < 0.01, P < 0.05) and on general function measured by the Nottingham Health Profile (P < 0.01). Treatment differences were still evident three months later for one of the measures of symptom change (P < 0.05) and for both anxiety and depression ratings (P < 0.01, P < 0.05). The percentages of natural killer cells (CD16, CD56) did not change greatly in either group. These results suggest that healing may be an effective adjunct for the treatment of chronically ill patients presenting in general practice. They do not distinguish between any specific effects of spiritual healing and non-specific effects such as relaxation; for further investigation, randomized controlled trials will be needed.
Sorry, I digress – this should be about Charles, not Michael.
Now that he is patron of both the FoH and the CMIH, what might be next? As he has already tried his own brand of herbal remedies, I suggest the next launches a brand of homeopathics. What about
‘HRH – Hopeless Royal Homeopathy‘?
‘HRH – Hopeless Royal’s Homeopathy’
Well, suggest something better then!