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

Numerous so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs) have been touted as the solution for COVID-19. In fact, it is hard to find a SCAM that is not claimed to be useful for corona patients. Crucially, such claims are being made in the complete absence of evidence. A recent paper offers a bibliometric analysis of global research trends at the intersection of SCAM and COVID-19.

SCOPUS, MEDLINE, EMBASE, AMED and PSYCINFO databases were searched on July 5, 2020. All publication types were included, however, articles were only deemed eligible, if they made mention of one or more SCAMs for the potential prevention, treatment, and/or management of COVID-19 or a health issue indirectly resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The following eligible article characteristics were extracted: title; author names, affiliations, and countries; DOI; publication language; publication type; publication year; journal (and whether it is TICAM-focused); 2019 impact factor, and TICAMs mentioned.

A total of 296 eligible articles were published by 1373 unique authors at 977 affiliations across 56 countries. The most common countries associated with author affiliation included:

  • China,
  • the United States,
  • India,
  • Italy.

Four journals had published more that 10 papers each on the subject:

  • Chinese Traditional and Herbal Drugs,
  • Journal of Biomolecular Structure & Dynamics,
  • Zhongguo Zhongyao Zazhi (China Journal of Chinese Materia Medica),
  • Pharmacological Research

The vast majority of articles were published in English, followed by Chinese. Eligible articles were published across 157 journals, of which 33 were SCAM-focused; a total of 120 journals had a 2019 impact factor, which ranged from 0.17 to 60.392. A total of 327 different SCAMs were mentioned across eligible articles, with the most common ones including:

  • traditional Chinese medicine (n = 94),
  • vitamin D (n = 67),
  • melatonin (n = 16),
  • phytochemicals (n = 12),
  • general herbal medicine (n = 11).

The Canadian author concluded that this study provides researchers and clinicians with a greater knowledge of the characteristics of articles that been published globally at the intersection of COVID-19 and SCAM to date. At a time where safe and effective vaccines and medicines for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 have yet to be discovered, this study provides a current snapshot of the quantity and characteristics of articles written at the intersection of SCAM therapies and COVID-19.

If anyone repeated the research today, I fear that the number of different SCAMs would have at least doubled. There is simply no form of SCAM that would not have joined the bandwagon of snake-oil salesmen trying to make a quick buck or satisfying their dangerous delusion of a panacea. Today (11/12/2020) my very quick Medline search on just a few SCAMs resulted in the following:

  • Herbal medicine: 253
  • Dietary supplement: 139
  • Acupuncture: 68
  • Homeopathy (not mentioned at all above): 20
  • Chiropractic: 13
  • Naturopathy: 6

One of the most chilling reads during my ‘rough and ready’ trawl through the literature was an article co-authored by a Viennese professor who has featured repeatedly on this blog. Here is its abstract:

Successful homeopathic prescriptions are based on careful individualization of symptoms, either for an individual patient or collectively in the case of epidemic outbreaks. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was initially represented as a severe acute respiratory illness, with eventual dramatic complications. However, over time it revealed to be a complex systemic disease with manifestations derived from viral-induced inflammation and hypercoagulability, thus liable to affect any body organ or system. As a result, clinical presentation is variable, in addition to variations associated with several individual and collective risk factors. Given the extreme variability of pathology and clinical manifestations, a single, or a few, universal homeopathic preventive Do not split medicine(s) do not seem feasible. Yet homeopathy may have a relevant role to play, inasmuch as the vast majority of patients only exhibit the mild form of disease and are indicated to self-care at home, without standard monitoring, follow-up, or treatment. For future pandemics, homeopathy agencies should prepare by establishing rapid-response teams and efficacious lines of communication.

The Canadian author of the above paper did not analyse how many of the papers he included would make therapeutic claims. I suspect that the majority did. In this context, one of the clearest indications of how deluded SCAM practitioners tend to be during these difficult times was provided by this paper:

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by a new coronavirus, first appeared in late 2019. What initially seemed to be a mild influenza quickly revealed itself as a serious and highly contagious disease, and the planet was soon faced with a significant morbidity and mortality associated with this pathogen. For homeopathy, shunned during its 200 years of existence by conventional medicine, this outbreak is a key opportunity to show potentially the contribution it can make in treating COVID-19 patients. This should be done through performance of impeccably controlled, prospective, randomized clinical trials, with publication of their findings in well-ranked conventional medicine journals. If the homeopathy community fails to take advantage of this rare opportunity, it might wait another century for the next major pandemic.

I must admit, I felt vaguely sick while reading it.

24 Responses to Snakeoil salesmen are out in force and view COVID-19 as an ‘opportunity’

  • Have you tried taking Mycoxawobblin 200C?
    Available from all reputable homeopathic pharmacies.

    Doesn’t cure sickness, but might cheer you up thinking about it!
    Seems to have worked for the paper’s author Menachem Oberbaum.
    He’s not only an author…

  • If the homeopathy community fails to take advantage of this rare opportunity

    I see someone’s been mainlining Narcissus poeticus at 300C.

  • Homeopathy has a better track record than these “novel” vaccines with no long term followup. I will take my chances with homeopathy before I take an mRNA vaccine that only promises to reduce the severity of mild symptoms with unknown chronic effects. It doesnt even promise to stop the transmission of the virus. Useless except as a money maker for the pharma CEOs who are cashing out on their stock options before their Scam is revealed.

    https://www.homeopathy.ca/

  • This is such a funny list, yet it is quite incomplete.

    It completely misses out on several well known snakeoils. Like Remdesivir, Hydroxychloroquine, those mRNA ‘vaccines’. With Remdesivir probably the biggest SCAM of this year.

    And how do you classify those SCAMs in your search?
    Is ‘Vitamin D’ always a SCAM, even when regular doctors and researchers study it in proper RCTs? VitD alone is still a *much more promising* candidate for nice to have and monitor for proper/adequate levels in endangered people/patients than any of the Remdesivir BS scams I listed.

    It is disingenious to bash honest researchers/believers who try to prove their theory as ‘working’ (like many herbal candidates: Artemesin or Vasicin or their lab-made big-pharm counterparts, Bromhexin in the latter). Esdpecially when you compare that with outright fullscale fraud like that from Gilead. Remdesivir was known to be bull when Ebola came along, and it is known to be bull now.

    It may be tricky to discriminate between honest and dishonest players. Within your list, I am sure that some if not many were classified correctly into ‘they don’t know what they are talking about and desire leads to goals, but not succesful results, which may end in grave harm’. But that is at least equally true for for example SOLIDARITY or RECOVERY HCQ overdose recommendations. The amount of garbage produced in reputable medical research journals in this year is enough to accomplish a moopnshot with just paper-based fuel.

    Are there equal scales employed?

    If so then please stop preaching to us (in this amount) that ‘chiro-nonsense and incense candles do probably not work as advertised’. We ‘know’ that.

    What we want to know from you is how your expertise evaluates recommendations like FLCCC https://covid19criticalcare.com/ Members of this group testify before ‘Homeland Security’ that their protocol would be *’the* answer’ for the current crisis. They include Vitamin D, C, Zinc, Melatonin in their list. Are they SCAMmers?

    I guess that’s far more important to analyse than any far-out quack who wants to break your spine into correct positions or stick some needles into patients. You know, thoase quacks like acupuncturists or Pfizer. Both not able to show us reliable data about their alleged successes.

    • you seem to be ignorant of the fact that this is a blog about SCAM: so-called alternative medicine.
      [there are thousands of other blogs dealing with HCQ etc]

      • Perhaps because there may be too much for just one little blog?

        “The vast majority of drugs – more than 90 per cent – only work in 30 or 50 per cent of the people,” Allen Roses, vice-president of genetics at GlaxoSmithKline.

        • Whereas the vast majority of SCAM works in zero percent of the people.

          Only a religious loon thinks acknowledging one’s limitations is a sign of weakness. And only a fraud would weaponize it to their own ends. So which are you?

          • In spite of the logical fallacy of false dilemma, we don’t if much of CAM works or not as it hasn’t been properly tested. We can take the view it doesnt work until shown otherwise.

          • “false dilemma”

            True. It could also be both.

            “We can take the view [CAM] doesnt work until shown otherwise.”

            An admirable sentiment and goal. Now explain why CAMsters are selling it in the meantime.

          • has: Now explain why CAMsters are selling it in the meantime.

            I suspect the two most common reasons

            1. They think it works
            2. Make money

        • ““The vast majority of drugs – more than 90 per cent – only work in 30 or 50 per cent of the people,” Allen Roses, vice-president of genetics at GlaxoSmithKline.”

          here here

          I’ve been echoing this same mantra for a couple years here. I’m happy to see another that realizes the truth.

    • Are they SCAMmers?

      Yes, yes they are. Ivermectin, sold using the exact same schtick as HCQ before it? You know that’s a treatment for liver flukes in cattle, right? What next; Hulda Clark zappers? At least that’s Prof Ernst’s bailiwick.

      Like Remdesivir, Hydroxychloroquine, those mRNA ‘vaccines’.

      Overrated, Scam, not-Scam. But good to know you’re also an antivax crank from your air-quotes, as that’ll be Prof Ernst’s bailiwick too.

      The amount of garbage produced in reputable medical research journals in this year is enough to accomplish a moopnshot with just paper-based fuel.

      That much is embarrassingly true, and the ongoing quantity vs quality problems in scientific publishing is well known.

      On the other hand, the amount of garbage being spouted everywhere else is enough to do a hundred laps from here to the Andromeda galaxy and still be back for dinner, so that’s hardly the damning indictment you’d hoped it would be. Especially while hawking dodgy “fell off the back of a truck” product yourself.

        • Yes, I am so tired of idiots claiming youtube videos and newspaper articles as proof of their prejudiced beliefs.

          Yes, Ivermectin does kill RNA viri in cell cultures. So does alcohol and almost anything you chuck in the Petri dishes, providing it is in sufficient concentration.

          No, this effect has not been able to reproduce in mice or other animals and no proper human trials have been performed.

          No, the inflated fool cited in the Dominican newspaper may have given lice and worm-medicine to a lot of Covid-19 patients, but that is not research and proves nothing. He has not proven that it helped any more than the water they drank. For that you need proper research.

          No, the cranks in YT videos., making impassioned claims about Ivermectin as the silver-bullet solution to Covid-19 are just gullible fools, like yourself , even the ones with medical degrees. You have said so yourself, that some doctors are idiots, right?

          Yes, Ivermectin has been shown to have some interesting properties that might be used as a model for further novel antiviral drug development.

          No, oral Ivermectin has neither been proven to be nor is it pharmacologically likely to be useful as an antiviral agent in humans.

          Why?
          Firstly, the bioavailability of oral Ivermectin is very poor and would not provide sufficient concentration for any effect in humans.
          Secondly, the concentration needed to kill viri in vitro is so high that it would very likely mean you would need to inject the muck in toxic levels to get an effect.

          Yes, I know you Googled and cherry picked some Youtube video’s and credulous online articles that seem to satisfy your perverse antipathy for science and medicine.

          No, they are not evidence.

          Yes, you really are just one more troll, fishing in the cesspools of antiscience and getting off on making believe the filth you pull up is evidence.

          No, I did not forget the red banner. You did.

          No, I am not going to spend time on finding references for you this time. You know how to Google.

          • @Bjorn

            Spin it any way you choose. If you want a study, do it man. We’re busy saving lives.

            One the same subject, the AMA just yesterday rescinded their view on HCQ (very very quietly), almost not in the news cycle. But now that the election is over, and all the damage has been done…. well, you know.

            https://noqreport.com/2020/12/15/with-the-election-over-duplicitous-ama-can-say-hcq-is-safe-without-risking-helping-president-trump/

          • “We’re busy saving lives.”

            No, you’re not; you’re grandstanding megalomanic loons and frauds who should never be allowed in a mile of any sick person. Because it’s ALL ABOUT YOU, and both of us know it.

            “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion.” – Steven Weinberg

          • We’re busy saving lives.

            And you are who? What lives? how, where and when?

            If you had said “we are busy putting a man on the moon” we would be just as convinced (not).
            When you make a claim of unlikely acheivment, you need to corroborate it.
            Until then, you are just another incognito windbag troll.

          • @Bjorn

            Since I’m not an MD, I will refrain from making any specific statements or claims here for which I might suffer consequences.
            However, Ivermectin IS effective in treatment of the Wuhan virus, it has been evidenced to me MANY times over, at a reasonable price, with high safety factor (as long as it’s dosed properly).

            The FDA approved medication Remdesivir, carries with it a list of much more serious potential side effects . Besides the fact the the Gilead product is low in efficacy, and high in price.

            Remdesivir
            “Side effects –
            The most common adverse effects in studies of remdesivir for COVID‑19 include respiratory failure and organ impairment, including low albumin, low potassium, low count of red blood cells, low count of platelets that help with clotting, and yellow discoloration of the skin.[20][unreliable medical source?] Other reported side effects include gastrointestinal distress, elevated transaminase levels in the blood (liver enzymes), and infusion site reactions.[12]

            Other possible side effects of remdesivir include:
            Infusion‐related reactions. Infusion‐related reactions have been seen during a remdesivir infusion or around the time remdesivir was given.[21] Signs and symptoms of infusion‐related reactions may include: low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, sweating, and shivering.[21]
            Increases in levels of liver enzymes, seen in abnormal liver blood tests.[21] Increases in levels of liver enzymes have been seen in people who have received remdesivir, which may be a sign of inflammation or damage to cells in the liver.[21]”

        • It is not a question of belief. It is a question of what you can prove.

          And the quality of evidence presented for Ivermectin is the quality of evidence presented for HCQ before it: shockingly poor and manipulative. It is extremely hard to interpret it as proof of anything other than gloryhounds and grifters are enthusiastically serving their own interests; damn what happens to the patients.

          Soon as someone says “forget the quality of evidence, this is an emergency!” it is a sure sign they are full of sh-t. The fact there is an emergency today is all the more reason not to skip due dilligence now, or it’ll be an even bigger emergency tomorrow; and then you’re well on your way to total disaster.

          It’s an obvious tell: fraudsters and abusers all know that desperate panicking people are the easiest to manipulate, and that’s exactly how they like them. Just as it’s easy to say that their grand claims for Ivermectin are most likely wrong, because most grand claims are!

          Which is exactly why quality of evidence matters so much. And if they were genuine scientific researchers they would know that, and so make damn sure they’ve got all their ducks in a row before they go public.

          Strange how you’ve no problem calling out Gilead’s proprietary Remdesivir for its overblown claims, yet when it’s over-the-counter products like Vit-D supplements and worming pills your critical judgement goes straight out the window. I wonder if there’s a relation to which of those you can control (and sell and promote), and which you cannot.

          That’s the difference between you and me: because I don’t trust anyone’s motives, including my own. That just leaves the evidence, and though IANAS I understand enough of the basic principles and practices by which good evidence is generated to suspect when someone is behaving in ways that run counter to that. And once that red flag is hoist I’ll look a lot harder at their motives and what they’re getting out of it, and more often or not that comes up “ego” and/or “money”.

          And, just like “most claims are wrong”, most people are in it for ego, money, or both. We are not that complicated a species, and it’s another very obvious tell that you alties flatter yourselves to think you’re any better than that. Perhaps if you traded your religious devotions for some real hard introspection and self-criticism and -correction; but the fact you put your beliefs before everything else tells us there’s cack all chance that you’ll ever do that.

          So stick your He-Says appeals to authority and YouTube videos where the sun don’t shine, because it’s painfully obvious from here that the interests you serve are your own, and the only person you fool is yourself.

          • @has

            You conveniently didn’t mention ANYTHING about the FDA reversing their stance on HCQ…. hmmm.
            I’m not a fan of the AMA FDA CDC WHO etc, however, what you say now about HCQ ? …. sure is strange and sudden change… isn’t it ?
            Better yet, what do you say about the AMA ? …lol

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