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

Monthly Archives: September 2021

I have repeatedly likened so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) to a cult – not a religious cult, of course, but to a ‘health cult’. A health cult is defined as a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator. So, are you a member of a health cult?

In case you are a proponent of SCAM, you might be in danger. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Is your SCAM based on dogma, such as ‘LIKE CURES LIKE’ or ‘SUBLUXATIONS ARE THE CAUSE OF DISEASE?
  2. Does the cult demand you accept its dogma or doctrine as truth?
  3. Is it set forth by a single guru or promulgator?
  4. Is your SCAM supposed to cure all ills?
  5. Is belief used by proponents of your SCAM as a substitute for evidence?
  6. Does the SCAM determine your diet and/or lifestyle?
  7. Does the SCAM exploit you financially?
  8. Does your SCAM impose rigid rules and regulations?
  9. Does your SCAM practice deception?
  10. Does your SCAM have its own sources of information/propaganda?
  11. Does your SCAM cultivate its own lingo?
  12. Does your SCAM discourage or inhibit critical thinking?
  13. Are questions about the values of your SCAM discouraged or forbidden?
  14. Do the proponents of your SCAM reduce complexities into platitudinous buzz words?
  15. Do they assume that health problems are the result of not adhering to the dogma?
  16. Does your SCAM instill fear into members who consider leaving?
  17. Do the proponents of your SCAM depict conventional medicine as ineffective or harmful?
  18. Are you asked to recruit new members to your SCAM?

Please try to answer these questions honestly and self-critically.

If more than a handful turn out to be positive, you have, in my view, a reason to be concerned. In this case, I would recommend you go to a library and start reading a few books that provide critical analyses of SCAM.

 

I was alerted to an interesting article about homeopathy in Switzerland. Its author points out that homeopathy is paid for by health insurance in Switzerland because of anything remotely related to evidence but because of a referendum in 2009. At the time, one of the arguments of the proponents was that health care costs would tend to decrease if more so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) would be paid for by the public purse. This is what Jacques de Haller, the president of the medical association, claimed: because SCAM is comparatively cheap and helps to prevent more expensive consultations, the total cost of health care would decrease.

This rather naive assumption was also one made in 2005 by the ‘Smallwood-Report’, commissioned by Charles and paid for by Dame Shirley Porter, specifically to inform health ministers. It stated that up to 480 million pounds could be saved if one in 10 family doctors offered homeopathy as an alternative to standard drugs. Savings of up to 3.5 billion pounds could be achieved by offering spinal manipulation rather than drugs to people with back pain. (Because I had commented on this report, Prince Charles’ first private secretary asked the vice-chancellor of Exeter University, Steve Smith, to investigate. Even though I was found to be not guilty of any wrongdoing, specifically of violating confidentiality, all local support stopped which led to my decision to retire early.)

In Switzerland, the assumption that SCAM saves money was refuted in 2019 by the Swiss health insurance association Santésuisse in a proper cost analysis. According to this analysis, doctors who also prescribed homeopathy caused 22% more costs per patient than those practicing conventional medicine. As it turned out, SCAM would be charged in addition to existing conventional medical services. Consequently, from a point of view of health economics, SCAM should not be called “alternative”, but rather “additive”, Santésuisse wrote at the time.

More evidence comes from a German study (authored by proponents of homeopathy!) that confirms these findings. Integrated care contracts for homeopathy by German health insurers were shown to result in higher costs across all diagnoses.

The recognition that homeopathy lacks sound evidence has already led to an end of reimbursement in the UK and France. Both in Germany and Switzerland, strong pro-homeopathy lobbies have so far succeeded in preventing similar actions. Yet, there is no doubt that, in these and other countries, the writing is on the wall.

Some used to think that Deepak Chopra is amongst the biggest charlatans on the planet. Well, they were wrong! And his new venture proves it beyond doubt.

The Lovetuner is a revolutionary approach to reduce stress, relieve anxiety and arrive in the present moment, connecting your exhale with the power of the 528hz frequency. That’s what the ad says, and Dr. Deepak Chopra agrees!

The website contains a short video which is a ‘MUST WATCH’. Please do have a look at it. Deepak will show you how to use the ‘LOVETUNER’. I promise you, it is impressive! In the video, Deepak also states that he is enthusiastic about the LOVETUNER and promises that:

  • the LOVETUNER creates the frequency of love;
  • the LOVETUNER can replace meditation;
  • the LOVETUNER is inviting love into your life;
  • the LOVETUNER increases your lung capacity;
  • the LOVETUNER increases the coherence of your biofield;
  • the LOVETUNER changes the biofield of the surroundings.

I am sure all these claims are based on the most solid of evidence. The fact that none of it has been published should not disturb us; on the contrary, it means that the evidence is so important that BIG PHARMA does not allow it to be published through the usual peer-reviewed channels – hence the video.

For those who are still not convinced, Deepak adds a written text:

“We want the world to be a more loving, peaceful, harmonious, happier and healthier place, right? First, we need to start with ourselves and be the change we want to see in this world. With the Lovetuner this is an easy and fun way to connect with ourselves and the world around us. The Lovetuner is more than just a meditation device – it is a mindset and a global peace and love movement. The Lovetuner teaches you the breath that spiritual gurus across the globe are going to recommend to you. It’s what you’ll find at your yoga retreat, sound bath, and guided meditation, but with the Lovetuner you can be your own guru.”

So, how does the LOVETUNER work? The website provides a most plausible explanation:

The Lovetuner is a revolutionary mindfulness tool that aligns you with the 528hz frequency, the vibration of love. In music, tuning means adjusting the pitch of a tone. In humans, it means adjusting your emotional and physical state to align with your environment – literally “tuning in” and harmonizing with yourself and what is around you. The Lovetuner has a profound effect on the body, mind and spirit.

Our entire universe is comprised of light and sound, frequency and vibration. The connections between music, cosmos and nature have been known since ancient times. In 1978 Hans Cousto, a Swiss mathematician and musicologist, compared the frequencies in planetary orbits, in architectural works, in old and modern measuring systems, in the human body, in music and in medicine and “discovered” their connection. John Lennon used the 528hz frequency for his song “Imagine.” In music, the 528Hz frequency refers to the note “Mi” and is traced back to the expression “Mi-ra gestorum” on the scale, which in Latin means “miracle”.

The 528hz frequency has a healing and health-promoting effect on our body, mind, and soul. Our cells and organs resonate with this frequency. The vibration is transferred to our entire organism where it can unfold its positive effect. It activates and strengthens our natural self-healing powers.

The 528hz frequency has a very special physical and biological importance.

The medical pioneer Dr. Royal Raymond Rife, who researched at the beginning of the 20th century, used many frequencies in his practice of radionics or electromagnetic therapy, but he specifically referred to 528 because of its ability to repair DNA. Dr. Rife used this frequency among hundreds of others for use with his Rife Machine – “Radionics.” He referred to 528 as “DNA repair.”

Molecular genetic investigations have shown that this frequency can be used to repair defective DNA strands or to restore human DNA to its original state. Scientific studies further showed that it increases the UV light absorption in DNA and can cure DNA by removing impurities that cause disease.

Today, the use of non-pharmacological and non-invasive agents is quite common. Sound waves, which are classified as non-invasive means for stimulating auditory cells, also affect non-auditory cells. Since the frequency of 528hz is related to the musical note Mi, effects such as an increase in the ability to repair DNA are observed.

 

I know, you are dying to know how much the LOVETUNER costs. For just $ 62, it can be yours! I do think that this is a bargain and am deeply thankful to Deepak for alerting me to this life-changing device. Yes, some used to think that Deepak Chopra is amongst the biggest charlatans on the planet. I am sure that his support for the LOVETUNER will make these people change their minds.

Past life regression therapy (PLRT) is, according to one practitioner, a therapeutic technique for accessing and re-experiencing your past lives directly.  A branch of hypnotherapy, past life regression therapy has grown over the last 50 years to be an important addition to the healing arts. This website also informs us that:

Past life regression is an amazing, full-sensory experience.  You might experience the memory as a vivid movie, or see only vague flashes of images that prompt the narrative.  You might hear gunshots or explosions on a battlefield, or music at a dance.  It is possible to recall smells too:  smoke from a fire, leather from a saddle, or the sweat of a dirty body.

As the story unfolds, you feel real emotions appropriate to the story.  You may cry when you re-experience deep sadness at the death of a beloved child, feel despair in the pit of your stomach as you witness a massacre, or elation at a long-awaited homecoming from war.  And just as you can recall strong emotions, you feel the pain of an arrow piercing your body as you are dying, or the heaviness of a load you’re carrying on your back.  These physical sensations and emotions are very real in the moment, but pass quickly as you move through the past life story and death.

PLRT is used by some clinicians for anxiety disorders, mood disorders, gender dysphoria, and other conditions. One survey suggested that 22% of European cancer patients use PLRT as a so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) to treat their illness. Some proponents argue that, since the exploration of the event/memory is actually helping the client resolve the challenge, the overall process can have immense therapeutic benefit, provided it is done responsibly and effectively.

So, it is effective because it is effective??? Such assurances make my alarm bells ring loud and clear. And I am not alone. It has been argued that PLRT is unethical:

  • First, it is not evidence-based. Past life regression is based on the reincarnation hypothesis, but this hypothesis is not supported by evidence, and in fact, it faces some insurmountable conceptual problems. If patients are not fully informed about these problems, they cannot provide informed consent, and hence, the principle of autonomy is violated.
  • Second, past life regression therapy has the great risk of implanting false memories in patients, and thus, causing significant harm. This is a violation of the principle of non-malfeasance, which is surely the most important principle in medical ethics.

I was unable to find convincing evidence that PLRT is effective. Furthermore, PLRT is by no means cheap; a typical session lasts two hours and costs $350. This suggests that PLRT is

  • unproven,
  • expensive,
  • and unsafe.

In other words, it is not a therapeutic option that I would recommend to anyone for any condition.

Mesotherapy is a treatment where fine needles or a high-pressure ‘gun’ are used to inject vitamins, enzymes, hormones, plant extracts, etc. into the skin of a patient. Michel Pistor, a French doctor, developed the therapy in 1952. It was originally used to relieve pain. Today, mesotherapy is also employed for a range of further indications:

  • remove fat in areas like the stomach, thighs, buttocks, hips, legs, arms, and face
  • reduce cellulite
  • fade wrinkles and lines
  • tighten loose skin
  • recontour the body
  • lighten pigmented skin
  • treat alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss

Mesotherapy is said to deliver drugs into the middle layer (mesoderm) of the skin. It is claimed to correct underlying issues like poor circulation and inflammation that cause skin damage.

Many different drugs can be used for mesotherapy, including:

  • prescription medicines like vasodilators and antibiotics
  • hormones such as calcitonin and thyroxin
  • enzymes like collagenase and hyaluronidase
  • herbal extracts
  • homeopathic remedies
  • vitamins and minerals
  • vaccines

According to the Italian Mesotherapy Society, the mechanisms of action of mesotherapy can be summarised as follows:

But is there at all any sound evidence that mesotherapy works?

It turns out that there are few rigorous studies. The most recent review concluded that mesotherapy proved to be more effective than systemic therapy in the treatment of local pain and functional limitations caused by a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. However, because of the heterogeneity of the analysed studies in terms of injected drugs, administration technique, associated treatments, frequency and total number of sessions, more randomized controlled trials are needed, comparing a standardized mesotherapy protocol with a systemic treatments.

Mesotherapy is not free of serious adverse effects. They include bacterial infections, hair loss, scarring, panniculitis, tissue necrosis, allergic reactions, and other complications.

So, is mesotherapy a treatment that might be recommended?

  • Its effectiveness remains unproven.
  • It can cause serious adverse effects.
  • It is by no means cheap.

I think these facts answer the question fairly well.

I came across a little article by the homeopathy firm Boiron. Normally, I would not mention such promotional literature, but this one is special. Here it is:

These days, leaving home is an exercise in mental fortitude with trying to remember your mask, packing enough hand sanitizer, and taking a host of other precautions. Our daily routines have been upended, leaving us on high alert. As each day brings a new set of challenges — like hybrid learning or work closures — it’s easy for our confidence and self-esteem to take a hit.

If these feelings begin to hold you back, health professionals like Heidi Weinhold, ND, recommend turning to Gelsemium sempervirens. “I think of this remedy whenever I need help facing my fears,” she says.

Dr. Weinhold recommends Gelsemium sempervirens 30C for anyone experiencing nervousness from anticipatory or situational stress. “For college students, that could mean test anxiety before an exam. Some of us are having fears of getting back on a plane or flying, or even going to the grocery store and shopping.”

Gelsemium has a long history as a stress reducer. According to Dr. Weinhold, this remedy was found in Civil War first aid kits where it was used to help give soldiers courage before walking on to the battlefield. Now Gelsemium, too, can help you face your battles and provide you with the strength to persevere through tough times, she says.

Click here to watch this video featuring Dr. Weinhold explaining the uses and benefits of Gelsemium sempervirens.

The short article begs, of course, many questions. What, for instance, is Gelsemium sempervirens? It is a plant sometimes used as a folk remedy for various medical conditions. It looks a bit like honeysuckle but is quite toxic due to the alkaloids that it contains.

Is there any evidence that Gelsemium sempervirens is effective for any condition? No! But that does not matter in the context of homeopathy because a C30 potency would not contain a single molecule of the plant anyway.

And who is Dr. Heidi Weinhold? According to her own website, she

received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Washington & Jefferson College. Dr. Weinhold completed a four-year doctoral program in Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. Her studies included drug-herb interactions, homeopathic intakes, dialoguing with physicians, and incorporating natural modalities to enhance conventional treatment. Dr. Weinhold spent 9 months doing supervised clinical rotations through Arizona Pathways, a drug Rehabilitation Community Center, where she provided Naturopathic support to individuals recovering from addiction. In 2013 she received the Alumni Award from Southwest College in recognition of her contribution towards the advancement of Naturopathic Medicine. In 2017, Southwest College further honored Dr. Weinhold by bestowing upon her an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

From 2008-2016, Dr. Weinhold served as the legislative chair for the Pennsylvania Association of Naturopathic Physicians (PANP), working with legislators to promote legislation to license Naturopathic Doctors in Pennsylvania. A giant step towards this effort was achieved with the passage of House Bill 516 in 2016. HB 516 provides title protection and registration for Naturopathic Physicians graduating from accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Full licensure efforts are currently underway. Dr. Weinhold received the 2017 Physician of the Year Award from the Pennsylvania Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

Fascinating! I am particularly interested in her studies of drug-herb interactions, homeopathic intakes, dialoguing with physicians, and incorporating natural modalities to enhance conventional treatment. So I looked her up on Medline: nothing! Heidi has not a single publication in her name.

Now, that’s surprising. It could mean that her studies were too important to be published and the findings are still top secret. Dr. Weinhold has received a prestigious award for advancing naturopathic medicine; it, therefore, stands to reason that we can very soon expect the announcement of a major breakthrough regarding the medicinal powers of homeopathic Gelsemium sempervirens preparations that are devoid of any molecules of Gelsemium sempervirens.

I for one am looking forward to it.

Yesterday, I received this strange comment:

“One day he will have his come uppance…”

Was this a threat?

Someone wishing me personal harm?

According to the dictionary, a comeuppance is:

a person’s bad luck that is considered to be a fair and deserved punishment for something bad that they have done.

So, what bad deed did I commit to deserve punishment?

I posted my criticism of a paper that I consider highly unethical and irresponsible. But is it really punishable to stand up for medical ethics? Surely not … except, of course, in the eyes of a fanatic advocate of homeopathy.

And what punishment do I deserve in the eyes of fanatic advocates of homeopathy? The post was about patients who suffered from COVID-19 infections and who recovered quickly after receiving some unnamed homeopathic remedies. Does the author of

“One day he will have his come uppance…”

want me punished by falling ill with COVID, reject the life-saving homeopathy, and thus not recover from the infection?

Is that possible?

Surely not!

Sadly, it is not just possible but not even unique. A German pharmacist who dared to criticize homeopathy was recently told this (my translation):

I wish you an incurable disease, despair and a good homeopath who will give you quality of life again. Then we’ll talk again. Or a conventional doctor who sends you to a hospice.

And in the past, I have been the recipient of many threats, including overt death threats.

Sometimes I really do wonder why people think that so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is gentle, soft, and harmless.

This shocking paper presents 5 cases of patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 infections, 2 of them hospitalized in the intensive care unit, who were successfully treated with homeopathy. All 5 patients responded to homeopathic treatment in an unexpectedly short time span (in fact, it took up to 8 days), improving both physically and mentally.

The authors concluded that the present case series emphasizes the rapidity of response among moderate to severely ill patients to homeopathic treatment, when conventional medical options have been unable to relieve or shorten the disease. The observations described should encourage use of homeopathy in treating patients with COVID-19 during the acute phase of the disease.

If I hear about patients suffering from a cold, or tennis elbow, or otitis, or back pain, or allergy who responded to homeopathic treatment in an unexpectedly short time span, I tend to giggle and usually consider it a waste of time to explain that the observed outcome most likely is not a RESPONSE to homeopathic treatment but a non-causally related by-product. Correlation is not causation! What caused the outcome was, in fact, the natural history of the condition which would have improved even without homeopathy. To make this even clearer, I sometimes ask the homeopath: HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT THE PATIENT WOULD NOT HAVE IMPROVED EVEN FASTER IF YOU HAD NOT GIVEN HIM THE HOMEOPATHIC REMEDY? This question sometimes (sadly not always) leads to the realization that homeopathy may not have caused the outcome.

But when, in the middle of a pandemic during which millions of people died and continue to die, someone writes in a medical journal that 5 COVID patients responded to homeopathic treatment in an unexpectedly short time span, I feel compelled to disclose the statement as pure, unethical, irresponsible, and dangerous quackery.

The 5 patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized at a tertiary medical center in Jerusalem for moderate to severe
COVID-19-related symptoms. Each of them requested homeopathic treatment in addition to conventional therapy from the hospital’s ‘Center for Integrative Complementary Medicine’. All 5 patients were over 18 years old and had confirmed COVID-19 infection at the time of admission. They received their homeopathic medications as small round pills (globules); no further information about the homeopathic treatment was provided. Similarly, we also do not learn whether some patients who did not receive homeopathy recovered just as quickly (I am sure that worldwide thousands did), or whether some patients who did get homeopathic remedies failed to recover.

To make matters worse, the authors of this paper state this:

Several conclusions are evident from the cases presented:
1 homeopathy’s effect may be expected within minutes or, at most, hours;
2 contrary to classical homeopathic consultations, which may extend over an hour, correct medications for patients with acute COVID-19 symptoms may be determined in minutes;
3 there were no observable adverse effects to homeopathic treatment of COVID-19;
4 therapy can be administered via telehealth services, increasing safety of treating patients with active infection;
5 patient satisfaction was high; scoring their experience of homeopathic therapy on a 7-point scale, ranging
from “It greatly improved my condition” to “It greatly aggravated my condition,” all 5 patients indicated it
had greatly improved their condition.

The possibility that the outcomes are not causally related to the homeopathic treatment seems to have escaped the authors. The harm that can be done by such an article seems obvious: fans of homeopathy might be misled into assuming that homeopathy is an effective therapy for COVID infections and other serious conditions. It is not hard to imagine that this error would cost many lives.

The authors state in their article that, to the best of their knowledge, this is the first time that a tertiary medical center has permitted homeopathic therapy of patients under treatment for COVID-19-related illness.

I sincerely hope that it is also the last time!

Kneipp therapy goes back to Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), a catholic priest who was convinced to have cured himself of tuberculosis by using various hydrotherapies. Kneipp is often considered by many to be ‘the father of naturopathy’. Kneipp therapy consists of hydrotherapy, exercise therapy, nutritional therapy, phototherapy, and ‘order’ therapy (or balance). Kneipp therapy remains popular in Germany where whole spa towns live off this concept.

The obvious question is: does Kneipp therapy work? A team of German investigators has tried to answer it. For this purpose, they conducted a systematic review to evaluate the available evidence on the effect of Kneipp therapy.

A total of 25 sources, including 14 controlled studies (13 of which were randomized), were included. The authors considered almost any type of study, regardless of whether it was a published or unpublished, a controlled or uncontrolled trial. According to EPHPP-QAT, 3 studies were rated as “strong,” 13 as “moderate” and 9 as “weak.” Nine (64%) of the controlled studies reported significant improvements after Kneipp therapy in a between-group comparison in the following conditions:

  • chronic venous insufficiency,
  • hypertension,
  • mild heart failure,
  • menopausal complaints,
  • sleep disorders in different patient collectives,
  • as well as improved immune parameters in healthy subjects.

No significant effects were found in:

  • depression and anxiety in breast cancer patients with climacteric complaints,
  • quality of life in post-polio syndrome,
  • disease-related polyneuropathic complaints,
  • the incidence of cold episodes in children.

Eleven uncontrolled studies reported improvements in allergic symptoms, dyspepsia, quality of life, heart rate variability, infections, hypertension, well-being, pain, and polyneuropathic complaints.

The authors concluded that Kneipp therapy seems to be beneficial for numerous symptoms in different patient groups. Future studies should pay even more attention to methodologically careful study planning (control groups, randomisation, adequate case numbers, blinding) to counteract bias.

On the one hand, I applaud the authors. Considering the popularity of Kneipp therapy in Germany, such a review was long overdue. On the other hand, I am somewhat concerned about their conclusions. In my view, they are far too positive:

  • almost all studies had significant flaws which means their findings are less than reliable;
  • for most indications, there are only one or two studies, and it seems unwarranted to claim that Kneipp therapy is beneficial for numerous symptoms on the basis of such scarce evidence.

My conclusion would therefore be quite different:

Despite its long history and considerable popularity, Kneipp therapy is not supported by enough sound evidence for issuing positive recommendations for its use in any health condition.

Last week, a naturopath who has been practicing naturopathy for more than three years, appeared in the Paris High Court. He is accused of “illegal practice of medicine” and of “usurpation of the title of doctor” after two of his cancer patients died.

Charles B. was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2016 but wanted to avoid traditional medicine. In March 2017, he consulted the naturopath, Miguel B., who studied for fourteen years in the United States and has a degree in biochemistry and a doctorate in molecular medicine. He knew that his qualifications did not allow him to practice in France and presented himself as a naturopath. Knowing about his client’s cancer, Miguel B. drew up a health plan for him that included numerous fasts and purges to detox his body.

In the following months, the cancer spreads to the lungs and brain. Charles B. wrote to his naturopath in early February: “Great pain, don’t know what to do”. The naturopath continued his advice: “You should go on a diet, rest and purge in the evening. In court, Charles B.’s father recalled a conversation between his son and Miguel B. during which the latter had said to Charles B.: “It would be a pity if you were to undergo this chemotherapy.” On 22 February 2018, now weighing only 59 kg, Charles B. finally decided to start chemotherapy. But it was already too late, and he died on 18 December 2018, at the age of 41, of a cancer from which more than 98% of patients usually recover. Charles B.’s wife stated that the naturopath had told her husband that he would not need chemotherapy. She believes that the defendant is “responsible and even guilty” of her husband’s death.

The family of another patient of Miguel B. has also joined the case. Catherine F., who had been suffering from cervical cancer, died at the age of 39. She had followed, among other treatments, a fast recommended by the naturopath and was one of 149 further patients whose list was found on a USB stick belonging to the defendant.

 

 

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