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

Monthly Archives: February 2022

I have published many books, and I am proud of most of them. There is little truly special about this; countless people have written more and better books than I. Yet, I think I outdo them all!

Let me explain.

I was looking on the Amazon site recently and, to my great surprise, there it was:

The book that I never wrote

Yes, I kid you not: a book published in my name that was never written by me. The publication details provided on the Amazon site were unremarkable:

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Wentworth Press (25 July 2018)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ German
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 78 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0270059261
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0270059267
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 15.6 x 0.41 x 23.39 cm
  • Best Sellers Rank: 715,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • 9,695 in Encyclopaedias (Books)

The narrative description foremost told me one thing: I am not the author of this book:

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

As a reproduction of a historical artifact, this work may contain missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. We appreciate your support of the preservation process, and thank you for being an important part of keeping this knowledge alive and relevant.

As my name is fairly unique – I have never heard of another chap called EDZARD ERNST – this is most unusual, you must admit.

Naturally, this book fascinated me, and I decided to order a copy.

Yesterday, a hard copy of the book arrived on my doorstep. Now things became a little clearer: it is a re-edition of a German original first published in 1865. Its author is EDUARD ERNST and not Edzard Ernst. The author’s name on the book cover is thus a misprint.

What next?

Write to the publisher, of course!

I tried but had little success. It seems that two companies by the name of Wentworth Press existed, one based in Australia and one in the US. Both seem to have gone out of business some time ago – at least I could not find email addresses (if a reader happens to know more, please let me know).

So, it seems that I might be the only author of multiple books who can pride himself that, for one of them, he did not write a single line. I have been plagiarized several times but the opposite has never happened before.

Three days ago, I reported a new study of homeopathy. At the time, I had not seen the full paper. Now, thanks to a kind reader sending it to me, I can report more details.

To recap:

In this double-blind, cluster-randomized, placebo-controlled, four parallel arms, community-based, clinical trial, a 20,000-person sample of the population residing in Ward Number 57 of the Tangra area, Kolkata, was randomized in a 1:1:1:1 ratio of clusters to receive one of three homeopathic medicines:

  • Bryonia alba 30cH,
  • Gelsemium sempervirens 30cH,
  • Phosphorus 30cH,
  • or an identical-looking placebo.

The treatment period lasted for 3 (children) or 6 (adults) days. All the participants, who were aged 5 to 75 years, received ascorbic acid (vitamin C) tablets of 500 mg, once per day for 6 days. In addition, instructions on a healthy diet and general hygienic measures, including handwashing, social distancing, and proper use of facemasks and gloves, were given to all the participants.

No new confirmed COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in the target population during the follow-up timeframe of 1 month-December 20, 2020 to January 19, 2021-thus making the trial inconclusive.

The Phosphorus group had the least exposure to COVID-19 compared with the other groups. In comparison with placebo, the occurrence of unconfirmed COVID-19 cases was significantly less in the Phosphorus group (week 1: odds ratio [OR], 0.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.06 to 0.16; week 2: OR, 0.004; 95% CI, 0.0002 to 0.06; week 3: OR, 0.007; 95% CI, 0.0004 to 0.11; week 4: OR, 0.009; 95% CI, 0.0006 to 0.14), but not in the Bryonia or Gelsemium groups.

The authors concluded that the trial was inconclusive. The possible effect exerted by Phosphorus necessitates further investigation.

When I first blogged about this, I commented with this question: If you conduct a COVID prevention trial, would you not make sure that rigorous testing for COVID of all participants is implemented? Having seen the full paper, The question remains unanswered. Here is all that the authors write about the outcome measures:

(a) Primary outcome—Occurrence of newly diagnosed (confirmed by detection of the SARS-CoV-2 RNA in nasopharyngeal swab by real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or rapid antigen test) COVID-19 infections as per Government of India records.

(b) Secondary outcome—Occurrence of unconfirmed COVID19 cases as assessed clinically during home visits. It was defined as abrupt onset (within the last 10 days) of fever (100.4°F or 38°C body temperature) with two or more of the following: loss of taste or smell, dry cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, headache, malaise, fatigue, myalgia, limb or joint pain, chest pain or pressure, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, skin rashes, discoloration of fingers or toes.

The timeline was up to 30 days after completing the recommended dosage or once the person reported COVID-19 positive, whichever was earlier. Data were collected weekly by teams of homeopaths from home visits and/or via telephone, whenever required.

I am not entirely sure what this means but I think “as per Government of India records” indicates that they did not bother to systematically measure the primary endpoint of their study. Instead, they relied on the data from occasional unsystematic testing. My suspicion is further confirmed by the authors’ statement in their discussion section: “a manual search of the Government records during the trial phase could not identify a single confirmed COVID-19 positive case belonging to the study population … Enhanced numbers of testing could have changed the outcome of the trial“.

If my suspicion is true, the study is a joke – and not a good one at that. It would mean that considerable funds and efforts have been wasted. It would also mean that the conclusion drawn by the authors “the trial was inconclusive” is inaccurate. It was not inconclusive but it was fatally flawed from its outset.

Yes, today is WORLD CANCER DAY. A good time to remind us that SCAM providers are often a serious risk to cancer patients. Here is a very recent case in point:

It has been reported that a naturopath from Laval in Quebec who describes herself as a “cancer specialist” notably by offering coffee enemas, has been found guilty of the illegal practice of medicine. The Court of Quebec ruled that Annie Juneau, owner of the Vitacru Group, led people to believe that she had “medical knowledge and [that she was] was able to diagnose a health deficiency”. The fine for the offense can vary between $2,500 and $62,000 and which remains to be determined.

The College of Physicians of Quebec (CMQ) conducted an investigation where an agent claiming to be looking for information on colon therapy under an assumed name consulted the therapist. The naturopath charged a little over $300 for the visit and the purchase of prescribed natural products. During the consultation, the naturopath, Annie Juneau, claimed that “we are brainwashed by the medical community”. She introduced herself as a “cancer specialist” and explained that she could even treat patients suffering from advanced stage 4 cancer.

The website of the naturopath praised the merits of the coffee enema, a practice believed to date back to ancient Egypt, stating that “cancer patients deprived of its benefits are unable to detoxify at the speed that optimal healing requires.” ON the Internet and in person, Annie Juneau illegally led a reasonable person to believe that she could perform acts reserved for doctors, the court ruled. In her defense, the naturopath argued that her website contained disclaimers stating that she does not offer medical advice and that she clearly identifies herself as a naturopath. However, the court ruled that such disclaimers are not sufficient protection of the public.

___________________________

This case is the latest in a long row of naturopaths (and other SCAM practitioners) risking the lives of cancer patients. Here are a few recent ones that we have discussed on this blog:

The Foundation for Vertebral Subluxation has a ‘clinical practice guideline/best practices project’ that would search, gather, compile and review the scientific literature going as far back as January 1998. Their new Chapter on the chiropractic care of children was peer-reviewed and approved by 196 chiropractors from several countries and included chiropractors specializing in pediatric and maternal care such as Diplomates and others certified in such care. The Best Practices document, developed through the Foundation’s Best Practices Initiative includes a Recommendation statement as follows:

Since vertebral subluxation may affect individuals at any age, chiropractic care may be indicated at any time after birth. As with any age group, however, care must be taken to select adjustment methods most appropriate to the patient’s stage of development and overall spinal integrity. Parental education by the chiropractor concerning the importance of evaluating children for the presence of vertebral subluxation is encouraged as are public health initiatives geared toward screening of children for vertebral subluxation beginning at birth.

I am afraid there may be some errors in the new document. Allow me therefore to post a corrected version:

Since vertebral subluxations do not exist, they cannot affect individuals regardless of age. Chiropractic adjustments are thus not indicated at any time after birth. Parental education by the chiropractor concerning the importance of evaluating children for the presence of vertebral subluxation is discouraged as are public health initiatives geared toward screening of children for vertebral subluxation beginning at birth.

Or, as an American neurologist once put it so much more succinctly:

Don’t let the buggers touch your neck!

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a pilot study of homeopathy to prevent COVID infections. Now a similar trial has been published – also in the journal ‘HOMEOPATHY’.

In this double-blind, cluster-randomized, placebo-controlled, four parallel arms, community-based, clinical trial, a 20,000-person sample of the population residing in Ward Number 57 of the Tangra area, Kolkata, was randomized in a 1:1:1:1 ratio of clusters to receive one of three homeopathic medicines:

  • Bryonia alba 30cH,
  • Gelsemium sempervirens 30cH,
  • Phosphorus 30cH,
  • or an identical-looking placebo.

The treatment period lasted for 3 (children) or 6 (adults) days. All the participants, who were aged 5 to 75 years, received ascorbic acid (vitamin C) tablets of 500 mg, once per day for 6 days. In addition, instructions on a healthy diet and general hygienic measures, including handwashing, social distancing, and proper use of facemasks and gloves, were given to all the participants.

No new confirmed COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in the target population during the follow-up timeframe of 1 month-December 20, 2020 to January 19, 2021-thus making the trial inconclusive.

The Phosphorus group had the least exposure to COVID-19 compared with the other groups. In comparison with placebo, the occurrence of unconfirmed COVID-19 cases was significantly less in the Phosphorus group (week 1: odds ratio [OR], 0.1; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.06 to 0.16; week 2: OR, 0.004; 95% CI, 0.0002 to 0.06; week 3: OR, 0.007; 95% CI, 0.0004 to 0.11; week 4: OR, 0.009; 95% CI, 0.0006 to 0.14), but not in the Bryonia or Gelsemium groups.

The authors concluded that the trial was inconclusive. The possible effect exerted by Phosphorus necessitates further investigation.

How can this be?

If you conduct a COVID prevention trial, would you not make sure that rigorous testing for COVID of all participants is implemented?

Unfortunately, I cannot access the full article – if someone can, please send it to me. From reading just the abstract I cannot help feeling that there is something very wrong here. And from looking at the list of authors’ affiliations I am not convinced that the authors are all that objective about the potential of homeopathy:

  • Department of Community Medicine, D.N.De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 2Department of Organon of Medicine and Homoeopathic Philosophy, D.N.De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 3Department of Pathology & Microbiology, D.N.De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 4Department of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology, DN.De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 5Department of Materia Medica, D.N.De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 6Department of Repertory, D.N.De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 7Department of Practice of Medicine, D.N.De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 8Department of Surgery, D.N.De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 9Department of Homoeopathic Pharmacy, D.N.De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 10Department of Physiology, D.N.De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 11Department of Anatomy, D.N.De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 12Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, D.N.De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

One of the things I like best about this blog is the fact that there is no shortage of comments. Many are excellent but others are quite simply infuriatingly bad. Yet, all of them form important contributions to the attractiveness of the blog.

So, thanks to everyone who has contributed.

And, please, keep up the good work.

Despite their importance, I often do not reply to the comments. Some readers might thus be puzzled by my seemingly paradoxical stance. There are several reasons for it; please let me explain.

You probably noticed that I publish a new post (almost) every day. That means I am quite busy – often too busy to post any replies to your comments. You might have also noticed that there are not just one or two comments from readers. In total, my readers posted well over 60000 comments on my blog. And again, I have to admit that I do often lack the time to formulate my own comments. Rather, I hope that other readers pick up the points someone has made and that, in this way, a constructive debate emerges even without my contribution. To be honest, sometimes the comments are also beyond my area of expertise and, in these instances, I prefer to remain silent.

And then there are the comments that, as mentioned above, are infuriatingly bad. Sometimes they annoy me so much that I spontaneously write a response. More often than I wish, I then come across as rude and unhelpful (for which I apologize). And more often than I want, this error entangles me in an argument that is both futile and unwinnable.

Instead of writing things that I later regret, I should really try to heed the bon mot that is often attributed to Mark Twain:

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