Monthly Archives: March 2022
… Dr. Ernst goes on digressions that mostly seem intended to make Prince Charles look bad. There’s a long chapter on Laurens van der Post, who influenced Prince Charles as a youth, and a lot about somewhat unsavory things he did. So what? …
This made me think. I read the chapter again and find it hard to agree with the comment. To me, this chapter is a short (~2000 words) and essential part of the book. Judge for yourself; here are a few excerpts from it:
“It seemed to have been a union of mutual needs, between a Prince longing to find meaning in his existence and a storyteller who could weave apparent answers out of thin air.” Laurence van der Post was oozing charm and charisma and sensed that “for the Prince, there was a missing dimension”, as Jonathan Dimbleby put it. By 1975, the two men had formed such a close rapport that van der Post felt able to counsel him about spiritual matters, urging him to explore the ‘old world of the spirit’ and ‘the inward way’ towards truth and understanding. Van der Post suggested the two make a seven week journey into the Kalahari desert. This, he believed, would introduce Charles to the spirit world. Preparations were made in 1977 but, in the end, the plan had to be abandoned. Instead, the two later went to Kenya where they spent 5 days of long walks and “intense conversation”.
Van der Post urged Charles to play “a dynamic and as yet unimagined role to suit the future shape of a fundamentally reappraised and renewed modern society”, a reappraisal that would be “so widespread and go so deep that it will involve a prolonged fight for all that is good and creative in the human imagination.” An aspect of this fight, he claimed, would be “to restore the human being to a lost natural aspect of his own spirit; to restore his relevance for life and his love of nature, and to draw closer to the original blueprint and plan of life…”
Laurence left an interview for posthumous publication; in it, he expressed his hope that Charles would never become king, as this would imprison him, it would be more important that Charles continues to be a great prince. “He’s been brought up in a terrible way … He’s a natural Renaissance man, a man who believes in the wholeness and totality of life … Why should it be that if you try to contemplate your natural self that you should be thought to be peculiar?”
“For 20 years they had most intimate conversations and correspondence … with a steady flow of reassurance and encouragement, political and diplomatic advice, memoranda, draft speeches and guidance for reading”. Van der Post introduced Charles to the teachings of Carl Jung and his concept of the ‘collective unconscious’ that binds all humans together regardless whether they are Kalahari bushmen or princes. On the behest of van der Post, Charles began to record his dreams which van der Post then interpreted according to Jung’s theories. In the late 1970s van der Post tried to convince Charles to give up all his duties and withdraw from the world completely in search for an ‘inner world truth’. This plan too was aborted.
All biographers agree that van der Post was the strongest intellectual influence of Charles’ life.
- Charles sought van der Post’s advice and spiritual guidance on numerous occasions.
- When William was born, he made van der Post his godfather.
- When Charles’ marriage to Diana ran into difficulties, the couple was counselled by van der Post.
- Charles invited Laurence regularly to Highgrove, Sandringham and Balmoral.
- Charles visited van der Post on his deathbed.
- After Laurence’s death, Charles created a series of annual lectures hosted in van der Post’s memory which he hosted in St James’ Palace.
Charles’ notions about medicine were unquestionably inspired by van der Post. Laurence. He, for instance, bemoaned the inadequacy of conventional medicine and wrote: “Even if doctors did … use dreams and their decoding as an essential part of their diagnostic equipment and perhaps could confront cancer at the point of entry, how are they to turn it aside, unless they are humble enough to keep their instruments in their cases and look for some new form of navigation over an uncharted sea of the human spirit?” As we will see in the next chapters, van der Post’s influence shines through in many of Charles’ speeches. Moreover, it contributed to the attitude of many critical observers towards Charles. Christopher Hitchens is but one example for many:
“We have known for a long time that Prince Charles’ empty sails are so rigged as to be swelled by any passing waft or breeze of crankiness and cant. He fell for the fake anthropologist Laurens van der Post. He was bowled over by the charms of homeopathic medicine. He has been believably reported as saying that plants do better if you talk to them in a soothing and encouraging way… The heir to the throne seems to possess the ability to surround himself—perhaps by some mysterious ultramagnetic force?—with every moon-faced spoon-bender, shrub-flatterer, and water-diviner within range.”
The following chapters will show that Hitchens might not have been far off the mark.
Yes, I do feel that the chapter is essential for the book. It explains how Charles’ love affair with alternative medicine got started and why it would become so intense and durable. Without it, the reader would not be able to understand the rest of the book. Moreover, it is important to demonstrate that van der Post was a charlatan and an accomplished liar. This is relevant because, in later life, Charles’ skill to choose adequate advisors was often wanting.
Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is among the most common types of pain in adults. It is also the domain for many types of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). However, their effectiveness remains questionable, and the optimal approach to CLBP remains elusive. Meditation-based therapies constitute a form of SCAM with high potential for widespread availability.
This systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials evaluated the efficacy of meditation-based therapies for CLBP management. The primary outcomes were pain intensity, quality of life, and pain-related disability; the secondary outcomes were the experienced distress or anxiety and pain bothersomeness in the patients. The PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane databases were searched for studies published from their inception until July 2021, without language restrictions.
A total of 12 randomized clinical trials with 1153 patients were included. In 10 trials, meditation-based therapies significantly reduced the CLBP pain intensity compared with nonmeditation therapies (standardized mean difference [SMD] -0.27, 95% CI = -0.43 to – 0.12, P = 0.0006). In 7 trials, meditation-based therapies also significantly reduced CLBP bothersomeness compared with nonmeditation therapies (SMD -0.21, 95% CI = -0.34 to – 0.08, P = 0.002). In 3 trials, meditation-based therapies significantly improved patient quality of life compared with nonmeditation therapies (SMD 0.27, 95% CI = 0.17 to 0.37, P < 0.00001).
The authors concluded that meditation-based therapies constitute a safe and effective alternative approach for CLBP management.
The problem with this conclusion is that the primary studies are mostly of poor quality. For instance, they do not control for placebo effects (which is obviously not easy in this case). Thus, we need to take the conclusion with a pinch of salt.
However, since the same limitations apply to chiropractic and osteopathy, and since meditation has far fewer risks than these approaches, I would gladly recommend meditation over manipulative therapies. Or, to put it plainly: in terms of risk/benefit balance, meditation seems preferable to spinal manipulation.
Holland & Barrett (H&B), the UK’s largest store for supplements and wellbeing products, is under pressure over its links to oligarch Mikhail Fridman. The private equity firm ‘LetterOne’, founded by Fridman, holds a major stake in H&B. On Twitter, people thus urged us to buy our supplements elsewhere. One customer tweeted: ‘Please boycott Holland & Barrett as it is owned by a Russian oligarch with links to Putin.’
Fridman who owns Athlone House, a sprawling £65million mansion in Highgate, North London, was sanctioned by the European Union. His assets were frozen and he is banned from traveling. Consequently, he spoke out against the fighting in Ukraine but refused to denounce Putin. He has since stepped down from the board of LetterOne.
Holland & Barrett itself is unlikely to face sanctions as the oligarch owns less than half the shares in the parent company LetterOne. Fridman convened a press conference last week, which was broadcast on television. However, the move might have backfired, as it alerted H&B shoppers to his connection with the stores.
Fridman was born in Ukraine and has an Israelian passport. He made most of his £11billion fortune from oil, gas, banking, and telecoms. He founded Alfa Bank in January 1991, which grew to become one of the largest private banks in Russia. In 2013, he set up LetterOne in London using £11billion raised from the sale of his stake in TNKBP to Kremlin-backed oil giant Rosneft, whose petrol is currently fuelling Russian tanks. Fridman and Aven (another oligarch) own just under 50 percent of LetterOne. The rest of the company is split between board members German Khan, Alexey Kuzmichev and Andrei Kosogov – who all left the board recently.
A spokesman for LetterOne said: ‘Holland and Barrett is a fantastic business. The business employs thousands of people and we will do everything to protect them.’ Holland & Barrett’s made a gross profit of £445million for the year to the end of September 2020. Fridman and Aven said the EU sanctions are spurious and unfounded and vowed to contest them.
Quite apart from the oligarch co-ownership, I did ask myself some time ago: is H&B a recommendable shop? It is advertised on Facebook as follows:
I rarely follow up announcements of new studies of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). But this one is different. It was so spectacular that almost precisely two years ago I reported about it. Here is what I wrote:
Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, a cardiologist at the Kansas City Heart Rhythm Institute in the US, has started a trial of prayer for corona-virus infection. The study will involve 1000 patients with COVID-19 infections severe enough to require intensive care. The four-month study will investigate “the role of remote intercessory multi-denominational prayer on clinical outcomes in COVID-19 patients,” according to a description provided to the National Institutes of Health.
- Male or female greater than 18 years of age
- Confirmed positive for COVID-19
- Patient admitted to Intensive Care Unit
- Patients admitted to ICU for diagnosis that is not COVID-19 positive
(Not giving informed consent is not listed as an exclusion criterion!)
Half of the patients, randomly chosen, will receive a “universal” prayer offered in five denominational forms, via:
The other 500 patients in the control group will not be prayed for by the prayer group. All the patients will receive the standard care prescribed by their medical providers. “We all believe in science, and we also believe in faith,” Lakkireddy claims. “If there is a supernatural power, which a lot of us believe, would that power of prayer and divine intervention change the outcomes in a concerted fashion? That was our question.”
The outcome measures in the trial are
- the time patients remain on ventilators,
- the number of patients who suffer from organ failure,
- the time patients have to stay in intensive care,
- the mortality rate.
For months, I have now been looking out for the results of this study. It must long be finished now. The results cannot be difficult to analyze. The publication of such a sensational trial should not be a problem. If the findings are positive, even top journals would be keen to publish them. If they are negative, they would still be worth reporting.
So, where are they?
I could not find a trace of them!
I was puzzled and became more and more frustrated.
Until I had the obvious idea of looking at the website that reported the above details two years ago. There was the answer to my questions:
“Recruitment Status: Terminated (Due to the low enrollment, this study is closed. Analysis of data is not performed.)”
But how can this be?
What can possibly be the reason for an enrollment that was too low to properly conclude this trial?
- There were certainly enough COVID patients (contrary to what was claimed earlier, the sample size is now given at merely 200).
- Many of these US patients would, of course, be religious and thus welcome some divine intervention.
So, why might such a trial fail? I can only think of two reasons:
- The execution of the trial was sloppy and half-hearted.
- The research question was too daft for participants to consent.
Whatever the reason, I find it sad, possibly even unethical that research funds are being wasted on such nonsense.
The sponsor of this study was the Kansas City Heart Rhythm Institute. The director of the Kansas City Heart Rhythm Institute is Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, the principal investigator of this trial.
When the study was first announced in 2020, it received huge publicity. I, therefore, think that the investigators should have had the decency to also publicly announce that they failed to conclude it.
Pfizer your God father has now officially released the list ofAdverse events.. it’s huge.. and it’s official… If you guys had half a brain You would have seen this coming.. calling others quacks.. Pfizer clowns need to be hung on a tree just like Judas..
Is this a death threat?
Never mind, I am getting used to them.
The first one that I remember came when I was still working at my department in Exeter. We had to call the police who instructed my secretaries how to identify letter bombs without opening them. We had reason to believe that such a device had been posted to me. Not a nice experience!
Since then, death threats have arrived with some regularity.
The one above, however, seems special.
I do not recall advertising the Pfizer vaccine on this blog and elsewhere. It seems therefore that the author (who used the following email address: John <[email protected]>) is more than mildly deranged.
Am I worried? No, not about my safety (but a little about John, I must admit). I have long learned that such aggressions of this nature are a sign that I am probably on the right path. They are, in other words, a victory of reason over unreason.
So, maybe I will start advertising the Pfizer vaccine after all?
The Nobel Prize laureate Luc Montagnier has died at the age of 89.
Montagnier became the hero of the realm of homeopathy when he published findings suggesting that ultra-molecular dilutions are not just pure water but might have some activity. In this context, he has been mentioned repeatedly on this blog. During the years that followed his support for homeopathy, things got from bad to worse, and Montagnier managed to alienate most of the scientific community.
Amongst other things, he became a champion of the anti-vax movement, supported the view that vaccination causes autism, and argued that viral infections including HIV could be cured by diet. During the pandemic, he then claimed that Sars-CoV-2 had originated from a laboratory experiment attempting to combine coronavirus and HIV. On French television, he claimed that vaccination was an “enormous mistake” that would only promote the spread of new variants.
Before Montagnier became a victim of ‘Nobelitis‘, he had a brilliant career as a virologist in his world-famous Paris lab. A co-worker of Montagnier, Barré-Sinoussi, managed to isolate a retrovirus from an AIDS patient in 1983. They called it ‘lymphadenopathy-associated virus’, and concluded that it may be involved in several pathological syndromes, including AIDS.
Meanwhile, in the US, Gallo had identified a family of immunodeficiency retroviruses that he called human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV). In 1984, Gallo announced that one of these viruses was the cause of AIDS. The US government swiftly patented a blood test for detecting antibodies to it. Thus it became possible to screen for the virus in the blood.
When it became clear that material used in Gallo’s studies included samples that Montagnier had supplied in 1983, one of the fiercest rows in the history of science ensued. Eventually, negotiations between the two governments settled it by resolving that the two scientists should be equally credited. In 2002, Gallo and Montagnier published a joint paper acknowledging each other’s role: Montagnier’s team discovered HIV, and Gallo’s proved it caused AIDS. When Gallo was excluded from the Nobel prize given in 2008 to Montagnier and Barré-Sinoussi, the world of science was stunned. The spectacular dispute between Galo and Montagnier became the subject of a movie and several books.
Montagnier died on 8/2/2022 leaving behind his wife Dorothea and their three children, Anne-Marie, Francine, and Jean-Luc.
The new issue of the BMJ carries an article on acupuncture that cries out for a response. Here, I show you the original article followed by my short comments. For clarity, I have omitted the references from the article and added references that refer to my comments.
Conventional allopathic medicine —medications and surgery  used in conventional systems of medicine to treat or prevent disease —is often expensive, can cause side effects and harm, and is not always the optimal treatment for long term conditions such as chronic pain . Where conventional treatments have not been successful, acupuncture and other traditional and complementary medicines have potential to play a role in optimal patient care .
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2019 global report, acupuncture is widely used across the world.  In some countries acupuncture is covered by health insurance and established regulations.  In the US, practitioners administer over 10 million acupuncture treatments annually.  In the UK, clinicians administer over 4 million acupuncture treatments annually, and it is provided on the NHS. 
Given the widespread use of acupuncture as a complementary therapy alongside conventional medicine, there has been an increase in global research interest and funding support over recent decades. In 2009, the European Commission launched a Good Practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine Research (GP-TCM) funding initiative in 19 countries.  The GP-TCM grant aimed to investigate the safety and efficacy of acupuncture as well as other traditional Chinese medicine interventions.
In China, acupuncture is an important focus of the national research agenda and receives substantial research funding.  In 2016, the state council published a national strategy supporting universal access to acupuncture by 2020. China has established more than 79 evidence-based traditional Chinese medicine or integrative medicine research centers. 
Given the broad clinical application and rapid increase in funding support for acupuncture research, researchers now have additional opportunities to produce high-quality studies. However, for this to be successful, acupuncture research must address both methodological limitations and unique research challenges.
This new collection of articles, published in The BMJ, analyses the progress of developing high quality research studies on acupuncture, summarises the current status, and provides critical methodological guidance regarding the production of clinical evidence on randomised controlled trials, clinical practice guidelines and health economic evidence. It also assesses the number and quality of systematic reviews of acupuncture.  We hope that the collection will help inform the development of clinical practice guidelines, health policy, and reimbursement decisions. 
The articles document the progress of acupuncture research. In our view, the emerging evidence base on the use of acupuncture warrants further integration and application of acupuncture into conventional medicine.  National, regional, and international organisations and health systems should facilitate this process and support further rigorous acupuncture research.
This article is part of a collection funded by the special purpose funds for the belt and road, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the Innovation Team and Talents Cultivation Program of the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Special Project of “Lingnan Modernization of Traditional Chinese Medicine” of the 2019 Guangdong Key Research and Development Program, and the Project of First Class Universities and High-level Dual Discipline for Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine. The BMJ commissioned, peer reviewed, edited, and made the decision to publish. Kamran Abbasi was the lead editor for The BMJ. Yu-Qing Zhang advised on commissioning for the collection, designed the topic of the series, and coordinated the author teams. Gordon Guyatt provided valuable advice and guidance. 
1. Allopathic medicine is the term Samuel Hahnemann coined for defaming conventional medicine. Using it in the first sentence of the article sets the scene very well.
2. Medicine is much more than ‘medications and surgery’. To imply otherwise is a strawman fallacy.
3. What about rehabilitation medicine?
4. ‘Conventional medicine is not always the optimal treatment’? This statement is very confusing and wrong. It is true that conventional medicine is not always effective. However, it is by definition the best we currently have and therefore it IS optimal.
5. Another fallacy: non sequitur
6. Another fallacy: appeal to popularity.
7. Yet another fallacy: appeal to authority.
8. TCM is heavily promoted by China not least because it is a most lucrative source of income.
9. Several research groups have shown that 100% of acupuncture research coming out of China report positive results. This casts serious doubt on the reliability of these studies (see, for instance, here, here, and here).
10. It has been noted that more than 80 percent of clinical data from China is fabricated.
11. Based on the points raised above, it seems to me that the collection’s aim is not to provide objective information but uncritical promotion.
12. I find it telling that the authors do not even consider the possibility that rigorous research might demonstrate that acupuncture cannot generate more good than harm.
13. This statement essentially admits that the series of articles constitutes paid advertising for TCM. The BMJ’s peer-review process must have been less than rigorous in this case.
Stress is associated with a multitude of physical and psychological health impairments. To tackle these health disorders, over-the-counter (OTC) products like Neurodoron® are popular since they are considered safe and tolerable. One tablet of this anthroposophic remedy contains the following active ingredients:
- 83.3 mg Aurum metallicum praeparatum trituration (trit.) D10,
- 83.3 mg Kalium phosphoricicum trit. D6,
- 8.3 mg Ferrum-Quarz trit. D2.
Experience reports and first studies indicate that Neurodoron® is efficient in the treatment of stress-associated health symptoms. “To confirm this” (!!!), a non-interventional study (NIS) with pharmacies was conducted.
The NIS was planned to enroll female and male patients who suffered from nervous exhaustion with symptoms caused by acute and/or chronic stress. The main outcome measures were characteristic stress symptoms, stress burden, and perceived stress. Further outcome measures included perceived efficacy and tolerability of the product as assessed by the patients and collection of adverse drug reactions (ADRs). A study duration of about 21 days with a recommended daily dose of 3–4 tablets was set.
In total, 279 patients were enrolled at 74 German pharmacies. The analyzed set (AS) included 272 patients (mean age 44.8 ± 14.4 years, 73.9% female). 175 patients of the AS completed the NIS. During the study, all stress symptoms declined significantly (total score 18.1 vs. 12.1 (of max. 39 points), < 0.0001). Furthermore, a reduction of stress burden (relative difference in stress burden, VAS = −29.1%, < 0.0001) was observed. For most patients, perceived stress was reduced at the study end (PSQ total score decreased in 70.9% of the patients). 75.9% of the study population rated the product efficacy as “good” or “very good” and 96.6% rated its tolerability as “good” or “very good.” One uncritical ADR was reported.
The authors concluded that this study adds information on the beneficial effects of Neurodoron® in self-medication. The results from this NIS showed a marked reduction in stress burden and perceived stress, along with an excellent safety profile of the medicinal product (MP) Neurodoron®. Further trials are required to confirm these results.
I beg to differ!
The study had no control group and therefore one cannot possibly attribute any of the observed changes to the anthroposophic remedy. They are more likely to be due to:
- the natural history of the condition,
- regression towards the mean,
- a placebo effects,
- other treatments administered during the trial period.
Sadly, the authors discuss none of these possibilities in their paper.
In view of this, I am tempted to rephrase their conclusions as follows:
This study adds no valuable information on the effects of Neurodoron® in self-medication. The results from this NIS showed what utter nonsense the Weleda marketing team is capable of producing in an attempt to boost sales.
These declarations of the 4 study authors and the sponsorship are revealing, I thought:
RH and CS are employees of Weleda AG, Germany. JH and KS work for daacro GmbH & Co. KG, a clinical research organization, Germany. The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.
This study was financed by the pharmaceutical company Weleda AG, Arlesheim, the employer of RH and CS. Weleda commissioned the CRO daacro for their contribution to the manuscript.
Bioresonance is an alternative therapeutic and diagnostic method employing a device developed in Germany by Scientology member Franz Morell in 1977. The bioresonance machine was further developed and marketed by Morell’s son-in-law Erich Rasche and is also known as ‘MORA’ therapy (MOrell + RAsche). Bioresonance is based on the notion that one can diagnose and treat illness with electromagnetic waves and that, via resonance, such waves can influence disease on a cellular level.
On this blog, we have discussed the idiocy bioresonance several times (for instance, here and here). My favorite study of bioresonance is the one where German investigators showed that the device cannot even differentiate between living and non-living materials. Despite the lack of plausibility and proof of efficacy, research into bioresonance continues.
The aim of this study was to evaluate if bioresonance therapy can offer quantifiable results in patients with recurrent major depressive disorder and with mild, moderate, or severe depressive episodes.
The study included 140 patients suffering from depression, divided into three groups.
- The first group (40 patients) received solely bioresonance therapy.
- The second group (40 patients) received pharmacological treatment with antidepressants combined with bioresonance therapy.
- The third group (60 patients) received solely pharmacological treatment with antidepressants.
The assessment of depression was made using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, with 17 items, at the beginning of the bioresonance treatment and the end of the five weeks of treatment.
The results showed a statistically significant difference for the treatment methods applied to the analyzed groups (p=0.0001). The authors also found that the therapy accelerates the healing process in patients with depressive disorders. Improvement was observed for the analyzed groups, with a decrease of the mean values between the initial and final phase of the level of depression, of delta for Hamilton score of 3.1, 3.8 and 2.3, respectively.
The authors concluded that the bioresonance therapy could be useful in the treatment of recurrent major depressive disorder with moderate depressive episodes independently or as a complementary therapy to antidepressants.
One could almost think that this is a reasonably sound study. But why did it generate such a surprising result?
When reading the full paper, the first thing one notices is that it is poorly presented and badly written. Thus there is much confusion and little clarity. The questions keep coming until one comes across this unexpected remark: the study was a retrospective study…
This explains some of the confusion and it certainly explains the surprising results. It remains unclear how the patients were selected/recruited but it is obvious that the groups were not comparable in several ways. It also becomes very clear that with the methodology used, one can make any nonsense look effective.
In the end, I am left with the impression that mutton is being presented as lamb, even worse: I think someone here is misleading us by trying to convince us that an utterly bogus therapy is effective. In my view, this study is as clear an example of scientific misconduct as I have seen for a long time.