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

Edzard

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic, polyarticular autoimmune inflammatory disease that destroys the capsule and synovial lining of joints. Antirheumatic treatment reduces disease activity and inflammation, but not all patients respond to treatment. Naturopathy is claimed to be effective, but there is little data on the effect on inflammation and disease activity in RA. The objective of this study was therefore to explore the effect of 12 weeks of integrated naturopathy interventions on disease-specific inflammatory markers and quality of life in RA patients.

A total of 100 RA patients were randomized into two groups:

  • the naturopathy group (integrated naturopathy interventions with routine medical therapy),
  • the control group (only with routine medical therapy).

Blood samples were collected pre- and post-intervention for primary outcome measurements of systemic inflammatory markers (ESR, CRP, and IL-6). Disease activity score (DAS-28) and quality of life were used to assess disease activity and functional status using SF-36, respectively, at pre- and post-intervention time points.

The results show a notable decrease in disease activity after 12 weeks of naturopathy intervention. As such, a significant decrease was found in levels of systemic inflammatory markers such as ESR (p = 0.003) and IL-6 (p < 0.001), RA disease activity score (DAS-28) (p = 0.02), and most of the components of health-related quality of life (SF 36 scores) (p < 0.05) except in vitality (p = 0.06).

The authors conclused that the findings of the present study suggest that integrated naturopathy treatments may have the ability to control persistent inflammation, maintain immune homeostasis, and lower disease activity.

The naturopathic treatments included:

  • acupuncture,
  • hot and cold-water application to the painful joints,
  • sauna baths,
  • enemas,
  • fasting,
  • mud therapy,
  • massage therapy.

The study was designed as an A+B versus B trial. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that subjective endpoints improved. A little more baffling are the changes in objective parameters. These could easily be due to the fasing interventions – there is reasonably sound evidence for such effects. Take this review, for instance:

Fasting is an act of restricting, for a certain length of time, food intake or intake of particular foods, and has been part of religious rituals for centuries. Religions such as Christianity and Islam use this practice as a form of sacrifice, self-discipline, and gratitude. However, in the past decade, fasting has penetrated the mainstream as a diet trend. There are several ways of fasting; existing fast mimicking eating methods promise accelerated weight loss, and many more benefits: lower cholesterol, prevention of type 2 diabetes and a longer lifespan. Even more, it has been proposed that fasting can downregulate the inflammatory process and potentially be used as a treatment regimen for several diseases. Here, we review the effects of fasting on immune and inflammatory pathways. Also, we present current knowledge about the role of fasting in the activity of inflammatory arthritides with a focus on rheumatoid arthritis.

What I am trying to say is this: some modalities used in naturopathy might well be effective in treating certain conditions. In my view, this is, however, no reason for condoning or recommening naturopathy as a whole. Or – to put it bluntly – naturopathy is a weird mixture of pure nonsense and some possibly reasonable interventions.

This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of spiritually based interventions on blood pressure (BP) among adults. A systematic search was performed using the PubMed, Scopus, and Cochrane databases to identify studies evaluating spiritual interventions, including:

  • meditation,
  • transcendental meditation,
  • mindfulness meditation,
  • yoga,

for high BP among adults up to January 1, 2022.

The inclusion criteria were:

  • (a) randomized controlled trials (RCTs),
  • (b) studies in English or Persian,
  • (c) studies conducted among adults (≥ 18 years),
  • (d) studies reporting systolic or diastolic BP.

Given the high heterogeneity of these studies, a random effect model was used to calculate the effect sizes for the RCTs.

In total, the systematic review included 24 studies and the meta-analysis included 23 studies. As some of studies reported two or more outcome measurements, separate estimates of each outcome were extracted for that study (24 datasets). Fifteen trials reported the mean (SD) systolic blood pressure (SBP), and 13 trials reported the mean (SD) diastolic blood pressure (DBP). In addition, 13 studies reported means (SDs) and six trials reported mean changes in DBP. A significant decrease was found in systolic BP following intervention ((WMD (weighted mean difference) =  − 7.63 [− 9.61 to − 5.65; P < 0.001]). We observed significant heterogeneity among the studies (I2 = 96.9; P < 0.001). A significant decrease was observed in DBP following the interventions (WMD =  − 4.75 [− 6.45 to − 3.05; P < 0.001]).

The authors concluded that spiritually based interventions including meditation and yoga had beneficial effects in reducing both SBP and DBP. Reducing BP can be expected to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Q: What do the RCTs of these interventions have in common?

A: They cannot normally be placebo-controlled because no adequate placebos exist for these therapies.

Q: What does that mean?

A: It means that patients could not be blinded and that patient expectations influenced the outcome.

In view of the fact that blood pressure is an endpoint that is extremely sensitive to expectation, I think, the conclusions of this paper might need to be re-formulated:

This analysis confirms that expectation can have beneficial effects in reducing both SBP and DBP. Reducing BP can be expected to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

‘WORLD HOMEOPATHY DAY’ is upon us and the Internet is awash with pro-homeopathy comments, e.g.:

  • World Homeopathy Day is observed annually on April 10th to commemorate the birth anniversary of Samuel Hahnemann, a prominent figure in the development of homeopathy. This day celebrates the principles and practices of homeopathy, an alternative medicinal approach that emphasizes treating ailments by utilizing natural substances and stimulating the body’s inherent healing abilities.
  • The theme for World Homeopathy Day 2024 is ‘Empowering Research, Enhancing Proficiency: A Homeopathy Symposium”. This theme underscores the significance of continuous research in homeopathy and the need to upgrade capability in its training to give better medical care results.

Even slightly less biased sources cannot bring themselves to a more realistic approach, e.g.:

The significance of the World Homeopathy Day is said to be as follows:

  • Raising Awareness: World Homeopathy Day has successfully brought homeopathy to the forefront of public attention, generating dialogue and interest in its principles and practices.
  • Bridging Communities: The Day serves as a platform for bringing together homeopaths, practitioners, researchers, and individuals interested in alternative medicine, fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange.
  • Focus on Education: World Homeopathy Day emphasizes the importance of education and ethical practices within the field, promoting responsible usage and informed choices for individuals seeking homeopathic care.

World Homeopathy Day is about understanding and exploring the potential of this alternative medicine system while keeping an open mind and prioritizing evidence-based healthcare practices.

So, let me try to counter-balance these texts by showing you what my recently published 7 key points about homeopathy tell us:

Homeopathy is popular, particularly in India, Germany, France and parts of South America. It was invented more than 200 years ago and still divides opinions like few other subjects in alternative medicine.

  1. Homeopathy was invented by the German physician, Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843). At the time, our understanding of the laws of nature was woefully incomplete, and therefore Hahnemann’s ideas seemed less implausible than today. The conventional treatments of this period were often more dangerous than the disease they were supposed to cure. Consequently, homeopathy was repeatedly shown to be superior to ‘allopathy’ (a term coined by Hahnemann to denigrate conventional medicine) and Hahnemann’s treatments were an almost instant, worldwide success.[1]
  2. Many consumers confuse homeopathy with herbal medicine; yet the two are fundamentally different. Herbal medicines are plant extracts that contain potentially active ingredients. Homeopathic remedies are based on plants or any other material and they are typically so dilute that they contain not a single molecule of the substance advertised on the bottle. The most frequently used dilution (homeopaths call them ‘potencies’) is a ‘C30’; a C30-potency has been diluted 30 times at a ratio of 1:100. This means that one drop of the staring material is dissolved in 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 drops of diluent (usually a water/alcohol mixture)—and that equates to less than one molecule of the original substance per all the molecules of the universe.
  3. Homeopaths claim that their remedies work via some ‘energy’ or ‘vital force’ and that the process of preparing the homeopathic dilutions (it involves vigorous shaking the mixtures at each dilution step) transfers this ‘energy’ or information from one to the next dilution. They also believe that the process of diluting and agitating their remedies, which they call potentisation, renders them not less or not more potent. Homeopathic remedies are usually prescribed according to the ‘like cures like’ principle: if, for instance, a patient suffers from runny eyes, a homeopath might prescribe a remedy made of onion, because onion make a healthy person’s eyes water. This and all other assumptions of homeopathy contradict the known laws of nature. In other words, we do not fail to comprehend how homeopathy works, but we understand that it cannot work unless the known laws of nature are wrong.
  4. According to Hahnemann’s classical homeopathy, homeopaths are focussed on the symptoms and characteristics of the patient. They conduct a lengthy medical history, and they show little or no interest in a physical examination of their patient or other diagnostic procedures. Once they are confident to have all the information they need, they try to find the optimal homeopathic remedy. This is done by matching the symptoms with the drug pictures of homeopathic remedies. Any homeopathic drug picture is essentially based on what has been noted in homeopathic provings where healthy volunteers take a remedy and monitor all that symptoms, sensations and feelings they experience subsequently. Thus, the optimal homeopathic remedy can be seen as a diagnosis which makes homeopathy also a diagnostic method.[2]
  1. Today, around 500 clinical trials of homeopathy have been published. The totality of this evidence fails to show that homeopathic remedies are more than placebos.[3] Numerous official statements from various countries confirm the absurdity of homeopathy, for instance:
  • “The principles of homeopathy contradict known chemical, physical and biological laws and persuasive scientific trials proving its effectiveness are not available” (Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia)
  • “Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.” (National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia)
  • “Homeopathic remedies don’t meet the criteria of evidence-based medicine.” (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary)
  • “The incorporation of anthroposophical and homeopathic products in the Swedish directive on medicinal products would run counter to several of the fundamental principles regarding medicinal products and evidence-based medicine.” (Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden)
  • “There is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition” (National Health Service, England)
  1. Yet, many patients undeniably do get better after taking homeopathic remedies. The best evidence available today clearly shows that this improvement is unrelated to the homeopathic remedy per se. It is the result of a lengthy, empathetic, compassionate encounter with a homeopath, a placebo-response or other factors which experts often call ‘context effects’.[4]
  2. Whenever homeopaths advise their patients (as they often do) to forgo effective conventional treatments, they are likely to do harm. This phenomenon is best documented in relation to the advice of many homeopaths against immunisations.[5]
[For references, see the original text]

I do not expect fans of homeopathy to be impressed by my evidence-based assessment of their cult. In fact, just looking what is currently being posted on ‘X’ today about the ‘WORLD HOMEOPATHY DAY’ seems to justify my expectation. Here are the 10 first postings that appeared on my screen about an hour ago:

  1. Today, on #WorldHomeopathyDay, we celebrate the birth anniversary of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy. Let’s embrace the principles of natural healing and holistic well-being.
  2. On #WorldHomeopathyDay President #DroupadiMurmu to inaugurate 2-day Homeopathic Symposium at Yashobhoomi Convention Centre Dwarka, New Delhi. Organized by Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) based on theme of ‘Empowering Research, Enhancing Proficiency.’
  3. Dr. Ashvini Kumar Dwivedi, Member, Scientific Advisory Board, Central Council for Research in Homeopathy, Ministry of Ayush, Government of India, and #ASSOCHAM Ayush task force member, underlined the significance of #WorldHomeopathyDay, observed on April 10th each year
  4. Today, we celebrate #WorldHomeopathyDay 2024, embracing the gentle healing power of nature.
  5. Happy #WorldHomeopathyDay!  Let’s celebrate the holistic approach to health that homeopathy offers, honoring its contributions to alternative medicine and its focus on individualized care. Here’s to exploring natural remedies and supporting wellness for all! #HolisticHealth
  6. Happy World Homeopathy Day Embracing the gentle yet powerful healing of homeopathy, let’s cherish its holistic essence, promoting balance and well-being worldwide. Here’s to the harmony it brings to mind, body, and spirit.
  7. #WorldHomeopathyDay: President #DroupadiMurmu to inaugurate 2-day Homeopathic Symposium at Yashobhoomi Convention Centre Dwarka, New Delhi. Organized by Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) based on theme of ‘Empowering Research, Enhancing Proficiency.’
  8. Celebrate #WorldHomeopathyDay with us & enter to win these two enlightening reads by renowned homeopath Dr. Mukesh Batra. What inspired you to explore homeopathy? Share your story in the comments section & get a chance to win a copy of #HealWithHomeopathy and #FeelGoodHealGood!
  9. #WorldHomeopathyDay is celebrated on April 10th, promoting awareness of the principles and benefits of homeopathic medicine. It aims to address the whole body, including hereditary predispositions and disease history, and encourages people to pursue homeopathy as a profession.…
  10. On World Homeopathy Day, we celebrate Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the pioneer of homeopathy. His gentle remedies, made from natural substances, have helped countless people heal without side effects.

_______________________

In view of this volume of pure BS, I encourage everyone to post (here, or on ‘X’, or elsewhere) some evidence-based comments on homeopathy, Hahnemann and the ‘World Homeopathy Day’.

Let me make a start:

Homeopaths are as deluded as their remedies are diluted

Pre-diabetes is a significant public health problem worldwide. India has a very high rate of progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes, 75-78 per thousand persons per year.

The objective of this study was to test the efficacy of individualized homeopathic medicinal products (HMPs) against placebos in preventing the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes. It was designed as a ix-month, double-blind, randomized (1:1), two parallel arms, placebo-controlled trial.

Sixty participants with pre-diabetes were treated either with:

  • HMPs plus yoga therapy (YT; n = 30)
  • or with identical-looking placebos plus YT (n = 30).

Pre-diabetes was defined as elevated fasting blood glucose (FBS) of 100-125 mg/dL, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) value of 5.7-6.4%, and/or an elevated blood glucose level 2 hrs. after an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) of 140-199 mg/dL (ICD-10-R73.03).

The primary efficacy endpoint was the proportion of participants progressing from pre-diabetes to diabetes, measured after three and six months. Secondary outcomes comprised of fasting blood glucose (FBS), oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), glycated hemoglobin percentage (HbA1c%), lipid profile, liver enzymes (alanine transaminase, aspartate transaminase), urea and creatinine, and Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile version 2 (MYMOP-2); all measured after 3 and 6 months.

The proportion of participants converted from pre-diabetics to diabetics (n/N; n = diabetics, N = prediabetics) was significantly less in the verum group than control: HbA1C% (month 3: verum – 2/30 versus control – 11/30, p = 0.003; month 6: 3/30 vs. 2/30, p = 0.008), OGTT (month 3: 0/30 vs. 8/30, p = 0.015; month 6: 0/30 vs. 1/30, p = 0.008), but not according to FBS (month 3: 1/30 vs. 1/30, p = 0.779; month 6: 1/30 vs. 3/30, p = 0.469). Several secondary outcomes also revealed significant improvements in the verum group than in placebo: HbA1C% (p < 0.001), OGTT (p = 0.001), serum ALT (p = 0.031), creatinine (p = 0.012), and MYMOP-2 profile scores (p < 0.001). Sulphur, Bryonia alba, and Thuja occidentalis were the most frequently indicated medicines. Thus, HMPs outperformed placebos by successfully preventing the progression of pre-diabetes to diabetes.

The authors concluded that HMPs with YT produced significantly better effects than placebos plus YT with moderate to large effect sizes. Overall, HMPs outperformed placebos by successfully preventing the progression of pre-diabetes to diabetes.

This is an odd study with very odd results; it begs several questions and comments, e.g.:

  • If the aim was to test the efficacy of individualized homeopathic medicinal products (HMPs) against placebos in preventing the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes, why add yoga as a treatment?
  • What were the influences of other factors such as diet and life-style, and were these the same in both groups?
  • The sample size seems far too small for such firm conclusions.
  • What might be the alleged mechanism of action?
  • Why not publish such a study that has allegedly important results in one of the many established journals dealing with diabetes?

I fear that this trial is merely one in the long list of poor quality, false-positive homeopathy studies that are currently emerging from India. I predict that the findings will not even be taken seriously enough to be submitted to a replication by established diabetes researchers.

This study evaluated and compared the effectiveness of Reiki and Qi-gong therapy techniques in improving diabetic patients’ negative emotional states. This quas-experimental research design was carried out at the National Institute of Diabetes and Endocrinology’s Hospital in Cairo, Egypt. It included 200 Type 2 diabetes patients randomized into two equal groups, one for Qigong and one for Reiki techniques. A self-administered questionnaire with a standardized tool (Depression Anxiety Stress Scales [DASS[) was used in data collection. The intervention programs were administered in the form of instructional guidelines through eight sessions for each group.

The results showed that the two study groups had similar socio-demographic characteristics. After implementation of the intervention, most patients in the two groups were having no anxiety, no depression, and no stress. Statistically significant improvements were seen in all three parameters in both groups (p<0.001). The multivariate analysis identified the study intervention as the main statistically significant independent negative predictor of the patients’ scores of anxiety, depression, and stress. Reiki technique was also a statistically significant independent negative predictor of these scores.

The authors conclused that both Reiki and Qi-gong therapy techniques were effective in improving diabetic patients’ negative emotional states of anxiety, depression, and stress, with slight superiority of the Reiki technique. The inclusion of these techniques in the management plans of Type-2 diabetic patients is recommended.

This is an excellent example of how NOT to design a clinical trial!

  • If your aim is to test the efficacy of Reiki, conduct a trial of Reiki versus sham-Reiki.
  • If your aim is to test the efficacy of Qi-gong, conduct a trial of Qi-gong versus sham-Qi-gong.
  • If you compare two therapies in one trial, one has to be of proven and undoubted efficacy.
  • Comparing two treatments of unproven efficacy cannot normally lead to a meaningful result.
  • It is like trying to solve a mathematical equasion with two unknowns.
  • A study that cannot produce a meaningful result is a waste of resorces.
  • It arguably also is a neglect of research ethics.
  • Even if we disregarded all these flaws and problems, recommending therapies for routine use on the basis of one single study is irresponsible nonsense.

All this is truly elementary and should be known by any researcher (not to mention research supervisor). Yet, in the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), it needs to be stressed over and over again. The ‘National Institute of Diabetes and Endocrinology’s Hospital in Cairo’ (and all other institutions that produce such shameful pseudoscience) urgently need to get their act together:

you are doing nobody a favour!

Spinal manipulation is usually performed by a therapist (chiropractor, osteopath, physiotherpist, doctor, etc.). But many people do it themselves. Self-manipulation is by no means safer than the treatment by a therapist, it seems. We have previously seen cases where the results were dramatic:

Now, a further case has been reported. In this paper, American pathologists present a tragic case of fatal vertebral artery dissection that occurred as the result of self-manipulation of the cervical spine.

The decedent was a 40-year-old man with no significant past medical history. He was observed to “crack his neck” while at work. Soon after, he began experiencing neck pain, then developed stroke-like symptoms and became unresponsive. He was transported to a local medical center, where imaging showed bilateral vertebral artery dissection. His neurological status continued to decline, and brain death was pronounced several days later.

An autopsy examination showed evidence of cerebellar and brainstem infarcts, herniation, and diffuse hypoxic-ischemic injury. A posterior neck dissection was performed to expose the vertebral arteries, which showed grossly visible hemorrhage and dilation. There was no evidence of traumatic injury to the bone or soft tissue of the head or neck. Bilateral dissection tracts were readily appreciated on microscopic examination. Death was attributed to self-manipulation of the neck, which in turn led to bilateral vertebral artery dissection, cerebellar and brainstem infarcts, herniation, hypoxic-ischemic injury, and ultimately brain death.

It seems clear to me that only few and spectacular cases of this nature are being published. In other words, the under-reporting of adverse effects of self-manipulation must be close to 100%. It follows that the risk of sel-manipulation is impossible to quantify. I suspect it is substancial. In any case, the precautionary principle compells me to re-issue my warning:

do not allow anybody to manipulate your neck, not even yourself!

In the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), we see a lot of papers that are bizarre to the point of being disturbing and often dangerous nonsense. Yesterday, I came across an article that fits this bill well; in fact, I have not seen such misleading BS for quite a while. Let me present to you the abstract of this paper:

Introduction

There has been accumulating interest in the application of biofield therapy as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to treat various diseases. The practices include reiki, qigong, blessing, prayer, distant healing, known as biofield therapies. This paper aims to state scientific knowledge on preclinical and clinical studies to validate its potential use as an alternative medicine in the clinic. It also provides a more in-depth context for understanding the potential role of quantum entanglement in the effect of biofield energy therapy.

Content

A comprehensive literature search was performed using the different databases (PubMed, Scopus, Medline, etc.). The published English articles relevant to the scope of this review were considered. The review gathered 45 papers that were considered suitable for the purpose. Based on the results of these papers, it was concluded that biofield energy therapy was effective in treating different disease symptoms in preclinical and clinical studies.

Summary

Biofield therapies offer therapeutic benefits for different human health disorders, and can be used as alternative medicine in clinics for the medically pluralistic world due to the growing interest in CAM worldwide.

Outlook

The effects of the biofield energy therapies are observed due to the healer’s quantum thinking, and transmission of the quantum energy to the subject leads to the healing that occurs spiritually through instantaneous communication at the quantum level via quantum entanglement.

The authors of this article are affiliated with Trivedi Global, an organisation that states this about ‘biofield energy’:

Human Biofield EBnergy has subtle energy that has the capacity to work in an effective manner. This energy can be harnessed and transmitted by the gifted into living and non-living things via the process of a Biofield Energy Healing Treatment or Therapy.

If they aleady know that “Biofield EBnergy has subtle energy that has the capacity to work in an effective manner”, I wonder why they felt the need to conduct this review. Even more wonderous is the fact that their review showed such a positive result.

How did they manage this?

The answer might lie in their methodology: they “gathered 45 papers that were considered suitable”. While scientists gather the totality of the available evidence (and assess it critically), they merely selected what was suitable for the purpose of generating a positive result. This must be the reason our two studies on the subject were discretely omitted:

Our 1st study

Purpose: Distant healing, a treatment that is transmitted by a healer to a patient at another location, is widely used, although good scientific evidence of its efficacy is sparse. This trial was aimed at assessing the efficacy of one form of distant healing on common skin warts.

Subjects and methods: A total of 84 patients with warts were randomly assigned either to a group that received 6 weeks of distant healing by one of 10 experienced healers or to a control group that received a similar preliminary assessment but no distant healing. The primary outcomes were the number of warts and their mean size at the end of the treatment period. Secondary outcomes were the change in Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and patients’ subjective experiences. Both the patients and the evaluator were blinded to group assignment.

Results: The baseline characteristics of the patients were similar in the distant healing (n = 41) and control groups (n = 43). The mean number and size of warts per person did not change significantly during the study. The number of warts increased by 0.2 in the healing group and decreased by 1.1 in the control group (difference [healing to control] = -1.3; 95% confidence interval = -1.0 to 3.6, P = 0.25). Six patients in the distant healing group and 8 in the control group reported a subjective improvement (P = 0.63). There were no significant between-group differences in the depression and anxiety scores.

Conclusion: Distant healing from experienced healers had no effect on the number or size of patients’ warts.

Our 2nd study

Spiritual healing is a popular complementary and alternative therapy; in the UK almost 13000 members are registered in nine separate healing organisations. The present randomized clinical trial was designed to investigate the efficacy of healing in the treatment of chronic pain. One hundred and twenty patients suffering from chronic pain, predominantly of neuropathic and nociceptive origin resistant to conventional treatments, were recruited from a Pain Management Clinic. The trial had two parts: face-to-face healing or simulated face-to-face healing for 30 min per week for 8 weeks (part I); and distant healing or no healing for 30 min per week for 8 weeks (part II). The McGill Pain Questionnaire was pre-defined as the primary outcome measure, and sample size was calculated to detect a difference of 8 units on the total pain rating index of this instrument after 8 weeks of healing. VASs for pain, SF36, HAD scale, MYMOP and patient subjective experiences at week 8 were employed as secondary outcome measures. Data from all patients who reached the pre-defined mid-point of 4 weeks (50 subjects in part I and 55 subjects in part II) were included in the analysis. Two baseline measurements of outcome measures were made, 3 weeks apart, and no significant differences were observed between them. After eight sessions there were significant decreases from baseline in McGill Pain Questionnaire total pain rating index score for both groups in part I and for the control group in part II. However, there were no statistically significant differences between healing and control groups in either part. In part I the primary outcome measure decreased from 32.8 (95% CI 28.5-37.0) to 23.3 (16.8-29.7) in the healing group and from 33.1 (27.2-38.9) to 26.1 (19.3-32.9) in the simulated healing group. In part II it changed from 29.6 (24.8-34.4) to 24.0 (18.7-29.4) in the distant healing group and from 31.0 (25.8-36.2) to 21.0 (15.7-26.2) in the no healing group. Subjects in healing groups in both parts I and II reported significantly more ‘unusual experiences’ during the sessions, but the clinical relevance of this is unclear. It was concluded that a specific effect of face-to-face or distant healing on chronic pain could not be demonstrated over eight treatment sessions in these patients.

In addition, they, of course, also omitted many further studies by other investigators that failed to be positive. Considering this amount of cherry-picking, it is easy to understand how they arrived at their conclusion. It is all a question of chosing the right methodology!

A few decades ago, the cigarette industry employed this technique to show that smoking did not cause cancer! Luckily, we have since moved away from such pseudo-scientific ‘research’ – except, of course, in the realm of SCAM where it is still hughely popular.

An interesting and fully referenced (205 references) article caught my attention; it seems highly relevant to the discussions we are having on this blog. Let me show you the abstract:

Medical misinformation has always existed, but it has recently become more frequent due to the development of the internet and social media. Medical misinformation can cover a wide variety of topics, and studies show that some groups are more likely to be affected by medical misinformation than others, like those with less trust in health care, less health literacy, and a more positive attitude toward alternative medicines. Aspects of the internet, like echo chambers and algorithms, have contributed to the rise of medical misinformation, along with belief in anecdotal evidence and alternative remedies that are not backed by science. Some personal beliefs and a lack of media literacy skills are also contributing to medical misinformation. Medical misinformation causes higher rates of death and negative health outcomes, a lack of trust in medical professionals, and more racism and hate crimes. One possible way to combat the spread of misinformation is education surrounding media literacy. Still, there are gaps in this practice that must be addressed like a lack of high-quality research about different educational programs.

The author also offers the following key points:

  • Medical misinformation is becoming an urgent issue for United States citizens—leading to increased deaths,
    a lack of trust in health professionals, and hate crimes and racism.
  • Although this is a worldwide issue, the United States has the second highest rate of misinformation of any
    country, behind India.
  • One piece of misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic stated that highly concentrated alcohol could
    disinfect the body and kill the virus. Studies show that 800 people died, 5,876 were hospitalized, and 60
    became completely blind from drinking methanol, thinking it would cure coronavirus.
  • Studies estimate that only 14% of the United States population has proficient health literacy, which makes it difficult to recognize medical misinformation.
  • Media literacy education is being pursued in order to combat the spread of misinformation, but more research is needed in order to understand the long-term effects of this education and what programs are best.

__________________

I would like to stress, as indeeed the author does as well, that medical misinformation is a phenomenon that is by no means confined to the US. Like most information, misinformation has become a global issue. Its dangers cannot be under-estimated. My blog offers an abundance of reports where misinformation in the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) has caused harm and even death. The author advocates media literacy as a remedy for the problem. I would argue that even more important would be to teach CRITICAL THINKING, a task that has to start at school and must continue well into adult life.

This conclusion is so very obvious that it begs an important question: WHY HAS IT NOT BEEN DONE YEARS AGO? The answer, I fear, is simple: for reasons that are self-evident, governments have little interst in the public being able to think critically. On the contrary, governments across the world foremost want to be re-elected, and critical thinking would be a major obstacle to this aim.

 

In spite of the safety and efficiency of the COVID-19 vaccines and the many promotion efforts of political and expert authorities, a fair portion of the population remained hesitant if not opposed to vaccination. Public debate and the available literature point to the possible role of people’s attitudes towards medical institutions as well as their preference for so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) on their motivations and intentions to be vaccinated. Other potential ideological factors are beliefs about environmental laissez-faire and divine providence insofar as they encourage people to let the pandemic unfold without human interference.

In three cross-sectional samples (total N = 8214), collected at successive moments during the Belgian vaccination campaign, the present research examines the distal role of these psychological and ideological factors on vaccination intentions via motivational processes.

  • Study 1 gauges the relation between trust in medical institutions and preference for SCAM on intentions to get vaccinated via motivations.
  • Study 2 examines the role of beliefs in the desirability of letting nature take its course (‘environmental laissez-faire beliefs’) on vaccination intention via motivations.
  • Study 3 tests whether people’s adherence to environmental laissez-faire and beliefs about divine providence are linked to their motivations for vaccination via trust in the medical institutions and SCAM.

The results show that adherence to SCAM has a deleterious effect on vaccination intentions, whereas trust in medical institutions has a positive effect. Both ideological factors pertaining to external control are only moderately related, with environmental laissez-faire beliefs having stronger effects on SCAM, medical trust and vaccination motivations.

The evidence of an association between SCAM and willingness to get vaccinated is undeniable. On this blog, we have discussed it repeatedly, e.g.:

But what exactly is the nature of this association?

  • Does SCAM-use predispose to vaccination hesitancy?
  • Does Vaccination hesitancy predispose to SCAM use?
  • Is both true?

After reading all this research that has emerged on the subject, I get the impression that we are mostly dealing here with a cross-correlation where a certain mind-set of being

  • prone to conspiracy theories,
  • anti-establishment,
  • anti-science,
  • irrational,
  • of low intelligence,
  • unable of critical thinking,
  • etc., etc,

determines both the SCAM-use and the vaccination hesitancy.

 

It has been reported that 5 people who took a Japanese health supplement have died and more than 100 have been hospitalized as of Friday, a week after a pharmaceutical company issued a recall of the products, officials said. Osaka-based Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co. came under fire for not going public quickly with problems known internally as early as January. Yet the first public announcement came only on 22 March. Company officials said 114 people were being treated in hospitals after taking products — including Benikoji Choleste Help meant to lower cholesterol — that contain an ingredient called benikoji, a red species of mold. Some people developed kidney problems after taking the supplements, but the exact cause was still under investigation in cooperation with government laboratories, according to the manufacturer.

“We apologize deeply,” President Akihiro Kobayashi told reporters last Friday, bowing for a long time to emphasize the apology alongside three other top company officials. He expressed remorse to those who have died and have been taken ill and to their families. He also apologized for the troubles caused to the entire health food industry and the medical profession, adding that the company was working to prevent further damage and improve crisis management.

The company’s products have been recalled — as have dozens of other products that contain benikoji, including miso paste, crackers, and a vinegar dressing. Japan’s health ministry put up a list on its official site of all the recalled products, including some that use benikoji for food coloring. The ministry warned the deaths could keep growing. The supplements could be bought at drug stores without a prescription from a doctor, and some may have been purchased or exported before the recall, including by tourists who may not be aware of the health risks.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical had been selling benikoji products for years, with a million packages sold over the past 3 fiscal years, but a problem crept up with the supplements produced in 2023. Kobayashi Pharmaceutical said it produced 18.5 tons of benikoji last year. Some analysts blame the recent deregulation initiatives, which simplified and sped up approval for health products to spur economic growth.

________________________

Anouther source reported that Japanese authorities on Saturday raided a drug factory after a pharmaceutical company reported at least five deaths and 114 hospitalizations possibly linked to a health supplement. About a dozen Japanese health officials walked into the Osaka plant of the Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co., as seen in footage of the raid widely telecasted on Japanese news. The health supplement in question is a pink pill called Benikoji Choleste Help. It is said to help lower cholesterol levels. A key ingredient is benikoji, a type of red mold. The company has said it knows little about the cause of the sickness, which can include kidney failure. It is currently investigating the effects in cooperation with Japan’s government.

___________________________

More recent reports update the figure of affected individuals: Japanese dietary supplements at the center of an expanding health scare have now been linked to at least 157 hospitalizations, a health ministry official said Tuesday.The figure reflects an increase from the 114 hospitalization cases that Kobayashi Pharmaceutical said on Friday were linked to its products containing red yeast rice, or beni kōji.

____________________________

A Kobayashi Pharmaceutical spokeswoman confirmed the latest hospitalization cases without elaborating further.

Benikoji is widely sold and used; not just in Japan. It comes under a range of different names:

  • red yeast rice,
  • red fermented rice,
  • red kojic rice,
  • red koji rice,
  • anka,
  • angkak,
  • Ben Cao Gang Mu.

It is a bright reddish purple fermented rice which acquires its color from being cultivated with the mold Monascus purpureus. Red yeast rice is used as food and as a medicine in Asian cultures, such as Kampo and TCM.

It contains lovastatin which, of course, became patented  and is marketed as the prescription drug, Mevacor. Red yeast rice went on to become a non-prescription dietary supplement in the United States and other countries. In 1998, the U.S. FDA banned a dietary supplement containing red yeast rice extract, stating that red yeast rice products containing monacolin K are identical to a prescription drug, and thus subject to regulation as a drug.

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