Some of you might have followed my recent discussion with a homeopath. It followed a typical path, and I decided therefore to try and analyse this exchange here. Perhaps others can learn from this example when debating with homeopaths or other providers of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM).
These conversations often start ‘out of the blue’ by some falsehood being trumpeted on social media. In the present case, the encounter commenced by someone tweeting this message to me: “…remember that asthma trial whose results you faked?” As I did not even remember having ever met the man, I was perplexed. And as I have not faked the study in question nor any other results, I did not think his remark was credible or funny. My mention of the fact that the aggressor was being libellous seemed to bring an end to this unhappy dialogue.
But not for very long. When the man insulted me again – this time very publicly in a UK newspaper – I decided to look into it a bit closer. The aggressor turned out to be in charge of the well-known UK homeopathic pharmacy, Ainsworth, and thus had an overt conflict of interest in defaming my often critical stance on homeopathy. Intriguingly, he had also published his own study of homeopathy. When I assessed this research, it turned out to be both incompetent and unethical. I had hoped that he would defend his work and discuss its limitations with me in a rational fashion. Yet, at this stage, he remained silent.
I then decided to write a further post in the hope of getting some sort of response from him. Alas, my hope was disappointed again. Even when I challenged him and his ROYAL WARRANT directly, he remained silent.
It needed a seemingly unrelated post of mine for him to find his voice:
We can all go round in endless circles arguing whether the Earth is Flat, but eventually someone has to venture out in a boat to the horizon to determine the fact. A cursory reading of Hahnemann encourages every student of homoeopathy to gain their own experience empirically. We all know you and your friends on this blog are standing on the shore proclaiming the Earth to be flat, but when are you going to pedal out,to bravely cite actual cases you have treated with homoeopathy as evidence of your position? What the audience reading this wants to know is what experience and knowledge any of you actually have of the subject you spend so much time criticising?
At this stage a had grown a little weary of Mr Pinkus and his innuendos. My response was thus a little impatient:
I don’t think highly of people who
1) are too daft to spell my name correctly,
2) imply I have no experience in homeopathy,
3) pretend that I make a secret of it, while, in fact, I published this multiple times (i.e. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scientist-Wonderland-Searching-Finding-Trouble/dp/1845407776),
4) accuse others of being flat earthers, while evidently being one themselves,
5) do all this without declaring their massive conflict of interest.
What followed was Pinkus’ increasingly irrational attempts to defame me by revealing to the world that I (and other critics of homeopathy) lacked sufficient clinical experience with homeopathy and therefore were not competent to discuss the subject. Explanations by myself and others that,
- firstly I did have knowledge and experience of homeopathy,
- and secondly no experience is required for a critical evaluation of any treatment,
all fell on deaf ears.
The conclusion of this odd discussion was Pinkus’ triumphant declaration of victory:
I came to this blog to see if anyone in the discussion had any serious intention to discuss the subject of homoeopathy. In order to do this there are certain prerequisites for a sensible debate and one of these is actual knowledge and experience of the subject matter under discussion. To this end I asked if anyone has case they treated in order to discuss the merits and demerits of the experience. No one offered one. I repeated the request and the silence changed to attacks on me even asking.
Any scientist worthy of the challenge, and certainly someone who proudly styles himself as a Professor of CAM with experience and knowledge, would be only too glad to share this with others. Sadly though I have met with rebuke and insult but no evidence to support the opposition to homoeopathy saving some incoherent rant about the needlessness of empirical experience. The cornerstone of Hahnemann’s work on homoeopathy and the one thing he advocated to other doctors. “Don’t take my word for it, prove it to yourself”
When you find the need to attack me to defend your incessant argument that homoeopathy is implausible I really cannot take you seriously.
Here we have a blog hosted by a chap who claims to be an expert on the subject but now claims he hasn’t practiced it for over 40 years. Won’t say what he did when he practised, what he learned and when asked to give at least once case he treated, refuses and creates some diversion to cover his ignorance of the question. Now that’s what I call a charlatan.
I understand you have made a living out of this but it must be a miserable existence old chap
I find this exchange rather typical for an argument with SCAM-fanatics. It follows a fairly standard strategy:
- aggression form a complete stranger,
- attempt of a rational defence,
- more aggression and insults
- attempts to debate the published evidence,
- silence from the aggressor who seems unable to defend his evidence,
- more aggression at an unexpected opportunity,
- further attempts to rationalise and discuss the facts,
- the aggressor questions his opponent’s competence,
- more attempts to rationalise and provide valid explanations,
- conclusion of the discussion with aggressor trying to occupy the moral high ground.
Of course, this is eerily similar to playing chess with a pigeon.
So, what, if anything, can we learn from this?
Mainly three things, I think:
- Either you don’t argue with fanatics at all,
- or you realise from the beginning what is about to happen; in this case, have fun exposing irrationality in the hope that others might profit from your experience.
- In any case, do not expect that your aggressor will be able to learn anything.
It is hard to deny that many practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) advise their patients to avoid ‘dangerous chemicals’. By this they usually mean prescription drugs. If you doubt how strong this sentiment often is, you have not followed the recent posts and the comments that regularly followed. Frequently, SCAM practitioners will suggest to their patients to not take this or that drug and predict that patients would then see for themselves how much better they feel (usually, they also administer their SCAM at this point).
Lo and behold, many patients do indeed feel better after discontinuing their ‘chemical’ medicines. Of course, this experience is subsequently interpreted as a proof that the drugs were dangerous: “I told you so, you are much better off not taking synthetic medicines; best to use the natural treatments I am offering.”
But is this always interpretation correct?
I seriously doubt it.
Let’s look at a common scenario: a middle-aged man on several medications for reducing his cardiovascular risk (no, it’s not me). He has been diagnosed to have multiple cardiovascular risk factors. Initially, his GP told him to change his life-style, nutrition and physical activity – to which he was only moderately compliant. Despite the patient feeling perfectly healthy, his blood pressure and lipids remained elevated. His doctor now strongly recommends drug treatment and our chap soon finds himself on statins, beta-blockers plus ACE-inhibitors.
Our previously healthy man has thus been turned into a patient with all sorts of symptoms. His persistent cough prompts his GP to change the ACE-inhibitor to a Ca-channel blocker. Now the patients cough is gone, but he notices ankle oedema and does not feel in top form. His GP said that this is nothing to worry about and asks him to grin and bear it. But the fact is that a previously healthy man has been turned into a patient with reduced quality of life (QoL).
This fact takes our man to a homeopath in the hope to restore his QoL (you see, it certainly isn’t me). The homeopath proceeds as outlined above: he explains that drugs are dangerous chemicals and should therefore best be dropped. The homeopath also prescribes homeopathics and is confident that they will control the blood pressure adequately. Our man complies. After just a few days, he feels miles better, his QoL is back, and even his sex-life improves. The homeopath is triumphant: “I told you so, homeopathy works and those drugs were really nasty stuff.”
When I was a junior doctor working in a homeopathic hospital, my boss explained to me that much of the often considerable success of our treatments was to get rid of most, if not all prescription drugs that our patients were taking (the full story can be found here). At the time, and for many years to come, this made a profound impression on me and my clinical practice. As a scientist, however, I have to critically evaluate this strategy and ask: is it the correct one?
The answer is YES and NO.
YES, many (bad) doctors over-prescribe. And there is not a shadow of a doubt that unnecessary drugs must be scrapped. But what is unnecessary? Is it every drug that makes a patient less well than he was before?
NO, treatments that are needed should not be scrapped, even if this would make the patient feel better. Where possible, they might be altered such that side-effects disappear or become minimal. Patients’ QoL is important, but it is not the only factor of importance. I am sure this must sound ridiculous to lay people who, at this stage of the discussion, would often quote the ethical imperative of FIRST DO NO HARM.
So, let me use an extreme example to explain this a bit better. Imagine a cancer patient on chemo. She is quite ill with it and QoL is a thing of the past. Her homeopath tells her to scrap the chemo and promises she will almost instantly feel fine again. With some side-effect-free homeopathy see will beat the cancer just as well (please, don’t tell me they don’t do that, because they do!). She follows the advice, feels much improved for several months. Alas, her condition then deteriorates, and a year later she is dead.
I know, this is an extreme example; therefore, let’s return to our cardiovascular patient from above. He too followed the advice of his homeopath and is happy like a lark for several years … until, 5 years after discontinuing the ‘nasty chemicals’, he drops dead with a massive myocardial infarction at the age of 62.
I hope I made my message clear: those SCAM providers who advise discontinuing prescribed drugs are often impressively successful in improving QoL and their patients love them for it. But many of these practitioners haven’t got a clue about real medicine, and are merely playing dirty tricks on their patients. The advise to stop a prescribed drug can be a very wise move. But frequently, it improves the quality, while reducing the quantity of life!
The lesson is simple: find a rational doctor who knows the difference between over-prescribing and evidence-based medicine. And make sure you start running when a SCAM provider tries to meddle with necessary prescribed drugs.
In a paper discussed in a previous blog, Ioannidis et al published a comprehensive database of a large number of scientists across science. They used Scopus data to compile a database of the 100,000 most-cited authors across all scientific fields based on their ranking of a composite indicator that considers six citation metrics (total citations; Hirsch h-index; coauthorship-adjusted Schreiber hm-index; number of citations to papers as single author; number of citations to papers as single or first author; and number of citations to papers as single, first, or last author). The authors also added this caution:
Citation analyses for individuals are used for various single-person or comparative assessments in the complex reward and incentive system of science. Misuse of citation metrics in hiring, promotion or tenure decision, or other situations involving rewards (e.g., funding or awards) takes many forms, including but not limited to the use of metrics that are not very informative for scientists and their work (e.g., journal impact factors); focus on single citation metrics (e.g., h-index); and use of calculations that are not standardized, use different frames, and do not account for field. The availability of the data sets that we provide should help mitigate many of these problems. The database can also be used to perform evaluations of groups of individuals, e.g., at the level of scientific fields, institutions, countries, or memberships in diversely defined groups that may be of interest to users.
It seems thus obvious and relevant to employ the new metrics for defining the most ‘influential’ (most frequently cited) researchers in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). Doing this creates not one but two non-overlapping tables (because ‘complementary&alternative medicine’ is listed both as a primary and a secondary field (not sure about the difference)). Below, I have copied a small part of these tables; the first three columns are self-explanatory; the 4th relates to the number of published articles, the 4th to the year of the author’s first publication, the 5th to the last, the 6th column is the rank amongst 100 000 scientists of all fields who have published more than a couple of papers.
|Ernst, E.||University of Exeter||gbr||2253||1975||2018||104|
|Davidson, Jonathan R. T.||Duke University||usa||426||1972||2017||1394|
|Kaptchuk, Ted J.||Harvard University||usa||245||1993||2018||6545|
|Eisenberg, David M.||Harvard University||usa||127||1991||2018||8641|
|Linde, Klaus||Technische Universitat Munchen||deu||276||1993||2018||19488|
|Schwartz, Gary E.||University of Arizona||usa||264||1967||2018||21893|
|Eloff, J.N.||University of Pretoria||zaf||204||1997||2018||23830|
|Birch, Stephen||McMaster University||can||244||1985||2018||31925|
|Wilson, Kenneth H.||Duke University||usa||76||1976||2017||40760|
|Kemper, Kathi J.||Ohio State University||usa||181||1988||2017||45193|
|Oken, Barry S.||Oregon Health and Science University||usa||121||1974||2018||51325|
|Postuma, Ronald B.||McGill University||can||159||1998||2018||61018|
|Patwardhan, Bhushan||University of Pune||ind||144||1989||2018||64465|
|Krucoff, Mitchell W.||Duke University||usa||261||1986||2016||66028|
|Baliga, Manjeshwar Shrinath||142||2002||2018||83030|
|Mischoulon, David||Harvard University||usa||194||1992||2018||91705|
|Büssing, Arndt||University of Witten/Herdecke||deu||207||1980||2018||95907|
|Langevin, Helene M.||Harvard University||usa||67||1999||2018||98290|
|Kuete, Victor||University of Dschang||cmr||239||2005||2018||128347|
|White, Adrian||University of Plymouth||gbr||294||1990||2016||16714|
|Astin, John A.||California Pacific Medical Center||usa||50||1994||2014||21379|
|Kelly, Gregory S.||37||1985||2011||31037|
|Walach, Harald||University of Medical Sciences Poznan||pol||246||1996||2018||31716|
|Berman, Brian M.||University of Maryland School of Medicine||usa||211||1986||2018||34022|
|Lewith, George||University of Southampton||gbr||380||1980||2018||34830|
|Kidd, Parris M.||University of California at Berkeley||usa||38||1976||2011||36571|
|Jonas, Wayne B.||187||1992||2018||42445|
|MacPherson, Hugh||University of York||gbr||143||1996||2018||49923|
|Bell, Iris R.||University of Arizona||usa||142||1984||2015||51016|
|Ritenbaugh, Cheryl||University of Arizona||usa||172||1981||2018||63248|
|Boon, Heather||University of Toronto||can||188||1988||2017||69066|
|Aickin, Mikel||University of Arizona||usa||149||1996||2014||72040|
|Lee, Myeong Soo||430||1996||2018||72358|
|Lao, Lixing||University of Hong Kong||hkg||247||1990||2018||74896|
|Witt, Claudia M.||Charite – Universitatsmedizin Berlin||deu||238||2001||2018||78849|
|Sherman, Karen J.||136||1984||2017||82542|
|Verhoef, Marja J.||University of Calgary||can||190||1989||2016||84314|
|Smith, Caroline A.||University of Western Sydney||aus||135||1979||2018||94130|
|Miller, Alan L.||30||1980||2016||94421|
|Paterson, Charlotte||University of Bristol||gbr||71||1995||2017||95130|
|Milgrom, Lionel R.||London Metropolitan University||gbr||107||1979||2017||112943|
|Adams, Jon||University of Technology NSW||aus||294||1999||2018||128486|
|Litscher, Gerhard||Medical University of Graz||aut||245||1986||2018||133122|
|Chen, Calvin Yu-Chian||China Medical University Taichung||chn||130||2007||2016||164522|
No other researchers are listed in the ‘Complementary&Alternative Medicine’ categories and made it into the list of the 100 000 most-cited scientists.
To make this easier to read, I have ordered all SCAM researchers according to their rank in one single list and, where known to me, added the respective focus in SCAM research (ma = most areas of SCAM):
- ERNST EDZARD (ma)
- DONALDSON JONATHAN
- KAPTCHUK TED (acupuncture)
- EISENBERG DAVID (TCM)
- WHITE ADRIAN (acupuncture)
- LUNDEBERG THOMAS (acupuncture)
- LINDE KLAUS (homeopathy)
- ASTIN JOHN (mind/body)
- SCHWARTZ GARRY (healing)
- ELOFF JN
- KELLY GREGORY
- WALLACH HARALD (homeopathy)
- BIRCH STEVEN (acupuncture)
- BERMAN BRIAN (acupuncture)
- LEWITH GEORGE (acupuncture)
- KIDD PARRIS
- WILSON KENNETH
- JONAS WAYNE (homeopathy)
- KEMPER KATHIE (ma)
- MACPHERSON HUGH (acupuncture)
- BELL IRIS (homeopathy)
- OKEN BARRY (dietary supplements)
- PITTLER MAX (ma)
- PATRICK LYN
- RITENBAUGH CHERYL (ma)
- POSTUMA RONALD
- PATWARDHAN BHUSHAN
- KRUCOFF MICHELL
- BOON HEATHER
- AICKIN MIKEL (ma)
- LEE MYEONG SOO (TCM)
- LAO LIXING (acupuncture)
- WITT CLAUDIA (ma)
- CHIESA ALBERTO
- SHERMAN KAREN (acupuncture)
- BALIGA MANJESHWAR
- VERHOEF MARIA (ma)
- MISCHOULON DAVID
- SMITH CAROLINE (acupuncture)
- MILLER ALAN
- PATERSON CHARLOTTE (ma)
- BUESSING ARNDT (anthroposophical medicine)
- LANGEVIN HELENE (ma)
- CREATH KATHERINE
- MILGROM LIONEL (homeopathy)
- KUETE VICTOR
- ADAMS JON (ma)
- LITSCHER GERHARD
- CHEN CALVIN
The list is interesting in several regards. Principally, it offers individual SCAM researchers for the first time the opportunity to check their international standing relative to their colleagues. But, as the original analysis in Ioannidis’s paper contains much more data than depicted above, there is much further information to be gleaned from it.
For instance, I looked at the rate of self-citation (not least because I have sometimes been accused of overdoing this myself). It turns out that, with 7%, I am relative modest and well below average in that regard. Most of my colleagues are well above that figure. Researchers who have exceptionally high self-citation rates include Buessing (30%), Kuete (43%), Adams (36%), Litscher (45%), and Chen (53%).
The list also opens the possibility to see which countries dominate SCAM research. The dominance of the US seems fairly obvious and would have been expected due to the size of this country and the funds the US put into SCAM research. Considering the lack of funds in the UK, my country ranks surprisingly high, I find. No other country is well-represented in this list. In particular Germany does not appear often (even if we would classify Wallach as German); considering the large amounts of money Germany has invested in SCAM research, this is remarkable and perhaps even a bit shameful, in my view.
Looking at the areas of research, acupuncture and homeopathy seem to stand out. Remarkably, many of the major SCAMs are not or not well represented at all. This is in particular true for herbal medicine, chiropractic and osteopathy.
The list also confirms my former team as the leaders in SCAM research. (Yes, I know: in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.) Pittler, White and Lee were, of course, all former co-workers of mine.
Perhaps the most intriguing finding, I think, relates to the many SCAM researchers who did not make it into the list. Here are a few notable absentees:
- Behnke J – GERMANY (homeopathy)
- Bensoussan A – AUSTRALIA (acupuncture)
- Brinkhaus B – GERMANY (acupuncture)
- Bronfort G – US (chiropractic)
- Chopra D – US (mind/body)
- Cummings M – UK (acupuncture)
- Dixon M – UK (ma)
- Dobos G – GERMANY (ma)
- Fisher P – UK (homeopathy)
- Fonnebo V – NORWAY (ma)
- Frass M – AUSTRIA (homeopathy)
- Goertz C – US (chiropractic)
- Hawk C -US (chiropractic)
- Horneber M – GERMANY (ma)
- Jacobs J – US (homeopathy)
- Jobst K – UK (homeopathy)
- Kraft K – GERMANY (naturopathy)
- Lawrence D – US (chiropractic)
- Long CR – US (chiropractic)
- Meeker WC – US (chiropractic)
- Mathie R – UK (homeopathy)
- Melchart – GERMANY (ma)
- Michalsen A – GERMANY (ma)
- Mills S – UK (herbal medicine)
- Peters D – UK (ma)
- Reilly D -US (homeopathy)
- Reily D – UK (homeopathy)
- Robinson N – UK (ma)
- Streitberger K – GERMANY (acupuncture)
- Tuchin PJ – US (chiropractic)
- Uehleke – GERMANY (naturopathy)
- Ullman D – US (homeopathy)
- Weil A – US (ma)
I leave it to you to interpret this list and invite you to add more SCAM researchers to it.
(thanks to Paul Posadski for helping with the tables)
A chiro, a arms dealer and a Brexit donor meet in a bar.
The arms dealer: my job is so secret, I cannot tell my neighbour what I do.
The Brexit donor: I have to keep things so close to my chest that not even my wife knows what I am doing.
The chiro: that’s nothing; my work is so secret that not even I know what I am doing.
CHILDISH, I KNOW!
But I am yet again intrigued by a survey aimed at finding out what chiropractors are up to. One might have thought that, after 120 years, they know what they are doing.
This survey described the profiles of chiropractors’ practice and the reasons, nature of the care provided to their patients and extent of interprofessional collaborations in Ontario, Canada. The researchers randomly recruited chiropractors from a list of registered chiropractors (n=3978) in active practice in 2015. Of the 135 randomly selected chiropractors, 120 were eligible, 43 participated and 42 completed the study.
Each chiropractor recorded information for up to 100 consecutive patient encounters, documenting patient health profiles, reasons for encounter, diagnoses and care provided. Descriptive statistics summarised chiropractor, patient and encounter characteristics, with analyses accounting for clustering and design effects. Thus data on 3523 chiropractor-patient encounters became available. More than 65% of participating chiropractors were male, mean age 44 years and had practised on average 15 years. The typical patient was female (59% of encounters), between 45 and 64 years (43%) and retired (21%) or employed in business and administration (13%). Most (39.4%) referrals were from other patients, with 6.8% from physicians. Approximately 68% of patients paid out of pocket or claimed extended health insurance for care. Most common diagnoses were back (49%, 95% CI 44 to 56) and neck (15%, 95% CI 13 to 18) problems, with few encounters related to maintenance/preventive care (0.86%, 95% CI 0.2 to 3.9) and non-musculoskeletal problems (1.3%, 95% CI 0.7 to 2.3). The most common treatments included spinal manipulation (72%), soft tissue therapy (70%) and mobilisation (35%).
The authors concluded that this is the most comprehensive profile to date of chiropractic practice in Canada. People who present to Ontario chiropractors are mostly adults with a musculoskeletal condition. Our results can be used by stakeholders to make informed decisions about workforce development, education and healthcare policy related to chiropractic care.
I am so sorry to have mocked this paper. I shouldn’t have, because it actually does reveal a few interesting snippets:
- Only 7% of referrals come from real doctors.
- The vast majority of all patients receive spinal manipulations.
- About 6% of them are under 14 years of age.
- Chiropractors seem to dislike surveys; only 35% of those asked complied.
- 23% of all consultations were for general or unspecified problems,
- 8% for neurologically related problems,
- 5% for non-musculoskeletal problems (eg, digestive, ear, eye, respiratory, skin, urology, circulatory, endocrine and metabolic, psychological).
- Chiropractors rarely refer patients to other clinicians; this only happened in less than 3% of encounters.
- Apart from manipulation, chiropractors employ all sorts of other dubious therapies (ultrasound 3%, acupuncture 3%, , traction 1%, interferential therapy 3%, soft laser therapy 3%).
- 68% of patients pay out of their own pocket…
… NO WONDER, THEY DO NOT SEEM TO BE IN NEED OF ANY TYPE OF TREATMENT: 54% of all patients reported being in “excellent/very good overall health”!
I have written about this more often than I care to remember, and today I do it again.
Because it is important!
And most experts now agree with this conclusion; except, of course, the chiropractors themselves. This recent article in THE CHRONICLE OF CHIROPRACTIC is most illuminating in this context:
It was only a matter of time before the attack on the chiropractic care of children spread to the United States from Australia and Canada and its also no surprise that insurance companies would jump on the bandwagon first. According to Blue Cross and Blue Shield Children under the age of 5 years should not receive chiropractic care (spinal manipulation) ” . . . because the skeletal system is not mature at this time.”
The Blues further contend that:
“Serious adverse events may be associated with pediatric spinal manipulation in children under the age of 5 years due to the risks of these procedures in children this age.”
The Blues claims that their determination is based on standards of care – though they do not state which ones.
“This determination was based on standards of care in pediatric medicine as well as current medical evidence.”
This is not the first time Blue Cross attacked the chiropractic care of children. In 2005 CareFirst Blue Cross claimed that:
“Spinal manipulation services to treat children 12 years of age and younger, for any condition, is considered experimental and investigational.”
The ridiculous and false claims by Blue Cross come on the heels of a ban placed on spinal manipulation of infants by the Chiropractic Board of Australia (see related story) and attacks on chiropractors who care for children in Canada by chiropractic regulatory boards there.
There is in fact plenty of evidence to support the chiropractic care of infants and children and there are practice guidelines (the highest level on the research hierarchy pyramid) that support such care.
The real issue is not whether or not evidence exists to support the chiropractic care of children – the real issue is power and the lack of any necessity for evidence for those with the power.
END OF QUOTE
What can we learn from this outburst?
- Chiropractors often take much-needed critique as an ‘attack’. My explanation for this phenomenon is that they sense how wrong they truly are, get defensive, and fear for their cash-flow.
- When criticised, they do not bother to address the arguments. This, I believe, is again because they know they are in the wrong.
- Chiropractors are in denial as to what they can and cannot achieve with their manipulations. My explanation for this is that they might need to be in denial – because otherwise they would have to stop practising.
- They often insult criticism as ridiculous and false without providing any evidence. The likely explanation is that they have no reasonable evidence to offer.
- All they do instead is stating things like ‘there is plenty of evidence’. They don’t like to present the ‘evidence’ because they seem to know that it is worthless.
- Lastly, in true style, they resort to conspiracy theories.
To any critical thinker their behaviour thus makes one conclusion virtually inescapable: DON’T LET A CHIROPRACTOR NEAR YOUR KIDS!
Yesterday, I had the honour and pleasure to present to the UK press my new book entitled ‘ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE, A CRITICAL ASSESSMENT OF 150 MODALITIES’ (see also my previous post). The SCIENCE MEDIA CENTRE had invited me to do a ‘media briefing’ on the occasion of its publication. I did this by outlining the background around so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and explaining the concept of the new book which essentially is – as its title indicates – to provide concise and critical assessments of 150 modalities.
In the course of my short presentation, I mentioned the following exotic modalities in order to show that my book goes beyond the ‘usual suspects’ of acupuncture, chiropractic, etc.:
- BERLIN WALL
- COLLOIDAL SILVER
- PALEO DIET
- URINE THERAPY
- GUA SHA
- LYMPH DRAINAGE
- SLAPPING THERAPY
- VISCERAL OSTEOPATHY
- JOHREI HEALING
- LEECH THERAPY
- NEURAL THERAPY
- ZERO BALANCE
- APPLIED KINESIOLOGY
- LIVE BLOOD ANALYSIS
- PULSE DIAGNOSIS
As it turned out, the journalists present found the BERLIN WALL remedy the most fascinating aspect of my talk. And this is clearly reflected in today’s articles covering the event:
The DAILY TELEGRAPH published an article much in the same vein, and so did THE SUN and the EXPRESS (not available on line). The only UK newspaper I have seen so far going beyond the Berlin Wall topic is THE DAILY MAIL. The paper mentions several other so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs) that consumers need to be protected from, in my view.
Interestingly, none of the articles mentioned that my new book is not an exercise in debunking. During my presentation, I made the point that several of my assessments of 150 modalities do arrive at positive conclusions for therapies that demonstrably generate more good than harm.
I also tried to point out to the journalists that SCAM includes a range of diagnostic techniques. None of them are valid which means that they present a real danger to consumers through false-positive and false-negative diagnoses. In particular the latter scenario can cost lives.
All in all, I did enjoy yesterday’s press briefing very much. I am aware of the fact that, in the realm of SCAM, the press have a most important role to play. Consumers rarely consult their doctor when deciding to use SCAM; frequently they go by what they read in the papers.
In this context, I find it noteworthy that, during the last years, the UK press have become considerably more sceptical. Not so long ago, most UK journalists used to praise SCAM like the best thing since sliced bread; today this attitude has laudably shifted towards a more rational stance. I am sure that the excellent work of the SCIENCE MEDIA CENTRE has played a crucial part in this positive development.
Leprosy can be a devastating infection. But, since many years, it is treatable. The WHO developed a multidrug therapyTrusted Source in 1995 to cure all types of leprosy. It’s available free of charge worldwide. Additionally, several antibiotics are used to kill the bacteria that causes leprosy, e.g.:
Yes, leprosy is treatable … that is, unless you follow the advice issued in this article and treat it with homeopathy:
Homoeopathy remedies are given on the basis of similar signs and symptoms along with the miasmatic classification of diseases. Homoeopathy physicians said that leprosy is characteristics of syphilis miasm due to their mental and physical conditions. Mentally person thinks that he/she may be isolated and left alone in a corner of society due to dirty looking of the skin and tendency to spread of disease from direct contact. They feel alone and make hypothesis that the society needs outbreak from me because of physical disabilities like paralysis, and loss of controls on body functions. A well selected homoeopathy remedy helps out patient to come out from this condition and make possible to live in society from permanent restoration of health.
- SULPHUR – ‘It is mainly known as king of anti-psoric’ in wide range of homoeopathy. Hahnemann says that sulphur has reputation as a remedy against itch perhaps as old medicine i.e., as early as 2000 years ago. Skin of sulphur indicates vesicular skin eruptions and skin may treated by medicated soaps and washes. Clinical trials says that sulphur have similar signs and symptoms as indicated by disease.
- GRAPHITES – It is a great remedy for all sorts of skin eruptions with a tendency towards malignancy. It also indicates various symptoms of leprosy and may be used in treatment.
- PETROLEUM – The skin of petroleum has cracks and fissures all over the body and indicates various similar symptoms as of disease condition.
- RHUS TOXICODENDRON – Skin shows erysipelas vesicular eruptions, vesicles are yellow, from left to right with much swelling, inflammation, burning, itching and stinging that are very much similar to leprosy sign and symptoms, so it may be prescribed.
- CICUTA VIROSA – This homoeopathic medicine used in the conditions when patients are anxious about their future and epileptic attacks with spasmodic movements of the limbs.
- ALOE SOCOTRINA – This homoeopathy medicine works when the patients are fear of death and angry from themselves for their conditions. This medicine have tendency to acts upon the abdominal and lumbar region of the patient.
- BLATTA ORIENTALIS – It is used when the patient is anxious about their skin and health. Patient suffers from the chronic inflammations of the chest and other lung infections that are also found in disease.
Leprosy is a non-fatal infectious disease caused by bacteria Myobacterium leprae and spread by direct contact and other mode of transmissions. It may be treated with homoeopathic medicines if well selected medicine related to mental and physical symptoms is taken by patients. Homoeopathy medicines help out patients to rearrange the vital force to fight against infectious bacteria and makes possible that the body itself fight against the disease.
To be sure, I ran a quick Medline search. You guessed the result, I suppose: not a single hint from anything resembling a clinical trial that homeopathy might be an effective therapy of leprosy.
One question, however, does remain open: how do homeopaths who claim such irresponsible nonsense sleep?
(And in case you think that the above post is a rare exception, you have not recently searched the Internet!)
… Many proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) are keen to point out that, while mainstream medicine may be good at treatment of diseases, particularly acute conditions, SCAM’s forte lies in the prevention of disease. Patients seem to have intuitively accepted this notion; a recent survey suggest that more than 50% of those Americans who use SCAM do so not to treat ailments but to remain healthy, i.e. to prevent disease and illness. If one looks closer at the evidence for or against SCAM’s role in disease prevention, one is stunned by the contrast of firmly held beliefs and the lack of reliable evidence to support them…
… Unfortunately the subject is more complex than normally appreciated within SCAM. Until we have convincing data, it is not possible to state with confidence that a given form of SCAM is effective in preventing a given condition. It follows
- that we now should prepare to carry out the much needed (but difficult) research related
- that we should be cautious and abstain from overstating the largely unproven role of SCAM in the prevention of disease and illness.
These lines were written by me and published exactly 20 years ago. As far as I can see, very little has changed since.
- SCAM providers continue to make big claims about disease prevention.
- Many consumers continue to believe them.
- And the evidence continues to be absent or flimsy.
It follows, I fear, that charlatans who advocate their SCAM as a means to prevent disease are dishonestly defrauding the public.
I do hope that someone disagrees with me and shows me the evidence proving me wrong!
The World Federation of Chiropractic, Strategic Plan 2019-2022 has just been published. It is an odd document that holds many surprises. Sadly, none of them are positive.
As the efficacy and safety of chiropractic spinal manipulations, the hallmark treatment that close to 100% of all chiropractic patients receive, are more than a little doubtful, one would expect that such a strategy would focus on the promotion of rigorous clinical research to create more certainty in these two important areas. If you are like me and were hoping for a firm commitment to such activities, you will be harshly disappointed.
Already in the introduction, the WFC sets an entirely different agenda:
We believe that everyone deserves access to chiropractic. We believe in chiropractors being accessible throughout the world. We believe that societies can thrive where chiropractors are available as a part of people’s health care teams.
If you are not put off by such self-serving, nauseous nonsense and read on, you find what the WFC call the ‘FOUR STRATEGIC PILLARS’
The text supporting the first three pillars consists of insufferable platitudes, and I will therefore not burden you with it. But the title of No4 did raise my hopes of finding something along the lines of an advancement of the evidence-base of chiropractic. Sadly, this turned out to be over-optimistic. Here is the 4th pillar in its full beauty:
Advancing the chiropractic profession together under the banner of evidence-based, people-centered, interprofessional and collaborative care.
Around the world health is delivered according to prevailing societal, cultural and political factors. These social determinants mean that chiropractors must adapt to the environment in which they practice.
As a global federation we must continuously strive to advance awareness of chiropractic under a banner of ethical, evidence-based, people-centered care.
Through consensus-building, shared understanding and respectful dialogue with partners in the health system, chiropractic should become a valued partner in contributing enhanced population health.
Throughout our 7 world regions, we must advance public utilization of chiropractors to optimize the health of nations.
Through the identification of common values and a commitment to patient-centered care, we can advance the identity of chiropractors as spinal health care experts in the health care system.
The WFC will:
– Advance awareness of chiropractic among the general public, within health systems and among health professionals.
– Advance access to chiropractors for all people and broaden the integration of chiropractic services
– Advance interprofessional collaboration and the integration of chiropractic into health systems
END OF QUOTE
The essence of the WFC strategy for the next 3 years thus seems to be as follows:
- Avoid any discussion about the lack of evidence of chiropractic.
- Promote chiropractic to the unsuspecting public at all cost.
- Make sure chiropractors’ cash flow is healthy.
There are some commentators on this blog who regularly try to make us believe that chiropractic is about to reform, leave obsolete concepts behind, and become a respectable, ethical and evidence-based healthcare profession. After reading the appalling drivel the WFC call their ‘strategic plan’, I am not optimistic that they are correct.
The Society of Homeopaths (SoH) is the professional organisation of UK lay homeopaths (those with no medical training). The SoH has recently published a membership survey. Here are some of its findings:
- 89% of all respondents are female,
- 70% are between the ages of 35 and 64.
- 91% of respondents are currently in practice.
- 87% are RSHoms.
- The majority has been in practice for an average of 11 – 15 years.
- 64% identified their main place of work as their home.
- 51% work within a multidisciplinary clinic.
- 43% work in a beauty clinic.
- 85% oﬀer either telephone or video call consultations.
- Just under 50% see 5 or fewer patients each week.
- 38% are satisfied with the number of patients they are seeing.
- 80% felt conﬁdent or very conﬁdent about their future.
- 65% feel supported by the SoH.
Because this truly homeopathic survey is based on exactly 132 responses which equates to 14% of all SoH members.
If, however, we were able to conclude anything at all, it would be that the amateur researchers at the SoH cause Hahnemann to turn in his grave. Offering telephone/video consultations and working in a beauty salon would probably have annoyed the old man. But what would have definitely made him jump with fury in his Paris grave is a stupid survey like this one.