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

alternative therapist

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The UK mainstream media have so far failed to report on this new and highly worrying development: in a rare show of unity, the UK practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) have formed the ‘SCAM Union’ (SCAMU) – pronounced ‘scam you’ – and decided to go on strike. Their demands are straightforward:

  1. increase pay in line with inflation;
  2. full recognition of their profession;
  3. right to regular 15 min tai chi breaks.

Already last week, they staged a two-day nationwide walkout.

  • Homeopaths stopped seeing patients and some had to start taking remedies at the C 2000 potency to keep calm but NOBODY NOTICED AND THE EFFECT ON THE NATIONS HEALTH WAS NOT NOTICABLE.
  • Chiropractors did not adjust a single subluxation and started cracking jokes instead but NOBODY NOTICED AND THE EFFECT ON THE NATIONS HEALTH WAS NOT NOTICABLE.
  • Naturopaths failed to detox a single patient but NOBODY NOTICED AND THE EFFECT ON THE NATIONS HEALTH WAS NOT NOTICABLE.
  • Crystal healers kept their crystals under wraps but NOBODY NOTICED AND THE EFFECT ON THE NATIONS HEALTH WAS NOT NOTICABLE.
  • Osteopath mobilized not a single joint but NOBODY NOTICED AND THE EFFECT ON THE NATIONS HEALTH WAS NOT NOTICABLE.
  • Acupuncturists failed to insert a single needle but NOBODY NOTICED AND THE EFFECT ON THE NATIONS HEALTH WAS NOT NOTICABLE.
  • Vaginal steamers only steamed the odd dim sum for lunch but NOBODY NOTICED AND THE EFFECT ON THE NATIONS HEALTH WAS NOT NOTICABLE.
  • Ear candlers did not light a single candle and instead aligned them in a visual picket line but NOBODY NOTICED AND THE EFFECT ON THE NATIONS HEALTH WAS NOT NOTICABLE.
  • Aromatherapists refused to open any bottles with essential oil but NOBODY NOTICED AND THE EFFECT ON THE NATIONS HEALTH WAS NOT NOTICABLE.
  • Herbalists simply said ‘Thyme will tell’ but NOBODY NOTICED AND THE EFFECT ON THE NATIONS HEALTH WAS NOT NOTICABLE.
  • Bach flower therapists had to consume their own Rescue Remedies in large quantities but NOBODY NOTICED AND THE EFFECT ON THE NATIONS HEALTH WAS NOT NOTICABLE.
  • Holistic practitioners claimed to be wholly distraught but NOBODY NOTICED AND THE EFFECT ON THE NATIONS HEALTH WAS NOT NOTICABLE.

Perhaps the most outrageous thing about these events is that the UK press studiously ignored the all-out strike (one broadsheet editor commented: “if it’s not about Megan, we are not interested). Merely King Charles seemed alarmed and was overheard privately mumbling to Camilla: “What next?”

 

 

PS

I have been told that some of my readers have difficulties knowing when I am pulling their legs. So, let me confirm: every word here is uninvented – or was that uninventive?

Migraines are common headache disorders and risk factors for subsequent strokes. Acupuncture has been widely used in the treatment of migraines; however, few studies have examined whether its use reduces the risk of strokes in migraineurs. This study explored the long-term effects of acupuncture treatment on stroke risk in migraineurs using national real-world data.

A team of Taiwanese researchers collected new migraine patients from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD) from 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2017. Using 1:1 propensity-score matching, they assigned patients to either an acupuncture or non-acupuncture cohort and followed up until the end of 2018. The incidence of stroke in the two cohorts was compared using the Cox proportional hazards regression analysis. Each cohort was composed of 1354 newly diagnosed migraineurs with similar baseline characteristics. Compared with the non-acupuncture cohort, the acupuncture cohort had a significantly reduced risk of stroke (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.4; 95% confidence interval, 0.35–0.46). The Kaplan–Meier model showed a significantly lower cumulative incidence of stroke in migraine patients who received acupuncture during the 19-year follow-up (log-rank test, p < 0.001).

The authors concluded that acupuncture confers protective benefits on migraineurs by reducing the risk of stroke. Our results provide new insights for clinicians and public health experts.

After merely 10 minutes of critical analysis, ‘real-world data’ turn out to be real-bias data, I am afraid.

The first question to ask is, were the groups at all comparable? The answer is, NO; the acupuncture group had

  • more young individuals;
  • fewer laborers;
  • fewer wealthy people;
  • fewer people with coronary heart disease;
  • fewer individuals with chronic kidney disease;
  • fewer people with mental disorders;
  • more individuals taking multiple medications.

And that are just the variables that were known to the researcher! There will be dozens that are unknown but might nevertheless impact on a stroke prognosis.

But let’s not be petty and let’s forget (for a minute) about all these inequalities that render the two groups difficult to compare. The potentially more important flaw in this study lies elsewhere.

Imagine a group of people who receive some extra medical attention – such as acupuncture – over a long period of time, administered by a kind and caring therapist; imagine you were one of them. Don’t you think that it is likely that, compared to other people who do not receive this attention, you might feel encouraged to look better after your health? Consequently, you might do more exercise, eat more healthily, smoke less, etc., etc. As a result of such behavioral changes, you would be less likely to suffer a stroke, never mind the acupuncture.

SIMPLE!

I am not saying that such studies are totally useless. What often renders them worthless or even dangerous is the fact that the authors are not more self-critical and don’t draw more cautious conclusions. In the present case, already the title of the article says it all:

Acupuncture Is Effective at Reducing the Risk of Stroke in Patients with Migraines: A Real-World, Large-Scale Cohort Study with 19-Years of Follow-Up

My advice to researchers of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and journal editors publishing their papers is this: get your act together, learn about the pitfalls of flawed science (most of my books might assist you in this process), and stop misleading the public. Do it sooner rather than later!

The year 2022 has drawn to a close, and it is time to vote on the ‘WORST PAPER OF 2022 COMPETITION’. As a prize, I am offering the winner (that is the lead author of the winning paper) one of my books that best fits his/her subject. I am sure this will overjoy him or her. Here are to 10 candidates that we discussed in 2022:

I am pleased to see that the 10 entries cover a wide range of so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs). This has not been achieved by design but by coincidence; it suggests that I do not have a particular grudge against any specific SCAM but was led by the quality of the paper. Similarly, the papers were published in a wide range of different journals, and this implies that I am not out to defame a particular journal (such as ‘Homeopathy’, for instance, that fired me from its ed board). And lastly, the list also shows that I am not abusing this little exercise to defame a particular researcher; in fact, I think I do not know any of the individuals in person.

The 10 entries are clearly numbered. If you want to (re-)read them, please click on the links and the original post should appear. There you find the links to the original articles. Once you have decided which is in your view the worst paper, please cast your vote either by posting a comment here or by sending me an email via the contact option on top of this post.

I will wait for three days and then announce the lucky winner. Subsequently, I will contact the winner and ask for his/her postal address; if he/she gives it to me, I will post a book to him/her with my congratulations.

I hope I can count on you to vote.

The purpose of this review was to

  • identify and map the available evidence regarding the effectiveness and harms of spinal manipulation and mobilisation for infants, children and adolescents with a broad range of conditions;
  • identify and synthesise policies, regulations, position statements and practice guidelines informing their clinical use.

Two reviewers independently screened and selected the studies, extracted key findings and assessed the methodological quality of included papers. A descriptive synthesis of reported findings was undertaken using a level-of-evidence approach.

Eighty-seven articles were included. Their methodological quality varied. Spinal manipulation and mobilisation are being utilised clinically by a variety of health professionals to manage paediatric populations with

  • adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS),
  • asthma,
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
  • autism spectrum disorder (ASD),
  • back/neck pain,
  • breastfeeding difficulties,
  • cerebral palsy (CP),
  • dysfunctional voiding,
  • excessive crying,
  • headaches,
  • infantile colic,
  • kinetic imbalances due to suboccipital strain (KISS),
  • nocturnal enuresis,
  • otitis media,
  • torticollis,
  • plagiocephaly.

The descriptive synthesis revealed: no evidence to explicitly support the effectiveness of spinal manipulation or mobilisation for any condition in paediatric populations. Mild transient symptoms were commonly described in randomised controlled trials and on occasion, moderate-to-severe adverse events were reported in systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials and other lower-quality studies. There was strong to very strong evidence for ‘no significant effect’ of spinal manipulation for managing

  • asthma (pulmonary function),
  • headache,
  • nocturnal enuresis.

There was inconclusive or insufficient evidence for all other conditions explored. There is insufficient evidence to draw conclusions regarding spinal mobilisation to treat paediatric populations with any condition.

The authors concluded that, whilst some individual high-quality studies demonstrate positive results for some conditions, our descriptive synthesis of the collective findings does not provide support for spinal manipulation or mobilisation in paediatric populations for any condition. Increased reporting of adverse events is required to determine true risks. Randomised controlled trials examining effectiveness of spinal manipulation and mobilisation in paediatric populations are warranted.

Perhaps the most important findings of this review relate to safety. They confirm (yet again) that there is only limited reporting of adverse events in this body of research. Six reviews, eight RCTs and five other studies made no mention of adverse events or harms associated with spinal manipulation. This, in my view, amounts to scientific misconduct. Four systematic reviews focused specifically on adverse events and harms. They revealed that adverse events ranged from mild to severe and even death.

In terms of therapeutic benefit, the review confirms the findings from the previous research, e.g.:

  • Green et al (Green S, McDonald S, Murano M, Miyoung C, Brennan S. Systematic review of spinal manipulation in children: review prepared by Cochrane Australia for Safer Care Victoria. Melbourne, Victoria: Victorian Government 2019. p. 1–67.) explored the effectiveness and safety of spinal manipulation and showed that spinal manipulation should – due to a lack of evidence and potential risk of harm – be recommended as a treatment of headache, asthma, otitis media, cerebral palsy, hyperactivity disorders or torticollis.
  • Cote et al showed that evidence is lacking to support the use of spinal manipulation to treat non-musculoskeletal disorders.

In terms of risk/benefit balance, the conclusion could thus not be clearer: no matter whether chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, or any other healthcare professionals propose to manipulate the spine of your child, DON’T LET THEM DO IT!

The year 2022 is drawing to a close, and I am reminded of my ‘WORST PAPER OF 2022 COMPETITION’. As a prize, I am offering the winner (that is the lead author of the winning paper) one of my books that best fits his/her subject. I am sure this will overjoy him or her. I hope to identify about 10 candidates for the prize, and towards the end of the year, I let my readers decide democratically on who should be the winner. In this spirit of democratic voting, let me suggest to you entry No 10 entitled ‘Conventional Homeopathic Medicine and Its Relevance to Modern Medicine‘. Here is the unadulterated abstract:

Context: Homeopathic medicine can be explained as a symptoms-based method of treatment, and it can act as an alternative treatment strategy against allopathy by focusing on the symptoms of illness, as opposed to causative agents as allopathic medicine does. Also, homeopathic medicines are extracted from nature rather than being chemically synthesized as western drugs are.

Objective: The review intended to briefly describe the concept of homeopathic medicine, its emergence from a historical point of view, and its broader healing properties, providing examples of key homeopathic drugs and comparing them to modern medicines.

Design: The research team performed a narrative review by searching databases like Pubmed, Google Scholar, and other national search engines. The search used the keywords homeopathic medicine, alternate medicine, materia medica, allium cepa, Zingiber officinale, penicillium, Agaricus muscaria, Botulinum toxin.

Setting: Dr. D.Y. Patil Homoeopathic Medical College and Research Centre, Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth (Deemed to be University), Pimpri, Pune.

Results: This review highlights the rich sources homoeopathic drugs and their corelation with modern medicine. The current review focuses on the significance of the Homeopathic Materia Medica and on notable remedies in homeopathy that align with allopathy in addressing different pathological conditions, including treatments that the two types of medicine have in in common and that are effective in homeopathy.

Conclusions: Many studies are being conducted to prove the mechanism of action of homoeopathic medicines. Droplet Evaporating Method (DEM), Raman, UltraViolet-Visible (UV-VIS) spectroscopy and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) are commonly used methods to characterize homeopathic medicines at ultra-low concentration and many such studies will surely indicate how homoeopathic medicines act. Such research results may subsequently lead to the betterment of treatment procedures and the integration of homeopathic principles into mainstream medical practices.

I find it quite an ‘achievement’ to put so much nonsense into such a short abstract. My ‘favorite’ statement is this one: “many such studies will surely indicate how homoeopathic medicines act.” Since he published this paper, the first author has done another article; it is entitled “Breast Abscess Healing with Homoeopathy: A Case Report” and would be a further contender for my award.

But let’s not give him an unfair chance to win the competition!

 

PS

The next time I post about this will be about deciding on this year’s winner. So, you might want to give it some consideration.

Our ‘Memorandum Integrative Medicine‘ seems to be causing ripples. A German website that claims to aim at informing consumers objectively posted a rebuttal. Here is my translation (together with comments by myself inserted via reference numbers in brackets and added below):

With drastic words and narrow-mindedness bordering on ideology (1), the Münster Circle, an association of opponents to complementary therapies such as homeopathy (2), takes issue with the treatment concept of integrative medicine in a memorandum (3). By integrative medicine physicians understand the combination of doctor-led medicine and doctor-led complementary medicine to a meaningful total concept with the goal of reducing side effects and to treating patients individually and optimally (4). Integrative medicine focuses primarily on chronic diseases, where conventional acute medicine often reaches its limits (5)In the memorandum of the Münsteraner Kreis, general practitioner Dr. Claudia Novak criticizes integrative medicine as “guru-like self-dramatization” (6) by physicians and therapists, which undermines evidence-based medicine and leads to a deterioration in patient care. She is joined by Prof. Dr. Edzard Ernst, Professor Emeritus of Alternative Medicine, who has changed from Paul to Saul with regard to homeopathy (7) and is leading a veritable media campaign against proponents of treatment procedures that have not been able to prove their evidence in randomized placebo-controlled studies (8). The professor ignores the fact that this involves a large number of drugs that are used as a matter of course in everyday medicine (9) – for example, beta-blockers or other cardiological drugs (10). “Like the devil fears the holy water” (11), the Münsteraner Kreis seems to fear the concept of integrative medicine (12). The vehemence coupled with fear with which they warn against the treatment concept makes one sit up and take notice (13). “As an experienced gynecologist who has successfully worked with biological medicine as an adjunct in his practice for decades, I can only shake my head at such narrow-mindedness”, points out Fred-Holger Ludwig, MD (14). Science does not set limits for itself, but the plurality of methods is immanent (15). “Why doesn’t Prof. Ernst actually give up his professorial title for alternative medicine? That would have to be the logical consequence of its overloud criticism of established treatment concepts from homeopathy to to integrative medicine”, questions Dr. Ludwig (16).

The concept of integrative medicine is about infiltrating alternative procedures into medicine, claim the critics of the concept, without mentioning that many naturopathic procedures have been used for centuries with good results (17) and that healthcare research gives them top marks (18). “Incidentally, the scientists among the representatives of the Münster Circle should know that it is difficult to capture individualized treatment concepts with the standardized procedures of randomized, placebo-controlled studies (19). Anyone who declares the highest level of evidence to be the criterion for approval makes medicine impossible and deprives patients in oncology or with rare diseases, for example, of chances of successful treatment (20). Even there, drugs are used that cannot be based on high evidence, tested in placebo-controlled studies, because the number of cases is too low (21),” notes Dr. Ludwig .

  1. Ideology? Evidence is not ideology, in my view.
  2. We are an association of multidisciplinary experts advocating a level playing field with sound evidence in all areas of healthcare.
  3. The actual memorandum is not linked in this text; does the author not want his readers to form the own opinion?
  4. In our memorandum, we offer various definitions of integrative medicine (IM), none of which is remotely similar to this one.
  5. No, IM is usually being promoted in a much wider sense.
  6. This term does not appear in our memorandum.
  7. I am not aware that I changed from Paul to Saul with regard to homeopathy; I know that I was led mostly by the evidence.
  8. I feel flattered but don’t think that my humble work is a ‘media campaign’.
  9. True, I do not pretend to understand all areas of medicine and tend to be silent in the ones that I lack up-to-date expertise.
  10. Is he really saying that beta-blockers are not evidence-based?
  11. The holy water comparison from a homeopath, who arguably makes a living from dishing out ‘holy water’, made me laugh!
  12. It is most revealing, I think, that he thinks our motivation is fear.
  13. Splendid!
  14. FHL is the author of the article, and it is thus charmingly naive that he cites himself in this way
  15. I somehow doubt that he understands what he is expressing here.
  16. I find this rather a bizarre idea but I’ll think about it.
  17. Argumentum ad traditionem.
  18. Those that get ‘top marks’ belong to evidence-based medicine and not to IM.
  19. Here the author reveals that he does not understand the RCT methodology and even fails to know the trial evidence on homeopathy – RCTs of individualised homeopathy are possible and have been published (e.g. this one).
  20. If he really believes this, I fear for his patients.
  21. Pity that he does not provide an example.

To understand FHL better, it is worth knowing that he claims to treat cancer patients with conventional and homeopathic medicine. He states that this approach reduces side effects – without providing evidence, of course.

Altogether, FHL does not dispute a single fact or argument from our memorandum. In fact, I get the impression that he never actually read it. To me, it feels as though he merely read an article ABOUT the document. In any case, his critique is revealing and important, in my view. It demonstrates that there are no good arguments to defend IM.

So, thank you FHL!

Osteopathy is currently regulated in 12 European countries: Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Switzerland, and the UK. Other countries such as Belgium and Norway have not fully regulated it. In Austria, osteopathy is not recognized or regulated. The Osteopathic Practitioners Estimates and RAtes (OPERA) project was developed as a Europe-based survey, whereby an updated profile of osteopaths not only provides new data for Austria but also allows comparisons with other European countries.

A voluntary, online-based, closed-ended survey was distributed across Austria in the period between April and August 2020. The original English OPERA questionnaire, composed of 52 questions in seven sections, was translated into German and adapted to the Austrian situation. Recruitment was performed through social media and an e-based campaign.

The survey was completed by 338 individuals (response rate ~26%), of which 239 (71%) were female. The median age of the responders was 40–49 years. Almost all had preliminary healthcare training, mainly in physiotherapy (72%). The majority of respondents were self-employed (88%) and working as sole practitioners (54%). The median number of consultations per week was 21–25 and the majority of respondents scheduled 46–60 minutes for each consultation (69%).

The most commonly used diagnostic techniques were: palpation of position/structure, palpation of tenderness, and visual inspection. The most commonly used treatment techniques were cranial, visceral, and articulatory/mobilization techniques. The majority of patients estimated by respondents consulted an osteopath for musculoskeletal complaints mainly localized in the lumbar and cervical region. Although the majority of respondents experienced a strong osteopathic identity, only a small proportion (17%) advertise themselves exclusively as osteopaths.

The authors concluded that this study represents the first published document to determine the characteristics of the osteopathic practitioners in Austria using large, national data. It provides new information on where, how, and by whom osteopathic care is delivered. The information provided may contribute to the evidence used by stakeholders and policy makers for the future regulation of the profession in Austria.

This paper reveals several findings that are, I think, noteworthy:

  • Visceral osteopathy was used often or very often by 84% of the osteopaths.
  • Muscle energy techniques were used often or very often by 53% of the osteopaths.
  • Techniques applied to the breasts were used by 59% of the osteopaths.
  • Vaginal techniques were used by 49% of the osteopaths.
  • Rectal techniques were used by 39% of the osteopaths.
  • “Taping/kinesiology tape” was used by 40% of osteopaths.
  • Applied kinesiology was used by 17% of osteopaths and was by far the most-used diagnostic approach.

Perhaps the most worrying finding of the entire paper is summarized in this sentence: “Informed consent for oral techniques was requested only by 10.4% of respondents, and for genital and rectal techniques by 21.0% and 18.3% respectively.”

I am lost for words!

I fail to understand what meaningful medical purpose the fingers of an osteopath are supposed to have in a patient’s vagina or rectum. Surely, putting them there is a gross violation of medical ethics.

Considering these points, I find it impossible not to conclude that far too many Austrian osteopaths practice treatments that are implausible, unproven, potentially harmful, unethical, and illegal. If patients had the courage to take action, many of these charlatans would probably spend some time in jail.

Earlier this year, I started the ‘WORST PAPER OF 2022 COMPETITION’. As a prize, I am offering the winner (that is the lead author of the winning paper) one of my books that best fits his/her subject. I am sure this will overjoy him or her. I hope to identify about 10 candidates for the prize, and towards the end of the year, I let my readers decide democratically on who should be the winner. In this spirit of democratic voting, let me suggest to you entry No 9. Here is the unadulterated abstract:

Background

With the increasing popularity of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) by the global community, how to teach basic knowledge of TCM to international students and improve the teaching quality are important issues for teachers of TCM. The present study was to analyze the perceptions from both students and teachers on how to improve TCM learning internationally.

Methods

A cross-sectional national survey was conducted at 23 universities/colleges across China. A structured, self-reported on-line questionnaire was administered to 34 Chinese teachers who taught TCM course in English and to 1016 international undergraduates who were enrolled in the TCM course in China between 2017 and 2021.

Results

Thirty-three (97.1%) teachers and 900 (88.6%) undergraduates agreed Chinese culture should be fully integrated into TCM courses. All teachers and 944 (92.9%) undergraduates thought that TCM had important significance in the clinical practice. All teachers and 995 (97.9%) undergraduates agreed that modern research of TCM is valuable. Thirty-three (97.1%) teachers and 959 (94.4%) undergraduates thought comparing traditional medicine in different countries with TCM can help the students better understand TCM. Thirty-two (94.1%) teachers and 962 (94.7%) undergraduates agreed on the use of practical teaching method with case reports. From the perceptions of the undergraduates, the top three beneficial learning styles were practice (34.3%), teacher’s lectures (32.5%), case studies (10.4%). The first choice of learning mode was attending to face-to-face teaching (82.3%). The top three interesting contents were acupuncture (75.5%), Chinese herbal medicine (63.8%), and massage (55.0%).

Conclusion

To improve TCM learning among international undergraduates majoring in conventional medicine, integration of Chinese culture into TCM course, comparison of traditional medicine in different countries with TCM, application of the teaching method with case reports, and emphasization of clinical practice as well as modern research on TCM should be fully considered.

I am impressed with this paper mainly because to me it does not make any sense at all. To be blunt, I find it farcically nonsensical. What precisely? Everything:

  • the research question,
  • the methodology,
  • the conclusion
  • the write-up,
  • the list of authors and their affiliations: Department of Chinese Integrative Medicine, Women’s Hospital, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China, Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, School of Basic Medicine, Qingdao University, Qingdao, China, Department of Chinese Integrative Medicine, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Kunming Medical University, Kunming, China, Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, The Affiliated Hospital of Xuzhou Medical University, Xuzhou, China, Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Medical College, China Three Gorges University, Yichang, China, Basic Teaching and Research Department of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Xinjiang Medical University, Urumqi, China, Institute of Integrative Medicine, Dalian Medical University, Dalian, China, Department of Chinese and Western Medicine, Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing, China, Department of Chinese and Western Medicine, North Sichuan Medical College, Nanchong, China, Department of Chinese and Western Medicine, School of Medicine, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China, School of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China, School of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China, Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, The First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University, Suzhou, China, Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, School of Medicine, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China, Department of Chinese Medicine/Department of Chinese Integrative Medicine, The First Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University, Hefei, China, Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shengjing Hospital Affiliated to China Medical University, Shenyang, China, Department of Acupuncture, Affiliated Hospital of Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang, China, Teaching and Research Section of Traditional Chinese Medicine, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University, Suzhou, China, Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University, Harbin, China, Department of Chinese Medicine, The First Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University, Hefei, China, Department of Chinese Medicine, The First Affiliated Hospital of Kunming Medical University, Kunming, China, Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shengli Clinical Medical College of Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou, China, Department of Chinese Medicine, The First Affiliated Hospital of Jinzhou Medicine University, Jinzhou, China, Department of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine, The First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University, Harbin, China, Department of Chinese Medicine, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, Guangzhou, China, Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, The First Affiliated Hospital of Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou, China.
  • the journal that had this paper peer-reviewed and published.

But what impressed me most with this paper is the way the authors managed to avoid even the slightest hint of critical thinking. They even included a short paragraph in the discussion section where they elaborate on the limitations of their work without ever discussing the true flaws in the conception and execution of this extraordinary example of pseudoscience.

It has been reported that a naturopath from the US who sold fake COVID-19 immunization treatments and fraudulent vaccination cards during the height of the coronavirus pandemic has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison. Juli A. Mazi pleaded guilty last April in federal court in San Francisco to one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health care matters. Now District Judge Charles R. Breyer handed down a sentence of 33 months, according to Joshua Stueve, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice. Mazi, of Napa, was ordered to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on or before January 6, 2023.

The case is the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to fraudulent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards for COVID-19, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In August, Breyer denied Mazi’s motion to withdraw her plea agreement after she challenged the very laws that led to her prosecution. Mazi, who fired her attorneys and ended up representing herself, last week filed a letter with the court claiming sovereign immunity. Mazi said that as a Native American she is “immune to legal action.”

She provided fake CDC vaccination cards for COVID-19 to at least 200 people with instructions on how to complete the cards to make them look like they had received a Moderna vaccine, federal prosecutors said. She also sold homeopathic pellets she fraudulently claimed would provide “lifelong immunity to COVID-19.” She told customers that the pellets contained small amounts of the virus and would create an antibody response. Mazi also offered the pellets in place of childhood vaccinations required for attendance at school and sold at least 100 fake immunization cards that said the children had been vaccinated, knowing the documents would be submitted to schools, officials said. Federal officials opened an investigation against Mazi after receiving a complaint in April 2021 to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General hotline.

_______________________

On her website, Mazi states this about herself:

Juli Mazi received her doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon where she trained in the traditional medical sciences as well as ancient and modern modalities that rely on the restorative power of Nature to heal. Juli Mazi radiates the vibrant health she is committed to helping her patients achieve. Juli’s positive outlook inspires confidence; her deep well of calm puts people at immediate ease. The second thing they notice is that truly she listens. Dr. Mazi’s very presence is healing.

On this site, she also advocates all sorts of treatments and ideas which I would call more than a little strange, for instance, coffee enemas:

Using a coffee enema is a time-tested remedy for detoxification, but it is not without risks. If you are not careful, the process can cause internal burns. In addition, improperly brewed coffee can lead to electrolyte imbalances and dehydration, and coffee enemas are not recommended for pregnant women or young children.

To make coffee enemas safe and effective, always choose quality organic coffee. A coffee enema should be free of toxins and pesticides. Use a reusable enema kit with stainless steel or silicone hosing for safety. Moreover, do not use a soft plastic or latex enema bags. It is also essential to limit the length of time that the coffee spends in the container.

A coffee enema should be held for 12 to 15 minutes and then released in the toilet. You may repeat the process as necessary. Usually, the procedure should be done once or twice a day. However, if you are experiencing acute toxicity, you can use a coffee enema as often as needed. Make sure you have had a bowel movement before making the coffee enema. Otherwise, the process may be hindered.

Perhaps the most interesting thing on her website is her advertisement of the fact that her peers not just tolerate such eccentricities but gave Mazi an award for ‘BEST ALTERNATIVE HEALTH & BEST GENERAL PRACTITIONER’.

To me, this suggests that US ‘doctors of naturopathy’ and their professional organizations live on a different planet, a planet where evidence counts for nothing and dangerously misleading patients seems to be the norm.

The AMA has recently published a short article that – even though not addressing so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) directly – has considerable relevance for the field:

It’s increasingly common for patients to encounter nonphysician practitioners as members of their health care teams. Meanwhile, ever more nonphysician practitioners have received advanced training resulting in a doctorate degree, such as the doctor of nursing practice.

To help patients keep pace with these changes, physicians should make new strides to clarify their roles and credentials vis-a-vis other members of the health care team and also promote collaboration among all health professionals, according to an AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs report that was adopted at the 2022 AMA Interim Meeting.

The core issue is that “the skill sets and experience of nonphysician practitioners are not the same as those of physicians.” Thus, when nonphysician practitioners identify themselves as “doctors”—consistent with the doctoral-level degrees they earned—“it may create confusion and be misleading to patients and other practitioners,” says the report.

In fact, surveys (PDF) performed as part of the AMA Truth in Advertising Campaign have found that while patients strongly support physician-led health care teams, many are confused about the level of education and training of health professionals—and the confusion isn’t limited to nonphysician practitioners who hold doctorates. For example, roughly one-fifth of respondents think psychiatrists are not physicians, while a similar number think nurse practitioners are physicians.

The AMA Code of Medical Ethics touches on this issue in an opinion on collaborative care, which provides guidance on the roles of physicians in team-based settings where a mix of health professionals provide care.

In SCAM, we have the problem that practitioners often call themselves doctors or physicians without having a medical degree. This confuses patients who might consult and trust these practitioners assuming they have studied medicine. We recently discussed the case of a naturopath who called himself a doctor and failed to diagnose a rectal tumor of his patient. Much more dramatic was the case of a UK-based chiropractor who called herself a doctor, thus attracting a patient suffering from complex health issues contraindicating spinal manipulations. She nonetheless manipulated his neck and promptly killed him.

I know that patients are being misled every day by SCAM practitioners (ab)using the ‘Dr.’ title. Therefore, the AMA reminder is an important, timely, and necessary lesson for SCAM. I feel that the professional organizations of SCAM providers should issue similar reminders to their members and make sure they behave appropriately.

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