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

bias

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People who use so-called alternative medicines (SCAM) tend to be more vaccine hesitant. One possible conclusion that can be drawn from this is that trusting SCAM results in people becoming more vaccine hesitant. An alternative possibility is that vaccine hesitancy and use of SCAM are both consequences of a distrust in conventional treatments. an International team of researchers conducted analyses designed to disentangle these two possibilities.

They measured vaccine hesitancy and SCAM use in a representative sample of Spanish residents (N = 5200). They also quantified their trust in three CCAM interventions;     

  1. acupuncture,
  2. reiki,
  3. homeopathy                                                                  

and in two conventional medical interventions:

  1. chemotherapy,
  2. antidepressants.

Vaccine hesitancy turned out to be strongly associated with (dis)trust in conventional medicine, and this relationship was particularly strong among SCAM users. In contrast, trust in SCAM was a relatively weak predictor of vaccine hesitancy, and the relationship was equally weak regardless of whether or not participants themselves had a history of using SCAM.

According to the authors of this paper, the implication for practitioners and policy makers is that SCAM is not necessarily a major obstacle to people’s willingness to vaccinate, and that the more proximal obstacle is people’s mistrust of conventional treatments.

This is an interesting study. Yet, it begs a few questions:

  1.  Is it possible to reliably establish trust in SCAM by asking about just 3 specific therapies?
  2. Is it possible to reliably establish trust in conventional medicine by asking about just 2 treatments?
  3. Why those therapies out of hundreds of options?
  4. Could it be that here are national differences (in other countries distrust in conventional medicine is not a strong determinant of SCAM use)?
  5. Is trust in SCAM and distrust in conventional medicine perhaps the common expression of an anti-science attitude or cultist tendencies?

During the last few months, I have done little else on this blog than trying to expose misinformation about COVID-19 in the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). However, the usefulness and accuracy of most viewed YouTube videos on COVID-19 have so far not been investigated. Canadian researchers have just published a very nice paper that fills this gap.

They performed a YouTube search on 21 March 2020 using keywords ‘coronavirus’ and ‘COVID-19’, and the top 75 viewed videos from each search were analysed. Videos that were duplicates, non-English, non-audio and non-visual, exceeding 1 hour in duration, live and unrelated to COVID-19 were excluded. Two reviewers coded the source, content and characteristics of included videos. The primary outcome was usability and reliability of videos, analysed using the novel COVID-19 Specific Score (CSS), modified DISCERN (mDISCERN) and modified JAMA (mJAMA) scores.

Of 150 videos screened, 69 (46%) were included, totalling 257 804 146 views. Nineteen (27.5%) videos contained non-factual information, totalling 62 042 609 views. Government and professional videos contained only factual information and had higher CSS than consumer videos (mean difference (MD) 2.21, 95% CI 0.10 to 4.32, p=0.037); mDISCERN scores than consumer videos (MD 2.46, 95% CI 0.50 to 4.42, p=0.008), internet news videos (MD 2.20, 95% CI 0.19 to 4.21, p=0.027) and entertainment news videos (MD 2.57, 95% CI 0.66 to 4.49, p=0.004); and mJAMA scores than entertainment news videos (MD 1.21, 95% CI 0.07 to 2.36, p=0.033) and consumer videos (MD 1.27, 95% CI 0.10 to 2.44, p=0.028). However, they only accounted for 11% of videos and 10% of views.

The authors concluded that over one-quarter of the most viewed YouTube videos on COVID-19 contained misleading information, reaching millions of viewers worldwide. As the current COVID-19 pandemic worsens, public health agencies must better use YouTube to deliver timely and accurate information and to minimise the spread of misinformation. This may play a significant role in successfully managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

I think this is an important contribution to our knowledge about the misinformation that currently bombards the public. It explains not only the proliferation of conspiracy theories related to the pandemic, but also the plethora of useless SCAM options that are being touted endangering the public.

The authors point out that the videos included statements consisting of conspiracy theories, non-factual information, inappropriate recommendations inconsistent with current official government and health agency guidelines and discriminating statements. This is particularly alarming, when considering the immense viewership of these videos. Evidently, while the power of social media lies in the sheer volume and diversity of information being generated and spread, it has significant potential for harm. The proliferation and spread of misinformation can exacerbate racism and fear and result in unconstructive and dangerous behaviour, such as toilet paper hoarding and mask stealing behaviours seen so far in the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, this misinformation impedes the delivery of accurate pandemic-related information, thus hindering efforts by public health officials and healthcare professionals to fight the pandemic.

Good work!

I suggest to critically evaluate the statements of some UK and US politicians next.

 

An international team of students of chiropractic have published a paper protesting against those chiropractors and chiropractic organisations that claim their treatments boost the immune system and thus protect the public from the corona-virus infection. Here their abstract:

Background

The 2019 coronavirus pandemic is a current global health crisis. Many chiropractic institutions, associations, and researchers have stepped up at a time of need. However, a subset of the chiropractic profession has claimed that spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) is clinically effective in improving one’s immunity, despite the lack of supporting scientific evidence. These unsubstantiated claims contradict official public health policy reflecting poorly on the profession. The aim of this commentary is to provide our perspective on the claims regarding SMT and clinically relevant immunity enhancement, drawing attention to the damaging ramifications these claims might have on our profession’s reputation.

Main text

The World Federation of Chiropractic released a rapid review demonstrating the lack of clinically relevant evidence regarding SMT and immunity enhancement. The current claims contradicting this review carry significant potential risk to patients. Furthermore, as a result of these misleading claims, significant media attention and public critiques of the profession are being made. We believe inaction by regulatory bodies will lead to confusion among the public and other healthcare providers, unfortunately damaging the profession’s reputation. The resulting effect on the reputation of the profession is greatly concerning to us, as students.

Conclusion

It is our hope that all regulatory bodies will protect the public by taking appropriate action against chiropractors making unfounded claims contradicting public health policy. We believe it is the responsibility of all stakeholders in the chiropractic profession to ensure this is carried out and the standard of care is raised. We call on current chiropractors to ensure a viable profession exists moving forward.

In the paper, the authors also state that significant reputational damage can follow when unfounded claims are made that undermine public health policy… We call for a strong stance to be taken against these unsubstantiated claims and do not condone this unacceptable behaviour. As students, we are worried for the profession’s reputation and call on current chiropractors to ensure we have a viable profession moving forward. 

BRAVO!!!

Now that the students have realised that the immunity claim is bogus, it would be only a small step to realise that so many other claims chiropractors make on a daily basis are false as well. There may be a difference in terms of severity, but there is none in terms of principle. As responsible healthcare professional to be, the student must rebel against ALL false claims made in their name.

So, will these students and other like-minded chiropractors please not stop here. I urge them to have a serious look at the claims their profession makes. Subsequently, they ought to take the ethically appropriate action.

And what might that be?

I see two possibilities:

  1. Get rid of the abundance of lies that dominate chiropractic.
  2. Find a different, more honest profession.

The aim of this systematic review was to assess the efficacy of homeopathic remedies (HRs) in the treatment of mental disorders.

Italian psychiatrists performed a Medline/Embase search for studies written in English and published from any date to October 23, 2018. All randomized controlled trials enrolling patients with any psychiatric disorder and comparing HR with placebo, no treatment, or other psychotropic drugs were included.

A total of 212 studies were screened, 9 met all selection criteria and reported data on major depressive disorder (MDD) (n = 4), generalized anxiety disorder (n = 1), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (n = 2), and premenstrual syndrome/dysphoric disorder (n = 2). Eight of 9 randomized controlled trials showed high risk of bias. Homeopathy showed greater efficacy in MDD compared with fluoxetine, and in premenstrual syndrome/dysphoric disorder compared with placebo, whereas no difference emerged between homeopathy and placebo in MDD and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

The authors concluded that the available data on homeopathy in psychiatric disorders are insufficient to support their use in clinical practice.

In their discussion section, they also add an interesting note of caution: Ethical considerations should therefore prevent clinicians from recommending HRs, which have a cost either for patients or for health care systems, until when a sufficient amount of solid evidence becomes available. In addition, systematic reviews of randomized trials, if unavailable, are advisable for all medical conditions for which homeopathy is currently prescribed.

This is a rigorous, transparent and clear review which generates no surprises. Few critical thinkers would have expected a positive result. It also teaches us, I think, a valuable lesson about the difference between a rigorous and a flimsy review, between independent and biased research. In 2011, evidently pro-homeopathy authors published a paper of the latter kind. Here is its abstract:

Objective: To systematically review placebo-controlled randomized trials of homeopathy for psychiatric conditions.

Data sources: Eligible studies were identified using the following databases from database inception to April 2010: PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Hom-Inform, Cochrane CENTRAL, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine grantee publications database, and ClinicalTrials.gov. Gray literature was also searched using Google, Google Scholar, the European Committee for Homeopathy, inquiries with homeopathic experts and manufacturers, and the bibliographic lists of included published studies and reviews. Search terms were as follows: (homeopath* or homoeopath*) and (placebo or sham) and (anxiety or panic or phobia or post-traumatic stress or PTSD or obsessive-compulsive disorder or fear or depress* or dysthym* or attention deficit hyperactivity or premenstrual syndrome or premenstrual disorder or premenstrual dysphoric disorder or traumatic brain injury or fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalitis or insomnia or sleep disturbance). Searches included only English-language literature that reported randomized controlled trials in humans.

Study selection: Trials were included if they met 7 criteria and were assessed for possible bias using the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) 50 guidelines. Overall assessments were made using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation procedure. Identified studies were grouped into anxiety or stress, sleep or circadian rhythm complaints, premenstrual problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, mild traumatic brain injury, and functional somatic syndromes.

Results: Twenty-five eligible studies were identified from an initial pool of 1,431. Study quality according to SIGN 50 criteria varied, with 6 assessed as good, 9 as fair, and 10 as poor. Outcome was unrelated to SIGN quality. Effect size could be calculated in 16 studies, and number needed to treat, in 10 studies. Efficacy was found for the functional somatic syndromes group (fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome), but not for anxiety or stress. For other disorders, homeopathy produced mixed effects. No placebo-controlled studies of depression were identified. Meaningful safety data were lacking in the reports, but the superficial findings suggested good tolerability of homeopathy. A funnel plot in 13 studies did not support publication bias (χ(2)(1) = 1.923, P = .166).

Conclusions: The database on studies of homeopathy and placebo in psychiatry is very limited, but results do not preclude the possibility of some benefit.

The two conclusions speak for themselves, I think. They should remind us that, although systematic reviews are in principle the most reliable source of evidence, it is still necessary to check the quality of the work and the independence of the worker.

Just when I thought I had seem all of the corona-idiocy, I found this paper by Dr Kajal Jain MD Homoeopathy (Materia Medica ) Medical Officer under Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission. It promotes specific nosodes and other homeopathics against the current pandemic. In my view, it discloses a new dimension of the delusion which seems to have engulfed so many homeopaths. Allow me to copy a short passage from it:

TUBERCULINUM

A glycerine extract of a pure cultivation of tubercle bacilli (human).

As per Lectures on Homoeopathic Materia Medica by Dr Kent (page 1000) the Tuberculin nosode can prevent TB infection in those having predisposition to miasma. “If Tuberculinum bovinum be given in 10m, 50m, and CM potencies, two doses of each at long intervals, all children and young people who have inherited tuberculosis may be immuned from their inheritance and their resiliency will be restored

Burnett treated 54 cases of different types of TB Tuberculinum(Tub)/Bacillinum(Bac) 3

As stated in an article published in economic times ,countries without universal policies of BCG vaccination, such as Italy, the Netherlands, and the United States, have been more severely affected compared to countries with universal and long-standing BCG policies,” noted the researchers led by Gonzalo Otazu, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at NYIT.

The study noted that Australian researchers have recently announced plans to fast track large-scale testing to see if the BCG vaccination can protect health workers from the coronavirus.

The team compared various nations’ BCG vaccination policies with their COVID-19 morbidity and mortality and found a “significant positive correlation” between the year when universal BCG vaccination policies were adopted and the country’s mortality rate.

Iran, for instance, which has a current universal BCG vaccination policy that only started in 1984, has an elevated mortality rate with 19.7 deaths per million inhabitants, they said.

In contrast, Japan, which started its universal BCG policy in 1947, has approximately 100 times fewer deaths per million people, with 0.28 deaths, according to the study.

Brazil, which started universal vaccination in 1920 has an even lower mortality rate of 0.0573 deaths per million inhabitants, the scientists noted.

The researchers noted that among the 180 countries with BCG data available today, 157 countries currently recommend universal BCG vaccination.

The remaining 23 countries have either stopped BCG vaccination due to a reduction in TB incidence or have traditionally favoured selective vaccination of “at-risk” groups, they said.4

Thus we can see that Tuberculinium is reputed since a long timeas homoeoprophylactic in place of BCG. So Tuberculinum in high potency can act as an effective and dependable prophylactic in corona Virus .

PNEUMOCOCCINUM-

Pneumococcinum is reputed to prevent pneumonia. 5

In end stages OF CORONA VIRUS when we encounter symptoms like high fever ,pneumonia,pleurisy , -Pneumococcinum can be considered due to it being most similar to exisiting disease condition. Historically Pneumococcinum along with Influenzinum has been seen in eliciting drastic immunological responses in disease conditions following flu since it creates picture of pneumonia..

INFLUENZINUM and Oscillococcinum

Influenzinum is reputed to prevent flu and flu line symptoms 5

Oscilllococcinum –prepared from liver of wild duck has been observed to reduce course of illness due to influenza this it can be included as one of the probable medicnes in treatment of corona virus in earlier stages 6

A study conducted by Colombo GL1, Di Matteo S2 et al suggests that the treatment with Oscillococcinum could be helpful in preventing RTIs and improving the health status of patients who suffer from respiratory diseases7

Comparison of Allopathic vaccines and Nosodes

Allopathic vaccines are isopathic in nature, cude in nature unlike nosodes which are dynamic in nature with deeper penetrative abilities ..Nosodes when administered mimic the sickness and by natures law of cure prevent and treat illness.Nosodes being the same as original disease are more similar to the disease condition and are deeper in action since they are potentised

Thus realising effectiveness of nosodes in prevention and treatment of epidemics Nosodes are suggested as one of the probable approaches for COVID 19

This paper is so full of utter nonsense that I am unable to point it all out in a short blog-post. I trust you can easily identify it yourself. Let me therefore just focus on one specific point.

I did highlight reference 6 in the text for a special reason. Here is the reference provided by Dr Jain:

6. Vickers AJ, Smith C. Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2000;(2):CD001957

It does not take much research to find out what is wrong with it. It refers to a Cochrane review which, of course, seems most laudable. To be precise, it refers to the 2000 version of this review which concluded that Oscillococcinum probably reduces the duration of illness in patients presenting with influenza symptoms. Though promising, the data are not strong enough to make a general recommendation to use Oscillococcinum for first-line treatment of influenza and influenza-like syndrome. Further research is warranted but required sample sizes are large. Current evidence does not support a preventative effect of homeopathy in influenza and influenza-like syndromes.

This review is today obsolete, as it has meanwhile up-dated no less than 4 (!) times.

The latest version of this review is from 2015 (authored by well-known proponents of homeopathy) and concluded as follows: There is insufficient good evidence to enable robust conclusions to be made about Oscillococcinum® in the prevention or treatment of influenza and influenza-like illness. Our findings do not rule out the possibility that Oscillococcinum® could have a clinically useful treatment effect but, given the low quality of the eligible studies, the evidence is not compelling. There was no evidence of clinically important harms due to Oscillococcinum®.

It is virtually impossible to not realise all this when accessing the reviews via Medline. And that leads me to fear that the author of the above paper, Dr Kajal Jain MD Homoeopathy (Materia Medica ) Medical Officer under Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission, is not just deluded, but fraudulent.

As we have discussed repeatedly, chiropractors tend to be critical of vaccinations. This attitude is easily traced back to DD Palmer, the founding father of chiropractic, who famously wrote about smallpox vaccinations: ‘…the monstrous delusion … fastened on us by the medical profession, enforced by the state boards, and supported by the mass of unthinking people …

In Canada, the anti-vaccination attitude of chiropractors has been the subject of recent media attention. Therefore, researchers explored the association between media attention and public dissemination of vaccination information on Canadian chiropractors’ websites.

In 2016, an international team of investigators identified all Canadian chiropractors’ websites that provided information on vaccination by extracting details from the regulatory college website for each province using the search engine on their “find a chiropractor” page. The researchers assessed the quality of information using the Web Resource Rating Tool (scores range from 0% [worst] to 100% [best]), determined whether vaccination was portrayed in a positive, neutral or negative manner, and conducted thematic analysis of vaccination content. Now the researchers have revisited all identified websites to explore the changes to posted vaccination material.

Here are their findings:

In July 2016, of 3733 chiropractic websites identified, 94 unique websites provided information on vaccination:

  • 59 (63%) gave negative messaging,
  • 19 (20%) were neutral,
  • 16 (17%) were positive.

The quality of vaccination content on the websites was generally poor, with a median Web Resource Rating Tool score of 19%. Four main themes were identified:

  1. there are alternatives to vaccination,
  2. vaccines are harmful,
  3. evidence regarding vaccination,
  4. health policy regarding vaccination.

From 2012 to 2016, there was one single Canadian newspaper story concerning anti-vaccination statements by chiropractors, whereas 51 news articles were published on this topic between 2017 and 2019. In April 2019, 45 (48%) of the 94 websites originally identified in 2016 had removed all vaccination content or had been discontinued.

The authors of this investigation concluded that in 2016, a minority of Canadian chiropractors provided vaccination information on their websites, the majority of which portrayed vaccination negatively. After substantial national media attention, about half of all vaccination material on chiropractors’ websites was removed within several years.

I find these findings encouraging. They demonstrate that media attention can produce change for the better. That gives me the necessary enthusiasm to carry on my work in putting the finger on the dangers of chiropractic and other forms of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). At the same time, the findings of this investigation are also disappointing. About half of all the chiropractors had not removed their misleading content from their websites despite the 51 articles highlighting the problem. This shows, I think, how deeply entrenched this vitalistic nonsense is in the heads of many chiropractor.

This means there is still a lot to do – so, let’s get on with it!

THE INTEGRATED HEALTHCARE COLLABORATIVE‘ claim to be a collection of the leading organisations within the field, who are committed to working together to improve healthcare in the UK. They believe that a truly integrated healthcare service would improve patient experiences, bring about better patient outcomes, and provide a framework for a more cost-effective delivery of healthcare services.​

Their purpose is as follows:

To bring together professional associations and stakeholders within complementary, traditional and natural healthcare, to identify common areas of interest, and to collectively take forward agreed objectives to promote greater integration with conventional Western medicine.

Objectives:

  • To increase public awareness, knowledge and understanding of complementary, traditional and natural healthcare.
  • To raise issues in integrated healthcare with government and decision-makers.
  • To provide information on complementary, traditional and natural healthcare to the media and interested parties.
  • To promote the benefits to public health of greater provision and integration of complementary, traditional and natural healthcare.
  • To develop co-ordinated strategies to help patients access accurate information on integrated healthcare.
  • To facilitate better access to, and choice of, appropriate complementary, traditional and natural healthcare within the NHS.
  • To empower the public to share responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.
  • To encourage whole-person, individualised healthcare.
  • To advocate collaboration with conventional Western healthcare professionals.
  • To support the development of a robust and appropriate evidence base.

​They sate that Integrated Healthcare involves combining the best of conventional Western Medicine with a range of complementary, traditional and natural therapies.

The IHC brings together the following leading organisations, who are Core Members and lead our work.

  • Alliance of Registered Homeopaths (ARH)
  • Association of Energy Therapists (AET)
  • Association of Naturopathic Practitioners (ANP)
  • Association of Physical and Natural Therapists (APNT)
  • Association of Reflexologists (AoR)
  • Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture (ATCM)
  • British Complementary Medicine Association (BCMA)
  • British Reflexology Association (BRA)
  • Chinese Medical Institute and Register (CMIR)
  • Craniosacral Therapy Association (CSTA)
  • General Council and Register of Naturopaths (GCRN)
  • Faculty of Homeopathy (FoH)
  • Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT)
  • International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA)
  • Kinesiology Federation (KF)
  • McTimoney Chiropractic Association (MCA)
  • National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH)
  • Shiatsu Society UK (SSUK)
  • Society of Homeopaths (SoH)
  • Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT)
  • UK Reiki Federation (UKRF)

The IHC also provide revealing paragraphs about several so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs) on their website. This is where I have found a host of interesting statements. Here are just 6 examples:

  1. Chiropractic treatment mainly involves safe, specific spinal manipulation to free joints in the spine or other areas of the body that are not moving properly.
  2. Science is starting to understand the mechanism of action of ultra-high dilutions in the body, and homeopathic medicines are gentle, safe to use and in widespread use across the world.
  3.  By testing … muscles the kinesiologist can get a picture of what is happening in your meridian system and how this may be affecting you.
  4. Radionics is a healing technique in which your natural intuitive faculties are used both to discover the energetic disturbances underlying illness and to encourage the return of a normal energetic field that supports health.
  5. Reflexology is a complementary therapy based on the belief that there are reflex areas in the feet and hands which are believed to correspond to all organs and parts of the body.
  6. [Reiki] is a tradition that is open to any belief system and benefits may include deep relaxation and the promotion of a calm peaceful sense of wellbeing.

And here are 6 corrections of the above-listed statements:

  1. Chiropractic involves unsafe spinal manipulation to free customers of their cash.
  2. Science has long understood that there is no mechanism that could possibly explain homeopathy.
  3. By testing muscles, the kinesiologist pretends to do something meaningful in order to be able to bill the customer.
  4. Radionics is a con technique that is counter-intuitive, implausible and unrelated to energy.
  5. Reflexologists believe to have shown conventional anatomy and physiology to be mistaken.
  6. Reiki is a tradition and a belief system demonstrably out of touch with reality.

PS

If the IHC want to change their text and adopt my corrections, I would waive my fee for this efforts.

In March, 2020, the International Chiropractors Association (ICA), a US based chiropractic organization, posted a report claiming that chiropractic adjustments can boost immune function with the implication that it might be helpful in preventing COVID-19. In their report, the ICA stated that: “Although there are no clinical trials to substantiate a direct causal relationship between the chiropractic adjustment and increased protection from the COVID-19 virus, there is a growing body of evidence that there is a relationship between the nervous system and the immune system” and “The observation that those who use chiropractic regularly and do not become ill with cold, flu, or other community shared illnesses is frequent within the profession and should not be ignored”.

Such misleading information is obviously unethical, irresponsible and dangerous. It prompted some chiropractors to do the research and find out what evidence exists that chiropractic might affect the immune system. They have now published their findings in a paper; here is its abstract:

Background

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the International Chiropractors Association (ICA) posted reports claiming that chiropractic care can impact the immune system. These claims clash with recommendations from the World Health Organization and World Federation of Chiropractic. We discuss the scientific validity of the claims made in these ICA reports.

Main body

We reviewed the two reports posted by the ICA on their website on March 20 and March 28, 2020. We explored the method used to develop the claim that chiropractic adjustments impact the immune system and discuss the scientific merit of that claim. We provide a response to the ICA reports and explain why this claim lacks scientific credibility and is dangerous to the public. More than 150 researchers from 11 countries reviewed and endorsed our response.

Conclusion

In their reports, the ICA provided no valid clinical scientific evidence that chiropractic care can impact the immune system. We call on regulatory authorities and professional leaders to take robust political and regulatory action against those claiming that chiropractic adjustments have a clinical impact on the immune system.

It is not often that I praise the actions of chiropractors, I know. But today, I unreservedly applaud the above-quoted paper.

WELL DONE, AND THANK YOU.

(And while we are on the subject, may I encourage the authors to carry on their good work and do similar assessments of the rest of the hundreds of false claims made by so many of their colleagues day-in, day-out?)

 

Hard to believe but apparently true: it has been reported that the state government of Kerala distributed homeopathic medicines to people across the state as ‘immunity boosters’. A total of 4.5 million samples have already been distributed.

Map

No, these reports were not dated 1 April!

They are only two days old.

Dr. B Vijayakumar, a member of the State level expert group of the Indian Homoeopathic Medical Association (IHMA’s) revealed that homoeopathy has had a long history in treating and preventing epidemics ever since its inception including those such as Dengue, Chikungunya, Chickenpox and Typhoid. “Its effectiveness in the management of viral diseases has proved beyond doubt many a time. Homeopathy, being one of the most sought after the alternative system of medicine all over the world.”

VK Prasanth, MLA who has been the former mayor of Thiruvananthapuram was the first to launch the distribution of homeopathic medicine in his constituency. “The centre has recognised the homoeopathy medicine to boost the immunity and thereby work as a preventive. When I associated with it, first I was criticised, but now the medicine is in high demand across the state.” said Prasanth.

The Indian Homoeopathic Medical Association (IHMA) is part of the Kerala Government’s RAECH (Rapid Action Epidemic Control Cell, Homoeopathy) programme which officially looks after all the epidemic activities in Kerala.

The government of Kerala even has a ‘Department of Homeopathy. Its stated vision is:

  • Permanent establishment of Homoeopathic Health care facility to all Panchayaths in our state.
  • To open more specialities OP’S in vulnerable locations like coastal belt, tribal areas, metros etc. And Speciality IP’s In our district Hospitals.
  • To extent elaborate laboratory facilities in our district hospitals.
  • To formulate Research & Development wing in Department of Homoeopathy.
  • Computerization of all Dispensaries.
  • As per the Central Govt. Decision and Direction by Supreme Court primary Health care in the periphery i.e. Panchayats shall be designed in such a way that all the three systems i.e. Homoeopathy, Allopathy and Ayurveda Should come under one roof.

We have, of course, discussed the track record of homeopathy in epidemics before on this blog. It is simply not true that the evidence is convincing. It is also not true that homeopathy has ever been shown to boost any parameter indicative of the immune response. It is finally also untrue that there is good evidence that any homeopathic remedy is an effective treatment of any viral infection (or any other condition).

There are uncounted different forms of bogus so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs), and many have been discussed on this blog. What do I mean by ‘bogus’? A bogus SCAM is one, in my view, that is being promoted for conditions for which it does not demonstrably generate more good than harm.

Ten popular examples are:

  • alternative cancer ‘cures’,
  • applied kinesiology,
  • Bach Flower Remedies,
  • CEASE,
  • chiropractic,
  • detox treatments,
  • homeopathy,
  • osteopathy,
  • paranormal or energy healing techniques,
  • slimming aids.

These treatments are diverse in many ways: history, basic assumption, risks, etc. But they nevertheless tend to have certain features in common:

  1. Most SCAMs originate from the ideas developed by a single, often charismatic individual who proclaimed to have seen the light. Think of Gerson, Bach, Palmer, Hahnemann, Still.
  2. They are recommended by enthusiasts as a panacea, a ‘cure all’.
  3. They are heavily promoted by celebrities, hyped by the press and marketed via books or the Internet, but they are far less or not at all supported by published studies in the peer-reviewed medical literature.
  4. The clinical trials of SCAM that have been published are flimsy, lack independent replication, yet are celebrated by proponents as though they represent robust evidence.
  5. SCAMs target either the most desperately ill patients who understandably tend to cling to every straw they can find. Or they go for the ‘worried well’ who have nothing truly wrong with them and plenty of cash to waste.
  6. Proponents of SCAM use scientific-sounding terminology, while simultaneously displaying a profoundly anti-scientific attitude.
  7. Entrepreneurs of SCAM are efficient at selling false hope at excessive prices.
  8. SCAMs sometimes seem to work because many of the therapists are skilled at maximising the placebo-response.
  9. SCAM is awash with conspiracy theories, for instance, the notion that ‘the establishment’ is supressing SCAM. (If a SCAM ever showed real promise, it would rapidly scrutinised by researchers and, if effectiveness were confirmed, adopted by conventional medicine. The notion of an alternative cure for any disease is idiotic, because it presupposes that conventional healthcare professionals shun a potentially valuable treatment simply because it emerged from elsewhere.)
  10. Most SCAMs can do direct harm. For instance, oral treatments can be toxic or interact with prescription drugs. Or spinal manipulations can cause a stroke. Or acupuncture can cause a pneumothorax.
  11. SCAMs are dangerous even if they do not cause direct harm. There are many examples of people who died needlessly early because they used SCAM as an alternative to conventional medicine (Steve Jobs is a prominent example).
  12. Moreover, SCAMs cause harm by undermining the principles of EBM and, more importantly, by undermining rational thinking in our society.
  13. SCAM practitioners violate fundamental rules of medical ethics on a daily basis. One could even argue that the ethical practice of SCAM is rarely possible.

 

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