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

bias

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If you think that scanning through dozens of new scientific articles every week is a dry and often somewhat tedious exercise, you are probably correct. But every now and then, this task is turned into prime entertainment by some pseudoscientists trying to pretend to be scientists. Take, for instance, the latest homeopathy study by Indian researchers with no less than 9 seemingly impressive affiliations:

  • 1Department of Organon of Medicine and Homoeopathic Philosophy, National Institute of Homoeopathy, Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India, Salt Lake, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 2Department of Organon of Medicine and Homoeopathic Philosophy, National Institute of Homoeopathy, Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India, Block GE, Sector III, Salt Lake, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 3Department of Homoeopathy, State Homoeopathic Dispensary, Karaila, Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India.
  • 4Department of Homoeopathy, State Homoeopathic Dispensary, Tulsipur, Shrawasti, Uttar Pradesh, India.
  • 5Department of Materia Medica, National Institute of Homoeopathy, Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India, Salt Lake, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 6State Homoeopathic Dispensary, Mangalbari Rural Hospital, Matiali Block, Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, under Department of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of West Bengal, India.
  • 7Department of Repertory, The Calcutta Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
  • 8Department of Homoeopathy, East Bishnupur State Homoeopathic Dispensary, Chandi Daulatabad Block Primary Health Centre, Village and Post Office: Gouripur (South), Police Station Bishnupur, West Bengal, under Department of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of West Bengal, India.
  • 9Department of Repertory, D. N. De Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, Govt. of West Bengal, Tangra, Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

Now that I have whetted your appetite, here is their study:

Lumbar spondylosis (LS) is a degenerative disorder of the lumbar spine. Despite substantial research efforts, no gold-standard treatment for LS has been identified. The efficacy of individualized homeopathic medicines (IHMs) in lumbar spondylosis (LS) is unknown. In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, the efficacy of IHMs was compared with identical-looking placebos in the treatment of low back pain associated with LS. It was conducted at the National Institute of Homoeopathy, West Bengal, India.

Patients were randomized to receive IHMs or placebos; standardized concomitant care was administered in both groups. The Oswestry low back pain and disability questionnaire (ODQ) was used as the primary outcome measure; the Roland-Morris questionnaire (RMQ) and the short form of the McGill pain questionnaire (SF-MPQ) served as secondary outcome measures. They were measured at baseline and every month for 3 months. Intention-to-treat analyses (ITT) were used to detect any inter-group differences using two-way repeated measures analysis of variance models overall and by unpaired t-tests at different time points.

Enrolment was stopped prematurely because of time restrictions; 55 patients had been randomized (verum: 28; control: 27); 49 could be analyzed by ITT (verum: 26; control: 23).

The results are as follows:

  • Inter-group differences in ODQ (F 1, 47 = 0.001, p = 0.977), RMQ (F 1, 47 = 0.190, p = 0.665) and SF-MPQ total score (F 1, 47 = 3.183, p = 0.081) at 3 months were not statistically significant.
  • SF-MPQ total score after 2 months (p = 0.030) revealed an inter-group statistical significance, favoring IHMs against placebos.
  • Some of the SF-MPQ sub-scales at different time points were also statistically significant: e.g., the SF-MPQ average pain score after 2 months (p = 0.002) and 3 months (p = 0.007).
  • Rhus Toxicodendron, Sulphur, and Pulsatilla nigricans were the most frequently indicated medicines.

The authors concluded that owing to failure in detecting a statistically significant effect for the primary outcome and in recruiting a sufficient number of participants, our trial remained inconclusive.

Now that I (and hopefully you too) have recovered from laughing out loud, let me point out why this paper had me in stitches:

  • The trial was aborted not because of a “time limit” but because of slow recruitment, I presume. The question is why were not more patients volunteering? Low back pain with LS is extremely common. Could it be that patients know only too well that homeopathy does not help with low back pain?
  • If a trial gets aborted because of very low patient numbers, it is probably best not to publish it or at least not to evaluate its results at all.
  • If the researchers insist on publishing it, their paper should focus on the reason why it did not succeed so that others can learn from their experience by avoiding their mistakes.
  • However, once the researchers do run statistical tests, they should be honest and conclude clearly that, because the primary outcome measure showed no inter-group difference, the study failed to demonstrate that the treatment is effective.
  • The trial did not “remain inconclusive”; it was squarely negative.
  • The editor of the journal HOMEOPATHY should know better than to publish such nonsense.

A final thought: is it perhaps the ultimate proof of homeopathy’s ‘like cures like’ assumption to use sound science (i.e. an RCT), submit it to the homeopathic process of endless dilutions and succussions, and – BINGO – generate utter nonsense?

About 3 years ago, I reported that the Bavarian government had decided to fund research into the question of whether the use of homeopathy would reduce the use of antibiotics (an idea that also King Charles fancies). With the help of some friends, I found further details of the project. Here are some of them:

The study on individualized homeopathic treatment to reduce the need for antibiotics in patients with recurrent urinary tract infections is a randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter, double-blind trial. Frequent urinary tract infections (more than two infections within six months or more than three infections within twelve months) occur in up to three percent of all women during their lifetime and represent a high risk for increased antibiotic use in this population.
The current guidelines therefore also provide for therapeutic approaches without antibiotic administration under close monitoring. The approach to be investigated in the study is the administration of a homeopathic medicine individually selected for the patient for prophylaxis. The number of urinary tract infections and the need for antibiotics will be recorded and evaluated at the end of the trial period, around mid to late 2023.
The aim of the study is to find out whether patients taking homeopathics need antibiotics for the treatment of urinary tract infections less often compared to the placebo group. This could lead to a reduction in the use of antibiotics for recurrent urinary tract infections.

Project participants: Technical University of Munich, Klinikum Rechts der Isar

Project funding: 709,480.75 Euros

Project duration: January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2023

____________________

This sketch is of course not enough for providing a full evaluation of the study concept (if someone has more details, I’d be interested to learn more). From the little information given above, I feel that:

  • the design of the trial might be quite rigorous,
  • a fairly large sample will be required to have enough power,
  • the closing date of 31/12/2023 seems optimistic (but this obviously depends on the number of centers cooperating),
  • I, therefore, predict that we will have to wait a long time for the results (the pandemic and other obstacles will have delayed recruitment),
  • the costs of the trial are already substantial and might increase due to delays etc.

My main criticism of the study is that:

  • I see no rationale for doing such a trial,
  • there is no evidence to suggest that homeopathy might prevent recurrent urinary tract infections,
  • there is compelling evidence that homeopathic remedies are placebos,
  • the study thus compares one placebo with another placebo (in fact, it is a classic example of what my late friend Harriet Hall would have called TOOTH FAIRY SCIENCE),
  • therefore, its results will show no difference between the 2 groups (provided the trial was conducted without bias),
  • if that is true, enthusiastic homeopaths will claim that the homeopathic verum was inadequate (e.g. because the homeopaths prescribing the verum did not or could not do their job properly),
  • when that happens, they will therefore not stop claiming that homeopathy can reduce the over-prescribing of antibiotics;
  • that means we will be exactly where we were before the trial.

In other words, the study will turn out to be a waste of 709,480.75 Euros. To express it as I did in my previous post: the Bavarian government has gone barmy!

 

 

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!

On 20/1/2023, I conducted multiple Medline searches aimed at generating a rough idea about which areas of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) are currently more research active than others. I searched for:

  1. the topic in question
  2. clinical trial
  3. publication in 2023

Here are my findings (subject area and the number of hits):

  • TCM 56
  • dietary supplements 47
  • acupuncture 34
  • integrative medicine 27
  • mindfulness 26
  • herbal medicine 23
  • massage 10
  • aromatherapy 2
  • hypnotherapy 2
  • osteopathy 2
  • tai chi 2
  • chiropractic 1
  • homeopathy 0
  • iridology 0
  • naturopathy 0
  • Reiki 0

Several caveats must be considered, of course: The searches do not include all SCAMs. The results are not precise and most of the retrieved articles are not really clinical trials (in fact, only a minority are). The numbers are low because I deliberately did this exercise early in the year.

Yet, the findings do, I think, give an indication as to the current state of SCAM research and indicate which areas are more research active than others. To put the numbers in perspective, here are a few conventional therapies for which I searched on the same day and in the same manner:

  • pharmacology 539
  • physiotherapy 162
  • psychiatry 239
  • surgery 879

I think this makes one point fairly clear: SCAM is not an impressively research-active area. Another point stems from looking at the individual articles. TCM and acupuncture articles are almost exclusively authored by Chinese researchers. While this might not be surprising, the fact that herbal medicine is similar did amaze me; about half of the papers in this category are by Chinese authors. Essentially, this suggests that more than half of the SCAM articles currently originate from China. Considering the concerns one must have about Chinese SCAM research (see for instance here and here), do you think this finding might be worrying?

The far greater worry, I feel, is the attitude of the SCAM researchers publishing their work. Glancing at these papers I did not get the impression that many approached their subject critically, In fact, most of the papers looked to me overtly promotional and of poor quality. For instance, I did not see a single paper assessing the risks of SCAM which arguably is the most important issue in SCAM research. I admit that these concerns cannot be addressed by the above simple head count; they are best dealt with by critically analyzing individual studies – a task I regularly try to tackle on this blog

 

About a century ago, Royal Raymond Rife developed special microscopes and claimed he could visualize living microorganisms, including viruses too small to be seen with any other existing technology, via the color of auras emitted as they vibrated. In 1961, he explained this as follows: “A special risley prism which works on a counter rotation principle selects a portion of the light frequency which illuminates these viruses in their own characteristic chemical colors by emission of coordinative light frequency and the viruses become readily identifiable by the colors revealed on observation.”. The principles and alleged function of these microscopes have never been validated, and they have never been adopted for use.

Rife went on to postulate that the microorganisms he was seeing were involved in human diseases, including cancer . He also invented a machine that he claimed could transmit radio frequency energy into a person and vibrate these microorganisms at a “mortal oscillatory rate”, thereby killing them and improving the disease they were causing. The concept that diseases can be cured by radio frequency energy, originally proposed by Albert Abrams and referred to as ‘radionics’, was later investigated and disproven. Nonetheless, there remain enthusiasts who believe in Rife’s work, claim it was suppressed as part of an elaborate conspiracy. and continue to sell energy-transmitting devices and cures.

Rife machines (also called a Rife frequency generator.) produce low electromagnetic energy waves. These waves are similar to radio waves. Supporters of the treatment claim that the Rife machine can treat different conditions including cancer. There is no reliable evidence that the Rife machine works as a cure for cancer.

The Rife machine produces low-energy waves, also called radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. They have low energy compared to x-rays or radiotherapy.

Here is what proponents of the Rife therapy say:

… Although no official health claims are made for Rife therapy, testimonials from many countries point to its efficacy in the support of the body in maintaining or regaining good, natural health. A good Rife machine normally contains all of the original Royal Rife frequencies plus others that have been researched and utilised over the years.

WHAT IS THE PROCEDURE?

In most Rife sessions the client is seated. They have their feet on footplate electrodes and in their lap they hold in their hands plasma tubes. Thus they get the frequencies in normal form through the feet and in radio wave form through their hands. There are variations on this but this is the basic set up.

Some practitioners will occasionally employ something called a Beam Ray Tube. This is essentially a large plasma tube on a stand that plugs into the machine. The client just sits in front of it, about 3 feet away, while the frequencies are generated. In this instance the client does not have to hold anything or have their feet on footplates.

HOW LONG DO SESSIONS LAST?

The length of a session varies, depending on what is being addressed. Any session would be a minimum of 30 minutes but in serious or chronic conditions can last over 2 hours, occasionally more. However, clients can take breaks during the therapy.

HOW FREQUENT ARE TREATMENTS?

Once a week or once a fortnight is a common pattern of treatments. But in the case of more frequent sessions a minimum of 48 hours should be left between therapy. The duration of treatments varies on the condition being addressed. Sometimes it’s just a few visits…for conditions like Lyme Disease the treatments are ongoing for well over a year. The practitioner will answer your specific questions on this.

There are also frequencies to support regeneration and boost functions such as the immune system, the adrenals and several others.

ARE THERE ANY CONTRAINDICATIONS?

Rife therapy is not suitable for people with pacemakers or similar devices. It should not be given to children under 4 years of age. If a client is undergoing radiotherapy or frequency therapy for kidney stones etc there should should be no Rife sessions administered during these periods.

The day after some sessions a client may occasionally get a Herxheimer’s reaction. This is a feeling of tiredness, almost as if one is about to go down with flu. It was named after Dr Herxheimer who, along with one other doctor, discovered that when the liver and kidneys etc get overworked in disposing of waste products, this phenomena happens. The answer is just to drink lots of fluid to help the body dispose of the cells or toxins that have been eliminated by the Rife session. The day after that, the client is back to normal and usually feeling better than before the session.

I think that such promotional texts could and should be much shorter, more truthful, and hugely more informative, e.g.:

Rife therapy is not biologically plausible, has never been shown to be effective for any condition, might have adverse effects, and is not cheap. Therefore, we have a responsibility to warn consumers and patients not to use it.

In this study, the impact of a multimodal integrative oncology pre- and intraoperative intervention on pain and anxiety among patients undergoing gynecological oncology surgery was explored.

Study participants were randomized into three groups:

  • Group A received preoperative touch/relaxation techniques, followed by intraoperative acupuncture, plus standard care;
  • Group B received preoperative touch/relaxation only, plus standard care;
  • Group C (the control group) received standard care.

Pain and anxiety were scored before and after surgery using the Measure Yourself Concerns and Wellbeing (MYCAW) and Quality of Recovery (QOR-15) questionnaires, using Part B of the QOR to assess pain, anxiety, and other quality-of-life parameters.

A total of 99 patients participated in the study: 45 in Group A, 25 in Group B, and 29 in Group C. The three groups had similar baseline demographic and surgery-related characteristics. Postoperative QOR-Part B scores were significantly higher in the treatment groups (A and B) when compared with controls (p = .005), including for severe pain (p = .011) and anxiety (p = .007). Between-group improvement for severe pain was observed in Group A compared with controls (p = .011). Within-group improvement for QOR depression subscales was observed in only the intervention groups (p <0.0001). Compared with Group B, Group A had better improvement of MYCAW-reported concerns (p = .025).

The authors concluded that a preoperative touch/relaxation intervention may significantly reduce postoperative anxiety, possibly depression, in patients undergoing gynecological oncology surgery. The addition of intraoperative acupuncture significantly reduced severe pain when compared with controls. Further research is needed to confirm these findings and better understand the impact of intraoperative acupuncture on postoperative pain.

Regular readers of my blog know only too well what I am going to say about this study.

Imagine you have a basket full of apples and your friend has the same plus a basket full of pears. Who do you think has more fruit?

Dumb question, you say?

Correct!

Just as dumb, it seems, as this study: therapy A and therapy B will always generate better outcomes than therapy B alone. But that does not mean that therapy A per se is effective. Because therapy A generates a placebo effect, it might just be that it has no effect beyond placebo. And that acupuncture can generate placebo effects has been known for a very long time; to verify this we need no RCT.

As I have so often pointed out, the A+B versus B study design never generates a negative finding.

This is, I fear, precisely the reason why this design is so popular in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM)! It enables promoters of SCAM (who are not as dumb as the studies they conduct) to pretend they are scientists testing their therapies in rigorous RCTs.

The most disappointing thing about all this is perhaps that more and more top journals play along with this scheme to mislead the public!

 

Gut microbiota can influence health through the microbiota–gut–brain axis. Meditation can positively impact the regulation of an individual’s physical and mental health. However, few studies have investigated fecal microbiota following long-term (several years) deep meditation. Therefore, this study tested the hypothesis that long-term meditation may regulate gut microbiota homeostasis and, in turn, affect physical and mental health.

To examine the intestinal flora, 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed on fecal samples of 56 Tibetan Buddhist monks and neighboring residents. Based on the sequencing data, linear discriminant analysis effect size (LEfSe) was employed to identify differential intestinal microbial communities between the two groups. Phylogenetic Investigation of Communities by Reconstruction of Unobserved States (PICRUSt) analysis was used to predict the function of fecal microbiota. In addition, we evaluated biochemical indices in the plasma.

The α-diversity indices of the meditation and control groups differed significantly. At the genus level, Prevotella and Bacteroides were significantly enriched in the meditation group. According to the LEfSe analysis, two beneficial bacterial genera (Megamonas and Faecalibacterium) were significantly enriched in the meditation group. The functional predictive analysis further showed that several pathways—including glycan biosynthesis, metabolism, and lipopolysaccharide biosynthesis—were significantly enriched in the meditation group. Moreover, plasma levels of clinical risk factors were significantly decreased in the meditation group, including total cholesterol and apolipoprotein B.

The Chinese authors concluded that the intestinal microbiota composition was significantly altered in Buddhist monks practicing long-term meditation compared with that in locally recruited control subjects. Bacteria enriched in the meditation group at the genus level had a positive effect on human physical and mental health. This altered intestinal microbiota composition could reduce the risk of anxiety and depression and improve immune function in the body. The biochemical marker profile indicates that meditation may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases in psychosomatic medicine. These results suggest that long-term deep meditation may have a beneficial effect on gut microbiota, enabling the body to maintain an optimal state of health. This study provides new clues regarding the role of long-term deep meditation in regulating human intestinal flora, which may play a positive role in psychosomatic conditions and well-being.

This study is being mentioned on the BBC new-bulletins today – so I thought I have a look at it and check how solid it is. The most obvious question to ask is whether the researchers compared comparable samples.

The investigators collected a total of 128 samples. Subsequently, samples whose subjects had taken antibiotics and yogurt or samples of poor quality were excluded, resulting in 56 eligible samples. To achieve mind training, Tibetan Buddhist monks performed meditation practices of Samatha and Vipassana for at least 2 hours a day for 3–30 years (mean (SD) 18.94 (7.56) years). Samatha is the Buddhist practice of calm abiding, which steadies and concentrates the mind by resting the individual’s attention on a single object or mantra. Vipassana is an insightful meditation practice that enables one to enquire into the true nature of all phenomena. Hardly any information about the controls was provided.

This means that dozens of factors other than meditation could very easily be responsible for the observed differences; nutrition and lifestyle factors are obvious prime candidates. The fact that the authors fail to even discuss these possibilities and more than once imply a causal link between meditation and the observed outcomes is more than a little irritating, in my view. In fact, it amounts to very poor science.

I am dismayed that a respected journal published such an obviously flawed study without a critical comment and that the UK media lapped it up so naively.

We have discussed the UK conservative MP and arch-Brexiteer, Andrew Bridgen, and his anti-vax stance before. Yesterday, it has been reported that he lost the Tory whip, i.e. he was expelled from the Tory party. The reason for this step is that he had taken to social media and claimed the Covid vaccine to be the “biggest crime against humanity since the holocaust”.

The North West Leicestershire MP has been vocal in remarks questioning the coronavirus vaccine.

On Wednesday he shared an article on vaccines on Twitter, adding: “As one consultant cardiologist said to me, this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust.”

Renouncing Bridgen’s right to sit as a Tory MP in Parliament, Conservative chief whip Simon Hart said: “Andrew Bridgen has crossed a line, causing great offence in the process. “As a nation, we should be very proud of what has been achieved through the vaccine programme. The vaccine is the best defence against Covid that we have. “Misinformation about the vaccine causes harm and costs lives. I am therefore removing the whip from Andrew Bridgen with immediate effect, pending a formal investigation.”

Earlier, former Cabinet minister Simon Clarke had condemned his colleague’s tweet referencing the Holocaust, calling it “disgraceful”.

Bridgen is currently already suspended from the Commons after he was found to have displayed a “very cavalier” attitude to the rules in a series of lobbying breaches. MPs agreed on Monday to suspend the North West Leicestershire MP for five sitting days from Tuesday.

Comments from different sources are not flattering for Bridgen:

  • Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said Bridgen’s tweet was “highly irresponsible, wholly inappropriate and an elected politician should know better”.
  • Anneliese Dodds, the Labour chair, said: “Andrew Bridgen has been spreading dangerous misinformation on Covid vaccines for some time now. He could have been disciplined weeks ago. “To invoke the Holocaust, as he did today, is utterly shameful, but it should never have reached this point.”
  • Andrew Percy, the Conservative MP who is vice-chair of the all-party group against antisemitism, called the comment “disgusting”. Asked by Times Radio if Bridgen should be allowed to stand again, Percy said: “I don’t think anybody who believes this kind of crap should, but that’s a matter for the whips not for me.”
  • John Mann, the former Labour MP who is now a non-affiliated peer and the government’s independent adviser on antisemitism, said Bridgen should not be allowed to stand again as a Tory. “There is no possibility that Bridgen can be allowed to stand at the next election,” he said. “He cannot claim that he didn’t realise the level of offence that his remarks cause.”

____________________________

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that a UK politician has been punished in this way. But it may well be also the first time that a sitting UK politician has uttered such insane stupidity. Bridgen’s chronic ineptitude is all the more significant as he really should know better. He studied genetics and behaviour at the University of Nottingham and graduated with a degree in biological sciences!

Here are some reactions from people commenting on Twitter about the twit:

  • Tory MP, Andrew Bridgen highlights… – Lies in court over family dispute and ordered by judge to pay £800k – Suspended for breaching MP lobbying rules – Thought all Brits entitled to Irish passport after Brexit – Likens vaccines to holocaust What a guy.
  • Spreads a dangerous, baseless smear his party colluded in a vaccine Holocaust and at the same time manages to insults victims of a grotesque wartime Holocaust. Conspiracy theorist Andrew Bridgen’s lost the plot. See no way back for the Tory MP now.
  • Grubby and despicable: Tory MP Andrew Bridgen loses whip over ‘dangerous’ Covid vaccine claims
  • To be fair, Bridgen kept the whip after saying the MI5 knew about the pandemic six months early, then colluded with shadowy elites to impose needless restrictions for their own nefarious ends. So the bar is high.
  • Politicians like Andrew Bridgen have succeeded in bringing conspiracy theories into the mainstream. They need to be called out, their arguments dismantled and their political influence cast out to the fringes where it belongs.
  • A Holocaust survivor has condemned a Tory MP’s “mind-boggling ignorance” after he compared the mass genocide of Jewish people during World War II to the COVID vaccine rollout
  • Many congratulations to Andrew Bridgen on his imminent selection as the Reform Party candidate for North West Leicestershire in the 2024 election
  • Andrew Bridgen. Perjury, bullying, misuse of money, months of anti-vaccine garbage, finally loses whip after comparing vaccination to the Holocaust. Scum.
  • Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. COVID vaccines have saved millions. The false and outrageous comparisons must end.
  • Andrew Bridgen suspended as Tory MP he said: “As one consultant cardiologist said to me, this is the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust.” Crucially a cardiologist saying this too. Who are they? Should GMC act in same way as Whips Office?

The prime candidate for the cardiologist in question must, of course, be Aseem Malhotra who also appeared on September 27, 2022, in a press conference with the World Council for Health — a group that has previously spread vaccine misinformation — to call for the “immediate and complete suspension of Covid-19 vaccine.”

Who was it that coined the bon mot: We were all born ignorant but to remain so requires hard work

It is hardly surprising that I receive plenty of complaints about the things I publish. After all, so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is dominated by emotions and not by rationality. When I was still in post at Exeter, my peers received complaints about me all the time. Now that I write articles for several newspapers and journals (not to mention this blog), the flow of complaints to the editors is continuing nicely. Consequently, I am in a good position to offer a beginner’s guide to complaining to everyone who is fed up with me and my work.

Foremost, such a complaint must have a clear structure. Here is one that I advise considering:

  1. Introduction
  2. Self-aggrandizement
  3. Your objection
  4. Ad hominem
  5. Generalizations
  6. Threats

Allow me to take you through these headings one by one.

Introduction

The recipient of your complaint (e.g. a newspaper editor) needs to know why you are addressing him or her. This means you ought to clearly state your aim at the outset. Something like “I am writing to you to complain about an article recently published in your paper” would probably suffice. But you probably find it hard to be concise – and who could blame you: you are fuming with anger and overflowing with emotion.

I am sure the recipient of your complaint will understand that you have to use a few colorful sentences to introduce the subject properly. If you feel like elaborating that you have been a reader of the paper since 1972, or that you slept badly last night, or that your last dinner was indigestible, or why you are opposed to COVID vaccinations – by all means, please go ahead. The editor will be delighted to receive a little background and can thus empathize with your concerns.

Self-aggrandizement

Despite these efforts, there is always the danger that the editor reading your complaint does not take you seriously. This must be avoided at all costs. Therefore, you must make sure he/she understands how important you truly are. As your complaint is healthcare-related, it is helpful to stress your unique standing in this area. Do not worry if you have not studied medicine, are not a scientist, or understand buggar all about anything. The least you must do is to state that you have years of experience in health. Such phraseology is non-commital – after all, you probably have been ill once or twice – and it makes it clear that you know what you are talking about.

Your objection

Now it is time to state what you actually object to and why. This might not be as easy as it sounds. Most people who complain about my work are unable to pinpoint what exactly it is that they don’t like. They never dispute a concrete fact or finding I presented but they disagree with my stance in general terms. Therefore, they cannot define a precise error or misinterpretation in my text. In such cases, it might be best to claim that you have read several or all of my articles and you are scandalized by my general attitude, ignorance, or malice. You might add that my articles systematically defame SCAMs that:

  • have clearly stood the test of time,
  • are used by millions,
  • are holistic,
  • have cured your goldfish, etc.

Do never include any actual data in your complaint. This can only expose you to criticism; and that’s the last thing you want to achieve.

Ad hominem

The less specific material you complain about, the more important it is to display true conviction by going on a personal attack. I can highly recommend the ad hominem principle for this purpose. Go for it!

In a previous post, I listed some ideas that might help you here. You could claim that:

  • I am not qualified
  • I only speak tosh
  • I do not understand science
  • I never did any ‘real’ research
  • Exeter Uni fired me
  • I have been caught red-handed (not quite sure at what)
  • I am on BIG PHARMA’s payroll
  • I faked my research papers

Feel free to come up with your own ideas; use your imagination. I am sure the editor who reads your inspired lines will thank you for it.

Generalizations

Now that you have thoroughly dealt with me (Prof Ernst) as a person, you need to generalize in order to lend more relevance and impact to your complaint. You could point out, for example, that not just I but all scientists or skeptics are corrupt, ignorant, etc. Or you might explain that, in any case, science is over-rated and cannot be trusted. Such enlightened remarks are important because they put things into perspective and show that you are well-informed.

Threats

To end your letter, it is advisable to ensure that the editor who is trying to make sense of your complaint cannot dismiss it easily. For this purpose, I find it helpful to add a few actual threats. The editor needs to know that he would disregard your concerns at his own peril.

For instance, you could state that, if this paper/journal in question should dare to ever again publish a single line of Ernst’s writings, you will never again buy this publication. If you want to sound alarmingly dangerous, add that you will tell all your friends to do likewise. And if you wish to scare the hell out of the poor editor, tell him/her that you will file a report with the ombudsman.

______________________________

 GOOD LUCK

 

The objective of this cross-sectional survey was to evaluate the beliefs about and attitudes toward cancer prevention of people professing vaccination skepticism or conspiracy theories. Data were collected mainly from a well-known Spanish forum and other platforms, including Reddit (English), 4Chan (English), HispaChan (Spanish), and a Spanish-language website for cancer prevention (mejorsincancer.org) from January to March 2022.

Among 1494 responders, 209 were unvaccinated against covid-19, 112 preferred so-called alternative rather than conventional medicine, and 62 reported flat earth or reptilian beliefs. Cancer beliefs were assessed using the Cancer Awareness Measure (CAM) and Cancer Awareness Measure Mythical Causes Scale (CAM-MYCS), both validated tools.

Awareness of the actual causes of cancer was greater (median CAM score 63.6%) than that of mythical causes (41.7%). The most endorsed mythical causes of cancer were:

  • eating food containing additives or sweeteners,
  • feeling stressed,
  • eating genetically modified food.

Awareness of the actual and mythical causes of cancer among the unvaccinated, alternative medicine, and conspiracy groups was lower than among their counterparts. A median of 54.5% of the actual causes was accurately identified among each of the unvaccinated, alternative medicine, and conspiracy groups, and a median of 63.6% was identified in each of the three corresponding counterparts (P=0.13, 0.04, and 0.003, respectively). For mythical causes, medians of 25.0%, 16.7%, and 16.7% were accurately identified in the unvaccinated, alternative medicine, and conspiracy groups, respectively; a median of 41.7% was identified in each of the three corresponding counterparts (P<0.001 in adjusted models for all comparisons).

In total, 673 (45.0%) participants agreed with the statement “It seems like everything causes cancer.” No significant differences were observed among the unvaccinated (44.0%), conspiracist (41.9%), or alternative medicine groups (35.7%), compared with their counterparts (45.2%, 45.7%, and 45.8%, respectively).

The authors’ conclusions were as follows: we evaluated the patterns of beliefs about cancer among people who believed in conspiracies, rejected the covid-19 vaccine, or preferred alternative medicine. We observed that the participants who belonged to these groups were more likely to endorse mythical causes of cancer than were their counterparts but were less likely to endorse the actual causes of cancer. Almost half of the participants, whether
conspiracists or not, agreed with the statement “It seems like everything causes cancer,” which highlights the difficulty that society encounters in differentiating actual causes of cancer from mythical causes owing to mass (veridical or not) information. This suggests a direct connection between digital misinformation and consequent potential erroneous health decisions, which may represent a further preventable fraction of cancer. Cultivating oriented medical education and scientific literacy, improving online ranking algorithms, building trust, and using effective health communication and social marketing campaigns may be possible ways to tackle this complex public health threat.

This is yet another study showing that so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) usage is linked to misinformation and conspiratorial thinking in other areas. We have discussed similar findings all too often. They are hardly surprising, in my view. As I have repeatedly been trying to point out:

The best way to prevent harm must therefore be to educate the public responsibly (which, of course, is one of the main aims of this blog.

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