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

bogus claims

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Dr Julian Kenyon is no stranger to this blog:

I met him once or twice in the mid 1990s. Then he was the GP partner of the late George Lewith. It took me not long to find that I thought of the former even less than the latter.

Now it has been reported that Julian Kenyon was struck off the UK medical register. Apparently, he put pressure on a patient with advanced cancer to pay £13,000 for so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), including sound and light therapy. He ran the former Dove Clinic, a private health centre at Twyford, Hampshire and wrongly told his patient: “You have had all the standard treatments and you are running out of treatment options”. Kenyon’s prescription in May 2022 included sonodynamic/photodynamic therapy as well as the supplements cannabidiol, claricell and similase. The patient was asked to pay a further £20,000 if the initial course of treatment was unsuccessful, the tribunal heard.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) ruled that the doctor’s conduct was “wholly unacceptable, morally culpable and disgraceful”. Kenyon told his patient that there was a 10% chance of his stage 4 prostate cancer being cured. This was a “total fabrication”, the MTPS found. The patient “was vulnerable and… made to feel under pressure to have expensive treatment that was not in his best interests”, it added.

Kenyon has form:

  • In 2003, an undercover investigation by the BBC Inside Out programme accused Dr Kenyon of using spurious tests for allergies.
  • In 2013, a tribunal found he failed to give good care.
  • The following year, it said he made a misleading cancer cure claim.

The latest MTPS ruling bars Dr Kenyon from practising medicine in the UK. His former clinic went into liquidation in March 2023 and has debts of more than £154,000, according to Companies House. Despite all this, it was deemed to be “safe” and “effective”, according to its latest Care Quality Commission report, external in 2019.

We have discussed the LIGHTNING PROCESS before:

Now, the BBC reports that it is promoted as a treatment of Long-COVID. Oonagh Cousins was offered a free place on a course run by the Lightning Process, which teaches people they can rewire their brains to stop or improve long Covid symptoms quickly. Ms Cousins, who contracted Covid in March 2020, said it “exploits” people.

Ms Cousins had reached a career goal many athletes can only dream of – being selected for the Olympics – when she developed long Covid. By the time the cancelled 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo were rescheduled for 2021, Ms Cousins was too ill to take part. When she went public with her struggles, she was approached by the Lightning Process. It offered her a free place on a three-day course, which usually costs around £1,000.

“They were trying to suggest that I could think my way out of the symptoms, basically. And I disputed that entirely,” the former rower said. “I had a very clearly physical illness. And I felt that they were blaming my negative thought processes for why I was ill.” She added: “They tried to point out that I had depression or anxiety. And I said ‘I’m not, I’m just very sick’.

In secret recordings by the BBC, coaches can be heard telling patients that almost anyone can recover from long Covid by changing their thoughts, language and actions. Over three days on Zoom, the course taught the ritual that forms the basis of the programme. Every time you experience a symptom or negative thought, you say the word “stop”, make a choice to avoid these symptoms and then do a positive visualisation of a time you felt well. You do this while walking around a piece of paper printed with symbols – a ritual the BBC was told to do as many as 50 times a day.

In some cases the Lightning Process has encouraged participants to increase their activity levels without medical supervision, against official advice – which could make some more unwell, according to NHS guidelines. Lightning Process founder, Dr Phil Parker, who’s not a medical doctor but has a PhD in psychology of health, told us his course was “not a mindset or positive thinking approach,” but one that uses “the brain to influence physiological changes”, backed by peer-reviewed evidence. The coach on the course the BBC attended said “thoughts about your symptoms, your worry about whether it’s ever going to go – that’s what keeps the neurology going. Being in those kind of thoughts is what’s maintaining your symptoms. They’re not caused by a physical thing any more.”

___________________

As I pointed out previously, The Lightning Process  (LP) is a therapy based on ideas from osteopathy, life coaching, and neuro-linguistic programming. LP is claimed to work by teaching people to use their brains to “stimulate health-promoting neural pathways”.

LP teaches individuals to recognize when they are stimulating or triggering unhelpful physiological responses and to avoid these, using a set of standardized questions, new language patterns, and physical movements with the aim of improving a more appropriate response to situations.

Proponents of the ‘LP’ in Norway claim that 90% of all ME patients get better after trying it. However, such claims seem to be more than questionable.

  • In the Norwegian ME association’s user survey from 2012 with 1,096 participants, 164 ME patients stated that they had tried LP. 21% of these patients experienced improvement or great improvement and 48% got worse or much worse.
  • In Norway’s National Research Center in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NAFKAM’s survey from 2015 amongst 76 patients 8 had a positive effect and 5 got worse or much worse.
  • A survey by the Norwegian research foundation, published in the journal Psykologisk, with 660 participants, showed that 62 patients had tried LP, and 5 were very or fairly satisfied with the results.

Such figures reflect the natural history of the condition and are no evidence that the LP works.

Is there any evidence supporting the LP specifically for long COVID?

My Medline search retrieved just one single paper. Here is the abstract:

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Long COVID (LC) is now prevalent in many countries. Little evidence exists regarding how this chronic condition should be treated, but guidelines suggest for most people it can be managed symptomatically in primary care. The Lightning Process is a trademarked positive psychology focused self-management programme which has shown to be effective in reducing fatigue and accompanying symptoms in other chronic conditions including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Here we outline its novel application to two patients with LC who both reported improvements in fatigue and a range of physical and emotional symptoms post-treatment and at 3 months follow-up.

Well, that surely convinced everyone! Except me and, of course, anyone else who can think critically.

So, I look further and find this on the company’s website:

Do you know how it feels to…

  • …be exhausted and tired no matter how much rest you get?
  • …be stuck with re-occurring pain, health symptoms and issues?
  • …get so stressed by almost everything?
  • …feel low and upset much of the time?
  • …want a better life and health but just can’t find anything that works?

If any, or all, of these sound familiar then the Lightning Process, designed by Phil Parker, PhD, could be the answer that you’re looking for.  There are lots of ways you can find out more about the suitability of the Lightning Process for you, have a look through below…

___________________________

Let me try to summarise:

  • The LP is promoted as a cure for long-Covid.
  • There is no evidence that LP is effective for it.
  • The claim is that it has been shown to work for ME.
  • There is no evidence that LP is effective for it.
  • A 3-day course costs £1 000.
  • Their website claims it is good for practically everyone.

Does anyone think that LP or its promoters are remotely serious?

Anyone who writes a lively blog like this one is bound to receive all sorts of attacks, accusations, insults, innuendo, etc. I certainly have been claimed or implied to be many things that I am simply and objectively not. Many of them are quite hilarious in their stupidity, in my view. Perhaps it might be fun to list (some of) them.

Here we go (in no particular order).

I am not:

  • woke
  • anti-woke
  • someone who thinks that woke is a useful concept
  • against restricting discussions on certain topics (but I may not be interested in some subjects)
  • an expert on any subject other than so-called alternative medicine (SCAM)
  • like Trump (I think it was D Ullmann who stated that I was like Trump)
  • young (recently, I was repeatedly criticised for being an ‘old white man’)
  • a woman (recently, I was repeatedly criticised for being an ‘old white man’)
  • black (recently, I was repeatedly criticised for being an ‘old white man’)
  • an anti-semite
  • a racist
  • right-wing (I have not even once voted conservative in my life)
  • devoid of experience in SCAM as a patient
  • a researcher who has never practised SCAM
  • someone who has never done any original research
  • someone who does not know what he is talking about
  • unqualified
  • someone who was fired from an academic appointment
  • a pseudoscientist
  • a man who has falsified his research
  • on the payroll of BIG PHARMA
  • receiving any money for running this blog
  • relying on any finacial support other than my pensions
  • a liar
  • a fraud
  • someone who took the Exeter appointment in order to ditch homeopathy
  • out to defame SCAM (I am advocating solid evidence and criticising claims that are not evidence-based)
  • running an evil empire
  • devoid of self-confidence
  • someone who despises women
  • suffering from digestive problems
  • unable to process feelings
  • someone who manipulates data
  • the head of a lobby group
  • perfect (sadly, that’s the only claim nobody ever made).

Have I promised too much?

The list is long and the claims are as funny as they are unfounded. Evidence that (some of) these allegations have indeed been made can be found here, here, here, and here or, if you are really keen and gifted at doing searches, on X [formerly Twitter].

EuroConsum‘ is an organisation that aims “to focus on areas that otherwise receive too little attention. Together with our approximately 6,000 members, member and partner organisations, we find these areas and work on them in numerous projects. We have been entered in the list of qualified organisations for this purpose since 2012 and, as a public body, carry out market inspections with a focus on the retail sector and have maintained the market watchdog Psychomarkt since 2015. We are particularly committed to the principle of scientific rigour and evidence.” (my translation)

‘EuroConsum’ recently published a bizarre statement:

For more than a decade, EuroConsum has worked closely with the Gesellschaft zur wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften (GWUP e.V.). Under the leadership of Amardeo Sarma and Dr Holm Hümmler, we experienced a fruitful and always respectful cooperation that contributed significantly to the improvement of consumer advice and information. This cooperation was in line with shared values, which manifested themselves in a commitment to an informed public and against quackery and evidence-free advertising promises.

The murder of Halit Yozgat by right-wing terrorists of the so-called “National Socialist Underground” (NSU) and the assassination of the Kassel district president Dr Walter Lübcke, also by a right-wing terrorist, took place during the same period. The racist murders in Hanau, which could have been prevented and in which a right-wing terrorist took the lives of Gökhan Gültekin, Sedat Gürbüz, Said Nesar Hashemi, Mercedes Kierpacz, Hamza Kurtović, Vili Viorel Păun, Fatih Saraçoğlu, Ferhat Unvar, Kaloyan Velkov and Gabriele Rathjen, also took place during this time. Not only these murders, but also the involvement of state authorities in these events have increased pain and caused suffering. Many of our members know the victims or their surviving relatives personally. These events are fundamental and guiding for us and our work.They remind us every day.

For us, one of the lessons of this terror is that we must clearly distance ourselves from right-wing extremist and neo-right-wing movements. We must also fight to improve social conditions alongside those who share our values; in particular, these are groups in which people who are themselves affected by discrimination and marginalisation organise themselves. Work that does not take into account the perspectives of these people does not meet our own standards; work that is directed against the legitimate concerns of marginalised people and groups is inconceivable for us.

At the GWUP’s general meeting on 11 May 2024, a new election of the GWUP Board was held, which was previously presented as a “directional election”. The decision was close, as ultimately only around 20 votes made the difference. We perceive the result of the election as a decision on the future positioning of the GWUP in terms of content and as a commitment to a new direction for the GWUP and recognise it in this respect.

With this election, the GWUP has declared that it is taking a new course, which we do not want to follow against the background of our own association identity and cannot follow for personal reasons. EuroConsum will therefore terminate its cooperation with the GWUP immediately and finalise joint projects promptly. A statement to this effect was sent by post today.

This decision was not taken lightly, particularly in view of the long-standing good relationship and the considerable overlap within the groups and circles supporting our two associations. However, after an intensive discussion, there is no alternative for us.

EuroConsum would like to continue to engage in dialogue and cooperation with all sceptical people who share our values and want to work towards a fair and inclusive society.

(my translation)

_________________

WHAT?

ARE THEY SERIOUS?

‘EuroConsum’ seems to be disappointed with the result of the recent election of the GWUP-Board – I did previously mention the contest between ‘TEAM HUEMMLER’ and ‘TEAM SEBASTIANI’. The latter group won, and several Huemmler fans, including ‘EuroConsum’, have since left the GWUP. Nothing wrong about that! Everyone is free to do what they think is right, of course.

To associate the new GWUP leadership with a series of right-wing murders, is however an entirely different matter. In my view, this is not just extremely bad taste and utterly unjustifiable; it is slanderous and potentially actionable.

PS

What is perhaps also worth mentioning in this context an exchange that occurred on ‘X’ when ‘EuroConsum’ made the announcement. Here is the part of it that I could retrieve (my translation):

  • Holm Gero Hümmler: Surprised. Not.
  • Jörg Wipplinger: Wow, listing the right-wing extremist murders creates a context that, in my view, borders on character assassination. It doesn’t imply any affinity with right-wing ideas, but puts you in the neighbourhood of right-wing extremist murderers. Don’t you realise that or do you think it’s okay anyway?
  • Holm Gero Hümmler: If that is your only worry…
  • Jörg Wipplinger: What kind of answer is that? I find it extremely disturbing when a club, a board that has never worked a day, is portrayed in this way. I’m not with the club, but if that happened to me, I’d be pretty upset.
  • Jörg Wipplinger: It’s not about all the gwup stories at all, zero. It’s about Euroconsum’s explanation, which provides no real explanation, but a list of murderers as ‘context. Holm shared this and I want to know if he thinks it’s good. I find it shocking.
  • Holm Gero Hümmler: Euroconsum has always clearly positioned itself against anti-democratic tendencies.
    So I think it’s only natural that we don’t want to have anything to do with people who are in favour of the GWUP spreading the narratives of enemies of democracy and using their rhetoric.

 

 

This randomized controlled, pretest-post-test intervention study examined the effect of distance reiki on state test anxiety and test performance.
First-year nursing students (n = 71) were randomized into two groups. One week before the examination,

  • the intervention group participants received reiki remotely for 20 minutes for 4 consecutive days,
  • the control group participants received no intervention.
The intervention group had lower posttest cognitive and psychosocial subscale scores than pretest scores (p > .05). The control group had a significantly higher mean posttest physiological subscale score than pretest score (p < .05). Final grade point averages were not significantly different between the intervention and control groups (p > .05). One quarter of the intervention group participants noted reiki reduced their stress and helped them perform better on the examination.The authors concluded that Reiki is a safe and easy-to-practice method to help students cope with test anxiety.What a conclusion!What a study!

A controlled clinical trial has the purpose of comparing outcomes of two or more treatments. Therefore, intra-group changes are utterly irrelevant. The only thing of interest is the comparison between the intervention and control groups. In the present study, this did not show a significant difference. In other words, distant Reiki had no effect.

This means that the bit in the conclusion telling us that Reiki helps students cope with test anxiety is quite simply not true.

This leaves us with the first part of the conclusion: Reiki is a safe and easy-to-practice method. This may well be true – yet it is meaningless. Apart from the fact that the study was not aimed at assessing safety or ease of practice, the statement is true for far too many things to be meaningful, e.g.:

  • Not having Reiki (the control group) is a safe and easy-to-practice method.
  • Going for a walk is a safe and easy-to-practice method.
  • Cooking a plate of spagetti is a safe and easy-to-practice method.
  • Having a nap is a safe and easy-to-practice method.
  • Reading a book is a safe and easy-to-practice method.

(I think you get my gist)

To make the irony complete, let me tell you that this trial was published in Journal of Nursing Education. On the website, the journal states: The Journal of Nursing Education is a monthly, peer-reviewed journal publishing original articles and new ideas for nurse educators in various types and levels of nursing programs for over 60 years. The Journal enhances the teaching-learning process, promotes curriculum development, and stimulates creative innovation and research in nursing education.

I suggest that the journal urgently embarks on a program of educating its editors, reviewers, contributors and readers about science, pseudoscience, minimal standards, scientific rigor, and medical ethics.

 

 

It had been reported that five infants under three months of age have died from whooping cough this year, as cases continue to spread across the country.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has reported 1,319 cases of whooping cough in England in March, up from 900 in February and bringing the total for 2024 so far to 2,800.

But there is help!

The “Leading Holistic Health Portal” (LHHP) informs us as follows:

As far as therapeutic medication is concerned, several remedies are available to treat whooping cough that can be selected on the basis of cause, sensations and modalities of the complaints.  For individualized remedy selection and treatment, the patient should consult a qualified homeopathic doctor in person. There are following remedies which are helpful in the treatment of whooping cough:

  • Cuprum met – in whooping cough accompanied with convulsions, or when the paroxysms are long and interrupted…
  • Coccus cacti – this remedy has paroxysms of cough with vomiting of clear, ropy mucus, extending in thick, long strings even to the floor…
  • Belladonna – in sudden violent paroxysms of whooping cough, without any expectoration, and the symptoms of cerebral congestion…
  • Spongia Tosta – excellent remedy for whooping cough; dryness of all passages; cough dry, barking croupy like a saw driven through a pine board…
  • Corallium Rubrum – violent spasmodic cough, whooping cough; a very rapid cough, the attacks follows so closely as to almost run in to each other…
  • Aconite – clear ringing whistling whooping cough, excited by burning sticking in larynx and trachea…
  • Arnica Montana – paroxysms of whooping-cough excited by a creeping and soreness in trachea, bronchi or larynx, generally dry, often with expectoration of frothy blood mixed with coagula…
  • Hyoscyamus – shattering spasmodic cough, with frequent, rapidly succeeding cough, excited by ticking, as from adherent mucus…
  • Hepar Sulph – hoarse croupy night cough; deep, dull, whistling cough, in the evening without, in the morning with expectoration of masses of mucus…
  • Drosera – Drosera is one of the remedies praised by Hahnemann; indeed, he once said thatDrosera 30th sufficed to cure nearly every case of whooping cough, a statement which clinical experience has not verified. Drosera, however, will benefit a large number of the cases, if the following indications be present: a barking cough in such frequent paroxysms as to prevent the catching of the breath…
  • Mephitis – Mephitis is useful in a cough with a well marked laryngeal spasm, a whoop…
  • Ipecac – Convulsive cough, where the child stiffness out and becomes blue or pale and loses its breath…
  • Antimonium tartaricum – With this remedy the child is worse when excited or angry, or when eating; the cough culminates in vomiting of mucus and food…
  • Cina –This is not always a worm remedy. It is a most excellent remedy in whooping cough. It has the same rigidity as Ipecac, the child stiffness out and there is a clucking sound in the oesophagus when the little one comes out of the paroxysm…
  • Magnesia phosphorica – This is the prominent Schuesslerian remedy for whooping cough, which begins as does common cold. The attacks are convulsive and nervous, ending in a whoop…

So, why do we have so many cases of whooping cough?

The reason is, of course, the currently very low vaccination rates.

And why are they so low?

Could one reason be that some healthcare practitioners advise us wrongly?

What the LHHP does not tell us is the fact that homeopaths (and other SCAM practitioners) often advise against vaccinating children against whooping cough (and other infections). Take, for instance, this section from an article entitled: “The Homeopathic Option for Whooping Cough“:

In my medical opinion, this overemphasis upon a preventative vaccination strategy is largely due to conventional medicine’s inability to treat whooping cough once it is diagnosed. Physicians understand that antibiotics are likely to have minimal if any effect upon the course of the illness once the cough has set in, and the same applies to cough suppressants. Antibiotic treatment is believed to reduce transmission to others if prescribed at the onset of the illness, but the odds of diagnosing whooping cough at this very early stage are highly unlikely.

Clinical experience indicates that homeopathic medicine is a viable option for pertussis. However, mainstream medicine’s general unwillingness to consider any therapy that is not manufactured by PhRMA tends to blind it to potentially new and/or unexplored treatments. And in the case of homeopathy, there is a long-standing undeniable bias that assumes that it is just not possible that it can work because it defies conventional medical beliefs about the nature of illness and how it can be treated.

Really, a long-standing undeniable bias?

And I thought it was called evidence!

In conclusion, I urge everyone to follow the official recommendations:

The whooping cough vaccine protects babies and children from getting whooping cough. That’s why it’s important to have all the routine NHS vaccinations. The whooping cough vaccine is routinely given as part of the:

If you’re pregnant you should also have the whooping cough vaccine – ideally between 16 and 32 weeks.

To this I might add: beware of the advice by homeopaths and other SCAM-practitioners who recommend against vaccinations.

I know, I have mentioned my concerns before about research into so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) from China, e.g.:

In 2018, China became the country that produces more scientific papers than any other. At present, China’s output stands at over one million articles per year. Yes, I do find this worrying!

On 2/4/2024, I did a few very simple Medline searches. I feel that the findings are remarkable.

Clinical trials of TCM

Between 2000 and 2023 ~ 8000

2000 = 8

2010 = 157

2020 = 1 192

Systematic reviews of TCM

2000 = 1

2010 = 26

2020 = 1 222

This near explosive rate of growth could, of course, be good news. But it isn’t because – as shown here so often before – the findings of Chinese research are worringly unreliable.

As if to confirm my point about the dominance of China, this paper has just been published:

Background: Neuropathic pain (NP) is a common type of pain in clinic. Due to the limited effect of drug treatment, many patients with NP are still troubled by this disease. In recent years, complementary and alternative therapy (CAT) has shown good efficacy in the treatment of NP. As the interest in CAT for NP continues to grow, we conducted a bibliometric study of publications on CAT treatment for NP. The aim of this study is to analyze the development overview, research hotspots and future trends in the field of CAT and NP through bibliometric methodology, so as to provide a reference for subsequent researchers.

Methods: Publications on CAT in the treatment of NP from 2002 to 2022 were retrieved from the Web of Science Core Collection. Relevant countries, institutions, authors, journals, keywords, and references were analyzed bibliometrically using Microsoft Excel 2021, bibliometric platform, VOSviewer, and CiteSpace.

Results: A total of 898 articles from 46 countries were published in 324 journals, and they were contributed by 4455 authors from 1102 institutions. The most influential country and institution are China (n = 445) and Kyung Hee University (n = 63), respectively. Fang JQ (n = 27) and Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (n = 63) are the author and journal with the most publications in this field. The clinical efficacy, molecular biological mechanisms and safety of CAT for NP are currently hot directions. Low back pain, postherpetic neuralgia, acupuncture, and herbal are the hot topics in CAT and NP in recent years.

Conclusion: This study reveals the current status and hotspots of CAT for NP. The study also indicates that the effectiveness and effect mechanism of acupuncture or herbs for treating emotional problems caused by low back pain or postherpetic neuralgia may be a trend for future research.

China is increasingly dominating SCAM research and we all know – or should know by now (see above) – that the results of this research are misleading. I cannot understand why so few people seem to think this is alarming.

 

 

In the previous 3 parts of this series (see here, here and here), we have discussed 9 fake diagnoses of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM):

  • adrenal fatigue,
  • candidiasis hypersensitivity,
  • chronic intoxications,
  • chronic Lyme disease,
  • electromagnetic hypersensitivity,
  • homosexuality,
  • leaky gut syndrome,
  • multiple chemical sensitivity,
  • neurasthenia.

Today I will briefly discuss three further fake diagnoses and list the treatments that SCAM practitioners might recommend for them.

Vaccine overload

Vaccine overload is a term for the notion that giving many vaccines at once may overwhelm or weaken a patient’s immune system which, in turn, is alleged to lead to adverse effects. Because children have an immature immune system, they are claimed to be afflicted most frequently.

There is no evidence that vaccine overload exists nor that it can lead to illness. This does not stop SCAM practitioners to apply or recommend all sorts of SCAMs for the imagined condition. Particular favourites are all sorts of detox diets, homeopathy and a wide range of dietary supplements. Such diets and supplements can be tricky for younger children. In this case, SCAM practitioners recommend, amongst many other things, smoothies or adding turmeric, ginger, and small amounts of Shillington’s adult supplements to the child’s food.

None of these recommendations are supported by anything resembling sound evidence, of course.

Vertebral subluxation

On this blog, we have discussed vertebral subluxations more often than I care to remember. Chiropractors claim that these figments of their imagination impair the flow of innate which, in turn, makes us ill. Straight chiros, those who adhere to the gospel of their guru DD Palmer, diagnose subluxations in 100% of their patients. They are undeterred by the fact that vertebral subluxations do not exist.

I can understand why! If they did aknowledge that the diagnosis is fake, they would have no reason to treat patients with spinal manipulations, and they would quickly go out of business.

Yin/Yang imbalance

According to the assumptions of practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), all health problems arise from an imbalaance of the two life forces , yin and yang. To restore the balance, they employ a range of therapies such as acupuncture, herbal mixtures, massages, etc.

But these life forces do not exist. Thus they cannot be out of balance, and consequently the imbalance cannot cause illness. TCM practitioners don’t want to hear any of this. Why not? You guessed it: if they aknowledged these facts, they would need to stop practising.

____________________

Fake diagnoses are the life-line of many SCAM practitioners:

  • they tell you that something is wrong with you (despite the fact that you are entirely healthy);
  • they make sure that this is a reason for serious concern;
  • they claim they can put the alleged abnormality right again;
  • they administer a lengthy series of treatments and/or sell you plenty of remedies;
  • when they have earned enough money treating you, they give you the good news: you are back to narmal;
  • gullible consumers are impressed by the unfailing competence of the SCAM practitioners.

My conclusion:

there is nothing easier and more profitably to heal that a condition that did not exist  in the first place.

 

As reported previously, the German skeptics (the GWUP) are in turmoil:

The current rift, many hope, will end imminently, when the GWUP membership elects the new board on the occasion of the ‘SKEPKON‘ (May 9-11). The members then have the choice between Holm Huemmler and Andre Sebastiani and their respective teams.

For many, the choice might be difficult, as they are bewildered (as am I) about what seems to be going on within the GWUP. Therefore, I will today try to provide an assessment according to objectively measurable criteria. For each team, I will calculate the

  1. Number of members with an H-Index (as a measure of the productivity and citation impact of the publications by each team);
  2. Number of members with a Wiki page (as a measure of public visibility).
  3. Number of members who are fellows of the CSI (as a measure of acceptance by skeptics internationally).
  4. Number of members who were active during recent months on social media in relation to the GWUP (as a measure of current engagement in the affairs of the GWUP).
  5. Number of female members (as a measure of equality).
  6. Number of members who are not German or who have been brought up in countries other than Germany (as a measure of internationality).

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that these are validated measures of anything (for instance, I am not claiming that a H-Index is necessary for leading a skeptics organisation, yet I do feel that at least some members of the board should be experienced scientists); the measures might merely be rough indicators. But I still hope they might offer some crude guidance for those GWUP members who look for some guidance beyond the heresay, gossip and accusationst that currently circulate.

Let me first introduce the two teams:

TEAM HUEMMLER

  • Dr. Holm Gero Hümmler (Chair, management consultant, studied physics)
  • Dr. Stephanie Dreyfürst ( Deputy chair, director of adult education, studied German)
  • Dr. Jochen Blom (Bioinformatik, studied bioinformatics)
  • Dr. Claudia Preis (Treasurer, manager, studied European ethnology)
  • Ralf Neugebauer (Judge, studied law)
  • Annika Harrison (Teacher)
  • Sabine Breiholz (Behavioural scientist, studied biology)
  • Mirko Gutjahr (Director of a museum, studied acheology)

TEAM SEBASTIANI

  • André Sebastiani (Chair, teacher and consultant for media didactics)
  • Judith Faessler (Deputy chair, philosophy and Oriental studies)
  • Stefanie Handl (Deputy chair, veterenaty medicine)
  • Rouven Schäfer (Studied economics, adult education and psychology)
  • Stefanie Weig (Energy and construction industry)
  • Stefan Uttenthaler (Studied physics and astronomy)
  • Timur Sevincer (Studied psychology)
  • Stefan Soehnle (Treasurer, studied physics and economics)
  • Babro Walker (Science council, studied educational sciences and psychology)

And here are the findings of my evaluation:

  1. Number of members with H-Index: team Huemmler 2; team Sebastiani 4.
  2. Number of members with a Wiki page: team Huemmler 1; team Sebastiani 2.
  3. Number of members with membership in CSI: team Huemmler 0; team Sebastiani 0.
  4. Number of members active on social media: team Huemmler 1; team Sebastiani 4.
  5. Number of female members: team Huemmler 4; team Sebastiani 4.
  6. Internationality: team Huemmler 0; team Sebastiani 4.

According to these figures, team Sebastiani seems better suited. Of course, these findings have to be interpreted with caution. Firstly, the differences are not large. Secondly – as already stressed – the parameters I used are at best indicators. Thirdly, it is possible that my evaluations were not 100% correct.

The main problem I faced when conducting this comparison was that objective measures which can easily be extracted from the data available to me are illusive, If anyone knows better ones, please let me know.

To be a useful board member of a skeptics organisation for German speaking countries, one should probably have qualities such as the following:

  • An ability to lead towards a common goal, meaning experience in heading teams and in tricky negotiations.  
  • Experience in organising events and projects.
  • Good connections to scientific organisations and academia.
  • Experience in public dissemination of science. 
  • A commitment to scientific skepticism and evaluations based on evidence.
  • An understand of how science works. 
  • Good international connections and co-operations.
  • Determination and ability to solve problems rather than just looking for problems and blaming others for them.

These qualities might be important, but they are not quantifiable – at least, I don’t know how to measure them based on the available material.

So, if you want to make an informed choice that is likely to be best for the future of skepticism in German speaking countries, I urge you to go on the Internet and inform yourself beyond my admittedly simplistic attempt to provide guidance.

This study aims to appraise the utility, accuracy, and quality of information available on YouTube on acupuncture for chronic pain treatment. Using search terms such as “acupuncture for chronic pain” and “acupuncture pain relief”, the top 54 videos by view count were selected. Videos were included if they were:

  • > 1 minute duration,
  • contained audio in English,
  • had > 7000 views,
  • related to acupuncture.

Each video was categorised as either:

  • useful,
  • misleading,
  • or neither.

Another primary outcome of interest was the quality and reliability of each video using validated instruments, including the modified DISCERN (mDISCERN) tool and the Global Quality Scale (GQS). The means were calculated for the video production characteristics, production sources, and mDISCERN and GQS scores. Continuous and categorical outcomes were compared using Student’s t-test and chi-square test, respectively.

The results show that, of the 54 videos,

  • 57.4% were categorized as useful,
  • 14.8% were misleading,
  • and 27.8% were neither.

Useful videos had a mean GQS and mDISCERN score of 3.77± 0.67 and 3.48± 0.63, respectively, while misleading videos had mean GQS and mDISCERN score of 2.50± 0.53 and 2.38± 0.52, respectively. 41.8% of the useful videos were produced by a healthcare institution while none of the misleading videos were produced by a healthcare institution. However, 87.5% of the misleading videos were produced by health media compared to only 25.8% of useful videos from health media.

The authors concluded that their analysis of the highest viewed acupuncture videos for chronic pain reveals only about half provide useful information, indicating a significant misinformation challenge for viewers. This underscores the urgent need for more high-quality, unbiased videos from healthcare institutions and physicians on complementary health practices like acupuncture.

This new analysis confirms what we and others have shown numerous times before: information about so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), which is abundantly available on the Internet, needs to be taken with a healthy pinch of salt. Whenever we studied the issue, our conclusions were even less optimistic than those of the present authors. In fact, most of the time we concluded that following such advice is a risk factor to our health.

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