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

bullshit

1 2 3 26

Phantom pain (pain felt in an amputated limb) affects the lives of individuals in many ways and can negatively affect the well-being of individuals. Distant Reiki is sometimes used in the management of these problems. But does it work?

This study was conducted to examine the effect of distant Reiki applied to individuals  suffering from phantom pain on:

1) pain level,

2) holistic well-being.

This study was designed as a single group pre-test/post-test comparison. The research was conducted between September 2022 and April 2023 and included 25 individuals with extremity amputations. Distant Reiki was performed for 20 minutes every day for 10 days. Data were collected at the beginning of the study and at the end of the 10th day. The measurements included an Introductory Information Form, the Visual Analog Scale for Pain, and Holistic Well-Being Scale (HWBS).

The results show that there was a significant difference between pre-test and post-test pain levels of the participants (p < .05) and HWBS subscale scores (p < .05). Accordingly, it was determined that after 20-minute distant Reiki sessions for 10 consecutive days, the pain levels of the individuals were significantly reduced and their holistic well-being improved.

The authors concluded that distant Reiki has been found to be easy to administer, inexpensive, non-pharmacological, and appropriate for independent nursing practice to be effective in reducing phantom pain levels and increasing holistic well-being in people with limb amputation.

Yes, I agree that Reiki might have been easy to administer.

I also agree that it is inexpensive and non-pharmacological.

I disagree, however that it is an appropriate therapy for an independent nursing practice.

And I disagree even more that this study shows or even suggests that Reiki is effective.

Why?

You probably kow the reason: this study had no control group. The observed outcomes can have several explanations that are unrelated to Reiki. For instance, the 200 minutes of attention, empathy and encouragement are likely to have generated an impact.

My conclusion: it is high time that researchers, peer-reviewers, editors, etc. stop trying to mislead the public with offensively poor-quality research and false conclusions. Reiki is an utterly implausible therapy for which no sound evidence exist.

In contemporary healthcare, evidence-based practices are fundamental for ensuring optimal patient outcomes and resource allocation. Essential steps for conducting pharmacoeconomic studies in homeopathy involve study design, intervention identification, comparator selection, outcome measures definition, data collection, cost analysis, effectiveness analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, cost-benefit analysis, sensitivity analysis, reporting, and peer review. While conventional medicine undergoes rigorous pharmacoeconomic evaluations, the field of homeopathy often lacks such scrutiny. However, the importance of pharmacoeconomic studies in homeopathy is increasingly recognized, given its growing integration into modern healthcare systems.

A systematic review was aimed at summarizing the existing economic evaluations of homeopathy. It was conducted by searching electronic databases (PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science) to identify relevant literature using keywords such as “homeopathy,” “pharmacoeconomics,” and “efficacy.” Articles meeting inclusion criteria were assessed for quality using established frameworks like the Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards (CHEERS). Data synthesis was conducted thematically, focusing on study objectives, methodologies, findings, and conclusions.

Ten pharmacoeconomic studies within homeopathy were identified, demonstrating varying degrees of compliance with reporting guidelines. While most studies reported costs comprehensively, some lacked methodological transparency, particularly in analytic methods. Heterogeneity was observed in study designs and outcome measures, reflecting the complexity of economic evaluation in homeopathy. Quality of evidence varied, with some studies exhibiting robust methodologies while others had limitations.

The authors concluded that, based on the review, recommendations include promoting homeopathic clinics, providing policy support, adopting collaborative healthcare models, and leveraging India’s homeopathic resources. Pharmacoeconomic studies in homeopathy are crucial for evaluating its economic implications compared to conventional medicine. While certain studies demonstrated methodological rigor, opportunities exist for enhancing consistency, transparency, and quality in economic evaluations. Addressing these challenges is essential for informing decision-making regarding the economic aspects of homeopathic interventions.

The truth is that there are not many economic studies of homeopathy that are worth the paper they were printed on. One of the most rigorous analysis was published by German pro-homeopathy researcher. This study aimed to provide a long-term cost comparison of patients using additional homeopathic treatment (homeopathy group) with patients using usual care (control group) over an observation period of 33 months.

Health claims data from a large statutory health insurance company were analysed from both the societal perspective (primary outcome) and from the statutory health insurance perspective (secondary outcome). To compare costs between patient groups, homeopathy and control patients were matched in a 1:1 ratio using propensity scores. Predictor variables for the propensity scores included health care costs and both medical and demographic variables. Health care costs were analysed using an analysis of covariance, adjusted for baseline costs, between groups both across diagnoses and for specific diagnoses over a period of 33 months. Specific diagnoses included depression, migraine, allergic rhinitis, asthma, atopic dermatitis, and headache.

Data from 21,939 patients in the homeopathy group (67.4% females) and 21,861 patients in the control group (67.2% females) were analysed. Health care costs over the 33 months were 12,414 EUR [95% CI 12,022-12,805] in the homeopathy group and 10,428 EUR [95% CI 10,036-10,820] in the control group (p<0.0001). The largest cost differences were attributed to productivity losses (homeopathy: EUR 6,289 [6,118-6,460]; control: EUR 5,498 [5,326-5,670], p<0.0001) and outpatient costs (homeopathy: EUR 1,794 [1,770-1,818]; control: EUR 1,438 [1,414-1,462], p<0.0001). Although the costs of the two groups converged over time, cost differences remained over the full 33 months. For all diagnoses, homeopathy patients generated higher costs than control patients.

The authors concluded that their analysis showed that even when following-up over 33 months, there were still cost differences between groups, with higher costs in the homeopathy group.

SURPRISE, SURPRISE!!!

Homeopathy is not cost-effective.

How could it possibly be? To be cost-effective, a theraapy has to be first of all effective – and that homeopathy is certainly not.

So, why does the avove-cited new paper arrive at a more positive conclusion?

Here are some potential explanations:

The authors of this paper are affiliated to:

  1. PatilTech Hom Research Solution, Maharashtra, India.
  2. Samarth Homeopathic Clinic and Research Center, Maharashtra, India.

The paper was published in the largely unknown, 3rd class Journal of Pharmacoeconomics and Pharmaceutical Management.

Most importantly, the authors aknowledge that many of the primary studies had serious methodological problems. However, this did not stop them from taking their data seriously. As a result, we have here another example of the old and well-known rule of systematic reviews:

RUBBISH IN, RUBBISH OUT!

To answer the question posed in the title of this post:

Is homeopathy cost-effective?

NO

 

 

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.

This study sought to identify if an Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) integrating complementary medicine has low antibiotic prescribing.

The researchers conducted a retrospective analysis at the level-2 NICU of the Filderklinik, an integrative medicine hospital in Southern Germany, to compare antibiotic use locally and internationally; to compare neonates with suspected infection, managed with and without antibiotics; and to describe use and safety of complementary medicinal products.

Among 7778 live births, 1086 neonates were hospitalized between 2014 and 2017. Two hundred forty-six were diagnosed with suspected or confirmed infection, their median gestational age was 40.3 weeks (range 29-42), 3.25% had a birthweight <2500 g, 176 were treated with antibiotics for a median duration of 4 days, 6 had culture-proven infection (0.77 per 1000 live births), and 2.26% of live births were started on antibiotics. A total of 866 antibiotic treatment days corresponded to 111 antibiotic days per 1000 live births and 8.8 antibiotic days per 100 hospital days. Neonates managed with antibiotics more often had fever and abnormal laboratory parameters than those managed without. Complementary medicinal products comprising 71 different natural substances were used, no side effect or adverse event were described. A subanalysis using the inclusion criteria of a recent analysis of 13 networks in Europe, North America, and Australia confirmed this cohort to be among the lowest prescribing networks.

The authors concluded that antibiotic use was low in this NICU in both local and international comparison, while the disease burden was in the mid-range, confirming an association between integrative medicine practice and low antibiotic prescribing in newborns. Complementary medicinal products were widely used and well tolerated.

I have often suggested that somone does a study to assess the usage of meat products in a vegetarian restaurant. I am sure it would generate resuts that are at least as meaningful as the ones reported by the team of anthroposophic geniuses responsible for this paper. Here are their affiliations:

  • 1ARCIM Institute, Filderstadt, Germany.
  • 2Department of Pediatrics, Filderklinik, Filderstadt, Germany.
  • 3Department of Neonatology, University Hospital Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.
  • 4Center for Integrative Pediatrics, Fribourg Cantonal Hospital, Fribourg, Switzerland.
  • 5Department of Community Health, Fribourg University, Fribourg, Switzerland.
  • 6Institute of Precision Medicine, University Furtwangen, Furtwangen, Germany.

Say no more!

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.

1 2 3 26
Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new blog posts by email.

Recent Comments

Note that comments can be edited for up to five minutes after they are first submitted but you must tick the box: “Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.”

The most recent comments from all posts can be seen here.

Archives
Categories