I have previously reported that a Canadian naturopath, Jason Klop, is under investigation for selling fecal Microbiota transplants to treat autistic children. Now, there is a new twist in this story.
On Twitter, J.N. Stea summarized it nicely:
This naturopath is fighting a judge so that he can charge parents about $15,000 to give his nephew’s poop to children as a treatment for autism. His lawyer argues that he should be allowed to since naturopathy isn’t scientific anyway.
Klop’s lawyer defends the naturopath against an investigation into his business of selling fecal microbiota transplants to families of autistic children. The College of Naturopathic Physicians (CoN) had banned Klop for selling, advertising, and manufacturing pills made from human feces claiming that Klop has been engaging in conduct not acceptable for a naturopathic physician. Klop’s lawyer, Jason Gratl, argued this was difficult to prove in a field that has a few restrictions and some ambiguous boundaries.
“What does it take to be a naturopath and do something that is not appropriate in a field so wide-ranging and open to interpretation?” the lawyer, Gratl, asked the court suggesting that the lack of scientific evidence supporting the use of fecal Microbiota Transplants (FMT) to treat autism is not necessarily relevant in this instance.
“Naturopaths can rely on science in certain aspects, but they are not bound to science,” Gratl said. He explained that naturopathic practices could be based on anecdotes and historical knowledge. Later, he pointed out that the field also includes homeopathy, which, some believe, involves magical thinking. It is definitely not scientific in its core.” After describing the case as a “tragedy”, Gratl called the allegations against his client “entirely unverfounded and scurrilous.”
I suspect it is nothing new to most readers, yet I find it gratifying to hear from a lawyer that naturopathy
- is not science,
- relies on anecdote instead of evidence,
- and involves magical thinking.
I do think, however, that despite all this, naturopaths should not be allowed to do any odd nonsense that comes to their minds and fills their bank accounts quickly.
I only now learned of the death of one of the most bizarre proponents that the cult of homeopathy has ever produced in its 200-year history. From his official obituary, one would not suspect much weirdness:
John R. Benneth passed away Nov. 9, 2021 in Chico, Calif., after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
John shepherded the Pixieland Theatre in Lincoln City for many years, writing, directing, and acting in plays that kept audiences coming back. He appeared often on stage in Portland and became a familiar face in local and national commercials. In the mid-1980s he was the host, writer, and creative force behind The Portland Underground, a weekly, live, late-night local access show. He gave many local actors a chance to stretch their improv talents on that and his earlier show, Mysterious Planet. His was the voice of both Portland Talk Radio’s controversial Jack Hammer, and Kandu the Mystic. He later performed regularly as Mark Twain in Virginia City, Nev., and on cruises on Lake Tahoe. John started working as a private investigator in Portland in 1978, and in 1982, he founded the National Missing Children’s Locate Center, helping parents to find their children across the U.S. He later became internationally known for his research into and advocacy for Homeopathic Medicine and was invited to present a treatise on the subject at London’s Oxford University in 2010.
John was a member of both Hawthorne and Washington Masonic lodges and the Scottish Rite of Portland.
He was preceded in death by his parents, John and Bettiana Benneth; and by his wife, Catherine Benneth. He is survived by his brother, David; and his four sons, Horatio, Merlin, Cyrano and Evan.
The ‘Bolen report’ offers a little more, albeit weirdly unreliable information:
John Benneth, PG Hom.- London (Hons) is the renowned discoverer of the link between Homeopathy and Conventional Ionic Chemistry.
The first to accept a notorious challenge to Homeopathy, he forced the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), in 1999, to back down from a spurious offer to award $1,000,000 for a test identifying homeopathic solutes from their liquid aqueous vehicles.
In 2010, by invitation of Nobel laureate physicist Brian Josephson at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, he presented the Supramolecular Chemistry of the Homeopathic Remedy revealing structural changes and the physics of hydrolysis and molecular self assembling chain reactions.
He is the author of Ebola Prophylaxis and Cure detailing the use of FDA approved homeopathic pharmaceuticals in the treatment of hemorrhagic fevers, presented in advance of the reported successful use of homeopathic remedies to cure Ebola.
He is a proponent for the use of homeopathic pharmaceuticals to cure sepsis and other dire conditions for conventional use in hospital emergency and intensive care, and the Ionic Vaccine for the safe and effective non-molecular prevention of epidemic diseases.
To estimate the true extent of Benneth’s eccentricity, we need to read some of the posts by John himself johnbenneth.wordpress.com. Alternatively, we might access some of his appearances on youtube, quackometer, or even just a post I published several years ago.
I am sad that John is gone. I always thought he was mad like a hatter, but he had me in stitches whenever our paths crossed.
In a previous post, I reported about the ‘biggest ever’, ‘history-making’ conference on integrative medicine. It turns out that it was opened by none other than Prince Charles. Here is what the EXPRESS reported about his opening speech:
Opening the conference, Charles said:
“I know a few people have seen this integrated approach as being in some way opposed to modern medicine. It isn’t. But we need to combine this with a personal approach that also takes account of our beliefs, hopes, culture and history. It builds upon the abilities of our minds and bodies to heal, and to live healthy lives by improving diet and lifestyle.”
Dr. Michael Dixon, Chair of the College of Medicine, said:
“Medicine, as we know it, is no longer affordable or sustainable. Nor is it able to curb the increase in obesity, mental health problems and most long-term diseases. A new medical mindset is needed, which goes to the heart of true healthcare. The advantages and possibilities of social prescription are limitless. An adjustment to the system now will provide a long-term, sustainable solution for the NHS to meet the ever-increasing demand for funding and healthcare professionals.”
Charles very kindly acknowledges that not everyone is convinced about his concept of integrated/integrative medicine. Good point your royal highness! But I fear Charles did not quite understand our objections. In a nutshell: it is not possible to cure the many ills of conventional medicine by adding unproven and disproven therapies to it. In fact, it distracts from our duty to constantly improve conventional medicine. And pretending it is all about diet and lifestyle is simply not true (see below). Moreover, it is disingenuous to pretend that diet and lifestyle do not belong to conventional healthcare.
Dr. Dixon’s concern about the affordability of medicine is, of course, justified. But the notion that “the advantages and possibilities of social prescription are limitless” is a case of severe proctophasia, and so is Dixon’s platitude about ‘adjusting the system’. His promotion of treatments like Acupuncture, Alexander Technique, Aromatherapy, Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy, Hypnotherapy, Massage, Naturopathy, Reflexology, Reiki, Tai Chi, Yoga Therapy will not adjust anything, it will only make healthcare less efficient.
I do not doubt for a minute that doctors are prescribing too many drugs and that we could save huge amounts by reminding patients that they are responsible for their own health while teaching them how to improve it without pills. This is what we learn in medical school! All we need to do is remind everyone concerned. In fact, Charles and his advisor, Michael, could be most helpful in achieving this – but not by promoting a weird branch of healthcare (integrative/integrated medicine or whatever other names they choose to give it) that can only distract from the important task at hand.
Alan Gaby, the assistant editor of the journal Integr Med has written an interesting commentary about widespread fraud in natural health products research. Here is an excerpt of his article:
During the past 49 years, I have reviewed and analyzed more than 50 000 papers from the biomedical literature, most of which were related to the field of nutritional medicine. Doing this work has given me some understanding of how to assess the reliability of a study. Over the past 10 to 15 years, an uncomfortably large and growing number of published papers related to my area of expertise have left me wondering whether the research was fabricated; that is, whether people were writing papers about research that had not actually been conducted. If the studies were not actually conducted, the publishing of this research is an affront to all who value integrity in science, and it has the potential to harm practitioners and patients who rely on its findings.
The studies that have raised concerns have come primarily from Iran and to a lesser extent from Egypt, China, India, Japan, and a few other countries. Characteristics of these concerning studies typically include one or more of the following:
- The study comes from an investigator or research group that has published an enormous number of randomized clinical trials in a relatively short period of time.
- The number of participants in the trial is unusually large, when considering the resources that appear to be available to the researchers.
- The recruitment period for the trial is unusually short.
- The paper is submitted to a journal unusually rapidly after the study is completed, or in some cases before it would have been possible to have completed the trial.
- A randomized double-blind trial is conducted before there is any preliminary evidence of efficacy in humans (such as case reports or uncontrolled trials). Because double-blind trials are expensive to conduct, such trials are generally reserved for treatments for which there is some evidence of efficacy.
- The magnitude of the reported improvement is much larger than is typically seen in trials using just one or two nutrients.
- No funding source is listed or the study is listed as self-funded. This is of particular concern when the sample size or study design suggests that the study was expensive.
- The design of the study raises ethical issues, such as participants not being permitted to use treatments that are known to be effective.
- One or more baseline characteristics of the study group appear to be implausible.
- The research was conducted by a student as part of a graduate school thesis, and the magnitude of the project seems to have been beyond the capabilities and resources of a student.
What Gaby alludes to is a problem indeed. I have previously posted about the Chinese aspect of this story. What Gaby does not mention is the fact that even many studies of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) which seem to be not overtly fraudulent are nevertheless highly suspect. I am referring to trials that are fatally flawed and/or studies that draw unwarranted conclusions. These are, of course, the types of studies that are the main target of this blog. Because they are so numerous, I feel that the damage they do is much bigger than that of the more overtly fraudulent papers.
Quackademia is a lovely term for describing quackery at the academic level. The name may be amusing but the phenomenon isn’t. And this seems to be nowhere more true than in the US. The Certificate in Holistic Health and Healing Arts (HHHA) at the University of New Mexico allegedly “lays the groundwork for careers in holistic health and the healing arts while familiarizing students with practices that promote self-healing, longevity, and vitality.” To me, it seems to be a prime example of quackademia. Here is a selection of the courses offered by the HHHA:
INTRODUCTION TO HEALING ARTS
HHHA 101 (3 credits)
This entirely-online class grounds students in the foundation of Holistic Health and Healing Arts, introducing a wide range of healing modalities so that students can discover what works best for them. Often offered in Fall semester and asynchronously online.
This course is required for the HHHA Certificate.
MEDITATION, CONSCIOUSNESS, and SELF-HEALING
HHHA 102 (3 credits)
This course invites students to explore the deeply rejuvenating effects of meditation and mindfulness. Often offered fall semester.
This course is required for the HHHA Certificate.
HHHA 104 (3 credits)
Students practice of fundamental and accessible asanas and discuss philosophy and ethics through the lens of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and Iyengar’s Light on Yoga. Students will also lead practices and discussions of their choosing. Often offered in spring.
This course is required for the 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training Diploma.
HHHA 105 (3 credits)
Students practice meditative movements that restore vitality, improve balance, increase strength and promote the wellbeing of mind, body, and spirit. Often offered over Summer semester.
YOGA FOR WELLNESS
HHHA 110 (1-3 Credits)
This beginner-friendly movement class will focus on stress reduction, flexibility, and general wellbeing. Offered varying semesters, usually face-to-face.
INTRODUCTION TO ORIENTAL MEDICINE
HHHA 116 (3 credits)
This class illuminates the fundamentals of this ancient system of medicine which emphasizes the interconnectedness of the body and the world. Often offered in Fall semester.
DREAMS, VISIONS, AND ARTMAKING
HHHA 117 (3 credits)
Students are led on a journey of self-discovery through guided visualizations. The images and intuition students tap into serve as fodder for their own creative work. Often offered in Fall semester, face-to-face.
HHHA 118 (3 credits)
This class introduces the ancient Indian healing modality called “The Science of Life” and guides students to an awareness of their constitutions (doshas). Students learn the nutritional and lifestyle approaches that can help create greater energetic balance. Often offered in Fall semester.
YOGA STYLES AND SAFETY
HHHA 120 (3 credits)
This class explores the different styles of yoga as well as ways of sequencing and cuing poses. Students show their understanding of class concepts through practice teaching. Often offered in Fall semester.
This course is required for the 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training Diploma.
YOGA FOR COMMON CONDITIONS
The class will prepare future yoga teachers and/or interested yoga students to design classes for themselves and others that safely accommodate many underlying injuries and conditions, observing, in the process, that a class that accommodates students with underlying conditions is a class for everyone. Often offered in Fall semester.
This course is required for the 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training Diploma.
REIKI HEALING I
HHHA 146 (3 credits)
This introduction to energy work helps students to develop their energetic sensitivity and spiritual awareness while learning hands-on and intention-based techniques that encourage bodies to heal themselves. Often offered in Fall semester, face-to-face.
REIKI HEALING II
HHHA 147 (3 credits)
This class builds on the principles introduced in Reiki Healing I. Often offered in Fall semester, face-to-face.
INTRODUCTION TO HOMEOPATHY
HHHA 148 (3 credits)
Students learn the philosophical underpinnings and practical applications of homeopathy, a complete therapeutic system of medicine that aims to promote general health and reinforce the body’s own natural healing capacity. Often offered in Spring semester and asynchronously online.
YOGA AND PSYCHOLOGY OF THE CHAKRAS
HHHA 263 (3 credits)
Guided by Anodea Judith’s seminal Eastern Body, Western Mind, students explore the energetics as well as the biomechanics and alignment of the body chakra by chakra. Students will show their mastery of the concepts covered through practice teaching and reflective written assignments. May be offered spring or fall.
This course is required for the 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training Diploma.
This amount of cheer nonsense taught at the university level beats everything I have seen before. Perhaps it is not that unusual in the US, yet after having been a university professor in three European countries, I find it truly baffling. Call me old-fashioned, but I had always assumed that the educational function of universities was about teaching knowledge and facts rather than myths and delusions. Universities must be the guardians of reason, not its destructors! How long will it be, I ask myself, until the first US university introduces a course in the design of flying carpets or a diploma in telekinesis?
This article almost left me speechless:
The back-to-back waves of the COVID-19 pandemic have made a devastating impact globally. The conventional healthcare system is going through serious pressure as cases of the disease continue to spread and the numbers of hospitalizations are increasing every moment. It is becoming hard and challenging because the hospital resources are limited in number as compared with the rate of daily hospitalizations. There are significant shortages of patient care facilities and medical care providers, and on top of that, conventional healthcare systems do not have any proven treatments for COVID-19 patients. Experimental drugs like hydroxychloroquine, followed by remdesivir, ritonavir/lopinavir, and favipiravir are being administered under emergency use authorization (EUA). There is evidence that these experimental medications are causing adverse drug reactions, thus claiming the lives of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients. And those patients who survive the EUA medications and hospitalizations are left with iatrogenic immunosuppressive states leading to increased susceptibility towards secondary life-threatening infections like fungal diseases. In this scenario, complementary and alternative medical systems (CAMS) are providing commendable results with negligible adverse effects or iatrogenic issues in patients with COVID-19. There are several clinical cases recorded and published by various independent homoeopathic doctors and researchers worldwide. But unfortunately, because of a biased medical model and greed for monopolies, these effective treatment methods are not given equal opportunity as their conventional counterparts.
I think the best way to react to this nonsense might be to remind us what the only RCT of homeopathy for COVID showed.
This randomized, double-blind, two-armed, parallel, single-center, placebo-controlled study investigated the effectiveness and safety of the homeopathic medicine, Natrum muriaticum LM2, for mild cases of COVID-19.
Participants aged > 18 years, with influenza-like symptoms and a positive COVID test were recruited and randomized (1:1) into two groups that received different treatments during a period of at-home isolation. One group received the homeopathic medicine Natrum muriaticum, prepared with the second degree of the fifty-millesimal dynamization (LM2; Natrum muriaticum LM2), while the other group received a placebo.
The primary endpoint was time until recovery from COVID-19 influenza-like symptoms. Secondary measures included a survival analysis of the number and severity of COVID-19 symptoms (influenza-like symptoms plus anosmia and ageusia) from a symptom grading scale that was informed by the participant, hospital admissions, and adverse events. Kaplan-Meier curves were used to estimate time-to-event (survival) measures.
Data from 86 participants were analyzed (homeopathy, n = 42; placebo, n = 44). There was no difference in time to recovery between the two groups (homeopathy, n = 41; placebo, n = 41; P = 0.56), nor in a sub-group that had at least 5 moderate to severe influenza-like symptoms at the beginning of monitoring (homeopathy, n = 15; placebo, n = 17; P = 0.06). Secondary outcomes indicated that a 50% reduction in symptom score was achieved significantly earlier in the homeopathy group (homeopathy, n = 24; placebo, n = 25; P = 0.04), among the participants with a basal symptom score ≥ 5. Moreover, values of restricted mean survival time indicated that patients receiving homeopathy might have improved 0.9 days faster during the first five days of follow-up (P = 0.022). Hospitalization rates were 2.4% in the homeopathy group and 6.8% in the placebo group (P = 0.62). Participants reported 3 adverse events in the homeopathy group and 6 in the placebo group.
The authors concluded that the results showed that Natrum muriaticum LM2 was safe to use for COVID-19, but there was no statistically significant difference in the primary endpoints of Natrum muriaticum LM2 and placebo for mild COVID-19 cases.
Another relevant study compared the antibody response of homeopathic and conventional vaccines and placebo in young adults. A placebo-controlled, double-blind RCT was conducted where 150 university students who had received childhood vaccinations were assigned to diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, mumps, measles homeopathic vaccine, placebo, or conventional diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus (Tdap) and mumps, measles, rubella (MMR) vaccines. The primary outcome was a ≥ two-fold increase in antibodies from baseline following vaccination as measured by ELISA. Participants, investigators, study coordinators, data blood drawers, laboratory technicians, and data analysts were all blinded.
None of the participants in either the homeopathic vaccine or the placebo group showed a ≥ two-fold response to any of the antigens. In contrast, of those vaccinated with Tdap, 68% (33/48) had a ≥ two-fold response to diphtheria, 83% (40/48) to pertussis toxoid, 88% (42/48) to tetanus, and 35% (17/48) of those vaccinated with MMR had a response to measles or mumps antigens (p < 0.001 for each comparison of conventional vaccine to homeopathic vaccine or to placebo). There was a significant increase in geometric mean titres of antibody from baseline for conventional vaccine antigens (p < 0.001 for each), but none for the response to homeopathic antigens or placebo.
The authors concluded that homeopathic vaccines do not evoke antibody responses and produce a response that is similar to placebo. In contrast, conventional vaccines provide a robust antibody response in the majority of those vaccinated.
To give ‘equal opportunity’ to implausible therapies would, in my view, not merely be wrong, it would be scandalously unethical. The role of homeopathy in the prophylaxis and symptomatic management of COVID-19 or other infections is very easily described; it is:
When I first saw this, I was expecting something like If Homeopathy Beats Science (Mitchell and Webb) – YouTube : videos (reddit.com). But no, “Acute Care Homeopathy for Medical Professionals” is not a masterpiece by gifted satirists. It is much better; it is for real! In fact, it is a collaboration between the “Academy of Homeopathy Education” (AHE) and the American Institute of Homeopathy (AIH). Together, they published the following announcement:
AHE and AIH are pleased to present a customized educational program designed for busy medical professionals interested in enhancing their practice and expanding the treatment tools available with Homeopathy. Grounded in the original theory and philosophy of Homeopathy, AHE’s quality curriculum empowers practitioners and the material’s inspirational delivery encourages further study towards the mastery of Homeopathy for chronic care.
This course is open to all licensed healthcare providers— medical, osteopathic, naturopathic, dentists, chiropractors, veterinarians, nurse practitioners, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacologists and pharmacists.
Acute-care homeopathy addresses the challenges of 21st-century medical practice.
Among many things, you’ll learn safe and effective ways to manage pain and mitigate antibiotic overuse with FDA-regulated and approved Homeopathic remedies. AHE delivers an integrated learning experience that combines online real-time classroom experiences culminating in a telehealth based clinical internship allowing participants to study from anywhere in the world.
AHE’s team of Homeopathy experts have taught thousands of students around the globe and are known for unparalleled academic rigor, comprehensive clinical training, and robust research initiatives. AHE ensures that every graduate develops the necessary critical thinking skills in homeopathy case taking, analysis, and prescribing to succeed in practice with confidence and competence.
- Smart and savvy tech support team helps to on-board and train even the most reticent digital participants
- Academic support professionals provide an educational safety-net
- Stellar faculty to inspire confidence and encourage students to achieve their best work
- “Fireside Chats,” forums, and social gatherings build community
- Tried and true administrative systems keep things running smoothly so you can focus on learning Homeopathy.
All AHE students receive Radar Opus, the leading software package used by professional homeopaths worldwide.
Upon completion of the didactic program, practitioners begin an Acute Care Internship through AHE and the Homeopathy Help Network’s Acute Care Telehealth Clinic “Homeopathy Help Now” (HHN) which sees thousands of cases each year. Upon successful completion of the internship, practitioners will be invited to participate in ongoing supervised practice through HHN.
AHE is part of a larger vision to shape the future of Homeopathy: HOHM Foundation and the Homeopathy Help NetworkAll clinical services are delivered in an education and research-driven model. HOHM’s Office of Research has multiple peer-reviewed publications focused on education, practice, and clinical outcomes. HOHM is committed to funding Homeopathy study and research at every level.
The Academy of Homeopathy Education (AHE) operates in conjunction with HOHM Foundation, a 501c3 initiative committed to education, advocacy, and access. The Homeopathy Help Network is a telehealth clinic providing fee-for-service chronic care as well as donation-based acute care through Homeopathy Help Now.
I suspect you simply cannot wait to enroll. To learn more about “Acute Care Homeopathy for Medical Professionals” please fill out the form.
… and don’t forget to pay the fee of US$ 5 500.
No, it’s not expensive, if you think about it. After all, acute-care homeopathy addresses the challenges of 21st-century medical practice.
The two managing directors of the company were sentenced to imprisonment for two and three years respectively and together they have to pay a fine of over 2.5 million euros. The presiding judge considered it proven that the manufacturers had sold useless devices. He said, “A measuring device that measures nothing is about as useful as a car that does not drive.” In addition, a former sales director was sentenced to a fine of 90 daily rates.
The three leading employees of the company were charged with commercial fraud and violations of the Therapeutic Products Advertising Act. The company from Pliezhausen had claimed that their device would measure blood and nutrient values in the body in an uncomplicated way and thus replace a time-consuming laboratory diagnosis.
The Bioscan device consists of two metal rods. You have to take them in your hand, according to the company’s instructions. They would then measure magnetic waves and produce a result. More than 200 medically important health data could allegedly be recorded, for example, cholesterol or testosterone levels. The court had summoned several experts to assess the device. However, they found that the device measured nothing except the current flowing through the cables.
The manufacturers had been doing a huge business with the device for years. The company is said to have earned almost 6 million euros. The devices are still being sold today, for instance, in Austria and Switzerland, among other countries. Despite all the criticism and the court case, the two managing directors had not stopped sales.
When I googled ‘Bioscan’ yesterday (30/5), the website informed me that:
The BioScan system is an FDA cleared, state of the art testing machine that scans the body’s organs and functions for imbalances using electrodermal screening (EDS).
What Is Stress Reduction Testing?
SRT is a remarkable new procedure that combines the disciplines of Acupuncture, Biofeedback and Homeopathy with Laser Light technology. A computerized scan or test is done to see what your body is sensitive to, and how it is out of balance, then help it learn not to be.
Are there any side effects?
No. A small percentage of clients report slight flushing or congestion for a short time (an hour or so) after their session, but this is actually a sign that the body is detoxifying (a good thing)! This process is safe, fast, non-invasive and painless. Unlike skin tests the actual substance is not used, so the body perceives its presence, it as if it were there, but does not act upon it.
What does the BioScan SRT treat?
The BioScan SRT Wellness System does not diagnose or treat any specific condition. Through the use of our FDA-cleared biofeedback technology, the BioScan SRT is able to assess with a very high degree of specificity which substances create increased levels of stress to the body.These specific stress inducing substances are often times what trigger the nervous systems fight or flight reactions which are expressed in a myriad of symptoms that have been scientifically proven to be associated with high levels of stress.
What substances can the BioScan SRT identify as stressors?
The BioScan SRT contains tens of thousands of substances in the main procedure libraries and up to an additional 50,000 substances in the advanced procedure libraries. This technology can identify almost every known substance that could possibly cause a stress reaction.
Say no more!
I was alerted to the following conference announcement:
The MEP Interest Group on Integrative Medicine and Health is delighted to invite you to the event ‘Integrative Medicine and Health in prevention and management of COVID-19 and long COVID’ on Thursday 2 June 16.00–18.00 CEST.
This event will give you in-depth information about:
Expert speakers will share their knowledge and insights about how:
• Complementary and Integrative Medicine and Health interventions can improve resilience to COVID-19 infection.
• Promoting resilience and health restoration can reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 or development of Long COVID.
• These interventions can improve the recovery from Long COVID.
Key speakers and topics:
Therapeutic strategies of complementary medicines in the COVID 19 pandemic and Long COVID in addition to conventional medicine
Dr Joanna Dietzel, MD Neurologist, Acupuncturist. Department for integrative & complementary medicine, Institute of social medicine, epidemiology and health economics, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany.
Chinese herbal medicine treatment in cases of infections with SARS-CoV-2 – therapeutic strategies for COVID-19 and Long COVID
Dr Christian Thede, MD, General practitioner, specialised in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Former lecturer in Chinese medicine, University of Witten-Herdecke, Germany
Instructor for Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at International Society of Chinese Medicine (SMS).
Traditional and Complementary Medicine contributions to health system resilience during COVID-19 – the WHO perspective
Dr Geetha Kopalakrishna, MD, Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine & Surgery
Technical Officer at Traditional, Complementary & Integrative Medicine, Department of Service Delivery and Safety, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
Key member of the AYUSH-based COVID-19 response Task Force for the Government of India.
Research programme into integrative medicine’s contribution to improving resilience to COVID-19 infection and reducing the risk of severe COVID-19 or development of Long COVID
Dr Helene M. Langevin, Director at National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland (MD), USA. Previously, Director of the Harvard Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston (MA) and professor of neurological sciences at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont (VT).
Q&A sessions after the presentations.
Resilience to infections: a solution for COVID-19 and other infectious illnesses
Studies show that certain common medical conditions put people at higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19. Nearly two-thirds of COVID-19 hospitalizations could be attributed to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure. There is increasing awareness that a health system that focuses on improving health could prevent all these conditions to a large extent.
More than 40% of people who have or had COVID-19 get long COVID, and among people who needed hospitalization, the statistics go up to 57%. The recovery from such post viral syndromes will be greatly helped by offering patients access to complementary and integrative medicine interventions that aim at restoring their health balance.
MEP Interest Group on Integrative Medicine and Health
The event is hosted by the members of the MEP Interest Group on Integrative Medicine & Health:
Michèle Rivasi, Greens/EFA, France
Sirpa Pietikäinen, EPP, Finland
Tilly Metz, Greens/EFA, Luxembourg
Margrete Auken, Greens/EFA, Denmark
Romana Jerković, S&D, Croatia
Manuela Ripa, Greens/EFA, Germany
I had not been aware of the ‘MEP Interest Group on Integrative Medicine & Health‘. Therefore, I looked it up and found this:
The newly established Interest Group on Integrative Medicine & Health continues the work of the former MEP Interest Group on CAM. This group brings together MEPs who work collectively to promote the inclusion of CAM as part of Integrative Medicine & Health in all possible European Parliament public health policy.
Why an Interest Group in the European Parliament?
One in two EU citizens uses complementary medicine either alongside or as an alternative to conventional biomedical care. This high demand is not yet reflected in EU or national health policy or provision. In addition, there is diversity in complementary medicine regulation across the EU. There are differences in who can practice complementary medicine, what qualifications are required and how services are offered and financed. These discrepancies mean that citizens experience practical and attitudinal barriers that limit their access to and use of TCIM.
The health sector in the EU Member States is facing considerable challenges, such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), increasing prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and soaring costs. Complementary medicine can offer a significant contribution to meet these challenges. These modalities are “integrative”, offering patient-centered healthcare, based on evidence-informed integration of conventional biomedicine and complementary medicine. Integrative Medicine and Health focuses on the whole person and considers the individual in its physical, psychological, spiritual, social and environmental context. It is inclusive of all professions and practices that use this approach and meets the demand of EU citizens for a more holistic, patient-centered approach in medicine. At the same time, TCIM is at the center of political and scientific debate. In this context, a forum for discussion on Integrative and Complementary Medicine’s contribution to EU health systems will bring clarity and rationality to this debate.
Aims and objectives of the Interest Group on Integrative Medicine & Health
- Establish and maintain a forum for discussion and action with all stakeholders regarding Integrative Medicine and Health.
- Raise awareness of Integrative Medicine and its contribution to more sustainable healthcare systems in the EU and a more holistic approach to health.
- Focus on the integration of complementary modalities into the health systems of the EU Member States.
- Protect and promote citizens’ right to choose their own healthcare while providing access to Integrative Medicine and Health information.
- Advocate for EU involvement in setting unified standards to regulation of Integrative Medicine and Health.
Unified standards? But what about high or perhaps just scientific standards? What about first doing the research and then making claims about CAM or TCIM or however you decide to call it? Has common sense gone out of fashion?
Yes, you guessed it: I am seriously underwhelmed by all this. To show you why, let me list just a few claims from the above two statements that are based purely on wishful thinking:
- Complementary and Integrative Medicine and Health interventions can improve resilience to COVID-19 infection.
- These interventions can improve the recovery from Long COVID.
- Studies show that certain common medical conditions put people at higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19.
- The recovery from such post viral syndromes will be greatly helped by offering patients access to complementary and integrative medicine interventions that aim at restoring their health balance.
- One in two EU citizens uses complementary medicine either alongside or as an alternative to conventional biomedical care.
- The health sector in the EU Member States is facing considerable challenges, such as antimicrobial resistance (AMR), increasing prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and soaring costs. Complementary medicine can offer a significant contribution to meet these challenges.
- These modalities are “integrative”, offering patient-centered healthcare, based on evidence-informed integration of conventional biomedicine and complementary medicine.
- Integrative medicine … meets the demand of EU citizens for a more holistic, patient-centered approach in medicine.
I find all this confusing and concerning in equal measure. I also seriously doubt that the forum for discussion on Integrative and Complementary Medicine will bring clarity and rationality to this debate. If they really wanted a debate, they would need to include a few critical thinkers; can anyone recognize one on the list of speakers? I cannot!
I fear the aim of the group and their meeting is to mislead us all into thinking that CAM, TCIM, etc. generate more good than harm without ever delivering the evidence for that assumption. Therefore, I suggest they rename both the conference as well as their group:
‘Wishful thinking in prevention and management of COVID-19 and long COVID’
MEP Interest Group on Wishful Thinking and Promotion of Quackery
As an antidote to wishful thinking, I recommend reading some proper science papers on the subject. Here are the conclusions of an up-to-date and wishful-thinking-free review on the subject of post-acute infection syndrome:
Unexplained post-acute infection syndromes (PAISs) appear to be an under-recognized feature of a spectrum of infectious diseases in a minority of patients. At present, our understanding of the underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms and etiologic factors is poor and there are no known objective markers or effective therapeutic options. More basic biomedical research is needed. The overlap of symptoms, signs, and general features of the individual PAISs suggests the involvement of shared pathological pathways and the possibility that common diagnostic markers, or even a unified etiological model, might be established.
However, some symptoms or clinical characteristics seem to be trigger-specific or more prevalent in one PAIS than in others, emphasizing the need for cohorts with a well-documented infectious trigger. The overall clinical picture of many PAISs often overlaps with the presentation of post-infectious ME/CFS or fibromyalgia, or resembles other fatiguing, neurological, or rheumatic disorders. Exploiting existing knowledge of these conditions might help guide future scientific discovery and progress in clinical care.
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic uncovered a significant gap in knowledge about post-acute sequelae of infectious diseases and identified the need for better diagnostic care and clinical infrastructure for patients experiencing these long-term effects. In addition to basic biomedical research, more needs to be done to refine diagnostic criteria and obtain more reliable estimates of the prevalence and societal burden of these disorders to help shape health-policy decisions. Moreover, we call for unified nomenclature and better conceptualization of post-acute infection symptoms.
There is much to be done, but the unprecedented amount of attention and resources that have recently been allocated to the study of COVID-19-related pathology brings a promise of much-needed progress in the wider field of unexplained infection-associated chronic disability.
This meta-analysis was conducted by researchers affiliated to the Evangelical Clinics Essen-Mitte, Department of Internal and Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. (one of its authors is an early member of my ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE HALL OF FAME). The paper assessed the safety of acupuncture in oncological patients.
The PubMed, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Scopus databases were searched from their inception to August 7, 2020. Randomized controlled trials in oncological patients comparing invasive acupuncture with sham acupuncture, treatment as usual (TAU), or any other active control were eligible. Two reviewers independently extracted data on study characteristics and adverse events (AEs). Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool.
Of 4590 screened articles, 65 were included in the analyses. The authors observed that acupuncture was not associated with an increased risk of intervention-related AEs, nonserious AEs, serious AEs, or dropout because of AEs compared with sham acupuncture and active control. Compared with TAU, acupuncture was not associated with an increased risk of intervention-related AEs, serious AEs, or dropout because of AEs but was associated with an increased risk for nonserious AEs (odds ratio, 3.94; 95% confidence interval, 1.16-13.35; P = .03). However, the increased risk of nonserious AEs compared with TAU was not robust against selection bias. The meta-analyses may have been biased because of the insufficient reporting of AEs in the original randomized controlled trials.
The authors concluded that the current review indicates that acupuncture is as safe as sham acupuncture and active controls in oncological patients. The authors recommend researchers heed the CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) safety and harm extension for reporting to capture the side effects and better investigate the risk profile of acupuncture in oncology.
You might think this article is not too bad. So, why do I feel that this paper is so bad?
One reason is that the authors included evidence up to August 2020. Since then, there must have been hundreds of further papers on acupuncture. The article was therefore out of date before it was published.
But that is by no means my main reason. We know from numerous investigations that acupuncture studies often fail to report AEs (and thus violate publication ethics). This means that this new analysis is merely an amplification of the under-reporting. It is, in other words, a means of perpetuating a wrong message.
Yes, you might say, but the authors acknowledge this; they even state in the abstract that “The meta-analyses may have been biased because of the insufficient reporting of AEs in the original randomized controlled trials.” True, but this fact does not erase the mistake, it merely concedes it. At the very minimum, the authors should have phrased their conclusion differently, e.g.: the current review confirms that AEs of acupuncture are under-reported in RCTs. Therefore, a meta-analysis of RCTs is unable to verify whether acupuncture is safe. From other types of research, we know that it can cause serious AEs.
An even better solution would have been to abandon or modify the research project when they first came across the mountain of evidence showing that RCTs often fail to mention AEs.
As it stands, the conclusion that acupuncture is as safe as sham acupuncture is simply not true. Since the article probably looks sound to naive readers, I feel that is a particularly good candidate for the WORST PAPER OF 2022 COMPETITION.
For those who are interested, here are 4 of my own peer-reviewed articles on the safety of acupuncture (much more can, of course, be found on this blog):
- Patient safety incidents from acupuncture treatments: a review of reports to the National Patient Safety Agency – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Acupuncture–a critical analysis – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Prospective studies of the safety of acupuncture: a systematic review – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The risks of acupuncture – PubMed (nih.gov)