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

commercial interests

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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

 

 

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?

I am glad to hear that the Vatican is issueing  new guidelines on supernatural phenomena. The document, compiled by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, will lay out rules to assess the truthfulness of supernatural claims. Reports of such phenomena are said to have soared in recent years in an era of social media – sometimes spread through disinformation and rumour. The guidelines are likely to tighten criteria for the screening, analysis, and possible rejection of cases.

Apparitions have been reported across the centuries. Those recognised by the Church have prompted pilgrims, and popes, to visit spots where they are said to have taken place. Millions flock to Lourdes in France, for example, or Fatima in Portugal, where the Virgin Mary is alleged to have appeared to children, promising a miracle – after which crowds are said to have witnessed the sun zig-zagging through the sky. The visitation was officially recognised by the Church in 1930.

But other reports are found by church officials to be baloney. In 2016, an Italian woman began claiming regular apparitions of Jesus and Mary in a small town north of Rome after she brought back a statue from Medjugorje in Bosnia, where the Virgin Mary is also said to have appeared. Crowds prayed before the statue and received messages including warnings against same-sex marriage and abortion. It took eight years for the local bishop to debunk the story.

_________________________

 

Perhaps the Vatican should also have a look at faith healing*, the attempt to bring about healing through divine intervention. The Bible and other religious texts provide numerous examples of divine healing, and believers see this as a proof that faith healing is possible. There are also numerous reports of people suffering from severe diseases, including cancer and AIDS, who were allegedly healed by divine intervention.

Faith healing has no basis in science, is biologically not plausible. Some methodologically flawed studies have suggested positive effects, however, this is not confirmed by sound clinical trials. Several plausible explanations exist for the cases that have allegedly been healed by divine intervention, for instance, spontaneous remission or placebo response. Another explanation is fraud. For instance, the famous German faith healer, Peter Popoff, was exposed in 1986 for using an earpiece to receive radio messages from his wife giving him the home addresses and ailments of audience members which he purported had come from God during his faith healing rallies.

Faith healing may per se be safe, but it can nevertheless do untold indirect harm, and even fatalities are on record: “Faith healing, when added as an adjuvant or alternative aid to medical science, will not necessarily be confined to mere arguments and debates but may also give rise to series of complications, medical emergencies and even result in death.”

Alternatively, the Vatican might look at the healing potential of pilgrimages*, journeys to places considered to be sacred. The pilgrims often do this in the hope to be cured of a disease. The purpose of Christian pilgrimage was summarized by Pope Benedict XVI as follows:

To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendour and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.

There are only few scientific studies of pilgrimages. The purpose of this qualitative research was to explore whether pilgrims visiting Lourdes, France had transcendent experiences. The authors concluded that visiting Lourdes can have a powerful effect on a pilgrim and may include an “out of the ordinary” transcendent experience, involving a sense of relationship with the divine, or experiences of something otherworldly and intangible. There is a growing focus on Lourdes as a place with therapeutic benefits rather that cures: our analysis suggests that transcendent experiences can be central to this therapeutic effect. Such experiences can result in powerful emotional responses, which themselves may contribute to long term well-being. Our participants described a range of transcendent experiences, from the prosaic and mildly pleasant, to intense experiences that affected pilgrims’ lives. The place itself is crucially important, above all the Grotto, as a space where pilgrims perceive that the divine can break through into normal life, enabling closer connections with the divine, with nature and with the self.

Other researchers tested the effects of tap water labelled as Lourdes water versus tap water labelled as tap water found that placebos in the context of religious beliefs and practices can change the experience of emotional salience and cognitive control which is accompanied by connectivity changes in the associated brain networks. They concluded that this type of placebo can enhance emotional-somatic well-being, and can lead to changes in cognitive control/emotional salience networks of the brain.

The risks involved in pilgrimages is their often considerable costs. It is true, as the text above points out that “millions flock to Lourdes in France”. In other words, pilgrimiges are an important source of income, not least for the catholoc church.

A more important risk can be that they are used as an alternative to effective treatments. This, as we all know, can be fatal. As there is no good evidence that pilgrimiges cure diseases, their risk/benefit balance as a treatment of disease cannot be positive.

So, will the new rules of the Vatican curtail the risks on supernatural healing practises? I would not hold my breath!

_________________

* for references see my book from where this text has been borrowed and modified.

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

In the previous two parts of this series (see here and here), we discussed the following SCAM diagnoses:

  • adrenal fatigue,
  • candidiasis hypersensitivity,
  • chronic intoxications,
  • chronic Lyme disease,
  • electromagnetic hypersensitivity,
  • homosexuality.

Today, I will add three further fake diagnoses to the list.

Leaky gut syndrome

Leaky gut syndrome is allegedly caused by the passage of harmful substances from the gut wall into the body. SCAM proponents claim it is the origin of many conditions, including multiple sclerosis and autism. However, there is no evidence to show that these claims are true. SCAM practitioners nevertheless recommend many types of SCAM to treat the non-existing entity, e.g. SCAM diets, supplements, etc. It goes without saying that none of them have been shown to be effective.

Multiple chemical sensitivity

Multiple chemical sensitivity is allegedly caused by a hypersensitivity to commonly used chemicals. The symptoms are vague such as headache, dizziness, fatigue. Even those who believe that the condition exist are unable to offer a generally accepted definition of the syndrome.

The SCAMs recommended include:

  • Nutritional supplements
  • Digestive aids
  • Hormone balancing
  • Detoxification
  • Desensitization
  • Eliminating occult infections
  • Oxygen
  • Immune stimulation

Naturally, none of them is supported by sound evidence.

Neurasthenia

In 1869, physician George Miller Beard developed a diagnostic profile for a mental disorder that appeared to be common in the US. Neurasthenia was allegedly characterised by migraines, fatigue, depression, and digestive problems.

The cure, according to Beard, was to flee the city – because it was the stresses of city life that caused the condition. Women were encouraged to rest, while men were asked to engage in outdoor activities. By the early 20th century, this mental disorder had become a status symbol, and it soon spread to other parts of the world. But this pandemic was short-lived: by 1930, neurasthenia had virtually disappeared from conventional medicine.

In SCAM, however, neurasthenia is still a well-establisged money earner. SCAM practitioners do not hesitate to recomment virually every SCAM under the sun for it. They all have one thing in common: they do not work.

 

This Phase IV randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was “designed to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of the product Neurodoron (Kalium phosporicum comp., KPC) in patients with neurasthenia”.

The study was conducted in an outpatient German trial site. Women and men aged 18 and above were randomized to receive either KPC or placebo if they reported typical symptoms of neurasthenia and a severe psychiatric disorder could be excluded. The primary objectives were a reduction in characteristic symptoms of nervous exhaustion and perceived stress as well as improvement in general health status after 6 weeks of treatment.

In total, 204 patients underwent screening, 78 were randomized in each treatment group, and 77 patients each received treatment (intention-to-treat (ITT) population = 154 patients). For none of the primary efficacy variables, an advantage in favor of KPC could be demonstrated in the pre-specified analysis (p-values between 0.505-0.773, Student’s t-test). In a post-hoc analysis of intra-individual differences after 6 weeks treatment, a significant advantage of KPC vs. placebo was shown for characteristic symptoms of nervous exhaustion (irritability (p = 0.020); nervousness (p = 0.045), Student’s t-test). Adverse event (AE) rates were similar between treatment groups, in both groups six AEs were assessed as causally related to treatment (severity mild or moderate). No AE resulted in discontinuation of treatment.

The authors concluded that the trial treatment was well tolerated with only a few and minor AEs reported, confirming the markedly good safety of KPC. A significant improvement of neurasthenia was seen for the total study population at the end of the treatment period. Superiority of KPC vs. placebo could not be demonstrated with the pre-specified analysis with regards to a sum score of 12 typical symptoms, perceived stress, or general health status. However, the explorative post-hoc analysis revealed that KPC is superior to placebo in the characteristic symptoms irritability and nervousness. KPC could therefore be a beneficial treatment option for symptomatic relief of neurasthenia.

The very first thing one notices is the aim of the study. According to its authors, it was “designed to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of the product Neurodoron (Kalium phosporicum comp., KPC) in patients with neurasthenia“. Any group of researchers that is unaware of the fact that clinical trials are for TESTING and not for DEMONSTRATING should, in my view, be sent straight back to school. And while they are at it, they might as well take with them the editor of the journal as well as the peer-reviewers of the paper.

As it happens, I have published a post about Neurodoron before. Here is a short section from it:

Stress is associated with a multitude of physical and psychological health impairments. To tackle these health disorders, over-the-counter (OTC) products like Neurodoron® are popular since they are considered safe and tolerable. One tablet of this anthroposophic remedy contains the following active ingredients:

83.3 mg Aurum metallicum praeparatum trituration (trit.) D10,

83.3 mg Kalium phosphoricicum trit. D6,

8.3 mg Ferrum-Quarz trit. D2.

Experience reports and first studies indicate that Neurodoron® is efficient in the treatment of stress-associated health symptoms…

Apart from its above-mentioned aim, the new study is remarkable in one further aspect: in its conclusion, it makes a big deal out of the ‘good news’ that Neurodoron safe. As the trial was not designed to test safety, this can only be seen as an attempt to hide (as well as possible) the fact that the remedy turned out to be ineffective.

Why would researchers try to distract the reader from the main message of their work? The answer might lie in the affiliation of two of the authors: Clinical Research, Weleda AG, Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany.

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