The history of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is rich with ‘discoveries’ that are widely believed to be true events but that, in fact, never happened. Here are 10 examples:
- DD Palmer is believed to have cured the deafness of a janitor by manipulating his neck. This, many claim, was the birth of chiropractic. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because the nerve responsible for hearing does not run through the neck.
- Samuel Hahnemann swallowed some Cinchona officinalis, a quinine-containing treatment for malaria, and experienced the symptoms of malaria. This was the discovery of the ‘like cures like’ assumption that forms the basis of homeopathy. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because Hahnemann merely had an intolerance to quinine, and like does certainly not cure like.
- Edward Bach, for the discovery of each of his flower remedies, suffered from the state of mind for which a particular remedy was required; according to his companion, Nora Weeks, he suffered it “to such an intensified degree that those with him marvelled that it was possible for a human being to suffer so and retain his sanity.” This is how Bach discovered the ‘Bach Flower Remedies‘. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? His experience was not caused by by the remedy, which contain no active ingredients, but by his imagination.
- William Fitzgerald found that pressure on specific areas on the soles of a patient’s feet would positively affect a specific organ of that patient. This was the birth of reflexology. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because there are no nerve connections from the sole of our feet to our inner organs.
- Max Gerson observed that his special diet with added liver juice, vitamin B3, coffee enemas, etc. cures cancer. This is how Gerson found the Gerson therapy. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because he never could demonstrate this effect and others never were able to replicate his alleged finfings.
- George Goodheart was convinced that the strength of a muscle group provides information about the health of inner organs. This formed the basis for applied kinesiology. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because applied kinesiology has been disclosed as a simple party trick.
- Paul Nogier thought that the function of inner organs can be influenced by stimulating points on the outer ear. This was the discovery that became auricular therapy. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because Nogier’s assumptions fly in the face of anatomy and physiology.
- Antom Mesmer discovered that by moving a magnet over a patient, he would move her vital fluid and affect her health. This discovery became the basis for Mesmer’s ‘animal magnetism‘. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because there is no vital fluid and neither real nor animal magnetism have specific therapeutic effects.
- Reinhold Voll observed that the electric resistance over acupuncture points provides diagnostic information about the function of the corresponding organs. He thus invented his ‘electroacupuncture according to Voll‘ (EAV). BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because EAV and the various methods derived from it are not valid and fail to produce reproducible results.
- Ignatz von Peczely discovered that discolorations on the iris provide valuable information about the health of inner organs. This was the birth of iridology. BUT IT NEVER HAPPENED! How can I be so sure? Because discolorations develop spontaneously and Peczely’s assumptions about nerval connections between the iris and the organs of the body are pure fantasy.
I hope that you can think of further SCAM discoveries that never happened. If so, please elaborate in the comments section below; you will see, it is good fun!
By sating ‘IT NEVER HAPPENED’, I mean to say that it never happened as reported/imagined by the inventor of the respective SCAM and that the explanations perpetuated by the enthusiasts of the SCAM regarding cause and effect are based on misunderstandings.
This sudy made me speachless. I best show the abstract in its full and unadulterated beauty:
This study intended to assess the homoeopathic practice, prescription habits, experience, and perception of Indian Homeopathic Practitioners (HPs) in treating DM.
A web-based cross-sectional with a snowball sampling method was conducted between 30th July 2021 and 18th August 2021. A questionnaire to record clinical attributes of Indian HPs in the management of DM was formed after the consensus of the subject experts and pilot testing for feasibility.
Participants were 513 HPs with mean age [Standard Deviation (SD)] of 40.44 years (11.16) and a mean duration of the homoeopathic medical practice of 14.67 years [95% Confidence Interval (CI) = 13.71–15.63]. The majority of HPs made classical homoeopathic prescription (201, 39.2%) though the success in the management of DM was better among HPs who prescribed more than one potentized medicine [vs classical prescription, Odds Ratio (OR) = 2.34, p = 0.032]. As perceived by the HPs, homoeopathic treatment resulted in a major improvement in QOL of the diabetic patients (418, 81.5%) with very few adverse effect (100, 19.5%). The blood sugar level was controlled better when homoeopathy was given alongside conventional medicine (348, 67.8%).
The clinical experience of HPs in this study has shown that homoeopathic treatment can benefit DM patients in preventing complications and improving QOL. It further reported that homoeopathy can be an important adjuvant to conventional treatment in managing DM.
Let’s be clear: there is no reliable evidence that DM – a life-threatening disease – can be effectively treated with homeopathy. And let’s be blunt: HPs who claim otherwise are in my view criminal.
I should mention that some of the patients had type 1 diabetes. Many HPs felt that “there was a lack of awareness about the effectiveness of homoeopathy in DM among the general population”. The data show that in 7% the HPs discontinued conventional ant-diabetic drugs completely, and in 73% they reduced them.
It seems that the general population is well advised to ignore homeopathy and its alleged effectiveness for DM. I would even go one step further and postulate that:
if patients rely on homeopathy to treat their diabetes, they risk their lives!
The COVID-19 pandemic has been notable for the widespread dissemination of misinformation regarding the virus and appropriate treatment. The objective of this study was to quantify the prevalence of non–evidence-based treatment for COVID-19 in the US and the association between such treatment and endorsement of misinformation as well as lack of trust in physicians and scientists.
This single-wave, population-based, nonprobability internet survey study was conducted between December 22, 2022, and January 16, 2023, in US residents 18 years or older who reported prior COVID-19 infection.
Self-reported use of ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine, endorsing false statements related to COVID-19 vaccination, self-reported trust in various institutions, conspiratorial thinking measured by the American Conspiracy Thinking Scale, and news sources.
A total of 13 438 individuals (mean [SD] age, 42.7 [16.1] years; 9150 [68.1%] female and 4288 [31.9%] male) who reported prior COVID-19 infection were included in this study. In this cohort, 799 (5.9%) reported prior use of hydroxychloroquine (527 [3.9%]) or ivermectin (440 [3.3%]). In regression models including sociodemographic features as well as political affiliation, those who endorsed at least 1 item of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation were more likely to receive non–evidence-based medication (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 2.86; 95% CI, 2.28-3.58). Those reporting trust in physicians and hospitals (adjusted OR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.56-0.98) and in scientists (adjusted OR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.51-0.79) were less likely to receive non–evidence-based medication. Respondents reporting trust in social media (adjusted OR, 2.39; 95% CI, 2.00-2.87) and in Donald Trump (adjusted OR, 2.97; 95% CI, 2.34-3.78) were more likely to have taken non–evidence-based medication. Individuals with greater scores on the American Conspiracy Thinking Scale were more likely to have received non–evidence-based medications (unadjusted OR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.06-1.11; adjusted OR, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.07-1.13).
The authors concluded that, in this survey study of US adults, endorsement of misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of trust in physicians or scientists, conspiracy-mindedness, and the nature of news sources were associated with receiving non–evidence-based treatment for COVID-19. These results suggest that the potential harms of misinformation may extend to the use of ineffective and potentially toxic treatments in addition to avoidance of health-promoting behaviors.
This study made me wonder to what extend a lack of trust in physicians or scientists, and conspiracy-mindedness are also linked to the use of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) for treatning COVID infections. As I have often discussed, such associations have been reported regularly, e.g.:
- Homeopathy as an Adjuvant to Standard Care in Moderate and Severe Cases of COVID-19
- Arrests in Germany of healthcare professionals who issued fake COVID certificates
- Classical homeopathy worsens the prognosis of patients infected with COVID-19.
- “No jabby-jabby for me! Praise GOD!” But now this antivaxer has died of COVID-related pneumonia
- Homeopathy for COVID: opinions expressed on Twitter
- Efficacy of Persian barley water on clinical outcomes of hospitalized moderate-severity COVID-19 patients
- Effectiveness of Homeopathic Arsenicum album 30C in the Prevention of COVID-19
- Homoeopathy in the Prophylaxis and Symptomatic Management of COVID-19
- Is aromatherapy the answer to long-COVID? I fear not!
- Anthroposophical hospital defies COVID-19 regulations
- An Ayurvedic medication is effective for patients suffering from mild to moderate COVID-19 – true or false?
- Homeopathy for COVID-19: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial shows that it does not work
- Micronutrient supplements for patients with COVID-19 infection
- A new trial of homeopathy for preventing COVID-19 infections
- Homeopathy and other SCAMs for long-COVID: WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE?
- Upper Bavaria is struggling with COVID-19, not least due to so-called alternative medicine
- And again: is vitamin C the solution for COVID-19 infections?
- Parents’ Willingness to Vaccinate with a COVID-19 Vaccine: strongly influenced by homeopathy
- A new study of homeopathy for the prevention of COVID-19 infections
- Homeopathic Treatment for COVID-19: a case of scientific misconduct and/or irresponsible behavior?
- The ‘AYUSH COVID-19 Helpline’: have they gone bonkers?
- Adjunctive homeopathic treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. A case study of homeopathic delusion
- US Chiropractor in court for making false claims related to COVID-19
- Chinese Herbal Medicine for COVID-19? The evidence remains unconvincing
- Vitamin C and/or zinc for managing COVID patients?
- An RCT on the efficacy of ayurvedic treatment on asymptomatic COVID-19 patients
- Herbal solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The authors point out that the endorsement of misinformation related to COVID-19 has been shown to decrease the intention to vaccinate against COVID-19, to decrease the belief that it is required for herd immunity, and to correlate with forgoing various COVID-19 prevention behaviors. Such false information is largely spread online and often originates as disinformation intentionally spread by political actors and media sources, as well as illicit actors who profit from touting supposed cures for COVID-19. A substantial minority of the public endorses false information related to COVID-19, although certain subgroups are more likely to do so, including those who are more religious, who distrust scientists, and who hold stronger political affiliations. Cultivating and maintaining trust is a crucial factor in encouraging the public to engage in prosocial health behaviors. The extent to which addressing conspiratorial thinking could represent a strategy to address obstacles to public health merits further investigation.
When the media does not adhere to reporting guidelines regarding so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), this may deceive or mislead consumers about the safety and efficacy of these practices. A team of researchers analyzed whether Serbian online media adheres to reporting guidelines and described dominant psychological appeals used to promote TM/CAM.
They conducted a content analysis of 182 articles from six news and six magazine websites, published July–December 2021. Biologically based treatments – predominantly herbal products – were the most common (205/289 practices). SCAM practices were claimed to:
- improve general health (71/386 claims),
- alleviate respiratory problems,
- boost the immunity,
- and detox the body.
The tone was overwhelmingly positive, with most of the positive articles (145/176) neglecting to disclose the potential harms of SCAM. Few articles provided a recommendation to speak with a healthcare provider (24/176). Articles tended to appeal to SCAM’s long tradition of use (115/176), naturalness (80/176), and convenience (72/176). They used vague pseudoscientific jargon (105/176) and failed to cite sources for the claims that SCAM use is supported by science (39/176).
The authors concluded that given that SCAM use may lead to harmful outcomes (such as adverse events, avoidance of official treatment or interaction with it), Serbian online media reports on SCAM are inadequate to assist consumers’ decision-making. Our findings highlight issues that need to be addressed towards ensuring more critical health reporting, and, ultimately, better informed SCAM consumption choices.
A long time agao, in 2000, we did a similar survey. We compared what UK newspapers published about SCAM and conventional medicine to what German papers did. We found that the proportion of articles about SCAM seems to be considerably larger in the UK (15% v 5%), and, in contrast to articles on medical matters in general, reporting on SCAM in the UK was overwhelmingly positive. I wonder whether, 23 years later, the situation has changed.
Blood electrification? If you had not heard about it, you are in good company. What is it? The Internet has many columns on it. Here is an article that I abbreviated a bit for the purpose of this blog:
Dr. Robert C. Beck is the inventor of blood electrification, which can be traced back to the work of Dr. Hulda Clark and Dr. Robert J. Thiel. The method is based on the assumption that parasites, bacteria, viruses and fungi are paralyzed by a low current pulse of 50 to 100 microamperes. As a result, the pathogens are no longer able to infect the body and the immune system can readily eliminate.
Dr. Beck found that the current flow, i.e., blood electrification, is more important than the frequency. Unlike previous ‘zappers’, the “Beck-Zapper” works only with a frequency of 3.920 Hz. Beck believes that the lower the frequency, the greater the current absorption, i.e. the more effective the therapy. Moreover, the Beck zapper is in harmony with the body’s own rhythm and is therefore not a stress trigger. Since the Beck zapper works with a higher voltage (27 volts) than the Clark zapper (9 volts), it is attached directly to the pulse vein and not held in the hands. Here’s how the Beckzapper works:
- The “enemy in the blood,” as Beck called parasites, viruses and bacteria, is fought with mild electricity between 50 and 100 microamperes at half the Schumann frequency of 3.92 Hz, he said.
- During blood electrification, colloidal silver is added to prevent secondary infection. Colloidal silver is extremely small silver particles dissolved in water, which are held in suspension by the water molecules. Although collodial silver enjoyed great importance in medicine hundreds of years ago, it fell into oblivion due to the introduction of antiobiotics and has only been gradually rediscovered in recent years.
- Powerful magnetic pulses are said to carry pathogens from the lymphatic system back into the bloodstream, where they can then be eliminated by the immune system.
Beck was able to prove that his patients became virus-free and symptom-free after the exact application of the blood electrification device. However, he also found that some of his patients became ill again with the same virus after a few months. After further study, he realized that the repeated infections were due to lingering viruses in the lymph fluid. Starting from the lymph fluid, the viruses returned to the bloodstream, where they re-infected cells and multiplied, causing the repeated symptoms of the disease. Beck then invented another device, the so-called magnetic pulser.
This generated an electrical flow by means of a magnetic pulse, which triggered contractions in the lymphatic channels. This forced movement of the lymph, causing the microbes to be forced back into the bloodstream where they could be electrified. Beck applied the Magnetpluser to some patients in combination with the blood electrifier and obtained surprisingly positive results.
Dr. Beck assumed that parasites were responsible for the development of diseases. Beck also believed that parasites in the blood would limit human life expectancy to 70 to 80 years. Dr. Beck himself was convinced of the effectiveness of his zapper and lost 60 kg through it. He explained this weight loss by the fact that the parasites had previously consumed a large part of the nutrients, causing him to experience constant ravenous hunger. In addition, Beck’s blood pressure dropped significantly, as did his blood sugar. He also regained a full head of hair as an almost 70-year-old bald man. Beck attributed all these benefits to his zapper, which he was able to prove after a three-week treatment by means of a blood test using the dark field method: His blood count was perfect.
The blood zapper also helps with herpes diseases, AIDS, chicken pox, lung ulcers, leukemia and other types of cancer, as well as chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, flu-like infections, asthma and gastritis. In short, the blood zapper has been able to treat many diseases that are usually considered incurable.
Beck recommends performing blood electrification for two hours daily for 3 to 6 weeks, or longer if necessary.
- The Beckzapper can be carried in the breast pocket or on the belt.
- The cathode and anode are to be placed where on the one hand the blood flows and on the other hand the pulse beat can be felt.
- This can be, for example, on the wrist or feet.
- For the greatest possible freedom of movement during treatment, the “miniZAP” is recommended.
- This is a matchbox-sized zapper that can be worn comfortably on the wrist.
- The method of blood electrification can be performed by anyone. There are no known side effects when using the blood zapper.
Dr. Alfons Weber has presented research according to which most cancers are caused by excessive microbial infestation of blood cells. According to the findings of Prof. Pappa, this circumstance, in turn, can be attributed to a too low energy status. The use of electrotherapy can therefore achieve considerable success in the treatment of parasitic and energy-related cancers in particular.
- The use of the Beckzapper in cancer patients should be continuous
- According to Dr. Weber, the carcinoma protozoa are located in the blood cells and eat the hemoglobin here.
- The carcinoma protozoa located in the blood cells are first hardly affected by the increased current flow in the blood plasma.
- Only when the respective blood cell has been eaten empty do the carcinoma protozoa leave the blood cell in search of a new one.
- Once the carcinoma protozoa are outside the plasma, they can be eliminated by the continuous surge of the Beckzapper.
- In this way, new blood cells cannot be attacked in the first place.
The continuous application of the Beckzapper, possibly in combination with a magnetic pulse generator with collodial silver, can significantly reduce the number of protozoa.
Vis a vis so much nonsense, I am almost speechless. I did try to find any credible publications that might back up the multityde of claims made above. Neddless to say, I was not successful.
And what makes that anyone who promotes ‘blood electrification’ as a cure of anything?
The answer is easy:
A DANGEROUS CHARLATAN
This case report aims to describe the effects of craniosacral therapy and acupuncture in a patient with chronic migraine.
A 33-year-old man with chronic migraine was treated with 20 sessions of craniosacral therapy and acupuncture for 8 weeks. The number of migraine and headache days were monitored every month. The pain intensity of headache was measured on the visual analog scale (VAS). Korean Headache Impact Test-6 (HIT-6) and Migraine Specific Quality of Life (MSQoL) were also used.
The number of headache days per month reduced from 28 to 7 after 8 weeks of treatment and to 3 after 3 months of treatment. The pain intensity of headache based on VAS reduced from 7.5 to 3 after 8 weeks and further to < 1 after 3 months of treatment. Furthermore, the patient’s HIT-6 and MSQoL scores improved during the treatment period, which was maintained or further improved at the 3 month follow-up. No side effects were observed during or after the treatment.
The authors concluded that this case indicates that craniosacral therapy and acupuncture could be effective treatments for chronic
migraine. Further studies are required to validate the efficacy of craniosacral therapy for chronic migraine.
So, was the treatment period 8 weeks long or was it 3 months?
No, I am not discussing this article merely for making a fairly petty point. The reason I mention it is diffteren. I think it is time to discuss the relevance of case reports.
What is the purpose of a case report in medicine/healthcare. Here is the abstract of an article entitled “The Importance of Writing and Publishing Case Reports During Medical Training“:
Case reports are valuable resources of unusual information that may lead to new research and advances in clinical practice. Many journals and medical databases recognize the time-honored importance of case reports as a valuable source of new ideas and information in clinical medicine. There are published editorials available on the continued importance of open-access case reports in our modern information-flowing world. Writing case reports is an academic duty with an artistic element.
An article in the BMJ is, I think, more informative:
It is common practice in medicine that when we come across an interesting case with an unusual presentation or a surprise twist, we must tell the rest of the medical world. This is how we continue our lifelong learning and aid faster diagnosis and treatment for patients.
It usually falls to the junior to write up the case, so here are a few simple tips to get you started.
Begin by sitting down with your medical team to discuss the interesting aspects of the case and the learning points to highlight. Ideally, a registrar or middle grade will mentor you and give you guidance. Another junior doctor or medical student may also be keen to be involved. Allocate jobs to split the workload, set a deadline and work timeframe, and discuss the order in which the authors will be listed. All listed authors should contribute substantially, with the person doing most of the work put first and the guarantor (usually the most senior team member) at the end.
Gain permission and written consent to write up the case from the patient or parents, if your patient is a child, and keep a copy because you will need it later for submission to journals.
Gather all the information from the medical notes and the hospital’s electronic systems, including copies of blood results and imaging, as medical notes often disappear when the patient is discharged and are notoriously difficult to find again. Remember to anonymise the data according to your local hospital policy.
Write up the case emphasising the interesting points of the presentation, investigations leading to diagnosis, and management of the disease/pathology. Get input on the case from all members of the team, highlighting their involvement. Also include the prognosis of the patient, if known, as the reader will want to know the outcome.
Coming up with a title
Discuss a title with your supervisor and other members of the team, as this provides the focus for your article. The title should be concise and interesting but should also enable people to find it in medical literature search engines. Also think about how you will present your case study—for example, a poster presentation or scientific paper—and consider potential journals or conferences, as you may need to write in a particular style or format.
Research the disease/pathology that is the focus of your article and write a background paragraph or two, highlighting the relevance of your case report in relation to this. If you are struggling, seek the opinion of a specialist who may know of relevant articles or texts. Another good resource is your hospital library, where staff are often more than happy to help with literature searches.
How your case is different
Move on to explore how the case presented differently to the admitting team. Alternatively, if your report is focused on management, explore the difficulties the team came across and alternative options for treatment.
Finish by explaining why your case report adds to the medical literature and highlight any learning points.
Writing an abstract
The abstract should be no longer than 100-200 words and should highlight all your key points concisely. This can be harder than writing the full article and needs special care as it will be used to judge whether your case is accepted for presentation or publication.
Discuss with your supervisor or team about options for presenting or publishing your case report. At the very least, you should present your article locally within a departmental or team meeting or at a hospital grand round. Well done!
Both papers agree that case reports can be important. They may provide valuable resources of unusual information that may lead to new research and advances in clinical practice and should offer an interesting case with an unusual presentation or a surprise twist.
But perhaps it is more constructive to consider what a case report cannot do.
It cannot provide evidence about the effectiveness of a therapy. To publish something like:
- I had a patient with the common condition xy;
- I treated her with therapy yz;
- this was followed by patient feeling better;
is totally bonkers – even more so if the outcome was subjective and the therapy consisted of more than one intervention, as in the article above. We have no means of telling whether it was treatment A, or treatment B, or a placebo effect, or the regression towards the mean, or the natural history of the condition that caused the outcome. The authors might just as well just have reported:
WE RECENTLY TREATED A PATIENT WHO GOT BETTER
Sadly – and this is the reason why I spend some time on this subject – this sort of thing happens very often in the realm of SCAM.
Case reports are particularly valuable if they enable and stimulate others to do more research on a defined and under-researched issue (e.g. an adverse effect of a therapy). Case reports like the one above do not do this. They are a waste of space and tend to be abused as some sort of indication that the treatments in question might be valuable.
The current BMJ has an article entitled UK could have averted 240 000 deaths in 2010s if it matched other European nations. Here is its staring passage:
The UK has fallen far behind its international peers on a range of health outcomes and major policy reforms are required to reverse this, a report1 has concluded.
Analysts from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) calculated that there would have been 240 000 fewer deaths in the UK between 2010 and 2020 if the UK matched average avoidable mortality in comparable European nations.
The report says the UK’s poor outcomes are partly down to people’s inability to access healthcare in a timely manner, a problem that has intensified since the pandemic.
To tackle this, the progressive think tank has put forward a 10 point plan to shift the NHS from a sickness service to a prevention service. It says primary care should be placed at the heart of a “prevention first” NHS with a nationwide rollout of neighbourhood health hubs to deliver integrated health and care services in every local area…
Isn’t that the nonsense Charles III, Michael Dixon, THE COLLEGE OF MEDICINE AND INTEGRATED HEALTH and many others promote? The integrated health we discussed so often before, e.g.:
- Prince Charles becomes patron of the ‘College of Medicine and Integrated Health’
- The ‘All-Party Parliamentary Group for Integrated Healthcare (PGIH) have just published a new report – and it’s full of surprises
- Eurocam press release in favor of integrated medicine
- A new definition of ‘INTEGRATED MEDICINE’
- Integrative medicine: one of the most colossal deceptions in healthcare today
- INTEGRATED MEDICINE: a disservice to patients?
- Integrated/integrative medicine: a paradise for charlatans?
The UK ‘Integrated Medicine Alliance’ offers information sheets on all of the following treatments: Acupuncture, Alexander Technique, Aromatherapy, Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy, Hypnotherapy, Massage, ,Naturopathy, Reflexology, Reiki, Tai Chi, Yoga Therapy. The one on homeopathy, for example, tells us that “homeopathy … can be used for almost any condition either alone or in a complementary manner.” Is the BMJ thus promoting homeopathy and similar dubious treatments?
The answer is, of course, NO!
The BMJ supports INTEGRATED HEALTH as defined not by quacks but by real experts: “Integrated care, also known as integrated health, coordinated care, comprehensive care, seamless care, or transmural care, is a worldwide trend in health care reforms and new organizational arrangements focusing on more coordinated and integrated forms of care provision. Integrated care may be seen as a response to the fragmented delivery of health and social services being an acknowledged problem in many health systems.”
I have often wondered why quacks use established terms, give it a different meaning and use it for confusing the public. I suppose the answer is embarrassingly simple: they thrive on confusion, want to hide the fact that they have no convincing arguments of their own, and like to use the established terminology of others in order to push their agenda and maximize their benefits.
The US ‘Public Citizen‘ is an American non-profit, progressive consumer rights advocacy group, and think tank based in Washington, D.C. They recently published an article entitled “FDA Guidance on Homeopathic Drugs: An Ongoing Public Health Failure“. Here are a few excerpts:
In December 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new guidance on homeopathic drug products. The guidance states that the agency now “intends to apply a risk-based enforcement approach to the manufacturing, distribution and marketing of homeopathic drug products.”
Under this new risk-based approach, the agency plans to target its enforcement actions against homeopathic drug products marketed without FDA approval that fall within the following limited categories:
- products with reports of injury that, after evaluation, raise potential safety concerns
- products containing or purportedly containing ingredients associated with potentially significant safety concerns (for example, infectious agents or controlled substances)
- products that are not administered orally or topically (for example, injectable drug products and ophthalmic drug products)
- products intended to be used to prevent or treat serious or life-threatening diseases
- products for vulnerable populations, such as immunocompromised individuals, infants and the elderly
- products with significant quality issues (for example, products that are contaminated with foreign materials or objectionable microorganisms)
But this new FDA guidance fails to adequately address the public health threat posed by the agency’s decades-long permissive approach to these illegal drug products.
Under FDA regulations, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic products are considered drugs and are supposed to be subject to the same review and approval requirements as all other prescription and OTC medications. However, under a flawed enforcement policy issued in 1988, the FDA has allowed these drug products to be marketed in the U.S. without agency review or approval. Thus, all products labeled as homeopathic are being marketed without the FDA having evaluated their safety, effectiveness or quality…
… there is no plausible physiologic or medical basis to support the theory underlying homeopathy, nor is there evidence from well-designed, rigorous clinical trials showing that homeopathic drugs are safe and effective.
The FDA should declare unequivocally that all unapproved homeopathic drug products are illegal and direct all manufacturers to immediately remove such products from the market. In the meantime, as we have recommended for many years, consumers should not use homeopathic products. At best, the products are a waste of money, given the lack of any evidence that they are effective. At worst, they could cause serious harm because of the lack of FDA oversight to ensure safety.
I fully agree with these sentiments. The harm caused by homeopathy is considerable and multi-facetted. Many previous posts have discudded these problems, e.g.:
- Nine cases of severe homeopathy-induced liver injuries
- Another death by homeopathy
- HOMEOPATHY – “It is not just irresponsible, it’s downright dangerous.”
- Adverse effects of homeopathy and aggravations at NAFKAM
- Homeopathy: it’s time to stop the double standards
- Homeopathy can cause serious harm – and finally, the NHS England has realised it
- Vidatox, homeopathy’s answer to cancer or outright fraud?
- Another child has died because of homeopathy
- Doctor homeopaths violate fundamental rules of ethics when practising homeopathy
- ‘Best homeopathy doctor in Delhi’ offers treatment for HIV/AIDS
- DIY-Homeopathy: how to kill your entire family
- The risks of homeopathy?
- The FDA has warned 4 manufacturers of unapproved injectable homeopathic drugs
- Is this the crown of the Corona-idiocy? Nosodes In Prevention And Management Of COVID -19
- The FDA has sent more warning letters to homeopathic manufacturers
- Walmart is being sued for selling homeopathic products
- Homoeopathic remedies may be safe, but do all homeopaths merit this attribute?
- Recommending homeoprophylaxis is unethical, irresponsible and possibly even criminal
- FDA: homeopathic teething remedies were toxic
- “Homeoprophylaxis, the homeopathic vaccine alternative, prevents disease through nosodes.”
- A truly dangerous homeopath
- The scandalous attitude of some homeopaths and their supporters towards immunisations
- Oh yes, let’s have homeopaths as primary care practitioners! But only in a parallel universe,please.
Having warned about the dangers of homeopathy for decades, I feel it is high time for regulators across the world to take appropriate action.
It has been reported that two London councils have written to parents to warn that children who are not vaccinated against measles may need to self-isolate for 21 days if a classmate is infected with the disease. It comes after modelling by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) warned that up to 160,000 cases could occur in the capital alone as a result of low vaccination rates. Just three-quarters of London children have received the two required doses of the MMR jab, which protects against measles. This is 10 per cent lower than the national average.
Barnet Council wrote to parents on July 20 warning that any unvaccinated child identified as a close contact of a measles case could be asked to self-isolate for up to 21 days. “Measles is of serious concern in London due to low childhood vaccination rates. Currently we are seeing an increase in measles cases circulating in neighbouring London boroughs, so now is a good time to check that your child’s MMR vaccination – which not only protects your child against measles but also mumps and rubella – is up to date,” the letter reads. “Children who are vaccinated do not need to be excluded from school or childcare,” the letter added.
Neighbouring Haringey Council also warned that children without both MMR doses may be asked to quarantine for 21 days. Just over two-thirds (67.9 per cent) of children in the area had received both doses by the age of five. The councils stated that they had sent the letters based on guidance by the UKHSA, but the agency said that headteachers should consider “excluding” unvaccinated pupils who become infected with measles rather than instructing them to self-isolate.
Data published by the UKHSA showed that 128 cases of measles were recorded between January 1 and June 30 this year, compared to 54 cases in the whole of 2022. Two-thirds of the cases were detected in London. The agency have said that there is a high risk of cases linked to overseas travel leading to outbreaks in specific population groups such as young people and under-vaccinated communities.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, a consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: “When there are measles cases or outbreaks in nurseries or schools, the UKHSA health protection team will assess the situation, together with the school and other local partners, and provide advice for staff and pupils. “Those who are not up to date with their MMR vaccinations will be asked to catch up urgently to help stop the outbreak and minimise disruption in schools.”
Measles is a significant concern with approximately 10 million people infected annually causing over 100,000 deaths worldwide. In the US before use of the measles vaccine, there were estimated to be 3 to 4 million people infected with measles annually, causing 400 to 500 deaths. Complications of measles include otitis media, diarrhea, pneumonia, and acute encephalitis. Measles is a leading cause of blindness in the developing world, especially in those who are vitamin A deficient. Malnourished children with measles are also at higher risk of developing noma (or cancrum oris), a rapidly progressive gangrenous infection of the mouth and face. Most deaths due to measles are caused by pneumonia, diarrhea, or neurological complications in young children, severely malnourished or immunocompromised individuals, and pregnant women. A rare sequela of measles is subacute sclerosing panencephalitis.
Back in 2003, we investigated what advice UK homeopaths, chiropractors and general practitioners give on measles, mumps and rubella vaccination programme (MMR) vaccination via the Internet. Online referral directories listing e-mail addresses of UK homeopaths, chiropractors and general practitioners and private websites were visited. All addresses thus located received a letter of a (fictitious) patient asking for advice about the MMR vaccination. After sending a follow-up letter explaining the nature and aim of this project and offering the option of withdrawal, 26% of all respondents withdrew their answers. Homeopaths yielded a final response rate (53%, n = 77) compared to chiropractors (32%, n = 16). GPs unanimously refused to give advice over the Internet. No homeopath and only one chiropractor advised in favour of the MMR vaccination. Two homeopaths and three chiropractors indirectly advised in favour of MMR. More chiropractors than homeopaths displayed a positive attitude towards the MMR vaccination. We concluded that some complementary and alternative medicine providers have a negative attitude towards immunisation and means of changing this should be considered.
The problem is by no means confined to the UK. German researchers, for instance, showed that belief in homeopathy and other parental attitudes indicating lack of knowledge about the importance of vaccinations significantly influenced an early immunisation. Moreover, being a German homeopath has been independently associated with lower own vaccination behavior. Data from France paint a similar picture.
Some homeopaths, of course, claim that ‘homeopathic vaccinations’ are effective and preferable. My advice is: DON’T BELIEVE THESE CHARLATANS! A recent study demonstrated 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.
Many community pharmacies in Switzerland provide so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) approaches in addition to providing biomedical services, and a few pharmacies specialise in SCAM. A common perception is that SCAM providers are sceptical towards, or opposed to, vaccination.
The key objectives of this study were to examine the potential roles of biomedically oriented and SCAM-specialised pharmacists regarding vaccine counselling and to better understand the association between vaccine hesitancy and SCAM. The researchers thus conducted semistructured, qualitative interviews. Transcripts were coded and analysed using thematic analysis. Interview questions were related to:
- type of pharmaceutical care practised,
- views on SCAM and biomedicine,
- perspectives on vaccination,
- descriptions of vaccination consultations in community pharmacies,
- and views on vaccination rates.
Qualitative interviews in three language regions of Switzerland (German, French and Italian). A total of 18 pharmacists (N=11 biomedically oriented, N=7 SCAM specialised) were invited.
Pharmacist participants expressed generally positive attitudes towards vaccination. Biomedically oriented pharmacists mainly advised customers to follow official vaccination recommendations but rarely counselled vaccine-hesitant customers. SCAM-specialised pharmacists were not as enthusiastic advocates of the Swiss vaccination recommendations as the biomedically oriented pharmacists. Rather, they considered that each customer should receive individualised, nuanced vaccination advice so that customers can reach their own decisions. SCAM-specialised pharmacists described how mothers in particular preferred getting a second opinion when they felt insufficiently advised by biomedically oriented paediatricians.
The authors concluded that vaccination counselling in community pharmacies represents an additional option to customers who have unmet vaccination consultation needs and who seek reassurance from healthcare professionals (HCPs) other than physicians. By providing individualised vaccination counselling to vaccine-hesitant customers, SCAM-specialised pharmacists are likely meeting specific needs of vaccine-hesitant customers. As such, research and implementation efforts should more systematically involve pharmacists as important actors in vaccination provision. SCAM-specialised pharmacists particularly should not be neglected as they are important HCPs who counsel vaccine-hesitant customers.
I must say that I find these conclusions odd, perhaps even wrong. Here are my reasons:
- Pharmacists are well-trained healthcare professionals.
- As such, they have ethical obligations towards their customers.
- These obligations include behaving in a way that is optimal for the health of their customers and follows the rules of evidence-based practice.
- This includes explaining to vaccine-hesitant customers why the recommended vaccinations make sense and advising them to follow the official vaccination guidelines.
- SCAM-specialised pharmacist should ask themselves whether offering SCAM is in line with their ethical obligation to provide optimal care and advice to their customers.
I fear that this paper suggests that SCAM-specialised pharmacists might be a danger to the health of their customers. If that is confirmed, they should consider re-training, in my view.