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

conspiracy

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An international team of researchers described retracted papers originating from paper mills, including their characteristics, visibility, and impact over time, and the journals in which they were published. The term paper mill refers to for-profit organizations that engage in the large-scale production and sale of papers to researchers, academics, and students who wish to, or have to, publish in peer-reviewed journals. Many paper mill papers included fabricated data.

All paper mill papers retracted from 1 January 2004 to 26 June 2022 were included in the study. Papers bearing an expression of concern were excluded. Descriptive statistics were used to characterize the sample and analyze the trend of retracted paper mill papers over time, and to analyze their impact and visibility by reference to the number of citations received.

In total, 1182 retracted paper mill papers were identified. The publication of the first paper mill paper was in 2004 and the first retraction was in 2016; by 2021, paper mill retractions accounted for 772 (21.8%) of the 3544 total retractions. Overall, retracted paper mill papers were mostly published in journals of the second highest Journal Citation Reports quartile for impact factor (n=529 (44.8%)) and listed four to six authors (n=602 (50.9%)). Of the 1182 papers, almost all listed authors of 1143 (96.8%) paper mill retractions came from Chinese institutions, and 909 (76.9%) listed a hospital as a primary affiliation. 15 journals accounted for 812 (68.7%) of 1182 paper mill retractions, with one journal accounting for 166 (14.0%). Nearly all (n=1083, 93.8%) paper mill retractions had received at least one citation since publication, with a median of 11 (interquartile range 5-22) citations received.

The authors concluded that papers retracted originating from paper mills are increasing in frequency, posing a problem for the research community. Retracted paper mill papers most commonly originated from China and were published in a small number of journals. Nevertheless, detected paper mill papers might be substantially different from those that are not detected. New mechanisms are needed to identify and avoid this relatively new type of misconduct.

China encourages its researchers to publish papers in return for money and career promotions. Furthermore, medical students at Chinese universities are required to produce a scientific paper in order to graduate. Paper mills openly advertise their services on the Internet and maintain a presence on university campuses. The authors of this analysis reference another recent article (authored by two Chinese researchers) that throws more light on the problem:

This study used data from the Retraction Watch website and from published reports on retractions and paper mills to summarize key features of research misconduct in China. Compared with publicized cases of falsified or fabricated data by authors from other countries of the world, the number of Chinese academics exposed for research misconduct has increased dramatically in recent years. Chinese authors do not have to generate fake data or fake peer reviews for themselves because paper mills in China will do the work for them for a price. Major retractions of articles by authors from China were all announced by international publishers. In contrast, there are few reports of retractions announced by China’s domestic publishers. China’s publication requirements for physicians seeking promotions and its leniency toward research misconduct are two major factors promoting the boom of paper mills in China.

As the authors of the new analysis point out: “Fraudulent papers have negative consequences for the scientific community and the general public, engendering distrust in science, false claims of drug or device efficacy, and unjustified academic promotion, among other problems.” On this blog, I have often warned of research originating from China (some might even think that this is becoming an obsession of mine but I do truly think that this is very important). While such fraudulent papers may have a relatively small impact in many areas of healthcare, their influence in the realm of TCM (where the majority of research comes from China) is considerable. In other words, TCM research is infested by fraud to a degree that prevents drawing meaningful conclusions about the value of TCM treatments.

I feel strongly that it is high time for us to do something about this precarious situation. Otherwise, I fear that in the near future no respectable scientist will take TCM seriously.

It has been reported that America’s Frontline Doctors (a right-wing organization that is associated with the ‘Tea Party’) is suing one of its founders in a battle for control over the controversial group, which gained national notoriety for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 treatments and vaccines during the pandemic.

The organization and its current board chairman have sued Simone Gold, MD, alleging that she misused the nonprofit organization’s funds to buy a $3.6 million Florida mansion, purchase a Mercedes-Benz and other luxury vehicles, and take trips on private planes.

The lawsuit, filed November 4 in federal court, comes just months after Gold was released from prison for her role in the January 6 US Capitol insurrection. Gold pleaded guilty to trespassing in the Capitol and was sentenced to 60 days in federal prison.

The group and the board chairman, Joseph Gilbert, claim that after her release from prison, Gold attempted to reassert control of the group, take over its website, and fraudulently represent herself as its director, according to the complaint. The complaint referred to Gold as a “rogue founder,” alleging that she spent almost $50,000 monthly on personal expenses using the organization’s credit cards.

Gold resigned from the group’s board in February ― before she pled guilty ― so that she could pursue her goal of opening health and wellness centers nationwide, according to the complaint. At that time, the board voted Gilbert to be its chairman and agreed to have Gilbert negotiate an agreement for Gold to serve as a consultant. Gold sought a “signing bonus” of $1.5 million, along with $50,000 to be paid monthly as a consulting fee, according to the complaint.

Another report has more details on Gold’s alleged wrong-doing: The complaint claims that in November 2021, Gold used “AFLDS charitable funds to purchase a $3.6 million home in Naples, Florida for her personal rent-free use, and at least three vehicles and has otherwise used AFLDS funds to resource her personal lifestyle and expenses since she formed AFLDS.” Plaintiffs also allege that Gold “currently lives in this home with John Strand, rent free.” Strand is a former underwear model and boyfriend of Gold’s who was arrested with her in connection with the January 6, 2021 insurrection in the U.S. Capitol. She moved with Strand to Florida this year from Los Angeles, where she had been an emergency room physician. Strand allegedly was paid $10,000 per month as an AFLDS employee and allegedly spent $15,000 to $17,000 a month using those credit cards. He was terminated from AFLDS in summer 2022, according to the complaint. In addition to purchasing the house with AFLDS funds, the complaint said Gold purchased a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van, a Hyundai Genesis, and a GMC Denali. After taking possession of the Naples home, she used AFLDS funds to pay a personal security officer $12,000, a personal housekeeper $5,600 a month, and charged “nearly $50,000 per month” to AFLDS credit cards.

I tried to find some information on th health and wellness centers that Simone Gold wanted or did open. Alas I was unsuccessful in my endeavor. However, I found an interesting passage she once wrote:

The World Health Organization, the FDA, the NIH, and the CDC are proven liars who have lost all credibility and common-sense, while jeopardizing YOUR health and safety. What disgusts me most is how their failed prescriptions have exposed the most vulnerable: our elderly and our children. The New York Times, CNN, NPR, and hundreds of other news outlets have censored the truth in order to preserve their power. Twitter, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Apple, and dozens of other Tech companies are throttling down content, suppressing information, and de-platforming those with whom they disagree.

I find it hard to find words for a comment – except perhaps this: maybe it is not such a bad thing when anti-vaxxers fight each other; it means they have less time, energy, and money to confuse the public with their lies.

Here in the UK, we are looking yet again for a new Prime Minister (PM). Did I say ‘we’? That’s not quite true; the Tory party is hunting for one, and it seems a difficult task for the talent-depleted conservatives. Eventually, the geriatric group of Tory members might again have the say. Amazingly, some senior Tories are already suggesting Boris Johnson (BJ).

To me, this demonstrates how common cognitive decline and memory loss seem to be among the elderly. They evidently have already forgotten that, only a few months ago, BJ has already been our PM.

Yes, it is often the short-term memory that suffers first!

It might, therefore, help to remind the Tory membership thus affected that BJ:

  • was elected as PM in 2019,
  • he then created scandal after scandal,
  • he was even found guilty of breaking the law,
  • he is still under investigation for misleading the Parliament,
  • eventually, in 2022, he was removed from office after mishandling a sexual abuse scandal.

I hope this helps to refresh your memory, Tory members suffering from cognitive decline. Considering this blog is about so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), I should perhaps also offer you some treatments for the often progressive deterioration of mental capacity. Here is a recent paper that might point you in the right direction:

Senile ages of human life is mostly associated with developmental of several neurological complicated conditions including decreased cognition and reasoning, increased memory loss and impaired language performance. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most prevalent neural disorder associated with dementia, consisting of about 70% of dementia reported cases. Failure of currently approved chemical anti-AD therapeutic agents has once again brought up the idea of administering naturally occurring compounds as effective alternative and/or complementary regimens in AD treatment. Polyphenol structured neuroprotecting agents are group of biologically active compounds abundantly found in plants with significant protecting effects against neural injuries and degeneration. As a subclass of this family, Flavonoids are potent anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and signalling pathways modulatory agents. Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT and mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways are both affected by Flavonoids. Regulation of pro-survival transcription factors and induction of specific genes expression in hippocampus are other important anti AD therapeutic activities of Flavonoids. These agents are also capable of inhibiting specific enzymes involved in phosphorylation of tau proteins including β-secretases, cyclin dependent kinase 5 and glycogen synthase. Other significant anti AD effects of Flavonoids include neural rehabilitation and lost cognitive performance recovery. In this review, first we briefly describe the pathophysiology and important pathways involved in pathology of AD and then describe the most important mechanisms through which Flavonoids demonstrate their significant neuroprotective effects in AD therapy.

Sorry, I forgot that this might be a bit too complex for semi-senile Tories. Put simply, this means consuming plenty of:

  • berries,
  • apples,
  • garlic,
  • onion,
  • green tea,
  • beans (beware flatulence in Parliament!)

In addition, I might advise you to stay off the Port, get enough rest, avoid stress of any type, and do plenty of aerobic exercise. And please:

  • not too much excitement,
  • stimulate your brain (this means avoid reading right-wing papers),
  • no major scandals,
  • no further deterioration of moral standards,
  • no more lies,
  • no more broken promises!

In other words, no vote for BJ!!!

 

 

 

Yesterday, L’EXPRESS published an interview with me. It was introduced with these words (my translation):

Professor emeritus at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, Edzard Ernst is certainly the best connoisseur of unconventional healing practices. For 25 years, he has been sifting through the scientific evaluation of these so-called “alternative” medicines. With a single goal: to provide an objective view, based on solid evidence, of the reality of the benefits and risks of these therapies. While this former homeopathic doctor initially thought he was bringing them a certain legitimacy, he has become one of their most enlightened critics. It is notable as a result of his work that the British health system, the NHS, gave up covering homeopathy. Since then, he has never ceased to alert us to the abuses and lies associated with these practices. For L’Express, he looks back at the challenges of regulating this vast sector and deciphers the main concepts put forward by “wellness” professionals – holism, detox, prevention, strengthening the immune system, etc.

The interview itself is quite extraordinary, in my view. While UK, US, and German journalists usually are at pains to tone down my often outspoken answers, the French journalists (there were two doing the interview with me) did nothing of the sort. This starts with the title of the piece: “Homeopathy is implausible but energy healing takes the biscuit”.

The overall result is one of the most outspoken interviews of my entire career. Let me offer you a few examples (again my translation):

Why are you so critical of celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow who promote these wellness methods?

Sadly, we have gone from evidence-based medicine to celebrity-based medicine. A celebrity without any medical background becomes infatuated with a certain method. They popularize this form of treatment, very often making money from it. The best example of this is Prince Charles, sorry Charles III, who spent forty years of his life promoting very strange things under the guise of defending alternative medicine. He even tried to market a “detox” tincture, based on artichoke and dandelion, which was quickly withdrawn from the market.

How to regulate this sector of wellness and alternative medicines? Today, anyone can present himself as a naturopath or yoga teacher…

Each country has its own regulation, or rather its own lack of regulation. In Germany, for instance, we have the “Heilpraktikter”. Anyone can get this paramedical status, you just have to pass an exam showing that you are not a danger to the public. You can retake this exam as often as you want. Even the dumbest will eventually pass. But these practitioners have an incredible amount of freedom, they even may give infusions and injections. So there is a two-tier health care system, with university-trained doctors and these practitioners.

In France, you have non-medical practitioners who are fighting for recognition. Osteopaths are a good example. They are not officially recognized as a health profession. Many schools have popped up to train them, promising a good income to their students, but today there are too many osteopaths compared to the demand of the patients (knowing that nobody really needs an osteopath to begin with…). Naturopaths are in the same situation.

In Great Britain, osteopaths and chiropractors are regulated by statute. There is even a Royal College dedicated to chiropractic. It’s a bit like having a Royal College for hairdressers! It’s stupid, but we have that. We also have professionals like naturopaths, acupuncturists, or herbalists who have an intermediate status. So it’s a very complex area, depending on the state. It is high time to have more uniform regulations in Europe.

But what would adequate regulation look like?

From my point of view, if you really regulate a profession like homeopaths, it means that these professionals may only practice according to the best scientific evidence available. Which, in practice, means that a homeopath cannot practice homeopathy. This is why these practitioners have a schizophrenic attitude toward regulation. On the one hand, they would like to be recognized to gain credibility. But on the other hand, they know very well that a real regulation would mean that they would have to close shop…

What about the side effects of these practices?

If you ask an alternative practitioner about the risks involved, he or she will take exception. The problem is that there is no system in alternative medicine to monitor side effects and risks. However, there have been cases where chiropractors or acupuncturists have killed people. These cases end up in court, but not in the medical literature. The acupuncturists have no problem saying that a hundred deaths due to acupuncture – a figure that can be found in the scientific literature – is negligible compared to the millions of treatments performed every day in this discipline. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many cases that are not published and therefore not included in the data, because there is no real surveillance system for these disciplines.

Do you see a connection between the wellness sector and conspiracy theories? In the US, we saw that Qanon was thriving in the yoga sector, for example…

Several studies have confirmed these links: people who adhere to conspiracy theories also tend to turn to alternative medicine. If you think about it, alternative medicine is itself a conspiracy theory. It is the idea that conventional medicine, in the name of pharmaceutical interests, in particular, wants to suppress certain treatments, which can therefore only exist in an alternative world. But in reality, the pharmaceutical industry is only too eager to take advantage of this craze for alternative products and well-being. Similarly, universities, hospitals, and other health organizations are all too willing to open their doors to these disciplines, despite the lack of evidence of their effectiveness.

 

It has been reported that a father accused of withholding insulin from his eight-year-old diabetic daughter and relying on the healing power of God has been committed to stand trial for her alleged murder.

Jason Richard Struhs, his wife Kerrie, and 12 others from a fringe religious group have been charged over the death of type 1 diabetic Elizabeth Rose Struhs. Police alleged she had gone days without insulin and then died. The police prosecutor detailed statements from witnesses and experts, including pediatric consultant Dr. Catherine Skellern, who said Elizabeth’s death “would have been painful and was over a prolonged period of days”.

“There is [also] body-worn camera footage at the scene … where Jason Struhs has recounted the events of the week leading up to the death of Elizabeth,” said the prosecutor. “This details the decision that Jason Struhs has made to stop the administration of insulin, and he stated that he knew the consequences, and he stated in that recording that he will ‘probably go to jail like they put Kerrie in jail’.”

During the hearing, Struhs, who appeared from jail by videolink, mainly sat with his head bowed and hands clasped against his forehead as magistrate Clare Kelly described the evidence against him. “It is said that Mr. Struhs, his wife Kerrie Struhs, and their children, including Elizabeth, were members of a religious community… The religious beliefs held by the members of the community include the healing power of God and the shunning of medical intervention in human life.” She also described a statement from Skellern suggesting Elizabeth would have spent her final days suffering from “insatiable thirst, weakness and lethargy, abdominal pain, incontinence, and the onset of impaired levels of consciousness”. The evidence read into court was an attempt by prosecutors to firm up an additional charge of torture. She said a post-mortem found Elizabeth’s cause of death was diabetic ketoacidosis, caused by a lack of insulin. “It is a life-threatening condition, which requires urgent medical treatment,” Kelly said.

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Cases like these are tragic, all the more so because they might have been preventable with more information and critical thinking. They make me desperately sad, of course, but they also convince me that my work with this blog should continue.

Advocates of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) often sound like a broken record to me. They bring up the same ‘arguments’ over and over again, no matter whether they happen to be defending acupuncture, energy healing, homeopathy, or any other form of SCAM. Here are some of the most popular of these generic ‘arguments’:

1. It helped me
The supporters of SCAM regularly cite their own good experiences with their particular form of treatment and think that this is proof enough. However, they forget that any symptomatic improvement they may have felt can be the result of several factors that are unrelated to the SCAM in question. To mention just a few:

  • Placebo
  • Regression towards the mean
  • Natural history of the disease

2. My SCAM is without risk
Since homeopathic remedies, for instance, are highly diluted, it makes sense to assume that they cannot cause side effects. Several other forms of SCAM are equally unlikely to cause adverse effects. So, the notion is seemingly correct. However, this ‘argument’ ignores the fact that it is not the therapy itself that can pose a risk, but the SCAM practitioner. For example, it is well documented – and, on this blog, we have discussed it often – that many of them advise against vaccination, which can undoubtedly cause serious harm.

3. SCAM has stood the test of time
It is true that many SCAMs have survived for hundreds or even thousands of years. It is also true that millions still use it even today. This, according to enthusiasts, is sufficient proof of SCAM’s efficacy. But they forget that many therapies have survived for centuries, only to be proved useless in the end. Just think of bloodletting or mercury preparations from past times.

4 The evidence is not nearly as negative as skeptics pretend
Yes, there are plenty of positive studies on some SCAMs This is not surprising. Firstly, from a purely statistical point of view, if we have, for instance, 1 000 studies of a particular SCAM, it is to be expected that, at the 5% level of statistical significance, about 50 of them will produce a significantly positive result. Secondly, this number becomes considerably larger if we factor in the fact that most of the studies are methodologically poor and were conducted by SCAM enthusiasts with a corresponding bias (see my ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE HALL OF FAME on this blog). However, if we base our judgment on the totality of the most robust studies, the bottom line is almost invariably that there is no overall convincingly positive result.

5. The pharmaceutical industry is suppressing SCAM
SCAM is said to be so amazingly effective that the pharmaceutical industry would simply go bust if this fact became common knowledge. Therefore Big Pharma is using its considerable resources to destroy SCAM. This argument is fallacious because:

  1. there is no evidence to support it,
  2. far from opposing SCAM, the pharmaceutical industry is heavily involved in SCAM (for example, by manufacturing homeopathic remedies, dietary supplements, etc.)

6 SCAM could save a lot of money
It is true that SCAMs are on average much cheaper than conventional medicines. However, one must also bear in mind that price alone can never be the decisive factor. We also need to consider other issues such as the risk/benefit balance. And a reduction in healthcare costs can never be achieved by ineffective therapies. Without effectiveness, there can be no cost-effectiveness.

7 Many conventional medicines are also not evidence-based
Sure, there are some treatments in conventional medicine that are not solidly supported by evidence. So why do we insist on solid evidence for SCAM? The answer is simple: in all areas of healthcare, intensive work is going on aimed at filling the gaps and improving the situation. As soon as a significant deficit is identified, studies are initiated to establish a reliable basis. Depending on the results, appropriate measures are eventually taken. In the case of negative findings, the appropriate measure is to exclude treatments from routine healthcare, regardless of whether the treatment in question is conventional or alternative. In other words, this is work in progress. SCAM enthusiasts should ask themselves how many treatments they have discarded so far. The answer, I think, is zero.

8 SCAM cannot be forced into the straitjacket of a clinical trial
This ‘argument’ surprisingly popular. It supposes that SCAM is so individualized, holistic, subtle, etc., that it defies science. The ‘argument’ is false, and SCAM advocates know it, not least because they regularly and enthusiastically cite those scientific papers that seemingly support their pet therapy.

9 SCAM is holistic
This may or may not be true, but the claim of holism is not a monopoly of SCAM. All good medicine is holistic, and in order to care for our patients holistically, we certainly do not need SCAM.

1o SCAM complements conventional medicine
This argument might be true: SCAM is often used as an adjunct to conventional treatments. Yet, there is no good reason why a complementary treatment should not be shown to be worth the effort and expense to add it to another therapy. If, for instance, you pay for an upgrade on a flight, you also want to make sure that it is worth the extra expenditure.

11 In Switzerland it works, too
That’s right, in Switzerland, a small range of SCAMs was included in basic health care by referendum. However, it has been reported that the consequences of this decision are far from positive. It brought no discernible benefit and only caused very considerable costs.

I am sure there are many more such ‘arguments’. Feel free to post your favorites!

My point here is this:

the ‘arguments’ used in defense of SCAM are not truly arguments; they are fallacies, misunderstandings, and sometimes even outright lies. 

 

One of my previous posts was about a press release announcing a ‘WORLDWIDE DECLARATION’, and I promised to comment about the actual declaration. This post firstly reproduces this document and secondly provides a few comments on it. Here is the document:

DEFINITIONS

Traditional, complementary and integrative healthcare (TCIH) refers to the respectful collaboration between various systems of healthcare and their health professionals with the aim of offering a person-centred and holistic approach to health.

ABOUT US

We represent a worldwide community of users and health professionals of TCIH with a large diversity of backgrounds and experiences with a common commitment to the advancement and
promotion of TCIH.

THE HEALTHCARE WE DESIRE

• Focuses on the whole person, including physical, mental, social and spiritual dimensions
• Is patient-centred and supports self-healing and health creation
• Is participative and respects individual choices
• Is evidence-based by integrating clinical experience and patient values with the best available research information
• Respects cultural diversity and regional differences
• Is an integral part of community and planetary health
• Uses natural and sustainable resources that are respectful of the health of our planet
• Integrates traditional, complementary and biomedical practices in a supportive and collaborative manner

We appreciate the benefits of conventional / biomedicine. At the same time we recognize its limitations, including:

• The insufficient therapeutic options that biomedicine provides, especially for chronic / non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
• Frequent side effects of biomedical treatments and rising antimicrobial resistance
• Fragmentation of care from increased specialization and the limits of a disease-based model

We are inspired by countries that are successfully integrating TCIH into their healthcare systems. However, we are concerned about:

• Countries that prevent, limit or undervalue the practice of TCIH
• Uninformed or unbalanced media reporting of TCIH
• Insufficient public funding of TCIH research
• Risk of reduced availability of TCIH and unregulated practices in some countries

OUR CALL TO ACTION

All countries

• Ensure full access to TCIH as part of the right to health for all
• Include TCIH into national health systems
• Provide accreditation of TCIH healthcare professionals in accordance with international training standards to ensure high quality care
• Ensure access and safety of TCIH medicines through specific regulatory pathways
• Fund research on TCIH and disseminate reliable information on TCIH to the public

All healthcare professionals

• Foster respectful collaboration between all healthcare professions towards achieving a person-centred and holistic approach to healthcare

_____________________________

And here are my comments.

  • “TCIH”: in the realm of so-called alternative medicine it seems popular to create a new name for the subject at hand; this one is yet another one in a long line of innovations – sadly, it is as nonsensical as most of the previous ones.
  • Person-centred and holistic approach to health: all good healthcare has these qualities.
  • We represent a worldwide community: really? Who exactly are you then, and what is your ligitimization?
  • Whole person, including physical, mental, social and spiritual dimensions: all good healthcare has these qualities.
  • Patient-centred and supports self-healing and health creation: all good healthcare has these qualities.
  • Respects individual choices: all good healthcare has these qualities.
  • Evidence-based: either they do not know what this term means or they are deliberately misleading the public.
  • Integral part of community and planetary health: all good healthcare has these qualities.
  • Natural and sustainable resources that are respectful of the health of our planet: like Rhino horn and similar ingredients of TCM products?
  • Insufficient therapeutic options that biomedicine provides: yes, conventional medicine is far from perfect, but adding something even less perfect to it cannot improve it.
  • Frequent side effects of biomedical treatments and rising antimicrobial resistance: yes, conventional medicine is far from perfect, but adding something even less perfect to it cannot improve it.
  • Full access to TCIH as part of the right to health for all: the ‘right to health for all’ means the right to the most effective therapies not the right to the most bizarre quackery.
  • Accreditation of TCIH healthcare professionals: giving respectability to every quack would not render healthcare better or safer but worse and more dangerous.
  • Access and safety of TCIH medicines through specific regulatory pathways: regulating access to unproven treatments is nothing less than a recipe for disaster.
  • Research on TCIH: yes in some areas, research might be worthwhile, but it must be rigorously testing TCIH and not promoting it uncritically.
  • Disseminate reliable information on TCIH to the public: thank you! This is my main aim in writing the ~2500 posts on this blog. Yet I do often get the impression that this gets disappointingly little support – and frequently the exact opposite – from enthusiasts of TCIH.

There is a broad, growing, international consensus that homeopathy is a placebo therapy. Even the Germans who have been notoriously fond of their homeopathic remedies are now slowly beginning to accept this fact. But now, a dispute has started to smolder in Germany’s southwest about further training for doctors in homeopathy. In July, the representative assembly of the Baden-Württemberg Medical Association decided to remove the additional title of homeopathy from the further training regulations of doctors. However, the local health ministry has legal control over the medical association and must therefore review the decision, and the minister (Manne Lucha), a member of the Green Party, has stated that he considers the deletion to be wrong.

In a further deepening of the conflict, it has been reported that the chairwoman of the Green Party, Lena Schwelling, considers the ongoing controversy over homeopathy to be exaggerated and wants to preserve people’s freedom of choice. She said she agrees with Health Minister Manne Lucha that naturopathy and homeopathy are important issues for many people. “There is freedom of choice of doctor and therapy in this country. And if people want to choose it, I think they should be allowed to do so.” She also said continuing education for homeopathy for physicians should remain.

Schwelling spoke out against omitting homeopathy from the benefits catalog of the statutory health insurance funds, as demanded by the German Liberal Party, for example: “We are talking about about 0.003 percent of the total costs of the statutory health insurance funds, which flow into homeopathic medicines and treatments. If you saw that as a homeopathic medicine, that would also be at the detection limit, that’s how little money it is. It’s so diluted and so little in this overall budget that it’s not worth arguing about. That’s why I’m very surprised at the crusade some are waging against the issue of homeopathy.”

Recently, a dispute has been smoldering in the southwest about continuing education for homeopathy. The representative assembly of the Baden-Württemberg Medical Association decided in July to remove the additional title of homeopathy from the continuing education regulations. The local health minister, Lucha, has legal oversight of the medical association and must review the amendment statute. However, the minister has already stated that he believes the deletion is wrong.

In response, Schwelling stated it is a “normal process” for the ministry to review what the medical association has proposed. He added that it was perfectly clear that “further training in homeopathy is additional training and does not replace medical studies. Of course, homeopathic doctors also prescribe antibiotics when indicated. An important point why homeopathy should remain in the canon is that you then have the established control mechanisms, for example, in further education.”

Israel’s Health Ministry announced the revocation of Dr. Aryeh Avni’s medical license, after he called to violate the ministry’s COVID guidelines during the pandemic and published defamatory articles against the medical community. The Jerusalem District Court rejected Avni’s appeal following the decision to revoke his medical license. Avni, who was a specialist in general surgery, engaged for years in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and had previously been caught forging vaccination certificates. He claimed in court that he operates in the context of freedom of expression and that his objective is to help the public and to rescue patients from the harm caused by medications and vaccines.

About a year and a half ago, the Health Ministry’s disciplinary committee recommended that Avni’s license be suspended for two years, but former Judge Amnon Shtrashnov, who was granted authority by the health minister, rejected the recommendation and ordered the permanent revocation of Avni’s license. In his decision, Shtrashnov called Avni “a charlatan, a clear coronavirus denier and a dangerous trickster, who behaves that way under the aegis of a licensed doctor.” “There must be a distinction between expressing an opinion and incitement, while conducting a smear campaign against medical authorities in order to dissuade the public from acting in accordance with their directive,” District Court Judge Nimrod Flax said in his decision. “A doctor who chooses to conduct a delegitimization campaign of this kind excludes himself, and is behaving in a manner unbefitting a licensed doctor. “And we will say once again – expressing an opinion, absolutely; conducting a campaign of incitement and defamation against his fellow doctors, while attempting to bias public opinion and to prevent the public from acting in accordance with the recommendations of the medical authorities, absolutely not,” added Judge Flax. “In general, criticism of the directives and decisions of the health care system and those who head it is legitimate, but that’s when these things are said in polite language and are based on true facts,” added the judge. “Granting approval to the appellant to continue to possess a medical license, while he continues with his previous practices, and in particular preaches to violate medical directives given by the authorized bodies, cannot accord with the public interest,” added the judge.

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Dr. Avni has a website where he writes about himself: “During his work in the hospital but also in his private life, Dr. Avni was exposed to the dismal results of conventional cancer treatments, he lost his wife and sister. The difficult events made him think that allopathic medicine is not the only option and he started looking for other solutions. Better, and less dangerous in terms of “do no harm”.
This is how Dr. Avni came in his decades of journey to many methods and treatments that have in common that they treat problems from the root and not only the symptom, they are not harmful, in repairing one disease they do not increase the risk of new disease, they treat the person and do not see only the “disease” And their natural origin.
The more he delved into his research, the more Dr. Avni discovered to his amazement that there were powerful forces trying to silence and obscure vital information about these treatments. In the United States, for example, several dozen doctors died prematurely and for “strange” reasons, these were doctors who opposed vaccines or conventional cancer treatments. In recent years, Dr. Avni has also faced constant persecution by the media and the Ministry of Health, and once his license was suspended. But Dr. Avni did not flinch or fold, this is his life mission and for that we appreciate him and thank him! And we are not the only ones.

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Personally, I feel that the world is a safer place without anti-vax doctors in clinical practice. Other countries should perhaps follow the example of Israel and be more ready to revoke the licenses of anti-vax charlatans.

Warning: Exceptionally, this post is not on so-called alternative medicine but on a different scam.

The current issue of the BMJ carries an editorial that is worth quoting on my blog, I think. I have never made a secret of the fact that I am against Brexit. In fact, I re-took German nationality because of it. Therefore, I am in agreement with Kamran Abbasi, the BMJ editor and author of the editorial. Here are what I consider the two most important paragraphs from his article:

… In the absence of public debate and meaningful data six years after the UK’s Brexit referendum, we asked Richard Vize to examine the effects of Brexit on health and care (doi:10.1136/bmj.o1870).20 The news isn’t all bad, although there isn’t much good. Brexit hasn’t brought about a cut in NHS funding but did fail to deliver the £350m weekly windfall that Boris Johnson and others promised. The European Working Time Directive remains in place, and the predicted “stampede” of European doctors leaving the NHS hasn’t happened. But the impacts on social care and lower paid staff are harming delivery of care in an increasingly multidisciplinary service.

Health technology, life science industries, and research, where integration with Europe was greatest and benefits most obvious, are being damaged. Promises to cut red tape have created new complexities and been tarnished by suspect procurement practices at the height of the pandemic (doi:10.1136/bmj.o1893).21 Perhaps the most damning legacy of Brexit, however, is the state of unreadiness it created for a pandemic that required utmost readiness. Whether or not you agree Brexit was the right decision, you should at least agree that it is a decision worthy of question, analysis, and redoubled effort if the signs are good and possibly even reversal if the damage is too great.

This quote probably makes more sense if one also reads the paper referenced in its 2nd link. So, please allow me to quote from this article as well:

… In a highly critical report, the Commons Public Account Committee accuses the Department of Health and Social Care of “woefully inadequate record keeping” and failing to meet basic requirements to publicly report ministers’ external meetings or deal with potential conflicts of interest when awarding testing contracts to the company.

The committee said that large gaps in the document trail meant it was impossible to say the contracts were awarded properly in the way that would be expected, even allowing for the exceptional circumstances and accelerated processes in place at the time. The first contract, for £132m, was awarded at the height of the covid pandemic in March 2020, when the department had suspended the normal requirements for competition between suppliers in the award of government contracts.

The report noted that officials were aware of contacts between Matt Hancock, the then health and social care secretary, and Owen Paterson, a Conservative MP and paid consultant for Randox, and of hospitality that Hancock received from Randox’s founder Peter Fitzgerald in 2019, but failed to identify any conflicts of interest before awarding the first contract.

The department set up a “VIP lane,” through which suppliers put forward by officials, MPs, ministers, or Number 10 would be given priority. Suppliers coming through priority routes were awarded £6bn out of the total £7.9bn of testing contracts awarded between May 2020 and March 2021, the committee noted…

This is by no means all, and I do encourage you to read these articles in full. Once you have, you might ask yourself as I do:

Has Britain become a banana republic?

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