Numerous qualitative studies and a few quantitative studies have linked vaccine hesitancy or refusal with the belief in the efficacy of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). Yet, large-scale data on this topic are scarce. In this study, the French researchers investigated the factors associated with the coverage rates of seven childhood vaccines or vaccine groups in the ninety-six metropolitan French departments. One of the factors investigated was the local interest in SCAM. In order to assess this interest, they built an Alternative Medicine Index based on departmental internet searches regarding SCAM—internet searches being a reliable indicator of the public’s actual interest in a given topic. They then conducted multiple regression analyses, which showed that this Index is a significant explanatory factor for the departmental variance in vaccination coverage rates, exceeding in importance the effect of other relevant local sociodemographic factors.
A further recent study from France adds to the picture. It presents the results of a survey conducted in July 2021 among a representative sample of the French mainland adult population (n = 3087). Using cluster analysis, the researchers identified five profiles of SCAM attitudes and found that even among the most pro-SCAM group, very few respondents disagreed with the idea that SCAM should only be used as a complement to conventional medicine. They then compared these SCAM attitudes to vaccine attitudes. Attitudes to SCAM had a distinct impact as well as a combined effect on attitudes to different vaccines and vaccines in general. They found that:
- attitudes to SCAM provide a very limited explanation of vaccine hesitancy;
- among the hesitant, pro-SCAM attitudes are often combined with other traits associated with vaccine hesitancy such as distrust of health agencies, radical political preferences, and low income.
Both SCAM endorsement and vaccine hesitancy are more prevalent among the socially disadvantaged. Drawing on these results, the researchers argue that, to better understand the relationship between SCAM and vaccine hesitancy, it is necessary to look at how both can reflect a lack of access and recourse to mainstream medicine and distrust of public institutions.
The fact that the enthusiasm for SCAM is associated with vaccine hesitancy has been discussed on this blog many times before, e.g.:
- Preference of so-called alternative medicine predicts negative attitudes to vaccination
- What are the reasons for opposing COVID vaccinations?
- Intelligence, Religiosity, SCAM, Vaccination Hesitancy – are there links?
- More information on homeopaths’ and anthroposophic doctors’ attitude towards vaccinations
- The anti-vaccination movement is financed by the dietary supplement industry
- Sorry, I was wrong about homeopathy and vaccination
- The UK Society of Homeopaths, a hub of anti-vaccination activists?
- HOMEOPATHY = “the complete alternative to vaccination” ?!?!
- Are anthroposophy-enthusiasts for or against vaccinations?
- Far too many chiropractors believe that vaccinations do not have a positive effect on public health
- Naturopaths’ counselling against vaccinations could be criminally negligent
- HOMEOPATHS AGAINST VACCINATION: “The decision to vaccinate and how you implement that decision is yours and yours alone”
- Use of alternative medicine is associated with low vaccination rates
- Integrative medicine physicians tend to harbour anti-vaccination views
- Vaccination: chiropractors “espouse views which aren’t evidence based”
What seems fairly clear to me is that a cross-correlation exists: an attitude against modern medicine and the ‘scientific establishment’ determines both the enthusiasm for SCAM and the aversion to vaccination. What is, however, far from clear to me is what we could do about it.
Yes, better education seems important – and that’s precisely what I aim at achieving with this blog. Sadly, judging from some of the comments we receive, it does not seem crowned with much success.
Any other ideas?
Exceptionally, this post is unrelated to so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). It addresses a new and worrisome development in UK healthcare. The UK has fewer doctors per population than most other developed countries. This shortage has now reached a level where it puts patients in danger. Recently, the government has unveiled a new NHS plan aimed to fix the problem.
The apprenticeship scheme could allow one in 10 doctors to start work without a traditional medical degree, straight after their A-levels. A third of nurses are also expected to be trained under the “radical new approach”. It is the centerpiece of a long-delayed NHS workforce strategy, following warnings that staff shortages in England could reach half a million without action to find new ways to train and recruit health workers. Amanda Pritchard, the head of NHS England, said: “This radical new approach could see tens of thousands of school-leavers becoming doctors and nurses or other key healthcare roles, after being trained on the job over the next 25 years.” She added that the plan offered a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to put the NHS on a sustainable footing”.
The “medical doctor degree apprenticeship” involves the same training and standards as traditional education routes, including a medical degree and all the requirements of the General Medical Council. Candidates will be expected to have similar A-levels as those for medical school, with qualifications in sciences, as well as options for graduates with non-medical degrees. The key difference behind such models is that apprentice medics would be available on the wards almost immediately, working under supervision, while being paid.
The medical degree apprenticeship is due to launch this autumn.
I am impressed!
Sadly, not in a positive way.
In fact, I cannot remember having ever heard of a more stupid idea for dealing with doctor shortages.
As incompetent amateurs, do the Tories really think that a similar level of incompetence might work also in healthcare?
Such shortages have happened before.
They are regrettable and need swift and firm action.
The only countermeasure that works is to train more doctors.
It is not only practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) who can be fraudulent charlatans. The study of medicine does not protect you from joining in. Here is an impressive case in point:
It has been reported that a former doctor convicted of fraudulently submitting nearly $120 million in claims related to the 1-800-GET-THIN Lap-Band surgery business has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison.
Julian Omidi, 58, of West Hollywood was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee. The judge also imposed a five-year probation period on Surgery Center Management LLC, an Omidi-controlled Beverly Hills-based company. In the coming weeks, Gee is expected to hold a separate hearing to decide on restitution and forfeiture in the case, along with setting a fine for the Beverly Hills company.
“Mr. Omidi made millions at the expense of the multiple victim companies he defrauded, and he violated his oath to ‘do no harm’ by callously misleading patients about the need for a sleep study and subsequent weight loss surgery,” said Donald Alway, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.
Omidi controlled several entities in the GET-THIN network. Prosecutors say Omidi incentivized employees to ensure patients underwent sleep studies and then falsified the results to show that patients had obstructive sleep apnea to help them qualify for insurance coverage for the weight loss surgery. Those results were then filed with insurance companies to pre-approve the Lap-Band weight-loss surgeries. The 1-800-GET-THIN business received approximately $41 million for those procedures, according to prosecutors. While not all patients were approved to receive the surgery, prosecutors say GET-THIN would bill the patient roughly $15,000 for each sleep study, totaling $27 million in payments from insurance providers.
Omidi and his Beverly Hills-based company, Surgery Center Management, were found guilty of 28 counts of wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Omidi was also found guilty of two counts of making false statements relating to healthcare matters, one count of aggravated identity theft, and two counts of money laundering after a 48-day trial in downtown Los Angeles.
“As found by the jury, the defendant Julian Omidi deliberately and repeatedly acted with an eye towards business and profits, rather than in the interest of GET-THIN’s medical patients, by inducing patients to undergo medical treatment premised on fraud rather than medical necessity, including surgeries that carry significant risks and life-long health impacts,” said U.S. Atty. Martin Estrada. A series of Los Angeles Times columns from 2010 to 2014 detailed how five patients died after they received Lap-Band surgeries at clinics affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN. During a 2009 inspection, the Department of Health and Human Services found unsanitary conditions, inoperative scrub sinks, one-time-only equipment being reused, and several other deficiencies. The inspector shut down the clinic for a day, but further action was not taken at the time.
Omidi’s medical license was revoked in 2009, and he was arrested. In 2014, federal agencies seized more than $110 million from the 1-800-GET-THIN network in securities and funds.
This is a spectacular case, of course. Yet, I fail to see how it differs in principle from the many instances we see on a daily basis in the realm of SCAM. Let me give you just a few examples:
- A chiropractor diagnoses subluxation and subsequently treats his patient with a series of spinal manipulations.
- A naturopath uses iridology to diagnose a weakness of the liver and subsequently treats it with herbal remedies.
- An acupuncturist diagnoses a blockage of chi and follows it up with a series of acupuncture sessions.
- A Heilpraktiker employs bioresonance to diagnose an intoxication which he then treats with a detox program.
The strategy is always the same:
- Charlatans use bogus diagnostic methods.
- They make bogus diagnoses with them.
- They then start expensive and often dangerous treatments.
- They make good money by defrauding the system.
Could someone please explain what the difference in principle is between the case of the fraudulent surgeon and the average SCAM practitioner?
In Germany, so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is used by about 6o% of the population. The type and extent of in-patient complementary care are, however, largely unknown.
The objective of this study was, therefore, to conduct a survey on SCAM procedures in Bavarian acute care hospitals by screening the websites of all respective facilities in order to cover a broad range of SCAMs.
In 2020, an independent and comprehensive website screening of all 389 Bavarian acute hospitals, including all departments, was conducted by two independent raters. SCAMs offered were analyzed in total as well as separately by specialty.
Among all 389 Bavarian acute care hospitals, 82% offered at least one and 66% at least three different SCAMs on their website. Relaxation techniques (52%), acupuncture (44%), massage (41%), movement-, art-, and music therapy (33%, 30%, and 28%), meditative movement therapies like yoga (30%), and aromatherapy (29%) were offered most frequently. Separated by specialty, SCAMs were most common in psychiatry/psychosomatics (relaxation techniques 69%, movement and art therapy 60% each) at 87%, and in gynecology/obstetrics (most common acupuncture 64%, homeopathy 60%, and aromatherapy 41%) at 72%.
The stated areas of application of SCAM included:
- use as a stand-alone therapy (65%; n=254),
- for prevention (7%; n=27),
- as support for conventional therapy (7%; n=27)
- as preparation before drug therapy or surgery (5%; n=18).
The authors concluded that the vast majority of Bavarian acute care hospitals also seem to conduct complementary medicine procedures in therapy, especially for psychological indications and in obstetrics and gynaecology, according to the hospital websites. How often these procedures are used in inpatient or outpatient settings as well as evidence on effectiveness of the applied procedures should be investigated in further studies.
In my view, this article invites several points of criticism.
Something that irritates me regularly is the fact that much of SCAM research takes years to be published. If a given research project is important, it would seem unethical to sit on it for so long. If it is not important, it is unethical to conduct it in the first place. In the above case, we are dealing with a survey of SCAM use, and we know that SCAM use is strongly influenced by fashion which means it changes fast and frequently. I would therefore argue that data that are now three years old are of limited interest.
Another point is the lack of a definition or range of treatments included. The authors state they looked for whatever form of SCAM the websites mentioned (herbal medicine is popular in Germany, yet absent in this survey; this suggests that the survey method has created a blind spot). Yet, they include as SCAM things like massage (which in Germany is entirely mainstream), physiotherapeutic exercise (Bewegungstherapie), and biofeedback all of which are arguably conventional treatments. This means that the true prevalence figures of SCAM use are not nearly as high as they pretend.
My main criticism would be that the authors abstain from any comments about the evidence for the SCAMs they monitored. They stated that this was beyond the scope of the project. As the research was supported by the Bavarian government, it would nevertheless have been essential, in my view, to dedicate a few words about the fact that many of the SCAMs and their uses are not evidence-based.
Essentially, this survey is in the tradition of hundreds of previous SCAM prevalence surveys that show a high degree of popularity of SCAM and thus imply that
IF SCAM IS SO VERY POPULAR, IT MUST BE GOOD;
AND IF IT’S GOOD, WE MUST HAVE MORE OF IT.
It is often said that SCAM researchers are relatively free of financial conflicts of interest. Let me show you the complete list of conflicts declared by the authors of this survey.
- JL: received funding for this project from the Bavarian State Ministry of Health and Care; Further research support: Steigerwald Arzneimittelwerke GmbH, Falk Foundation; TechLab, Dr. Willmar Schwabe; Repha GmbH biologic drugs; Lecture fees: Falk Foundation, Repha GmbH biologic drugs; Celgene GmbH; Dr. Willmar Schwabe; Medice Arzneimittel, Galapagos Biopharma; consultant/expert: Medizinverlage Stuttgart; Steigerwald Arzneimittelwerke GmbH; Repha GmbH; Ferring Arzneimittel GmbH; Dr. Willmar Schwabe
- TK: received funding for this project from the Bavarian State Ministry of Health and Care, beyond that there are no other conflicts of interest
- CL: Lecture fees: Celgene GmbH, Roche GmbH, Novartis Pharma GmbH, BMS GmbH & Co. KGaA, Mundipharma GmbH Co. KG, Merck KGaA.
I am pleased to announce that our regular contributors ‘DC‘ as well as ‘mimi‘ both correctly guessed the person responsible for the quote about informed consent that was the subject of yesterday’s post. Congratulations to both; that certainly wasn’t easy!
The quote is by Karl Brandt.
Who was Karl Brandt?
Brandt was a young and evidently gifted doctor when, during a series of coincidences, he became a member of Hitler’s ‘inner circle’ and acted as one of Hitler’s personal physicians (originally, he had wanted to join the team of Albert Schweitzer!). Hitler liked the good-looking, ambitious Brandt and thus gave him greater and greater responsibilities and power. Amongst other things, Brandt managed to become in charge of the German euthanasia program which killed about 70 000 patients who the Nazis considered to be ‘useless eaters’ and unworthy of their support. It had the cynical purpose of freeing up hospital beds for the war and cleansing the German gene pool. Brandt also was responsible for many of the unspeakably cruel and immoral medical experiments in the concentration camps.
After the war, Brandt was put on trial in Nuremberg. The trial became known as the ‘Doctors’ Trail‘. Twenty of the 23 defendants were medical doctors (Viktor Brack, Rudolf Brandt, and Wolfram Sievers were Nazi officials). They were accused of having been involved in Nazi human experimentation and mass murder under the guise of euthanasia. Brandt insisted that he had never done anything wrong, had followed orders, and had been guided by the highest morals, solid medical ethics, and his determination to do the very best for the German people.
During his interrogations, he stated the sentences that fascinated me when I first read it: ” On the one hand, there are experiments that are carried out for or with someone on a voluntary basis; on the other hand, there are those that take place against the will of the person concerned. A further subdivision indicates whether they are particularly dangerous or comparatively harmless and without any potential for danger. A further distinction must be made as to whether the result of the experiment is important or whether it is merely a ridiculous game played by a scientifically educated person. These six criteria form a kind of guideline that enables one to say YES or NO from a medical point of view.”
The quote is cited in the book by Ulf Schmidt which is extremely well-researched and worth reading for anyone with an interest in the subject. In my view, it gives a unique insight into the thinking of someone who clearly was bright yet power-hungry, scrupulous and deeply immoral:
- experiments “against the will of the person concerned” always were unlawful, immoral, and unethical according to the guidelines that existed at the time;
- “particularly dangerous” experiments should have never been considered;
- research that is merely a “ridiculous game played by a scientifically educated person” is pseudoscience and not ethical.
Brandt tried to present himself as the ‘honest’, upright Nazi who did what he did because of a deep conviction and because he wanted the best. He seemed to have fooled others and possibly even himself. Several influential personalities rallied to his support. Yet, the judges at Nuremberg did neither believe his version of events nor were they inclined to pardon his behavior. Brandt was found guilty of:
- War crimes: performing medical experiments, without the subjects’ consent, on prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, in the course of which experiments the defendants committed murders, brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities, and other inhuman acts. Also planning and performing the mass murder of prisoners of war and civilians of occupied countries, stigmatized as aged, insane, incurably ill, deformed, and so on, by gas, lethal injections, and diverse other means in nursing homes, hospitals, and asylums during the Euthanasia Program and participating in the mass murder of concentration camp inmates;
- Crimes against humanity: committing crimes also on German nationals;
- Membership in a criminal organization, the SS. The charges against him included special responsibility for, and participation in, Freezing, Malaria, LOST Gas, Sulfanilamide, Bone, Muscle and Nerve Regeneration and Bone Transplantation, Sea-Water, Epidemic Jaundice, Sterilization, and Typhus Experiments.
Brandt was executed on 2 June 1948.
The discussions around informed consent at the Nuremberg ‘doctors trial’ brought this subject into a renewed focus and eventually led to the formulation of the now famous ‘Nuremberg Code‘.
I have often blogged about informed consent. Recently, I have come across a quote about informed consent to medical research that I find remarkable in several ways. It was made by a German physician and I present you with the original and with my translation of it.
The person who correctly guesses the author of the quote will – if he/she wants – receive a free copy of one of my books delivered through the post.
Here we go:
Zum einen gibt es Versuche, die fuer order mit jemandem auf freiwilliger Basis durchgefuehrt werden; zum anderen solche, die gegen den Willen der betroffenen Person stattfinden. Eine weitere Unterteilung gibt an, of sie besonders gefaehrlich offer vergleichsweise unbedenklich und ohne Gefahrenpotenzial sind. Zu unterscheiden ist ausserdem, ob das Ergebnis des Versuchs wichtig ist oder ob es sich nur um eine laecherliches Spiel einer wissenschaftlich gebildeten Person handelt. Aus diesen sechs Kriterien ergibt sich eine Art Richtlinie, die es einem vom medizinischen Standpunkt aus ermoeglicht JA oder NEIN zu sagen.
On the one hand, there are experiments that are carried out for or with someone on a voluntary basis; on the other hand, there are those that take place against the will of the person concerned. A further subdivision indicates whether they are particularly dangerous or comparatively harmless and without any potential for danger. A further distinction must be made as to whether the result of the experiment is important or whether it is merely a ridiculous game played by a scientifically educated person. These six criteria form a kind of guideline that enables one to say YES or NO from a medical point of view.
I don’t think you will find the author by googling the text. So, don’t bother.
The author, a German physician, is no longer alive but was very famous at one time. I will disclose his – yes it was a man – identity as soon as someone got the correct answer. If nobody does guess correctly, I will disclose it in a few days.
If you are unable to guess the author, I would still be interested in what you think of the quote and the frame of mind of the physician who said these intriguing sentences.
It has been reported that the PLASTIC SURGERY INSTITUTE OF ·UTAH, INC.; MICHAEL KIRK MOORE JR.; KARI DEE BURGOYNE; KRISTIN JACKSON ANDERSEN; AND SANDRA FLORES, stand accused of running a scheme out of the Plastic Surgery Institute of Utah, Inc. to defraud the United States and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Michael Kirk Moore, Jr. and his co-defendants at the Plastic Surgery Institute of Utah have allegedly given falsified vaccine cards to people in exchange for their donating $50 to an unnamed organization, one which exists to “liberate the medical profession from government and industry conflicts of interest.” As part of the scheme, Moore and his co-defendants are accused of giving children saline injections so that they would believe they were really being vaccinated.
The co-defendants are Kari Dee Burgoyne, an office manager at the Plastic Surgery Institute of Utah; Sandra Flores, the office’s receptionist; and, strangest of all, a woman named Kristin Jackson Andersen, who according to the indictment is Moore’s neighbor. Andersen has posted copious and increasingly conspiratorial anti-vaccine content on Facebook and Instagram; Dr. Moore himself was a signatory on a letter expressing support for a group of COVID-skeptical doctors whose certification was under review by their respective medical boards. The letter expresses support for ivermectin, a bogus treatment for COVID.
According to the indictment, the Plastic Surgery Center of Utah was certified as a real vaccine provider and signed a standard agreement with the CDC, which among other things requires doctor’s offices not to “sell or seek reimbursement” for vaccines.
Prosecutors allege that, when people seeking falsified vaccine cards contacted the office, Burgoyne, the office manager, referred them to Andersen, Dr. Moore’s neighbor. Andersen, according to the indictment, would ask for the name of someone who’d referred them—it had to be someone who’d previously received a fraudulent vaccine card, per the indictment—then direct people to make a $50 donation to a charitable organization, referred to in the indictment only as “Organization 1.” Each vaccine card seeker was required to put an orange emoji in the memo line of their donation.
After making a donation to the unnamed charitable organization, prosecutors allege, Andersen would send a link to vaccine card seekers to enable them to make an appointment at the Plastic Surgery Institute. With adult patients, Moore would allegedly use a real COVID vaccine dose in a syringe, but squirt it down the drain. Flores, the office’s receptionist, gave an undercover agent a note, reading “with 18 & younger, we do a saline shot,” meaning that kids were injected with saline instead of a vaccine. Prosecutors allege the team thus disposed of at least 1,937 doses of COVID vaccines.
All four people are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to convert, sell, convey, and dispose of government property; and conversion, sale, conveyance, and disposal of government property and aiding and abetting.
Throughout the scheme, the group reported the names of all the vaccine seekers to the Utah Statewide Immunization Information System, indicating that the practice had administered 1,937 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which included 391 pediatric doses. The value of all the doses totaled roughly $28,000. With the money from the $50 vaccination cards totaling nearly $97,000, the scheme was valued at nearly $125,000, federal prosecutors calculated.
“By allegedly falsifying vaccine cards and administering saline shots to children instead of COVID-19 vaccines, not only did this provider endanger the health and well-being of a vulnerable population, but also undermined public trust and the integrity of federal health care programs,” Curt Muller, special agent in charge with the Department of Health and Human Services for the Office of the Inspector General, said in a statement.
I am already baffled by anti-vax attitudes when they originate from practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). When they come from real physicians and are followed by real actions, I am just speechless. As I stated many times before: studying medicine does unfortunately not protect you from recklessness, greed, or stupidity.
I had all but forgotten about these trials until a comment by ‘Mojo’ (thanks Mojo!) reminded me of this article in the JRSM by M.E. Dean. It reviewed these early trials of homeopathy back in 2006. Here are the crucial excerpts:
The homeopath in both trials was a Dr Herrmann, who received a 1-year contract in February 1829 to test homeopathy with the Russian military.3 The first study took place at the Military Hospital in the market town of Tulzyn, in the province of Podolya, Ukraine.4 At the end of 3 months, 164 patients had been admitted, 123 pronounced cured, 18 were convalescing, 18 still sick, and six had died. The homeopathic ward received many gravely ill patients, and the small number of deaths was shown at autopsy to be due to advanced gross pathologies. The results were interesting enough for the Russian government to order Herrmann to the Regional Military Hospital at St Petersburg to take part in a larger trial, supervised by a Dr Gigler. Patients were admitted to an experimental homeopathic ward, for treatment by Herrmann, and comparisons were made with the success rate in the allopathic wards, as happened in Tulzyn. The novelty was Gigler’s inclusion of a ‘no treatment’ ward where patients were not subject to conventional drugging and bleeding, or homeopathic dosing. The untreated patients benefited from baths, tisanes, good nutrition and rest, but also:
‘During this period, the patients were additionally subjects of an innocent deception. In order to deflect the suspicion that they were not being given any medicine, they were prescribed pills made of white breadcrumbs or cocoa, lactose powder or salep infusions, as happened in the homeopathic ward.’3 (page 415)
The ‘no treatment’ patients, in fact, did better than those in both the allopathic and homeopathic wards. The trial had important implications not just for homeopathy but also for the excessive allopathic drugging and bleeding that was prevalent. As a result of the report, homeopathy was banned in Russia for some years, although allopathy was not.
… A well-known opponent of homeopathy, Carl von Seidlitz, witnessed the St Petersburg trial and wrote a hostile report.5 He then conducted a homeopathic drug test in February 1834 at the Naval Hospital in the same city in which healthy nursing staff received homeopathically-prepared vegetable charcoal or placebo in a single-blind cross-over design.6 Within a few months, Armand Trousseau and colleagues were giving placebo pills to their Parisian patients; perhaps in the belief that they were testing homeopathy, and fully aware they were testing a placebo response.7,8 A placebo-controlled homeopathic proving took place in Nuremberg in 1835 and even included a primitive form of random assignment—identical vials of active and placebo treatment were shuffled before distribution.9 Around the same time in England, Sir John Forbes treated a diarrhoea outbreak after dividing his patients into two groups: half received allopathic ‘treatment as usual’ and half got bread pills. He saw no difference in outcome, and when he reported the experiment in 1846 he added that the placebos could just as easily have been homeopathic tablets.10 In 1861, a French doctor gave placebo pills to patients with neurotic symptoms, and his attitude is representative: he called the placebo ‘orthodox homeopathy’, because, as he said, ‘Bread pills or globules of Aconitum 30c or 40c amount to the same thing’.11
Guest post by Hans-Werner Bertelsen
As a self-confessed Asterix fan, I made a proposal to the Bremen Medical Association in 2019 that it should no longer orient itself towards the mainstream in the area of further training, but rather towards Klein-Bonum. The board found my proposal very good and unanimously deleted “homeopathy” from the postgraduate training regulations at the next board meeting. The media echo was tremendous. Words of “dam bursting” and “revolution” did the rounds. The “domino effect” was also often quoted in this context, because in the following years, many other German state medical associations followed the Bremen example and removed “homeopathy” from their further training regulations: Saxony-Anhalt, North Rhine, Schleswig-Holstein, Baden-Württemberg, Hamburg, Hesse, Brandenburg, Berlin, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony, Saarland, and Bavaria.
Following the principle of logical plausibility, according to which it makes no sense to support dubious therapies that are not in one’s own training portfolio, but are still reimbursed by many health insurance funds, by convenient billing modalities, the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians Bremen (KVHB) drew a line under the matter and terminated corresponding contracts on my advice. With the termination of the criticized selective contracts, the small federal state of Bremen thus set new standards in 2021. Since the termination, doctors can no longer conveniently provide “homeopathic services” online but have to bill their patients for their services.
But that was not all: the drumbeat of terminated billing contracts had not yet died down in the ears of the “homeopaths”, when only 3 months later, at the meeting of the Federal Medical Association, the next one followed: After a delegate from Bremen (do you want to know if this was a coincidence?) had submitted a motion for the deletion of “homeopathy” from the Model Continuing Medical Education Ordinance (MWBO), this was carried out after a democratic vote at the medical congress in Bremen. The Federal Medical Association thus officially declares this type of sham therapy to be no longer up-to-date, dispensable, and unworthy of further training.
In view of the vote democratically given by the Board, it seems bizarre that the Bavarian Medical Association, despite its own decision to remove “homeopathy” from the WBO, now invokes prolongations because of “transitional periods” in order to be able to continue offering courses in “homeopathy”. Contracts in this regard are to be considered secondary and no longer current. Therefore, the justification given by the ÄND proves to be flimsy and not stringent. The protection of patients from dangerous sham therapies in the case of the omission of indication-appropriate therapies saves lives and thus clearly represents the higher legal interest. Calls for “transitional periods” are redundant and negligently endanger the health of many people. On top of that, an unnecessary extension is a disrespect to the decision made by its own members in the democratic process.
But I remain optimistic that logical plausibility – free of backlogs (!) – will prevail in Bavaria as well. The vote has proven that there is a majority for this and that this majority will not be dominated by money or self-deception.
Remember the Bavarian Homeopathy Study? I reported about it only a few days ago. Now the ‘German Homeopathic Doctors Association’ has published an interview with someone who allegedly knows more about it. Here is my translation:
Dr. Springer, what does it actually mean politically that this study came about at all?
First of all, it means that the work of several years was worthwhile and that we were able to convince those responsible with a carefully elaborated study design. It also shows how enormously important it is to have solid political contacts with parties, MPs, parliamentary groups, and spokespersons in health committees. In addition to persuasion, personal credibility and professional competence are indispensable for the growth of such contacts. This is also shown by the fact that LIMed (List of Integrative Medicine) in Bavaria (as in some other federal states) has succeeded in sending committed colleagues to the representations of the State Medical Association and the Medical District and County Association.
What is special about this study?
As far as I know, it is the first study worldwide to be carried out with hand-shaken high potencies (C 200 and C 1000). If the results were positive, the mechanism of action of homeopathy would not be clarified, but it would be proven that highly potentised medicinal substances have a healing effect that can be objectified scientifically.
Who is the sponsor of this study?
The Bavarian Parliament voted with an absolute majority to scientifically investigate the role of complementary medicine in the fight against increasing antibiotic resistance. Several study designs were submitted on this question, and our study approach won the bid in the end. The Bavarian State Ministry of Health and Care is financing the study and has won the Technical University of Munich as a partner – after all, it is one of Germany’s universities of excellence. This removes all doubts about the correct scientific conduct of the study.
What is to be investigated in the study?
It relates to a diagnosis with great relevance to healthcare: Women often suffer from recurrent urinary tract infections, which are often treated with antibiotics. This is always associated with the risk of causative bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics. As homeopathically qualified doctors, we know from decades of experience that we can reduce and even end the frequency of recurrent urinary tract infections and their occurrence with our homeopathic remedies. We want to put this experience to the test scientifically with this study.
How do you see the chances for a positive study result?
As doctors, we know what we do and what we can do. We will do everything in our power to show that we can do it! I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have made this study possible and who are providing us with professional and scientific support!-
The interview was conducted by Ulf Riker, MD.
The interview raises several questions:
- Dr. Springer confirms that the existence of the study and its financial support is mostly due to political influence. Is this how good science should be generated?
- Is it true that the study is the first to investigate potency homeopathy? Considering that the bestselling homeopathic, Oscillococcinum, is sold in the C200 potency, this seems to be a very questionable statement.
- If the results were to come out positive, would we really re-write the textbooks of physics and chemistry which state that the absence of an active molecule cannot have an effect?
- Does the involvement of the Technical University truly remove all doubts about the correct scientific conduct of the study?
- If the homeopathically qualified doctors conducting the study already claim to know from decades of experience that they can reduce and even end the frequency of recurrent urinary tract infections with homeopathic remedies, are they not going to be too biased in conducting such a study?
- If the trialists are determined to do everything in their power to show that homeopathy works, will the study generate a reliable result?
- My last question is, how reliable is Dr. Springer? I found another interview of him dated 2021. In it he stated about the homeopathic treatment of COVID patients: ” [There is a} group of Covid-19 patients … [to] whose successful treatment we as homeopathic physicians can certainly contribute. The symptomatology of these patients is considerable, sometimes severe, but not life-threatening. They suffer from headaches and pain in the limbs, dizziness, fever, have the often-quoted “dry cough”, sweat, and usually feel very weak. But they have not yet developed clinical symptoms of pneumonia. These patients – and they are by no means few – can be helped by medical homeopathy, I am firmly convinced, curatively. Provided, of course, that a very precise, individual homeopathic anamnesis is carried out, the patient is closely followed, the course of the disease is closely observed and the remedy administered is adjusted if necessary. By preventing an acute condition and hospitalization in these patients homeopathy could make a not inconsiderable contribution to overcoming these greatest health and social challenges in one hundred years.” That, I think might answer my question.
As I pointed out before, the study design looks rigorous. After reading this interview, I have my doubts that its execution will be rigorous as well.