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

fraud

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Guest post by Ken McLeod

This week a Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Jarrad Antonovich resumes [1] in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia. Meanwhile, pending the outcome of Inquests and other investigations, the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission has imposed interim prohibition order on Mr Soulore Solaris, ‘….a Counsellor who facilitates Ayahuasca ceremonies.’

Under section 41AA of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 (Act), Mr Solaris: “….must not under any circumstances provide, or cause to be provided, any health services, either in paid employment or voluntary, to any member of the public.” [2] This applies until 11 March 2024, when the matter will be reconsidered.

So what is all this about? To go back a while, Mr Antonovich died from a perforated oesophagus after consuming ayahuasca and kambo frog toxin in October 2021, at the age of 46, while attending the ‘Dreaming Arts festival’, a six-day retreat at Arcoora near Kyogle in northern New South Wales. At the festival he had consumed ayahuasca and participated in a “Kambo” ceremony, involving secretions harvested from an Amazonian tree frog.

Ayahuasca is a psychedelic substance made from boiling plants that is used in ritualistic ceremonies in the Amazon basin. [3] Ayahuasca contains chemicals of concern, such as N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a highly psychedelic substance and a Schedule I drug under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Ayahuasca is illegal in many countries, and it is illegal to sell, import, produce and possess it in Australia. [4]

Kambo is made from secretions harvested from an Amazonian tree frog. Kambo is usually used in a group setting, called a Kambo circle or Kambo ceremony. Wikipedia lists a whole smorgasbord of dangerous consequences, including tachycardia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, psychosis, SIADH, kidney damage (including acute renal failure), pancreas damage, liver damage including toxic hepatitis, dermatomyositis, esophageal rupture, seizures, and death. [5]

The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration has listed it as a schedule 10 poison, in the category for “substances of such danger to health as to warrant prohibition of sale, supply and use”. [6]

Earlier in the Inquest we heard that:

  • – While Jarrad Antonovich‘s condition worsened there was resistance to calling for an ambulance. An ambulance was finally called at 11.30pm and took an hour to arrive because of the remote location.
  • -One ambulance officer reported that a female told them to “move away from Jarrad because it was affecting his aura” and no one told them he had consumed Kambo. [7]
  • -The event organiser Soulore “Lore” Solaris described Jarrad Antonovich’s death as ‘beautiful.’ [8]
  • -Fred Woller, the site manager at Arcoora, was unaware those running the event did not have any medical training. [9]
  • -Soulore “Lore” Solaris said Mr Antonovich ”…. had good support, a couple of kinesiologists with him and they couldn’t find anything wrong,” [10]
  • -Mr Antonovich “was surrounded by people who loved him and an Aboriginal elder called Uncle Andrew who was chanting sacred songs and calling the spirit out of his body” and “the koalas were making a special sound that is known to the elders when the land accepts a spirit”.
  • -“Mr Solaris has stated that he has plans to leave Australia for Brazil to visit his teachers.” [11]

We will keep you informed.

REFERENCES

  • 1 Court Lists http://tinyurl.com/3fzjd6uy
  • 2 Health Care Complaints Commission http://tinyurl.com/yh76rzc6
  • 3 The Guardian http://tinyurl.com/328manjt
  • 4 Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_status_of_ayahuasca_by_country
  • 5 Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kambo_(drug)
  • 6 The Guardian http://tinyurl.com/2s398psy
  • 7 The Guardian http://tinyurl.com/328manjt
  • 8 ABC http://tinyurl.com/5n7ejydy
  • 9 The Guardian http://tinyurl.com/59wa3rmn
  • 10 ABC http://tinyurl.com/5n7ejydy
  • 11 Byron Bay Echo http://tinyurl.com/44n78s2w

The French ‘National Assembly’ has yesterday adopted a major law aimed at reinforcing the prevention and combat against sectarian aberrations in France. This marks a significant step forward in strengthening the protection of citizens against abuse and manipulation by charlatans, gurus and other sectarian movements.

This bill, the result of particularly fruitful work and debate in both chambers, reflects the Government’s commitment to meeting the expectations of the victims of these sectarian movements.

Some of the key measures voted through by parliamentarians include:

  • The enshrinement in law of the powers of MIVILUDES (Interministerial Mission of Vigilance and Combat against Sectarian Aberrations);
  • The reinforcement of the penal response with the creation of the offence of placing or maintaining in a state of psychological or physical subjection;
  • The creation of an offence of incitement to abandon or refrain from treatment, or to adopt practices which clearly expose the person concerned to a serious health risk;
  • Support for victims, with the extension of the categories of associations that can bring civil action;
  • Information for the judiciary, with the introduction of an “amicus curiae” role for certain government departments in legal cases relating to cults.

Despite sometimes heated debates, particularly around article 4, fuelled by the opinion of the Conseil d’Etat, the adoption of this law by the National Assembly bears witness to a shared desire to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals while providing better protection for our fellow citizens against sectarian aberrations.

This bill is part of a multi-annual national strategy for 2023-2027 resulting from the conference on sectarian aberrations held in spring 2023. It is a major step towards strengthening the penal arsenal and protecting victims.

_______________

Sabrina Agresti-Roubache, Secretary of State for Citizenship and Urban Affairs, commented:

“Long-awaited by victim support associations, this text aims to strengthen our legal arsenal in the fight against sectarian aberrations. I’m delighted that all the articles have been adopted, particularly Article 4, which creates an offence of incitement to abandon or abstain from treatment. There have been some passionate debates in the Chamber, but I’d like to reiterate the basis of this bill: the State is not fighting against beliefs, opinions or religions, but against all forms of sectarian aberrations, these dangerous behaviors which represent a threat to our social cohesion and put lives at risk.”

_______________

Obviously, we shall have to see how the new law will be applied. But, in any case, it is an important step into the right direction and could put an end to much of so-called alternative medicine that endangers the health of French consumers.

Other nations should consicer following the Franch example.

This pilot study is “delving into the potential benefits of Reiki therapy as a complementary intervention for the treatment and management of stress and anxiety”.

A total of 31 volunteers self-reporting stress, anxiety, or psychological disorders were enrolled. Health-related quality of life (HRQoL) was assessed using the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) Questionnaire for anxiety and depression. Pre- and post-treatment HRQoL scores were meticulously compared, and the significance of the disparities in these scores was meticulously computed.

Analysis was restricted to volunteers who completed the 3-day Reiki sessions. Statistically significant enhancements were discerned across all outcome measures, encompassing positive affect, negative affect, pain, drowsiness, tiredness, nausea, appetite, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, and overall well-being (P<0.0001).

The authors concluded that the constancy and extensive scope of these improvements suggest that Reiki therapy may not only address specific symptoms but also contribute significantly to a predominant escalation of mental and physical health.

This study is almost comical.

Amongst all the many forms of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), Reiki is perhaps the most ridiculous scam. It is a form of paranormal or ‘energy healing’ popularised by Japanese Mikao Usui (1865–1926). Rei means universal spirit (sometimes thought of as a supreme being) and ki is the assumed universal life energy. It is based on the assumptions of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the existence of ‘chi’, the life-force that is assumed to determine our health.

Reiki practitioners believe that, with their hands-on healing method, they can transfer ‘healing energy’ to a patient which, in turn, stimulates the self-healing properties of the body. They assume that the therapeutic effects of this technique are obtained from a ‘universal life energy’ that provides strength, harmony, and balance to the body and mind. There is no scientific basis for such notions, and reiki is therefore not plausible.

Reiki is used for a number of conditions, including the relief of stress, tension and pain. There have been several clinical trials testing its effectiveness. Those that are rigorous fail to show that the treatment is effective – and those that are dripping with bias, like the one discussed here, tend to produce false-positive results.

The present study has many flaws that are too obvious to even mention. While reading it, I asked myself the following questions:

  • How could a respectable university ever allow this pseudo-research to go ahead?
  • How could a respectable ethics committee ever permit it?
  • How could a respectable journal ever publish it?

The answers must be that, quite evidently, they are not respectable.

 

An alarming story of research fraud in the area of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is unfolding: Bharat B. Aggarwal, the Indian-American biochemist who worked at MD Anderson Cancer Center, focused his research on curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, and authored more than 125 Medline-listed articles about it. They reported that curcumin had therapeutic potential for a variety of diseases, including various cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and, more recently, COVID-19.

The last of these papers, entitled “Curcumin, inflammation, and neurological disorders: How are they linked?”, was publiched only a few months ago. Here is its abstract:

Background: Despite the extensive research in recent years, the current treatment modalities for neurological disorders are suboptimal. Curcumin, a polyphenol found in Curcuma genus, has been shown to mitigate the pathophysiology and clinical sequalae involved in neuroinflammation and neurodegenerative diseases.

Methods: We searched PubMed database for relevant publications on curcumin and its uses in treating neurological diseases. We also reviewed relevant clinical trials which appeared on searching PubMed database using ‘Curcumin and clinical trials’.

Results: This review details the pleiotropic immunomodulatory functions and neuroprotective properties of curcumin, its derivatives and formulations in various preclinical and clinical investigations. The effects of curcumin on neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), brain tumors, epilepsy, Huntington’s disorder (HD), ischemia, Parkinson’s disease (PD), multiple sclerosis (MS), and traumatic brain injury (TBI) with a major focus on associated signalling pathways have been thoroughly discussed.

Conclusion: This review demonstrates curcumin can suppress spinal neuroinflammation by modulating diverse astroglia mediated cascades, ensuring the treatment of neurological disorders.

  The Anderson Cancer Center initially appeared to approve of Aggarwal’s work. However, in 2012, following concerns about image manipulation raised by pseudonymous sleuth Juuichi Jigen, MD Anderson Cancer Center launched a research fraud probe against Aggarwal which eventually led to 30 of Aggarwal’s articles being retracted. Moreover, PubPeer commenters have noted irregularities in many publications beyond the 30 that have already been retracted. Aggarwal thus retired from M.D. Anderson in 2015.

Curcumin doesn’t work well as a therapeutic agent for any disease – see, for instance, the summary from Nelson et al. 2017:

“[No] form of curcumin, or its closely related analogues, appears to possess the properties required for a good drug candidate (chemical stability, high water solubility, potent and selective target activity, high bioavailability, broad tissue distribution, stable metabolism, and low toxicity). The in vitro interference properties of curcumin do, however, offer many traps that can trick unprepared researchers into misinterpreting the results of their investigations.”

Despite curcumin’s apparent lack of therapeutic promise, the volume of research produced on curcumin grows each year.  More than 2,000 studies involving the compound are now published annually. Many of these studies bear signs of fraud and involvement of paper mills. As of 2020, the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) has spent more than 150 million USD funding projects related to curcumin.

Graphs describing the volume of curcumin research from various sources. Data collected from PubMed and NIH RePORTER. Data may be incomplete in recent years.

This proliferation of research has fueled curcumin’s popularity as a dietary supplement. It is estimated that the global market for curcumin as a supplement is around 30 million USD in 2020.

The damage done by this epic fraud is huge and far-reaching. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, countless hours spent toiling by junior scientists, thousands of laboratory animals sacrificed, thousands of cancer patients enrolled in clinical trials for ineffective treatments, and countless people who have eschewed effective cancer treatment in favor of curcumin, were encouraged by research steeped in lies.

After the nationwide huha created by the BBC’s promotion of auriculotherapy and AcuSeeds, it comes as a surprise to learn that, in Kent (UK), the NHS seems to advocate and provide this form of quackery. Here is the text of the patient leaflet:

Kent Community Health, NHS Foundation Trust

Auriculotherapy

This section provides information to patients who might benefit from auriculotherapy, to complement their acupuncture treatment, as part of their chronic pain management plan.

What is auriculotherapy?

In traditional Chinese medicine, the ear is seen as a microsystem representing the entire body. Auricular acupuncture focuses on ear points that may help a wide variety of conditions including pain. Acupuncture points on the ear are stimulated with fine needles or with earseeds and massage (acupressure).

How does it work?

Recent research has shown that auriculotherapy stimulates the release of natural endorphins, the body’s own feel good chemicals, which may help some patients as part of their chronic pain management plan.

What are earseeds?

Earseeds are traditionally small seeds from the Vaccaria plant, but they can also be made from different types of metal or ceramic. Vaccaria earseeds are held in place over auricular points by a small piece of adhesive tape, or plaster. Applying these small and barely noticeable earseeds between acupuncture treatments allows for patient massage of the auricular points. Earseeds may be left in place for up to a week.

Who can use earseeds?

Earseeds are sometimes used by our Chronic Pain Service to prolong the effects of standard acupuncture treatments and may help some patients to self manage their chronic pain.

How can I get the most out my treatment with earseeds?

It is recommended that the earseeds are massaged two to three times a day or when symptoms occur by applying gentle pressure to the earseeds and massaging in small circles.

Will using earseeds cure my chronic pain?

As with any treatment, earseeds are not a cure but they can reduce pain levels for some patients as part of their chronic pain management programme.

________________________

What the authors of the leaflet forgot to tell the reader is this:

  • Auriculotherapy is based on ideas that fly in the face of science.
  • The evidence that auriculotherapy works is flimsy, to say the least.
  • The evidence earseeds work is even worse.
  • To arrive at a positive recommendation, the NHS had to heavily indulge in the pseudo-scientific art of cherry-picking.
  • The positive experience that some patients report is due to a placebo response.
  • For whichever condition auriculotherapy is used, there are treatments that are much more adequate.
  • Advocating auriculotherapy is therefore not in the best interest of the patient.
  • Arguably, it is unethical.
  • Definitely, it is not what the NHS should be doing.

The so-called ‘Miracle Mineral Solution’ (MMS) – bleach for you and me – is a SCAM that keeps on giving. On this blog, we have featured MMS several times before, e.g.:

Now,it has been reported that a New Zealand anti-vaxxer has been jailed for selling more than $100,000 worth of an industrial bleach as a “miracle” cure for Covid-19. Roger Blake, who describes himself as a “human man”, was sentenced to just over 10 months’ imprisonment after being found guilty at trial of 29 charges in the Hamilton District Court.

Blake advertised and sold MMS products, claiming it could treat, prevent and cure coronavirus. However, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health had not approved the product, and detailed that when ingested became chlorine dioxide – a bleach commonly used for water treatment, bleaching textiles and paper.

The court heard Blake had marketed the product as a cure in New Zealand from the start of the pandemic between December 2019 and December 2020. Medsafe, the health ministry’s safety authority, said Blake’s company had sales of NZ$160,000 in that period – with sales spiking in March when the country was placed in lockdown.

Judge Brett Crowley said Blake’s behaviour had been “utterly disgraceful”. He added that Blake had “seized upon the tragedy” of the pandemic for financial gain. Before selling MMS as a “cure” for the coronavirus, Blake had marketed the product as a preventive of other diseases and illnesses such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and HIV.

Medsafe prosecuted him under the Medicines Act, with compliance manager Derek Fitzgerald saying the “fake cure” Blake spruiked presented a “significant public health risk”. “He targeted the vulnerable, preyed on public fears and exposed people to harm”, he said. “This decision sends a strong message that people who engage in selling so called ‘miracle cures’ will be held to account and face fines or imprisonment.”

The website which sold MMS in New Zealand was registered to US-based Mark Grenon, who set up the “Genesis II Church of Health and Healing”. As reported previously, Grenon and his three sons were jailed in October for several years in the US for selling more than US$1m of the product. Michael Homer, an assistant US lawyer who prosecuted the case, said at the time the family targeted people suffering from life-threatening illnesses. The Grenons poisoned thousands of people with their bogus miracle cure, which was nothing more than industrial bleach,” he said.

Medsafe warns: “Drinking MMS is the same as drinking bleach and can cause dangerous side effects, including severe vomiting, diarrhoea, and life-threatening low blood pressure. We strongly encourage people to only go to trusted sources, such as your doctor, to get reliable information”.

Medsafe received three reports of people requiring hospitalizations after drinking MMS. “His conduct presented a significant risk to public health, and that is why Medsafe acted. His actions were in stark contrast to the requirements of the Medicines Act 1981, which is public welfare legislation designed to protect the public” said Mr Fitzgerald.

This review aimed to investigate and categorize the causes and consequences of ‘quack medicine’ in the healthcare.

A scoping review, using the 5 stages of Arksey and O’Malley’s framework, was conducted to retrieve and analyze the literature. International databases including the PubMed, Scopus, Embase and Web of Science and also national Iranian databases were searched to find peer reviewed published literature in English and Persian languages. Grey literature was also included. Meta-Synthesis was applied to analyze the findings through an inductive approach.

Out of 3794 initially identified studies, 30 were selected for this review. Based on the findings of this research, the causes of quackery in the health were divided into six categories:

  • political,
  • economic,
  • socio-cultural,
  • technical-organizational,
  • legal,
  • and psychological.

Additionally, the consequences of this issue were classified into three categories:

  • health,
  • economic,
  • and social.

Economic and social factors were found to have the most significant impact on the prevalence of quackery in the health sector. Legal and technical-organizational factors played a crucial role in facilitating fraudulent practices, resulting in severe health consequences.

The authors concluded that it is evident that governing bodies and health systems must prioritize addressing economic and social factors in combating quackery in the health sector. Special attention should be paid to the issue of cultural development and community education to strengthen the mechanisms that lead to the society access to standard affordable services. Efforts should be made also to improve the efficiency of legislation, implementation and evaluation systems to effectively tackle this issue.

The authors point out that, in the health systems, particularly those of developing countries, a phenomenon known as “Quack Medicine” has been a persistent problem, causing harm in various branches of health care services. They define quackery as unproven or fraudulent medical practices that have no scientifically plausible rationale behind them. Someone who does not have professional qualification, formal registration from a legitimated institution, or required knowledge of a particular branch of medicine but practices in the field of medicine, is a quack, according to the authors’ definition. Finally, they define quack medicine as a fraudulent practice of quacks claiming to possess the ability and experience to diagnose and treat diseases, and pretending that the medicine or treatment they provide are effective, generally for personal and financial gain.

The authors rightly point out that, in some countries, there may be a lack of willpower, determination and effort among political leaders to deal with and prevent fraud and charlatanism in various fields, especially in the health system. This can be due to conflict of interests, corruption network, or insufficient infrastructure and resources, such as financial capacity and human resources. In some cases, they stress, policy makers may choose to tolerate small levels of unproven medical practices if the cost of prosecuting and correcting the situation outweigh the financial benefits. This can lead to a cycle of continued fraud and a lack of effective interventions to address the issue. In many countries laws against quack medicine do exist. However, their effectiveness depends on proper and strict implementation. More efforts and measures must be taken to implement the existing laws. Inadequate enforcement of laws and approval of pseudo-medicine can result in people receiving improper care.

The authors recommend that the healthcare systems, prioritize addressing economic and sociocultural factors in order to effectively combat this issue. In developing solutions, attention must be given to cultural development and community education, and efforts should be made to strengthen mechanisms that provide access to affordable, standard healthcare services for all. Lastly, it is crucial to enhance the performance of systems responsible for legislation, implementation and evaluation of laws and regulations related to quack medicine.

It has been reported that the New York State Department of Health has issued a $300,000 penalty as part of a Stipulation and Order signed by a Nassau County midwife who created false immunization records. Roughly 1,500 school-aged children from throughout the State are affected by the vaccine scheme, which has resulted in their immunization records being voided. All affected children must be fully up to date with all age-appropriate immunizations, or be in the process of receiving their missing vaccinations, before they can return to school.

“Misrepresenting or falsifying vaccine records puts lives in jeopardy and undermines the system that exists to protect public health,” State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. “Let it be clear, the New York State Department of Health takes this issue seriously and will investigate and use all enforcement tools at its disposal against those who have been found to have committed such violations.” State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said: “By intentionally falsifying immunization records for students, this licensed health care professional not only endangered the health and safety of our school communities but also undermined public trust. We are pleased to have worked with our partners in government to bring this wrongdoer to justice. We remain committed to upholding the highest standards of health and well-being within our educational institutions.”

The vaccination scheme began at the start of the 2019-2020 school year, just three months after the June 2019 elimination of non-medical exemptions for required school immunizations. Breen supplied patients with the “Real Immunity Homeoprophylaxis Program,” a series of oral pellets marketed by an out-of-state homeopath as an alternative to vaccination. The homeopathic pellets are not authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Department as an immunizing agent against any disease.

Breen was found to have administered 12,449 fake ‘homeopathic’ immunizations to roughly 1,500 school-aged patients as pretext for submitting false information to the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS). The agreed-upon settlement reached between the Department and Breen is the first of its kind addressing a scheme to create false immunization records. It includes a $300,000 monetary penalty and requires that Breen never again administer a vaccination that must be reported to NYSIIS. In addition, Breen is permanently excluded from accessing NYSIIS under any circumstances.

____________________________

We have discussed the absurd and dangerous idea of homeoparophylaxis several times before, e.g.:

Suffice to stress just this:

Homeoprophylaxis is a criminally stupid way to endanger lives!

Motor aphasia is common among patients with stroke. Acupuncture is recommended by TCM enthusiasts as a so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) for poststroke aphasia, but its efficacy remains uncertain.

JAMA just published a study that investigated the effects of acupuncture on language function, neurological function, and quality of life in patients with poststroke motor aphasia.
The study was designed as a multicenter, sham-controlled, randomized clinical trial. It was conducted in 3 tertiary hospitals in China from October 21, 2019, to November 13, 2021. Adult patients with poststroke motor aphasia were enrolled. Data analysis was performed from February to April 2023.

Eligible participants were randomly allocated (1:1) to manual acupuncture (MA) or sham acupuncture (SA) groups. Both groups underwent language training and conventional treatments.
The primary outcomes were the aphasia quotient (AQ) of the Western Aphasia Battery (WAB) and scores on the Chinese Functional Communication Profile (CFCP) at 6 weeks. Secondary outcomes included WAB subitems, Boston Diagnostic Aphasia Examination, National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale, Stroke-Specific Quality of Life Scale, Stroke and Aphasia Quality of Life Scale–39, and Health Scale of Traditional Chinese Medicine scores at 6 weeks and 6 months after onset. All statistical analyses were performed according to the intention-to-treat principle.

Among 252 randomized patients (198 men [78.6%]; mean [SD] age, 60.7 [7.5] years), 231 were included in the modified intention-to-treat analysis (115 in the MA group and 116 in the SA group). Compared with the SA group, the MA group had significant increases in AQ (difference, 7.99 points; 95% CI, 3.42-12.55 points; P = .001) and CFCP (difference, 23.51 points; 95% CI, 11.10-35.93 points; P < .001) scores at week 6 and showed significant improvements in AQ (difference, 10.34; 95% CI, 5.75-14.93; P < .001) and CFCP (difference, 27.43; 95% CI, 14.75-40.10; P < .001) scores at the end of follow-up.

The authors concluded that in this randomized clinical trial, patients with poststroke motor
aphasia who received 6 weeks of MA compared with those who received SA demonstrated
statistically significant improvements in language function, quality of life, and neurological
impairment from week 6 of treatment to the end of follow-up at 6 months after onset.

I was asked by the SCIENCE MEDIC CENTRE to provide a short comment. This is what I stated:

Superficially, this looks like a rigorous trial. We should remember, however, that several groups, including mine, have shown that very nearly all Chinese acupuncture studies report positive results. This suggests that the reliability of these trials is less than encouraging. Moreover, the authors state that real acupuncture induced ‘de chi’, while sham acupuncture did not. This shows that the patients were not blinded and the outcomes might easily be due to a placebo response.

Here, I’d like to add two further points:

Dragons’ Den is a British reality television business programme, presented by Evan Davis and based upon the original Japanese series. The show allows several entrepreneurs an opportunity to present their varying business ideas to a panel of five wealthy investors, the “Dragons” of the show’s title, and pitch for financial investment while offering a stake of the company in return.

It has been reported that Giselle Boxer began selling needle-free acupuncture kits for ears after being diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). She said the technique had helped improve her own health. Ms Boxer worked for advertising agency before starting her business. A researcher on the show had contacted her to ask if she would like to take part.

Entrepreneur and former footballer Gary Neville was so impressed with her pitch he made her an offer in full before the Dragons had a chance to begin asking questions. She said the impact on the business since the show aired had been “bonkers”. “It’s just been a complete whirlwind,” she said.

Acu Seed kit

The tiny beads are a needle-free form of auriculotherapy, designed to stimulate specific points of the ear to address physical and emotional health concerns. “It completely transformed my life alongside lots and lots of other things like diet, lifestyle changes, meditation, breathwork and movement,” said Ms Boxer. She has since had a child and claimed she was fully healed within a year. “It was like a full overhaul of my life,” Ms Boxer said. Her business, Acu Seeds, sells kits for people to use at home and made a £64,000 profit in its first year, she added.

On the Acu Seed website, we learn the following:

Ear seeds are a form of auriculotherapy, which is the stimulation of specific points of the ear to support physical and emotional health concerns. They are a needle-free form of acupuncture that have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. TCM teaches that the ear is a microsystem of the whole body, where certain points on the ear correspond to different organs or body parts. Energy pathways (or ‘qi’ or vital life energy) pass through the ear and ear seeds stimulate specific points which send an abundant flow of energy to the related organ or area that needs attention. Think of it like reflexology, but for the ears instead of feet.

Ear seeds also create continual, gentle pressure on nerve impulses in the ear which send messages to the brain that certain organs or systems need support. The brain will then send signals and chemicals to the rest of the body to support whatever ailments you’re experiencing, releasing endorphins into the bloodstream, relaxing the nervous system, and naturally soothing pain and discomfort. Some people use ear seeds alongside acupuncture treatments as they may help the effects of acupuncture last longer between sessions.

I am impressed by the lingo used here:

  • support physical and emotional health concerns – the seeds support the concerns but not the health?
  • a needle-free form of acupuncture – sorry, the seeds don’t puncture anything; they exert pressure; therefore it’s called acuPRESSURE.
  • have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years – no, it was invented just a few decades ago by Paul Nogier.
  • TCM teaches that the ear is a microsystem of the whole body – TCM teaches plenty of nonsense but not this one.
  • Energy pathways (or ‘qi’ or vital life energy) pass through the ear –Qi is nothing more than a figment of the imagination of TCM advocates.
  • send an abundant flow of energy to the related organ or area – only if you believe in your own fictional form of physiology.
  • Think of it like reflexology – which btw is also nonsense.
  • nerve impulses in the ear send messages to the brain that certain organs or systems need support – only if you believe in your own fictional form of physiology.
  • The brain will then send signals and chemicals to the rest of the body – only if you believe in your own fictional form of physiology.
  • help the effects of acupuncture last longer – help the non-existing effects of acupuncture last longer?

One the website, we also learn what for which conditions the treatment is effective:

Ear seeds may support a broad spectrum of health concerns including anxiety, stress, headaches, digestion, immunity, focus, sleep and fatigue. Our ear seed kits include the protocol ear maps for these eight health concerns and each protocol uses between 3 to 5 ear seeds. Ear seeds have also been found to support with women’s health issues like menstrual issues, libido, fertility, postpartum issues, inflammation, menopause and weight loss. The ear maps for these issues are given in our women’s health ear seed kit bundles. The specific combination of seed placements will support your chosen health concern. Further issues that they may support with are addiction, pain, tinnitus, vertigo, thyroid health and more.

Here, I am afraid, we might have a major problem:

THERE IS NO GOOD EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT ANY OF THESE CLAIMS!

I thus do wonder whether the venture of Giselle Boxer might be a case for the Advertising Standards Authority.

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