Absurd claims about spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) improving immune function have increased substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Is there any basis at all for such notions?
The objective of this systematic review was to identify, appraise, and synthesize the scientific literature on the efficacy and effectiveness of SMT in preventing the development of infectious disease or improving disease-specific outcomes in patients with infectious disease and to examine the association between SMT and selected immunological, endocrine, and other physiological biomarkers.
A literature search of MEDLINE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, the Index to Chiropractic Literature, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Embase was conducted. Randomized clinical trials and cohort studies were included. Eligible studies were critically appraised, and evidence with high and acceptable quality was synthesized using the Synthesis Without Meta-Analysis guideline.
A total of 2593 records were retrieved; after exclusions, 50 full-text articles were screened, and 16 articles reporting the findings of 13 studies comprising 795 participants were critically appraised. No clinical studies were located that investigated the efficacy or effectiveness of SMT in preventing the development of infectious disease or improving disease-specific outcomes among patients with infectious disease. Eight articles reporting the results of 6 high- and acceptable-quality RCTs comprising 529 participants investigated the effect of SMT on biomarkers. Spinal manipulative therapy was not associated with changes in lymphocyte levels or physiological markers among patients with low back pain or participants who were asymptomatic compared with sham manipulation, a lecture series, and venipuncture control groups. Spinal manipulative therapy was associated with short-term changes in selected immunological biomarkers among asymptomatic participants compared with sham manipulation, a lecture series, and venipuncture control groups.
The authors concluded that no clinical evidence was found to support or refute claims that SMT was efficacious or effective in changing immune system outcomes. Although there were limited preliminary data from basic scientific studies suggesting that SMT may be associated with short-term changes in immunological and endocrine biomarkers, the clinical relevance of these findings is unknown. Given the lack of evidence that SMT is associated with the prevention of infectious diseases or improvements in immune function, further studies should be completed before claims of efficacy or effectiveness are made.
I fully agree with the data as summarised in this paper. Yet, I find the conclusions a bit odd. The authors of this paper are chiropractors who declare the following conflicts of interest: Dr Côté reported receiving grants from the College of Chiropractors of British Columbia during the conduct of the study and grants from the Canadian Chiropractic Research Foundation, travel expenses from the World Federation of Chiropractic, and personal fees from the Canadian Chiropractic Protective Association outside the submitted work. Dr Cancelliere reported receiving grants from the Canadian Chiropractic Research Foundation outside the submitted work. Dr Mior reported receiving grants from the College of Chiropractors of British Columbia during the conduct of the study and grants from the Canadian Chiropractic Association and the Ontario Chiropractic Association outside the submitted work. Dr Hogg-Johnson reported receiving grants from the College of Chiropractors of British Columbia during the conduct of the study and grants from the Canadian Chiropractic Research Foundation outside the submitted work. No other disclosures were reported. The research was supported by funding from the College of Chiropractors of British Columbia to Ontario Tech University, the Canada Research Chairs program (Dr Côté), and the Canadian Chiropractic Research Foundation (Dr Cancelliere).
Would authors independent of chiropractic influence have drawn the same conclusions? I doubt it! While I do appreciate that chiropractors published these negative findings prominently, I feel the conclusions could easily be put much clearer:
There is no clinical evidence to support claims that SMT is efficacious or effective in changing immune system outcomes. Further studies in this area are not warranted.
The spread of misinformation has accompanied the coronavirus pandemic, including topics such as immune boosting to prevent COVID-19. This study explores how immune boosting is portrayed on the internet during the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers compiled a dataset of 227 webpages from Google searches in Canada and the USA using the phrase ‘boost immunity’ AND ‘coronavirus’ on 1 April 2020. They coded webpages for typology and portrayal of immune boosting and supplements. They recorded mentions of microbiome, whether the webpage was selling or advertising an immune boosting product or service, and suggested strategies for boosting immunity.
No significant differences were found between webpages that appeared in the searches in Canada and the USA. The most common types of webpages were from:
- news (40.5%),
- commercial (24.7%) websites.
The concept of immune boosting was portrayed as beneficial for avoiding COVID-19 in 85.5% of webpages and supplements were portrayed as beneficial in 40% of the webpages, but commercial sites were more likely to have these portrayals. The top immune boosting strategies were:
- vitamin C (34.8%),
- diet (34.4%),
- sleep (34.4%),
- exercise (30.8%),
- zinc (26.9%).
Less than 10% of the webpages provide any critique of the concept of immune boosting.
The authors concluded that pairing evidence-based advice for maintaining one’s health (eg, healthy diet, exercise, sleep) with the phrase immune boosting and strategies lacking in evidence may inadvertently help to legitimise the concept, making it a powerful marketing tool. Results demonstrate how the spread of misinformation is complex and often more subtle than blatant fraudulent claims.
The authors did not search for evidence to check whether any of the named interventions have any influence on the immune system. As reported previously, this review did just that. Its authors aimed to evaluate evidence from clinical trials that studied nutrition-based interventions for viral diseases (with special emphasis on respiratory infections). Studies were considered eligible if they were controlled trials in humans, measuring immunological parameters, on viral and respiratory infections. Clinical trials on vitamins, minerals, nutraceuticals and probiotics were included.
A total 43 studies met the inclusion criteria:
- vitamins: 13;
- minerals: 8;
- nutraceuticals: 18
- probiotics: 4
Among vitamins, A and D showed a potential benefit, especially in deficient populations. Among trace elements, selenium and zinc have also shown favourable immune-modulatory effects in viral respiratory infections. Several nutraceuticals and probiotics may also have some role in enhancing immune functions. Micronutrients may be beneficial in nutritionally depleted elderly population.
There were 15 studies with a high score for methodological quality. Here is what their results showed:
- No significant difference in incidence of winter-time upper respiratory tract infection in children with high versus low dose vitamin D.
- Significantly less acute respiratory infections in elderly individuals with vitamin D versus placebo.
- Higher TGFbeta plasma level in response to influenza vaccination but no improved antibody response in elderly, vitamin D-deficient individuals with vitamin D versus placebo.
- No effect on lower respiratory tract infections; however, a protective effect was noted on upper respiratory tract infections in elderly individuals with vitamin E versus placebo.
- Neither daily multivitamin + mineral supplementation at physiological dose nor 200 mg of vitamin E showed a favourable effect on incidence and severity of acute respiratory tract infections in well-nourished, non- institutionalized elderly individuals.
- Better improvement in the clinical status, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation in children suffering from pneumonia with zinc sulphate versus placebo.
- Selenium-yeast increased Tctx-antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity cell counts in blood before flu vaccination + dose-dependent increase in T cell proliferation, IL-8 and IL-10 secretion after in vivo flu challenge in healthy volunteers.
- Frequency and duration of acute respiratory infections during the first two months was unaffected in healthy elderly with ginseng versus placebo.
- Broccoli sprout homogenate favourably affected immunological variables in healthy volunteers.
- The incidence of illness was not reduced, however significantly fewer symptoms were reported and the proliferation index of gd-T cells in culture was almost five times higher after 10 weeks of cranberry polyphenol supplements versus placebo.
- Higher antibody titres against all 3 strains contained in the seasonal influenza virus vaccine than the placebo in healthy elderly individuals with a sea-weed extract versus placebo.
- Non-inferiority was demonstrated for Echinacea compared to oseltamivir in early treatment of clinically diagnosed and virologically confirmed influenza virus infections.
- Significant reduction of cold duration and severity in air travellers with elderberry supplement versus placebo.
- Increased NK cell activity with probiotics versus placebo in tube-fed elderly patients.
- Titres against the influenza B strain increased significantly more with probiotics compared to placebo in healthy elderly individuals.
The Society of Homeopaths (SoH) is the UK’s professional organisation of ‘lay-homeopaths’, therapists who treat patients without having studied medicine. They prefer the term ‘professional homeopathy’, but there is little professional about them, it seems. The SoH has a long track record of endangering public health by promoting anti-vaxx nonsense.
A few months ago, it was reported that Linda Wicks, chair of the Society of Homeopaths (S0H), has shared a series of petitions claiming that childhood immunisations are unsafe. Mrs Wicks also posted a petition supporting Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced former doctor who falsely linked the MMR vaccine to autism claiming that the scientific establishment’s rejection of his flawed research was ‘the greatest lie ever told’.
In 2018, I pointed out that the SoH was violating its own code of ethics. At the time, two new members were appointed to the Society’s Public Affairs (PAC) and Professional Standards (PSC) committees, and both were promoting the deeply anti-vaxx CEASE therapy.
Today, THE TELEGRAPH reports that Sue Pilkington, the SoH’s ‘Head of Standards’, has been promoting anti-vaxx propaganda online. On April 14, she posted anti-vaxx content made by the ‘Children’s Health Defense’ – an organisation accused by NBC News last year as being one of the largest global creators of spreading misinformation’. The page advised that any new vaccine could trigger “lethal” immune reactions.
In a separate post on Facebook, Pilkington shared a post that describes vaccines as “poison” – alongside medical advice declaring that no child should be vaccinated, if any member of their family has a skin disorder. Pilkington also tried to contact Health Secretary Matt Hancock, attempting to share with him a video of content from an American comedian claiming that it’s ‘realistic’ for vaccines to cause autism.
As though this were not enough nonsense, Pilkington also promotes homeopathy as a solution to the current epidemic. On her homeopathy business website, she has section on coronavirus which states the following: “The current primary homeopathic remedy advised for Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) symptoms is Gelsemium with a possible following remedy of Eupatorium Perforatum, Bryonia or Belladonna depending on how the symptoms progress”. Other homeopathic remedies are in common use for people with influenza and pneumonia, according to Pilkington, these do not “prevent viruses” but may “reduce the severity and length of illness”. She also claims that homeopathy has a “great track record of success in epidemics” – referencing both the Spanish influenza pandemic and the bird flu pandemic.
“In our opinion, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has a simple choice to make: remove the SoH and their uninformed vaccination paranoia from the register, or continue to allow homeopaths to make these dangerous claims with the tacit approval of the PSA.” said Michael Marshall, projector director of the Good Thinking Society.
A government health spokesperson was quoted in today’s TELEGRAPH article stating this: “Vaccine misinformation in any form – book, film, website or otherwise – is completely unacceptable.” The spokesperson added that NICE does not recommend homeopathy for the treatment of any health condition and noted that vaccines “save lives and are a foundation of public health.”
Some chiropractors seem too uninformed, stupid or greedy to stop claiming that spinal manipulation boosts the immune system. In the current situation, this is not just annoying, it is positively dangerous.
Here is a fine example of such a person; he is even so convinced of his views that he felt like giving an interview:
How can/does chiropractic care improve your immune system? What happens to our bodies physiologically when we get chiropractic adjustments?
Chiropractic care addresses the vertebral subluxation. This occurs when a vertebra becomes misaligned. This misalignment can result in irritation to the spinal nerve roots, which exit the spinal cord.
When a spinal nerve root is irritated, it stresses the nervous system — thus the potential to weaken the immune system. When we evaluate the spine for these subluxations and identify a misalignment, chiropractors can adjust the spine to alleviate the irritation to the spinal nerve root. This in turn helps to remove the stress from the nervous system.
If people have problems with their immune systems, can chiropractic care help make them better?
Chiropractic care is not a panacea for disease. Its main role is to remove the interference on the nervous system. The three main stresses on the nervous system are thoughts, traumas, and toxins. These are mainly caused by poor lifestyle choices.
Negative thoughts and self-doubt, physical trauma, and environmental toxins all affect the body in ways that stress the nervous system, thus weakening the immune response. Chiropractic care can address the entire nervous system by not only creating a physiological change, but also inducing a reduction of stress, which results in emotional regulation.
Is there any particular research that gives evidence on how chiropractic care can improve your immune system?
Three past studies suggest that manipulation consistently reduced the production of pro-inflammatory mediators associated with tissue damage and pain from articular structures. Two studies provide evidence that manipulation consistently reduced the production of pro-inflammatory mediators associated with tissue damage and pain from articular structures.
Two studies provide evidence that manipulation may induce and enhance production of the immunoregulatory cytokine IL-2 and the production of immunoglobulins as well.
There are a multitude of clinical studies demonstrating the effects of stress on the body and the correlation between stress and immune function. More double blind, randomized clinical trials need to be conducted on the direct relationship between spinal subluxation and the effect on the immune system. In private practice, we observe the impact that adjusting the spine has on overall wellness and its undeniable effect on boosting the body’s ability to adapt to stress and improve your immune system.
Is there anything else about the physiology of how chiropractic care impacts the immune system that you think is important for readers to know?
Our health is our wealth. Taking responsibility for our wellbeing and being preventative affords the body the best possible chance of protecting itself from illness and disease.
Chiropractic care is rooted in the fundamentals that our negative thoughts, traumas, and toxins can lead to disease. By properly evaluating every patient and addressing their physical and emotional challenges, we as a profession can be the leaders of preventative care and restore health naturally and effectively.
On the one hand this is embarrassing, as it exposes almost everything that is wrong with chiropractic. On the other hand, it is informative, as it demonstrates how deeply some chiropractors are entrenched in platitudes, half-truths and blatant lies. The inevitable question is: do these chiropractors really believe this nonsense, or do they merely promote it because it is good for business?
Whatever the answer may be, one thing is fairly obvious: the ones who are being harmed by such drivel are the patients who lack sufficient critical thinking abilities to look through it. They pay not just with their money, but also with their health.
SO, PLEASE LEARN TO THINK CRITICALLY, FOLKS!
During the last few months, I have done little else on this blog than trying to expose misinformation about COVID-19 in the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). However, the usefulness and accuracy of most viewed YouTube videos on COVID-19 have so far not been investigated. Canadian researchers have just published a very nice paper that fills this gap.
They performed a YouTube search on 21 March 2020 using keywords ‘coronavirus’ and ‘COVID-19’, and the top 75 viewed videos from each search were analysed. Videos that were duplicates, non-English, non-audio and non-visual, exceeding 1 hour in duration, live and unrelated to COVID-19 were excluded. Two reviewers coded the source, content and characteristics of included videos. The primary outcome was usability and reliability of videos, analysed using the novel COVID-19 Specific Score (CSS), modified DISCERN (mDISCERN) and modified JAMA (mJAMA) scores.
Of 150 videos screened, 69 (46%) were included, totalling 257 804 146 views. Nineteen (27.5%) videos contained non-factual information, totalling 62 042 609 views. Government and professional videos contained only factual information and had higher CSS than consumer videos (mean difference (MD) 2.21, 95% CI 0.10 to 4.32, p=0.037); mDISCERN scores than consumer videos (MD 2.46, 95% CI 0.50 to 4.42, p=0.008), internet news videos (MD 2.20, 95% CI 0.19 to 4.21, p=0.027) and entertainment news videos (MD 2.57, 95% CI 0.66 to 4.49, p=0.004); and mJAMA scores than entertainment news videos (MD 1.21, 95% CI 0.07 to 2.36, p=0.033) and consumer videos (MD 1.27, 95% CI 0.10 to 2.44, p=0.028). However, they only accounted for 11% of videos and 10% of views.
The authors concluded that over one-quarter of the most viewed YouTube videos on COVID-19 contained misleading information, reaching millions of viewers worldwide. As the current COVID-19 pandemic worsens, public health agencies must better use YouTube to deliver timely and accurate information and to minimise the spread of misinformation. This may play a significant role in successfully managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
I think this is an important contribution to our knowledge about the misinformation that currently bombards the public. It explains not only the proliferation of conspiracy theories related to the pandemic, but also the plethora of useless SCAM options that are being touted endangering the public.
The authors point out that the videos included statements consisting of conspiracy theories, non-factual information, inappropriate recommendations inconsistent with current official government and health agency guidelines and discriminating statements. This is particularly alarming, when considering the immense viewership of these videos. Evidently, while the power of social media lies in the sheer volume and diversity of information being generated and spread, it has significant potential for harm. The proliferation and spread of misinformation can exacerbate racism and fear and result in unconstructive and dangerous behaviour, such as toilet paper hoarding and mask stealing behaviours seen so far in the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, this misinformation impedes the delivery of accurate pandemic-related information, thus hindering efforts by public health officials and healthcare professionals to fight the pandemic.
I suggest to critically evaluate the statements of some UK and US politicians next.
Just when I thought I had seem all of the corona-idiocy, I found this paper by Dr Kajal Jain MD Homoeopathy (Materia Medica ) Medical Officer under Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission. It promotes specific nosodes and other homeopathics against the current pandemic. In my view, it discloses a new dimension of the delusion which seems to have engulfed so many homeopaths. Allow me to copy a short passage from it:
A glycerine extract of a pure cultivation of tubercle bacilli (human).
As per Lectures on Homoeopathic Materia Medica by Dr Kent (page 1000) the Tuberculin nosode can prevent TB infection in those having predisposition to miasma. “If Tuberculinum bovinum be given in 10m, 50m, and CM potencies, two doses of each at long intervals, all children and young people who have inherited tuberculosis may be immuned from their inheritance and their resiliency will be restored
Burnett treated 54 cases of different types of TB Tuberculinum(Tub)/Bacillinum(Bac) 3
As stated in an article published in economic times ,countries without universal policies of BCG vaccination, such as Italy, the Netherlands, and the United States, have been more severely affected compared to countries with universal and long-standing BCG policies,” noted the researchers led by Gonzalo Otazu, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at NYIT.
The study noted that Australian researchers have recently announced plans to fast track large-scale testing to see if the BCG vaccination can protect health workers from the coronavirus.
The team compared various nations’ BCG vaccination policies with their COVID-19 morbidity and mortality and found a “significant positive correlation” between the year when universal BCG vaccination policies were adopted and the country’s mortality rate.
Iran, for instance, which has a current universal BCG vaccination policy that only started in 1984, has an elevated mortality rate with 19.7 deaths per million inhabitants, they said.
In contrast, Japan, which started its universal BCG policy in 1947, has approximately 100 times fewer deaths per million people, with 0.28 deaths, according to the study.
Brazil, which started universal vaccination in 1920 has an even lower mortality rate of 0.0573 deaths per million inhabitants, the scientists noted.
The researchers noted that among the 180 countries with BCG data available today, 157 countries currently recommend universal BCG vaccination.
The remaining 23 countries have either stopped BCG vaccination due to a reduction in TB incidence or have traditionally favoured selective vaccination of “at-risk” groups, they said.4
Thus we can see that Tuberculinium is reputed since a long timeas homoeoprophylactic in place of BCG. So Tuberculinum in high potency can act as an effective and dependable prophylactic in corona Virus .
Pneumococcinum is reputed to prevent pneumonia. 5
In end stages OF CORONA VIRUS when we encounter symptoms like high fever ,pneumonia,pleurisy , -Pneumococcinum can be considered due to it being most similar to exisiting disease condition. Historically Pneumococcinum along with Influenzinum has been seen in eliciting drastic immunological responses in disease conditions following flu since it creates picture of pneumonia..
INFLUENZINUM and Oscillococcinum
Influenzinum is reputed to prevent flu and flu line symptoms 5
Oscilllococcinum –prepared from liver of wild duck has been observed to reduce course of illness due to influenza this it can be included as one of the probable medicnes in treatment of corona virus in earlier stages 6
A study conducted by Colombo GL1, Di Matteo S2 et al suggests that the treatment with Oscillococcinum could be helpful in preventing RTIs and improving the health status of patients who suffer from respiratory diseases7
Comparison of Allopathic vaccines and Nosodes
Allopathic vaccines are isopathic in nature, cude in nature unlike nosodes which are dynamic in nature with deeper penetrative abilities ..Nosodes when administered mimic the sickness and by natures law of cure prevent and treat illness.Nosodes being the same as original disease are more similar to the disease condition and are deeper in action since they are potentised
Thus realising effectiveness of nosodes in prevention and treatment of epidemics Nosodes are suggested as one of the probable approaches for COVID 19
This paper is so full of utter nonsense that I am unable to point it all out in a short blog-post. I trust you can easily identify it yourself. Let me therefore just focus on one specific point.
I did highlight reference 6 in the text for a special reason. Here is the reference provided by Dr Jain:
6. Vickers AJ, Smith C. Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2000;(2):CD001957
It does not take much research to find out what is wrong with it. It refers to a Cochrane review which, of course, seems most laudable. To be precise, it refers to the 2000 version of this review which concluded that Oscillococcinum probably reduces the duration of illness in patients presenting with influenza symptoms. Though promising, the data are not strong enough to make a general recommendation to use Oscillococcinum for first-line treatment of influenza and influenza-like syndrome. Further research is warranted but required sample sizes are large. Current evidence does not support a preventative effect of homeopathy in influenza and influenza-like syndromes.
This review is today obsolete, as it has meanwhile up-dated no less than 4 (!) times.
The latest version of this review is from 2015 (authored by well-known proponents of homeopathy) and concluded as follows: There is insufficient good evidence to enable robust conclusions to be made about Oscillococcinum® in the prevention or treatment of influenza and influenza-like illness. Our findings do not rule out the possibility that Oscillococcinum® could have a clinically useful treatment effect but, given the low quality of the eligible studies, the evidence is not compelling. There was no evidence of clinically important harms due to Oscillococcinum®.
It is virtually impossible to not realise all this when accessing the reviews via Medline. And that leads me to fear that the author of the above paper, Dr Kajal Jain MD Homoeopathy (Materia Medica ) Medical Officer under Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission, is not just deluded, but fraudulent.
I know Dr Thompson personally since many years. She is one of the UK’s leading homeopaths and we rarely agreed on anything. Yet I had always considered her to be on the responsible side of the homeopathic spectrum. I am sorry to say that I just changed my mind.
The reason is this video and letter.
In the video, she explains that she has been infected with the coronavirus, has self-treated the condition with homeopathy and promptly recovered. In the letter to all patients, she states the following:
… In terms of Homeopathic Medicines, the medicine Anas Barb 200c, two tablets twice weekly, can be used during this time, increasing to two tablets once a day if you do have exposure to the virus or have symptoms and have to self-isolate.
Other Homeopathic Medicines that are being recommended include:
- Arsenicum Album 30c: three times daily if anxiety is strong
- Gelsemium 30c: twice daily if weakness and headache predominate
- Bryonia 30c: two-three times a day for dry cough particularly if movement aggravates the cough.
If cough becomes more problematic you can use Antimonium Tartaricum 30c three times daily.
If fevers are a problem and particularly if they are periodic (coming at certain times of the day) use China officinalis 30c three times daily…
I find this amazing and alarming. There is, of course, not a jot of evidence that any homeopathic treatment will effectively treat or prevent any viral infection, and certainly no evidence that it cures coronavirus infections. To claim or imply otherwise displays a staggering ineptitude and lack of professionalism. To extrapolate from a personal experience to a quasi recommendation for patients is, in my view, ridiculously unscientific and overtly unethical. As a doctor Thompson should be able to differentiate between experience and evidence and has the professional duty to go by the latter.
I am truly glad to hear that Dr Thompson has had a mild course of the disease and recovered swiftly. But we know that all too often this is not the case and that patients can become seriously ill and some even die of the coronavirus. To give the impression that homeopathy can keep them safe is clearly both incorrect and irresponsible.
As THE TIMES stated yesterday, homeopaths are ‘risking lives with bogus coronavirus treatments’.
It’s high time to stop them.
When I first saw this press-release, I thought it was a hoax. After all, it came from a most dubious homeopathic source. Then I read it again and was no longer sure.
What do you think?
Here it is in full:
Santa Clara, Cuba, April 3,2020 (Prensa Latina) The homeopathic medicine Prevengho-VIR began to be administered as a measure to confront the Covid-19 in this province of central Cuba.
Dr. Mirtha Rosa Hernandez, head of the Department of the Elderly in Villa Clara, reported that the supply of the preparation began in the Grandparents’ Homes and Elderly Homes of the territory, which has 184,000 people over 60 years old, 23.9 percent of the local universe. The medicine is administered by doctors and nurses of the basic working group where the Grandparents’ Homes and Nursing Homes are located in the 13 municipalities of this province.
This homeopathic medicine comes in a 10-milliliter bottle, and the daily dosage is 5 drops, thrice a day; while on the tenth day a reactivation of the initial dose is performed. It is aimed at preventing the respiratory diseases in this risk group, in addition to other medical conditions, such as dengue.
In the upcoming days it will be extended to the Maternal Homes. It is administered by the doctors and the nurses from the basic work group of the senior homes.
She said, that besides avoiding the new coronavirus the formula is also aimed at preventing respiratory diseases in this risk group, in addition to others such as dengue fever.
This medicine can also be administered to children under 10 years old, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and patients with liver disorders.
Anas berberiae 200
Baptisia tinctora 200
Eupetorium perf 200
Arsenicum Album 200
As I said, I was not sure whether this was for real. Is it possible that even officials are so stupid, brainwashed or gullible to go for homeopathy in such a serious situation?
In an attempt to find out, I did a little search and quickly found that the story has been reported by multiple media. This, for instance, is what the Miami Herald reported:
As scientists around the world speed up clinical trials to find a cure or vaccine for the coronavirus, the Cuban government will begin distributing a homeopathic remedy to the elderly and other vulnerable people to “prevent” the spread of the disease, a top health official said.
Dr. Francisco Durán, national director of Epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health, said in a press conference on Sunday that “sublingual drops” of the compound PrevengHo-Vir “prevent different diseases such as influenza, the common cold, dengue, and emerging viral infections such as this one.”
On Monday, Durán tried to correct his statements and said that the product “does not prevent contagion” but rather “increases resistance, the body’s defenses against a certain virus.”
Several state media outlets reported that PrevengHo-Vir is already being used in various Cuban provinces to treat the elderly and other groups vulnerable to the coronavirus. There is no internet record of PrevengHo-Vir, other than press reports about the announcement of its distribution in Cuba.
So, it’s not a hoax!
In this case, let me try to predict what will happen next:
- When the pandemic is over, the Cubans will publish mortality rates achieved with their homeopathic prevention [A].
- They will compare them to data from a cohort that did not receive the homeopathic treatment [B].
- Neither of the data-sets will be transparent and nobody will be able to check its reliability.
- The comparison will yield a significant difference in favour of homeopathy.
- The Cubans will use this to market their remedy.
- The world of homeopathy will use it as a proof that homeopathy is effective (it wouldn’t be the first time).
Nothing wrong with that, some will say. Others who understand research methodology will, however, point out that these data are less than convincing.
In such case/control studies, one large group of patients [A] is compared to another group [B]. Group A has been treated homeopathically, while group B received no homeopathy. Any difference in outcome between A and B might be due to a range of circumstances that are unrelated to the homeopathic treatment, for instance:
- group A might have been less ill than group B,
- group A might have been better nourished,
- group A might have benefited from better hygiene,
- group A might have received better care,
- group B might have received treatments that made the situation not better but worse,
- the researchers might have prettified the data to make group A look better.
Such concerns are not totally unfounded; after all, Cuba seems to have a long history of making irresponsible claims for their homeopathic products.
The ‘Corona-Virus Quackery Club’ (CVQC) is enjoying a fast-growing membership. As mentioned in previous posts, it consists of:
Chiropractors have been keen to join since weeks. They have a long tradition of claiming that their ‘adjustments’ boost the immune system, and therefore it was to be expected that they also jump on the corona-bandwagon.
Some chiropractors seem to believe that the corona-virus pandemic is a fine business opportunity or, as one put it, the perfect opportunity to have a heart to heart with patients about their immune and nervous systems! Remember, if germs automatically caused disease, the human race wouldn’t be around to debate the issue. Many forget that Louis Pasteur, the father of the germ theory recanted his belief. On his deathbed he observed, “It’s the soil, not the seed.” In other words, without the right environment, germs can do little harm.
Chiropractors and other health care workers are at greater risk due to patient or client interactions and are encouraged to take extra precautions when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and skin or close contact.
“Every chiropractic practice has been touched by coronavirus [fears],” says Bill Esteb, DC, who has created and is circulating a coronavirus and chiropractic guide on how to avoid contracting the virus.
“We wanted to create a tool that chiropractors could use as a conversation springboard. Chiropractors need to remind their patients that germs don’t automatically cause disease. And that ‘catching’ the coronavirus, or anything else, requires a hospitable environment.”
The only way to catch anything, says Esteb, is to become a hospitable host. Flipping the message, Esteb in his coronavirus and chiropractic guide says here is “How to Catch the Coronavirus”:
- Eat a Poor Diet — Make sure your body lacks the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and micronutrients needed to keep itself in good repair.
- Avoid Adequate Rest — Stay up late and use sugar, tobacco, coffee and energy drinks as needed.
- Become Dehydrated — Reduce the effectiveness of your natural defense mechanisms by shunning adequate water.
- Stop Exercising — Reduce the efficiency of your lymphatic system, which requires movement to circulate this important germ-fighting fluid.
- Think Negative Thoughts — Worry that you’ll be a victim. Closely monitor news reports about outbreaks, fearing the advancing pandemic.
- Rarely Wash Your Hands — Use your dirty hands and fingers to rub your eyes, pick your nose or wipe your lips.
- Skip Your Chiropractic Adjustments — Handicap your nervous system, the master system that controls your entire body. Wait until symptoms are clearly present.
“Following these suggestions is the way to become a suitable host for any number of germs or microbes,” Esteb says. “The tongue-in-check approach keeps the subject light. It stimulates more instructive patient conversations. It helps reduce appointment cancellations.
“Most people have an inappropriate fear of germs. And while this poster and patient handout won’t eliminate it, use it to explore the value of ongoing chiropractic care as a preventive strategy.”
The Internet is full with messages of this type. Here is just one example: The best defense for the Corona Virus is to be healthy when you are exposed to the virus. Get adjusted to boost your immune system. Check out this video blog on what you can do to be healthy and prepare your body to fight off the corona virus.
Perhaps the worst excesses can be found on Twitter:
It seems that some people are pushing the notion that Boiron’s homeopathic product
might be helpful for the prevention and/or treatment of the Corona virus infection. To get an idea how implausible this assumption is, read my previous post on the subject.
The website of Boiron, the producer of the product, seems undeterred by plausibility and states the following:
Clinical studies show Boiron Oscillococcinum (Oscillo®) reduces the duration and severity of flu-like symptoms when taken at the onset of symptoms.1-2 Oscillo does not cause drowsiness and has no known or reported drug interactions.
- Temporarily relieves flu-like symptoms such as body aches, headache, fever, chills and fatigue
- Non-drowsy; no drug interactions
- Easy-to-take, quick-dissolving pellets
- For everyone 2 years of age and older
- Make sure your patients always have Oscillococcinum on hand—it works best when taken at the first sign of symptoms. Help your patients feel better before they feel worse.
While this text does not state that Oscillococcinum works for the coronavirus, one could easily read it as implying it, particularly if one also considers this tweet:
Getting sick when travelling can ruin the best of vacations. Take non-drowsy Oscillococcinum the moment you feel body aches, headache, fever, chills or fatigue coming on. http://bit.ly/2BGCmCz
On the Internet we find many much more direct claims. Take this website, for instance:
The commonly indicated Homeopathic remedies for Coronavirus are: –
• Arsenic Album
**However, for best results contact a Qualified Homeopathic doctor so that correct medicines can be prescribed.
And even some politicians promote such irresponsible nonsense.
All the claims about Oscillococcinum have one thing in common: they are not evidence based! Any notion that it might work against the coronavirus is pure fantasy. And the above statement by Boiron is based on two cherry-picked studies. The totality of the evidence, however, does not show that Oscillococcinum is effective. The current Cochrane review says about its effectiveness: There is insufficient good evidence to enable robust conclusions to be made about Oscillococcinum(®) in the prevention or treatment of influenza and influenza-like illness. Our findings do not rule out the possibility that Oscillococcinum(®) could have a clinically useful treatment effect but, given the low quality of the eligible studies, the evidence is not compelling. There was no evidence of clinically important harms due to Oscillococcinum(®).
The reason, I guess, why this conclusion is not more forthright stating THERE IS NO GOOD EVIDENCE THAT OSCILLOCOCCINUM HAS ANY EFFECT can be found in the list of conflicts of interest of the paper’s authors:
All three review authors are research‐active in the field of homeopathy. They were members of the International Scientific Committee for Homeopathic Investigations (ISCHI), whose membership also included two employees of Boiron (the manufacturers of Oscillococcinum®), and whose committee activities ceased in July 2013. Progress with the Cochrane Review on Oscillococcinum® was presented briefly at ISCHI meetings in 2010 and 2011. The drafting of this Cochrane Review was carried out independently of those communications and of the authors’ other ongoing research activity. ISCHI has not run or sponsored any research on Oscillococcinum®.
Robert T Mathie: Dr Mathie is Research Development Adviser, British Homeopathic Association. He was a member of the International Scientific Committee on Homeopathic Investigations, which ceased its committee activities in July 2013. Joyce Frye: Part of Dr Frye’s salary was supported by a research grant from the Standard Homeopathic Company, paid to her employer, the Center for Integrative Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, University of Maryland, USA. Support ended in June 2013 when Dr Frye resigned from the University of Maryland. Standard Homeopathic Company does not manufacture Oscillococcinum or any similar product, and had no interest in the outcome of the review. Dr Frye received honoraria from the International Scientific Committee on Homeopathic Investigations, which was dissolved in July 2013. Peter Fisher: I am Expert Adviser on Complementary and Alternative Medicine to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which may take an interest in the evidence in this review. I am Editor in Chief of an international, peer‐reviewed journal dedicated to homeopathy. All payments and reimbursements for lectures have been from universities or professional or learned societies. None of these lectures has been dedicated to the subject of this review. Some meetings have been supported by grants from commercial interests, including the manufacturer of the product that is the subject of the review.
So, to be clear: oscillococcinum does not help against the corona or any other virus. Those who claim otherwise are either mistaken, or have a commercial interest, or both.