On the occasion of a talk that I recently gave in Italy, I was interviewed by VANITY FAIR ITALY. I gave it in English and it was published in Italian. As I don’t expect many readers to be fluent in Italian and since it was a good interview, in my view, I thought I give you here the English original:
1.How can we exactly define «alternative medicine»?
There is much confusion and a plethora of definitions, none of which is fully satisfactory. In fact, the term “alternative medicine” itself is nonsensical: if a therapy works, it belongs to evidence-based medicine; and if it doesn’t work, it cannot possibly be an alternative. I therefore have long been calling it “so-called alternative medicine” (SCAM). The definition I use for SCAM with lay audiences is simple: SCAM is an umbrella term for a diverse range of therapeutic and diagnostic methods that have little in common, other than being excluded from mainstream medicine.
2.Who uses it and why?
Predominantly women! Statistics say about 30-70% of the general population use SCAM. And with patient populations, the percentage can be close to 100%. They use it because they are told over and over again that SCAM is natural and thus safe, as well as effective for all sorts of conditions.
3.Focusing on terminology, is there a difference between «complementary» and «alternative» medicine?
Theoretically, there is a big difference between «complementary» and «alternative» medicine. The former is supposed to be used as an add-on to, while the latter is a replacement of mainstream medicine. In practice, this dividing line is very blurred; most SCAMs are used in both ways, depending on the actual situation and circumstance.
4.Are users different from non-users?
Yes, there has been much research on this and my reading of it is that SCAM users tend to be less intelligent, more religious, more superstitious, less trusting in science, and more prone to conspiracy theories, for instance.
5.Which forms of alternative medicine are the most popular?
There are certain national differences, but in most European countries herbal medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic, osteopathy, homeopathy, aromatherapy, and reflexology are amongst the most popular SCAMs.
6.Does it work?
With such a wide range – someone once counted over 400 modalities and my last book evaluated 202 of them (Alternative Medicine: A Critical Assessment of 202 Modalities (Copernicus Books): Amazon.co.uk: Ernst, Edzard: 9783031107092: Books) – it is impossible to answer with yes or no. In addition we need to consider the conditions that are being treated. Acupuncture, for example, is touted as a panacea, but might just work for pain. If you take all this into account, I estimate that less than 3% of the therapeutic claims that are being made for SCAM are supported by sound evidence.
Is it safe?
Again, impossible to say. Some treatments are outright dangerous; for instance, chiropractic neck manipulations can injure an artery and the patient suffers a stroke of which she can even die. Other treatments are assumed to be entirely harmless; for example homeopathy. But even that is untrue: if a cancer patient relies exclusively on homeopathy for a cure, she might easily hasten her death. Sadly, such things happen not even rarely.
Do its benefits outweigh its risks?
That depends very much on the treatment, the disease, and the precise situation. Generally speaking, there are very few SCAMs that fulfill this condition.
You said that these were the research questions that occupied all your life in Exeter. Did you find the answers?
We published more on SCAM than any other research group, and we found mostly disappointing answers. But still, I am proud of having found at least some of the most pressing answers. Even negative answers can make an important contribution to our knowledge.
7.What is the problem with the placebo effect?
All therapies can prompt a placebo effect. Thus an ineffective treatment can easily appear to be effective through generating a placebo effect. This is why we need to rely on properly conducted, if possible placebo-controlled trials, if we want to know what works and what not.
8.Is it true that some alternative medicines can cause significant harm?
9.What about herbal remedies? What do studies show about them?
Many of our modern drugs originate from plants, Therefore, it is not surprising that we find herbal remedies that are effective. But careful! This also means that plants can kill you – think of hemlock, for instance. In addition herbal medicine can interact powerfully with synthetic drugs. So, it is wise to be cautious and get responsible advice.
10.Which alternative therapies are overrated and why?
In my view, almost all SCAMs are over-rated. If you go on the Internet, you find ~5 000 000 websites on SCAM. 99% of them try to sell you something and are unreliable or even dangerous. We need to be aware of the fact that SCAM has grown into a huge business and many entrepreneurs are out to get your money based on bogus claims.
11.On the contrary, which therapies could be seen as an integration in routine care?
The best evidence can be found in the realm of herbal medicine, for instance St John’s Wort. Some mind-body interventions can be helpful; also a few massage techniques might be worth a try. Not a lot, I’m afraid.
12.Would you tell us what happened in 2005 with Prince Charles?
He complained about my actions via his private secretary to my University. A 13 month investigation followed. At the end, I was found not guilty but my funding, my team, my infrastructure had been dismantled. So, in effect, Charles managed to close down what was the only research group that looked critically and systematically into SCAM. A sad story – not so much for me but for progress and science, I think.
3.Why is alternative medicine still a controversial subject?
Mainly because the gap between the claims and the evidence is so very wide – and getting wider all the time.
14.Would you suggest the «right way» to approach it?
I often recommend this: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! I might add that, if you want reliable advice, don’t listen to those who profit from giving it.
Although bullshit is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingenuous) has not, to our knowledge, been subject to empirical investigation. Pseudo-profound bullshit consists of seemingly impressive assertions that are presented as true and meaningful but are actually vacuous.
In this study, researchers presented participants with bullshit statements consisting of buzzwords randomly organized into statements with syntactic structure but no discernible meaning (e.g., “Wholeness quiets infinite phenomena”). Across multiple studies, the propensity to judge bullshit statements as profound was associated with a variety of conceptually relevant variables (e.g., intuitive cognitive style, supernatural belief). Parallel associations were less evident among profundity judgments for more conventionally profound (e.g., “A wet person does not fear the rain”) or mundane (e.g., “Newborn babies require constant attention”) statements.
The authors concluded that these results support the idea that some people are more receptive to this type of bullshit and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims. Our results also suggest that a bias toward accepting statements as true may be an important component of pseudo-profound bullshit receptivity.
Harry G Frankfurt published his delightful booklet ‘ON BULLSHIT‘ in 2005. Since then, the term ‘bullshit’ has become accepted terminology in philosophy and science. But what exactly is bullshit? Frankfurt explains that is something between a lie and a bluff, perhaps more like the latter than the former.
In another recent article, Fugelsang explains that the growing prevalence of misleading information (i.e., bullshit) in society carries with it an increased need to understand the processes underlying many people’s susceptibility to falling for it. He also reports two studies (N = 412) examining the associations between one’s ability to detect pseudo-profound bullshit, confidence in one’s bullshit detection abilities, and the metacognitive experience of evaluating potentially misleading information.
The results suggest that people with the lowest (highest) bullshit detection performance overestimate (underestimate) their detection abilities and overplace (underplace) those abilities when compared to others. Additionally, people reported using both intuitive and reflective thinking processes when evaluating misleading information. Taken together, these results show that both highly bullshit-receptive and highly bullshit-resistant people are largely unaware of the extent to which they can detect bullshit and that traditional miserly processing explanations of receptivity to misleading information may be insufficient to fully account for these effects.
I am sure that some of the discussions on this blog are excellent examples for people with low bullshit detection performance overestimating their detection abilities and overplacing those abilities.
The current BMJ has an article entitled UK could have averted 240 000 deaths in 2010s if it matched other European nations. Here is its staring passage:
The UK has fallen far behind its international peers on a range of health outcomes and major policy reforms are required to reverse this, a report1 has concluded.
Analysts from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) calculated that there would have been 240 000 fewer deaths in the UK between 2010 and 2020 if the UK matched average avoidable mortality in comparable European nations.
The report says the UK’s poor outcomes are partly down to people’s inability to access healthcare in a timely manner, a problem that has intensified since the pandemic.
To tackle this, the progressive think tank has put forward a 10 point plan to shift the NHS from a sickness service to a prevention service. It says primary care should be placed at the heart of a “prevention first” NHS with a nationwide rollout of neighbourhood health hubs to deliver integrated health and care services in every local area…
Isn’t that the nonsense Charles III, Michael Dixon, THE COLLEGE OF MEDICINE AND INTEGRATED HEALTH and many others promote? The integrated health we discussed so often before, e.g.:
- Prince Charles becomes patron of the ‘College of Medicine and Integrated Health’
- The ‘All-Party Parliamentary Group for Integrated Healthcare (PGIH) have just published a new report – and it’s full of surprises
- Eurocam press release in favor of integrated medicine
- A new definition of ‘INTEGRATED MEDICINE’
- Integrative medicine: one of the most colossal deceptions in healthcare today
- INTEGRATED MEDICINE: a disservice to patients?
- Integrated/integrative medicine: a paradise for charlatans?
The UK ‘Integrated Medicine Alliance’ offers information sheets on all of the following treatments: Acupuncture, Alexander Technique, Aromatherapy, Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy, Hypnotherapy, Massage, ,Naturopathy, Reflexology, Reiki, Tai Chi, Yoga Therapy. The one on homeopathy, for example, tells us that “homeopathy … can be used for almost any condition either alone or in a complementary manner.” Is the BMJ thus promoting homeopathy and similar dubious treatments?
The answer is, of course, NO!
The BMJ supports INTEGRATED HEALTH as defined not by quacks but by real experts: “Integrated care, also known as integrated health, coordinated care, comprehensive care, seamless care, or transmural care, is a worldwide trend in health care reforms and new organizational arrangements focusing on more coordinated and integrated forms of care provision. Integrated care may be seen as a response to the fragmented delivery of health and social services being an acknowledged problem in many health systems.”
I have often wondered why quacks use established terms, give it a different meaning and use it for confusing the public. I suppose the answer is embarrassingly simple: they thrive on confusion, want to hide the fact that they have no convincing arguments of their own, and like to use the established terminology of others in order to push their agenda and maximize their benefits.
The US ‘Public Citizen‘ is an American non-profit, progressive consumer rights advocacy group, and think tank based in Washington, D.C. They recently published an article entitled “FDA Guidance on Homeopathic Drugs: An Ongoing Public Health Failure“. Here are a few excerpts:
In December 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new guidance on homeopathic drug products. The guidance states that the agency now “intends to apply a risk-based enforcement approach to the manufacturing, distribution and marketing of homeopathic drug products.”
Under this new risk-based approach, the agency plans to target its enforcement actions against homeopathic drug products marketed without FDA approval that fall within the following limited categories:
- products with reports of injury that, after evaluation, raise potential safety concerns
- products containing or purportedly containing ingredients associated with potentially significant safety concerns (for example, infectious agents or controlled substances)
- products that are not administered orally or topically (for example, injectable drug products and ophthalmic drug products)
- products intended to be used to prevent or treat serious or life-threatening diseases
- products for vulnerable populations, such as immunocompromised individuals, infants and the elderly
- products with significant quality issues (for example, products that are contaminated with foreign materials or objectionable microorganisms)
But this new FDA guidance fails to adequately address the public health threat posed by the agency’s decades-long permissive approach to these illegal drug products.
Under FDA regulations, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic products are considered drugs and are supposed to be subject to the same review and approval requirements as all other prescription and OTC medications. However, under a flawed enforcement policy issued in 1988, the FDA has allowed these drug products to be marketed in the U.S. without agency review or approval. Thus, all products labeled as homeopathic are being marketed without the FDA having evaluated their safety, effectiveness or quality…
… there is no plausible physiologic or medical basis to support the theory underlying homeopathy, nor is there evidence from well-designed, rigorous clinical trials showing that homeopathic drugs are safe and effective.
The FDA should declare unequivocally that all unapproved homeopathic drug products are illegal and direct all manufacturers to immediately remove such products from the market. In the meantime, as we have recommended for many years, consumers should not use homeopathic products. At best, the products are a waste of money, given the lack of any evidence that they are effective. At worst, they could cause serious harm because of the lack of FDA oversight to ensure safety.
I fully agree with these sentiments. The harm caused by homeopathy is considerable and multi-facetted. Many previous posts have discudded these problems, e.g.:
- Nine cases of severe homeopathy-induced liver injuries
- Another death by homeopathy
- HOMEOPATHY – “It is not just irresponsible, it’s downright dangerous.”
- Adverse effects of homeopathy and aggravations at NAFKAM
- Homeopathy: it’s time to stop the double standards
- Homeopathy can cause serious harm – and finally, the NHS England has realised it
- Vidatox, homeopathy’s answer to cancer or outright fraud?
- Another child has died because of homeopathy
- Doctor homeopaths violate fundamental rules of ethics when practising homeopathy
- ‘Best homeopathy doctor in Delhi’ offers treatment for HIV/AIDS
- DIY-Homeopathy: how to kill your entire family
- The risks of homeopathy?
- The FDA has warned 4 manufacturers of unapproved injectable homeopathic drugs
- Is this the crown of the Corona-idiocy? Nosodes In Prevention And Management Of COVID -19
- The FDA has sent more warning letters to homeopathic manufacturers
- Walmart is being sued for selling homeopathic products
- Homoeopathic remedies may be safe, but do all homeopaths merit this attribute?
- Recommending homeoprophylaxis is unethical, irresponsible and possibly even criminal
- FDA: homeopathic teething remedies were toxic
- “Homeoprophylaxis, the homeopathic vaccine alternative, prevents disease through nosodes.”
- A truly dangerous homeopath
- The scandalous attitude of some homeopaths and their supporters towards immunisations
- Oh yes, let’s have homeopaths as primary care practitioners! But only in a parallel universe,please.
Having warned about the dangers of homeopathy for decades, I feel it is high time for regulators across the world to take appropriate action.
So-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is widely used in Saudi Arabia. One of the common practices is the use of camel urine alone or mixed with camel milk for the treatment of cancer, which is often supported by religious beliefs.
This study observed cancer patients who insisted on using camel urine, and to offer some clinically relevant recommendations. The authors observed 20 cancer patients (15 male, 5 female) from September 2020 to January 2022 who insisted on using camel urine for treatment. They documented the demographics of each patient, the method of administering the urine, reasons for refusing conventional treatment, period of follow-up, and the outcome and side effects.
All the patients had radiological investigations before and after their treatment with camel urine. All of them used a combination of camel urine and camel milk, and their treatment ranged from a few days to 6 months. They consumed an average of 60 ml urine/milk per day. No clinical benefit was observed after the treatment; 2 patients developed brucellosis. Eleven patients changed their mind and accepted conventional antineoplastic treatment and 7 were too weak to receive further treatment; they died from the disease.
The authors concluded that camel urine had no clinical benefits for any of the cancer patients, it may even have caused zoonotic infection. The promotion of camel urine as a traditional medicine should be stopped because there is no scientific evidence to support it.
If you suspected that this was a hoax, you were wrong!
Here is a recent paper on the ‘therapeutic potentials of camel urine’:
Camel urine has traditionally been used to treat multiple human diseases and possesses the most beneficial effects amongst the urine of other animals. However, scientific review evaluating the anticancer, antiplatelet, gastroprotective and hepatoprotective effects of camel urine is still scarce. Thus, this scoping review aimed to provide scientific evidence on the therapeutic potentials of camel urine. Three databases were searched to identify relevant articles (Web of Science, PubMed and Scopus) up to September 2020. Original articles published in English that investigated the effects of camel urine in various diseases were included. The literature search identified six potential articles that met all the inclusion criteria. Three articles showed that camel urine possesses cytotoxic activities against different types of cancer cells. Two studies revealed camel urine’s protective effects against liver toxicity and gastric ulcers, whilst another study showed the role of camel urine as an antiplatelet agent. All studies demonstrated significant positive effects with different effective dosages. Thus, camel urine shows promising therapeutic potential in treating human diseases, especially cancer. However, the standardised dosage and potential side effects should be determined before camel urine could be offered as an alternative treatment.
I have often asked myself the question whether some SCAMs are too absurd to merit scientific study. Over the years, I changed my mind on it; while initially I tended to answer it in the negative, I now think that YES: some ideas – even those that are ancient and, as Charles Windsor would argue, have thus stood the ‘test of time’ – are not worth the effort. Camel urine as a therapy might well be one of them.
Charles III is about to pay his first visit to France, his second visit to any state. Earlier this year, he has already visited Germany. Originally, France had been first on his list but the event was cancelled in view of the violent protests that rocked the country at the time. Now he is definitely expected and the French are exited. I am currently in France and have been asked to give several interviews on the king’s love affair with so-called alternative medicine (SCAM).
The French have long been fascinated by our royal family which seems a bit odd considering what they did to their own. Now that Charles and Camilla are about to appear with an entourage of about 50 servants between them, the press is full with slightly bemused reports and comments:
Since childhood, Charles has been accustomed to a luxurious, gilded life, which is reproduced on every trip outside the royal palaces, to ensure maximum service, comfort and security… The new king always travels with his private secretary, Sir Clive Alderton, his press advisor, his steward, his doctor, his personal valets, his security guards, and his private chauffeur, Tim Williams… And, of course, his regular osteopath to relieve his lower back. Since he’s had a lot of falls playing polo, Charles regularly suffers from back pain…”.
Really, just an osteopath?
What about all the other SCAM-practitioners whose businesses Charles so regularly supported in the past:
- · Acupuncture
- · Aromatherapy
- · Ayurveda
- · Chiropractic
- · Detox
- · Gerson therapy
- · Herbal medicine
- · Homeopathy
- · Iridology
- · Marma massage
- · Massage therapy
- · Pulse diagnosis
- · Reflexology
- · Tongue diagnosis
- · Traditional Chinese Medicine
- · Yoga
Will they not be disappointed?
I do wonder who Charles’ osteopath and doctor are. Are they competent? I am sure they both must be well-informed and evidence-based experts. If that is the case, they will have, of course, told Charles that osteopathy is hardly an optimal solution for an injured back.
In any case, now I am concerned about the royal back and therefore urgently recommend that HIS MAJESTY reads some of my previous posts on the subject, e.g.:
- Manual therapy (mainly chiropractic and osteopathy) does not have clinically relevant effects on back pain compared with sham treatment
- Spinal manipulative therapy for older adults with chronic low back pain fails to generate convincing results
- NICE no longer recommends acupuncture, chiropractic or osteopathy for low back pain
- The Effects of Yoga, Naturopathy, and Conventional Medical Treatment in Managing Low Back Pain
- Chronic non-specific low back pain: comparing cognitive functional therapy and movement system impairment (MSI)-based treatment
- Cognitive functional therapy for chronic low back pain
- Meditation for Chronic Low Back Pain Management?
Let’s hope all goes well here in France, and please let’s not be so akward as to ask about the environmental aspects – we all know how worried Charles truly is about not just his health but also the health of the planet – of moving such an entourage for a two-day visit.
Charles flew in a private jet from London to Paris and took his Bentley with him.
King Charles III is an enthusiastic, albeit uncritical proponent of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). Does that boost his popularity in the general population? Or does it have the opposite effect? I am not aware of reliable data on this issue, yet I suspect it is neither here nor there. So, his waning popularity is probably caused by other factors.
A survey of more than 2,000 adult Brits found that overall, 62% want to keep the monarchy and 59% of people thought Charles was “personally doing a good job”.. At first glance, this looks not too bad for Charles and William but a more detailed analysis is far less optimistic: among 18 to 24-year-olds, only 30% say the monarchy is “good for Britain”. This “remarkable difference between generations”, demonstrates that younger people are much less supportive on remaining a monarchy and more sceptical about the Royal Family representing good value for money.
A decade ago, the same YouGov tracking survey found 17% preferred an elected head of state, which in this latest survey has risen to 26%. On the question whether Britain should continue to be a monarchy or be replaced with an elected head of state, the poll found:
- 62% wish no change,
- 26% want an elected head of state,
- 11% don’t know.
On the question whether the Royal Family is good value for money, 75% of the over-65s believe they are, but only 34% of 18 to 24-year-olds feel the same. And while 80% of the over-65s want Britain to stay as a monarchy, that figure falls to 37% for the 18 to 24-year-olds. There is also less support for the royals in Scotland or Wales than in England, where London has higher levels of people against the monarchy than elsewhere in the country.
Historian and royal commentator Ed Owens says the lack of support among the young should “certainly be of concern” to the Royal Family. But he says it will be difficult for the royals to turn this around, when many of the factors are outside their control. Dr Owens says opposition to the monarchy is part of a wider sense of “disenchantment” for younger generations about issues such as unaffordable housing, stagnant wages and student debt. “The system doesn’t seem to be working for them, so why should they celebrate an institution that seems to be at the heart of that system?” says Dr Owens.
Graham Smith, chief executive of the anti-monarchy campaign Republic, said the survey showed a “general trend of falling support, and that younger people will not be won back to the monarchist cause. Sooner rather than later we’ll see support for the monarchy fall below 50%.”
When the 1st edition of my book about about Charles’ (at the time, he was still ‘Prince of Wales’) love affair with SCAM came out, it was reviewd by the Daily Mail. They courageously asked Charles’ press office for a comment on it. A Clarence House spokesperson then told the journalist: ‘The Prince of Wales believes in combining the best of evidence based, conventional medicine with an holistic approach to healthcare – treating the whole person rather than just the symptoms of disease and taking into account the effects on health of factors such as lifestyle, the environment and emotional well-being.’ I know this is not all that meaningful and just a (fairly daft and uninformed) formular for getting rid of a tedious request, yet – for what it’s worth – it does not indicate that, in the realm of SCAM, Charles is all that open to change. More recent activities of King Charles seem to support this impression.
With regards to his overall popularitiy in the UK, this might mean that Charles will continue to lose the support of skeptics, while gaining the one of SCAM enthusiasts.
And the net result of this?
I fear it will almost be negligible.
The autum seems to be the season for awards. I recently mentioned the ‘Gloden Plank‘ and now The Skeptic announced the Ockham Awards – the annual awards celebrating the very best work from within the skeptical community. The awards draw attention to people who work hard to promote skepticism. The Ockhams honour outstanding campaigns, activism, blogs, podcasts, and other contributors to the skeptical cause.
Nominations for the 2023 Ockham Awards are now open! Simply complete the nomination form to submit your nominations.
The Rusty Razor is an entirely different award. It recognises individuals or organisations who have been prominent promoters of unscientific ideas within the last year. Last year’s Rusty Razor went to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, set up in 2009 by climate change denier Nigel Lawson. The Foundation has published several reports downplaying the threat of climate change.
Previous Rusty Razor winners included
- Dr Mike Yeadon for his anti-vaccination BS,
- Dr Didier Raoult for his promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19,
- Andrew Wakefield for his ongoing promotion of anti-vaxx misinformation,
- Gwyneth Paltrow for her pseudoscience-peddling wellness empire, Goop.
The awards are, as always, based on the nominations received from the skeptical community. This is your chance to see your skeptic hero and your most prolific charlatan regognised.
I was asked by NATURE to provide a comment on the WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit: Towards health and well-being for all which is about to take place in India:
The First WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit will take place on 17 and 18 August 2023 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India. It will be held alongside the G20 health ministerial meeting, to mobilize political commitment and evidence-based action on traditional medicine, which is a first port of call for millions of people worldwide to address their health and well-being needs.
The Global Summit will be co-hosted by WHO and the Government of India, which holds the presidency of the G20 in 2023. It will be a platform for all stakeholders, including traditional medicine workers, users and communities, national policymakers, international organizations, academics, private sector and civil society organizations, to share best practices and game-changing evidence, data and innovation on the contribution of traditional medicine to health and sustainable development.
For centuries, traditional and complementary medicine has been an integral resource for health in households and communities. It has been at the frontiers of medicine and science laying the foundation for conventional medical texts. Around 40% of pharmaceutical products today have a natural product basis, and landmark drugs derive from traditional medicine, including aspirin, artemisinin, and childhood cancer treatments. New research, including on genomics and artificial intelligence are entering the field, and there are growing industries for herbal medicines, natural products, health, wellness and related travel. Currently, 170 Member States reported to WHO on the use of traditional medicine and have requested evidence and data to inform policies, standards and regulation for its safe, cost-effective and equitable use.
In response to this increased global interest and demand, WHO, with the support of the Government of India, established in March 2022 the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine as a knowledge hub with a mission to catalyse ancient wisdom and modern science for the health and well-being of people and the planet. The WHO Traditional Medicine Centre scales up WHO’s existing capacity in traditional medicine and supplements the core WHO functions of governance, norms and country support carried out across the six regional Offices and Headquarters.
The Centre focuses on partnership, evidence, data, biodiversity and innovation to optimize the contribution of traditional medicine to global health, universal health coverage, and sustainable development, and is also guided by respect for local heritages, resources and rights.
A cross-regional expert panel will advise on the Summit’s theme, format, topics and issues to address. All updates will be posted here and on the forthcoming webpages for the First WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit.
In case you are interested, the programme can be seen here.
And my comment? I am afraid, it was not very encouraging. I doubt that Nature will publish it in full. So, allow me to show you my unabridged comment:
The increasing demand for fertility treatments has led to the rise of private clinics offering so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) treatments. Even King Charles has recently joined in with this situalion. One of the most frequently offered SCAM infertility treatment is acupuncture. However, there is no good evidence to support the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating infertility.
This study evaluated the scope of information provided by SCAM fertility clinics in the UK. A content analysis was conducted on 200 websites of SCAM fertility clinics in the UK that offer acupuncture as a treatment for infertility. Of the 48 clinics that met the eligibility criteria, the majority of the websites did not provide sufficient information on:
- the efficacy,
- the risks,
- the success rates
of acupuncture for infertility.
The authors concluded that this situation has the potential to infringe on patient autonomy, provide false hope and reduce the chances of pregnancy ever being achieved as fertility declines during the time course of ineffective acupuncture treatment.
The authors are keen to point out that their investigation has certain limitations. The study only analysed the information provided on the clinics’ websites and did not assess the quality of the treatment provided by the clinics.
Therefore, the study’s fndings cannot be generalized to the quality of the acupuncture treatment provided by the clinics.
Nonetheless the paper touches on very important issues: far too many health clinics that offer SCAM for this or that indication operate way outside the ethically (and legally) acceptable norm. They advertise their services without making it clear that they are neither effective nor safe. Desperate consumers thus fall for their promises. In the case of infertility, this might result merely in frustration and loss of (often substantial amounts of) money. In the case of serious disease, such as cancer, this often results in premature death.
It is time, I think, that this entire sector is regualted in a way that it does not endanger the well-being, health, or life of consumers.