Recently, I wrote about the court case of a French naturopath. Last week, the judge has issued his verdict. Miguel Barthéléry was sentenced to a two-year suspended prison term and to a fine of 5 000 Euros. Two cancer patients had died following his treatments and recommendations. Barthéléry was also found guilty of impersonating a doctor and illegally practising medicine. In addition, he was also banned for life from practising as a healthcare professional.
The Paris criminal court found that Miguel Barthéléry had deliberately created confusion about his qualifications by presenting himself as a doctor on the internet and in text messages to the two victims. The defendant had claimed to have a doctorate and a post-doctorate from the United States. The judgment “has the consequence of dissuading all those who engage in the same abuses, they are now warned that we can not do anything with the health of people,” said the judge.
The case had begun in February 2019 with the complaint of the companion of a man who had died two months earlier of testicular cancer. Diagnosed in 2016, the patient had not consulted a doctor but had preferred to follow a “health plan” drawn up by the naturopath. It was based on fasting and cures, raw food, and essential oils. Later, the family of a Belgian physiotherapist, who died of uterine cancer at the age of 39, joined the legal case. However, according to Code Source, the Parisien podcast, the case is more extensive, with seven further suspicious deaths of Barthéléry’s patients.
Barthéléry’s lawyer said that the decision “raises questions more generally about the appreciation that we now have of alternative therapeutic practices, which now seem, although not prohibited by law, to be subject to condemnation by the courts.”
Therapeutic touch (TT) is a form of paranormal or energy healing developed by Dora Kunz (1904-1999), a psychic and alternative practitioner, in collaboration with Dolores Krieger, a professor of nursing. TT is popular and practised predominantly by US nurses; it is currently being taught in more than 80 colleges and universities in the U.S., and in more than seventy countries. According to one TT-organisation, TT is a holistic, evidence-based therapy that incorporates the intentional and compassionate use of universal energy to promote balance and well-being. It is a consciously directed process of energy exchange during which the practitioner uses the hands as a focus to facilitate the process.
The question is: does TT work beyond a placebo effect?
This review synthesized recent (January 2009–June 2020) investigations on the effectiveness and safety of therapeutic touch (TT) as a therapy in clinical health applications. A rapid evidence assessment (REA) approach was used to review recent TT research adopting PRISMA 2009 guidelines. CINAHL, PubMed, MEDLINE, Cochrane databases, Web of Science, PsychINFO, and Google Scholar were screened between January 2009-March 2020 for studies exploring TT therapies as an intervention. The main outcome measures were for pain, anxiety, sleep, nausea, and functional improvement.
Twenty-one studies covering a range of clinical issues were identified, including 15 randomized controlled trials, four quasi-experimental studies, one chart review study, and one mixed-methods study including 1,302 patients. Eighteen of the studies reported positive outcomes. Only four exhibited a low risk of bias. All others had serious methodological flaws, bias issues, were statistically underpowered, and scored as low-quality studies. Over 70% of the included studies scored the lowest score possible on the GSRS weight of evidence scale. No high-quality evidence was found for any of the benefits claimed.
The authors drew the following conclusions:
After 45 years of study, scientific evidence of the value of TT as a complementary intervention in the management of any condition still remains immature and inconclusive:
- Given the mixed result, lack of replication, overall research quality and significant issues of bias identified, there currently exists no good quality evidence that supports the implementation of TT as an evidence‐based clinical intervention in any context.
- Research over the past decade exhibits the same issues as earlier work, with highly diverse poor quality unreplicated studies mainly published in alternative health media.
- As the nature of human biofield energy remains undemonstrated, and that no quality scientific work has established any clinically significant effect, more plausible explanations of the reported benefits are from wishful thinking and use of an elaborate theatrical placebo.
TT turns out to be a prime example of a so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) that enthusiastic amateurs, who wanted to prove TT’s effectiveness, have submitted to multiple trials. Thus the literature is littered with positive but unreliable studies. This phenomenon can create the impression – particularly to TT fans – that the treatment works.
This course of events shows in an exemplary fashion that research is not always something that creates progress. In fact, poor research often has the opposite effect. Eventually, a proper scientific analysis is required to put the record straight (the findings of which enthusiasts are unlikely to accept).
In view of all this, and considering the utter implausibility of TT, it seems an unethical waste of resources to continue researching the subject. Similarly, continuing to use TT in clinical settings is unethical and potentially dangerous.
The purpose of this survey was to quantify and describe the clinical practice beliefs and behaviors associated with US chiropractors. A 10% random sample of US chiropractors (n = 8975) was selected from all 50 state regulatory board lists and invited to participate in a survey. The survey consisted of a 7-item questionnaire; 6 items were associated with chiropractic ideological and practice characteristics and 1 item was related to the self-identified role of chiropractic in the healthcare system which was utilized as the dependent variable to identify chiropractic subgroups. Multinomial logistic regression with predictive margins was used to analyze which responses to the 6 ideology and practice characteristic items were predictive of chiropractic subgroups.
The survey instrument used in this study was developed by the authors and modeled after similar chiropractic identity analyses. The survey instrument included a total of 7 items intended to elicit divergent ideologies and practice behaviors. The figure below is a copy of the survey instrument.
A total of 3538 responses were collected (39.4% response rate). Respondents self-identified into three distinct subgroups based on the perceived role of the chiropractic profession in the greater healthcare system:
- 57% were spine/neuromusculoskeletal focused;
- 22% were primary care focused;
- 21% were vertebral subluxation focused.
Patterns of responses to the 6 ideologies and practice characteristic items were substantially different across the three professional subgroups.
The authors concluded that respondents self-identified into one of three distinct intra-professional subgroups. These subgroups can be differentiated along themes related to clinical practice beliefs and behaviors.
Here are the results in more detail as sated by the authors:
Regarding scope of examination (survey question 1), respondents reporting the scope of their clinical examination to only include spinal analysis for the assessment of vertebral subluxation had a 70% probability of belonging to the subluxation focused subgroup, a 20% probability of belonging to the spine and neuromusculoskeletal focused subgroup, and a 10% probability of belonging to the primary care focused subgroup. Conversely, respondents who reported the scope of their clinical examination only includes a differential diagnosis had a 0% probability of belonging to the vertebral subluxation focused subgroup, an 80% probability of belonging to the spine and neuromusculoskeletal focused subgroup, and a 20% probability of belonging to the primary care focused subgroup.
Concerning conditions treated (survey question 2), respondents who reported predominantly treating vertebral subluxation as an encumbrance to health had an 80% probability of belonging to the vertebral subluxation focused subgroup, a 10% probability of belonging to the spine and neuromusculoskeletal focused subgroup, and a 10% probability of belonging to the primary care focused subgroup. In contrast, respondents reporting predominantly treating neuromusculoskeletal conditions had a 0% probability of belonging to the vertebral subluxation focused subgroup, a 90% probability of belonging to the spine and neuromusculoskeletal focused subgroup, and a 10% probability of belonging to the primary care focused subgroup.
Regarding the role of spinal manipulation for those with cancer (survey question 4), respondents reporting the role of spinal manipulation for those with cancer is to remove interference to innate intelligence had a 70% probability of belonging to the vertebral subluxation focused subgroup, a 20% probability of belonging to the spine and neuromusculoskeletal focused subgroup, and a 10% probability of belonging to the primary care focused subgroup. Respondents reporting there is no role of spinal manipulation in those with cancer also had a 10% probability of belonging to the subluxation focused subgroup, an 80% probability of belonging to the spine and neuromusculoskeletal focused subgroup, and a 10% probability of belonging to the primary care focused subgroup.
Regarding vaccination (survey question 5), respondents who strongly disagreed that vaccinations have had a positive effect on global public health had a 50% probability of belonging to the vertebral subluxation focused subgroup, an approximately 25% probability of belonging to the spine and neuromusculoskeletal focused subgroup, and an approximately 25% probability of belonging to the primary care focused subgroup. In contrast, respondents who strongly agreed that vaccinations have had a positive effect on global public health had a 0% probability of belonging to the vertebral subluxation focused subgroup, a 90% probability of belonging to the spine and neuromusculoskeletal focused subgroup, and a 10% probability of belonging to the primary care focused subgroup.
Concerning the detection of vertebral subluxation on x-ray (survey question 6), respondents who strongly agreed that x-ray is helpful in detecting vertebral subluxations had a 40% probability of belonging to the vertebral subluxation focused subgroup, a 40% probability of belonging to the spine and neuromusculoskeletal focused subgroup, and a 20% probability of belonging to the primary care focused subgroup. Respondents who strongly disagreed that x-ray is helpful in detecting vertebral subluxations had a near 0% probability of belonging to the vertebral subluxation focused subgroup, an 80% probability of belonging to the spine and neuromusculoskeletal focused subgroup, and slightly below a 20% probability of belonging to the primary care focused subgroup.
Regarding use of x-rays for new patients (survey question 7), respondents who reported prescribing x-rays for 0–20% of new patients had a 20% probability of belonging to the vertebral subluxation focused subgroup, a 60% probability of belonging to the spine and neuromusculoskeletal focused subgroup, and a 20% probability of belonging to the primary care focused subgroup. Respondents reporting prescribing x-rays for 81–100% of new patients had a 40% probability of belonging to the vertebral subluxation focused subgroup, a 40% probability of belonging to the spine and neuromusculoskeletal focused subgroup, and a 20% probability of belonging to the primary care focused subgroup.
END OF QUOTE
While I am not sure that the division into the 3 subgroups is valid and suspect that there must be a substantial overlap between them, I must admit that the paper is rich in fascinating information. Generally speaking, I find all subgroups somewhat mysterious and would ask them the following questions:
Subgroup 1: why did you not study medicine or physiotherapy?
Subgroup 2: does it not bother you that your education and training are woefully insufficient for primary care?
Subgroup 3: is it not time to abandon the obsolete nonsense of your guru, the old charlatan DD Palmer?
The global market for dietary supplements has grown continuously during the past years. In 2019, it amounted to around US$ 353 billion. The pandemic led to a further significant boost in sales. Evidently, many consumers listened to the sly promotion by the supplement industry. Thus they began to be convinced that supplements might stimulate their immune system and thus protect them against COVID-19 infections.
During the pre-pandemic years, the US sales figures had typically increased by about 5% year on year. In 2020, the increase amounted to a staggering 44 % (US$435 million) during the six weeks preceding April 5th, 2020 relative to the same period in 2019. The demand for multivitamins in the US reached a peak in March 2020 when sales figures had risen by 51.2 %. Total sales of vitamins and other supplements amounted to almost 120 million units for that period alone. In the UK, vitamin sales increased by 63 % and, in France, sales grew by around 40–60 % in March 2020 compared to the same period of the previous year.
Vis a vis such impressive sales figures, one should ask whether dietary supplements really do produce the benefit that consumers hope for. More precisely, is there any sound evidence that these supplements protect us from getting infected by COVID-19? In an attempt to answer this question, I conducted several Medline searches. Here are the conclusions of the relevant clinical trials and systematic reviews that I thus found:
- KSK (a polyherbal formulation from India’s Siddha system of medicine) significantly reduced SARS-CoV-2 viral load among asymptomatic COVID-19 cases and did not record any adverse effect, indicating the use of KSK in the strategy against COVID-19. Larger, multi-centric trials can strengthen the current findings.
- There is currently insufficient evidence to determine the benefits and harms of vitamin D supplementation as a treatment of COVID-19.
- Herbal supplements may help patients with COVID-19, zinc sulfate is likely to shorten the duration of olfactory dysfunction. DS therapy and herbal medicine appear to be safe and effective adjuvant therapies for patients with COVID-19. These results must be interpreted with caution due to the overall low quality of the included trials. More well-designed RCTs are needed in the future.
- No significant difference with vitamin-D supplementation on major health related outcomes in COVID-19.
- there is not enough evidence on the association between individual zinc status and COVID-19 infections and mortality.
- Omega-3 supplementation improved the levels of several parameters of respiratory and renal function in critically ill patients with COVID-19.
- A 5000 IU daily oral vitamin D3 supplementation for 2 weeks reduces the time to recovery for cough and gustatory sensory loss among patients with sub-optimal vitamin D status and mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms. The use of 5000 IU vitamin D3 as an adjuvant therapy for COVID-19 patients with suboptimal vitamin D status, even for a short duration, is recommended.
- In this 2-sample MR study, we did not observe evidence to support an association between 25OHD levels and COVID-19 susceptibility, severity, or hospitalization. Hence, vitamin D supplementation as a means of protecting against worsened COVID-19 outcomes is not supported by genetic evidence.
- These antiviral and immune-modulating activities and their ability to stimulate interferon production recommend the use of probiotics as an adjunctive therapy to prevent COVID-19. Based on this extensive review of RCTs we suggest that probiotics are a rational complementary treatment for RTI diseases and a viable option to support faster recovery.
- In this randomized clinical trial of ambulatory patients diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection, treatment with high-dose zinc gluconate, ascorbic acid, or a combination of the 2 supplements did not significantly decrease the duration of symptoms compared with standard of care.
- These findings neither support nor refute the claim that 3M3F alters the severity of COVID-19 or alleviates symptoms. More rigorous studies are required to properly ascertain the potential role of Chinese Herbal Medicine in COVID-19.
- NSO (Nigella sativa oil) supplementation was associated with faster recovery of symptoms than usual care alone for patients with mild COVID-19 infection. These potential therapeutic benefits require further exploration with placebo-controlled, double-blinded studies.
- The clinical application of LQ (Lianhua Qingwen Granules or Capsules ) on the treatment of COVID-19 has significant efficacy in improving clinical symptoms and reducing the rate of clinical change to severe or critical condition. Nevertheless, due to the limited quantity and quality of the included studies, more and higher quality trials with more observational indicators are expected to be published.
- The study identified some important potential traditional Indian medicinal herbs such as Ocimum tenuiflorum, Tinospora cordifolia, Achyranthes bidentata, Cinnamomum cassia, Cydonia oblonga, Embelin ribes, Justicia adhatoda, Momordica charantia, Withania somnifera, Zingiber officinale, Camphor, and Kabusura kudineer, which could be used in therapeutic strategies against SARS-CoV-2 infection.
- Shenhuang Granule is a promising integrative therapy for severe and critical COVID-19.
- Low-certainty or very low-certainty evidence demonstrated that oral CPM (Chinese patent medicine) may have add-on potential therapeutic effects for patients with non-serious COVID-19. These findings need to be further confirmed by well-designed clinical trials with adequate sample sizes.
- XYP (Xiyanping) injection is safe and effective in improving the recovery of patients with mild to moderate COVID-19. However, further studies are warranted to evaluate the efficacy of XYP in an expanded cohort comprising COVID-19 patients at different disease stages.
- Our meta-analysis of RCTs indicated that LH (Lianhuaqingwen) in combination with usual treatment may improve the clinical efficacy in patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 without increasing adverse events. However, given the limitations and poor quality of included trials in this study, further large-sample RCTs or high-quality real-world studies are needed to confirm our conclusions.
- Reduning injection might be effective and safe in patients with symptomatic COVID-19.
- In light of the safety and effectiveness profiles, LH (Lianhuaqingwen) capsules could be considered to ameliorate clinical symptoms of Covid-19.
- QPT (Qingfei Paidu Tang) was associated with a substantially lower risk of in-hospital mortality, without extra risk of acute liver injury or acute kidney injury among patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
- This community-based RCT found that the use of a herbal medicine therapy (Jinhaoartemisia antipyretic granules and Huoxiangzhengqi oral liquids) could significantly reduce the risks of the common cold among community-dwelling residents, suggesting that herbal medicine may be a useful approach for public health intervention to minimize preventable morbidity during COVID-19 outbreak.
- Based on unresolved controversies and inconclusive findings, it could be said that generally, a single and specific therapeutics to COVID-19 is still a mirage.
- Keguan-1-based integrative therapy was safe and superior to the standard therapy in suppressing the development of ARDS in COVID-19 patients.
Does the evidence justify the boom in sales of dietary supplements?
More specifically, is there good evidence that the products the US supplement industry is selling protect us against COVID-19 infections?
No, I don’t think so.
So, what precisely is behind the recent sales boom?
It surely is the claim that supplements protect us from Covid-19 which is being promoted in many different ways by the industry. In other words, we are being taken for a (very expensive) ride.
Exploring preventive therapeutic measures has been among the biggest challenges during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). A team of Indian and US researchers explored the feasibility and methods of recruitment, retention, and potential signal of efficacy, of selected homeopathic medicines as a preventive measure for developing COVID-19 in a multi-group study.
A six-group, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled prophylaxis study was conducted in a COVID-19 exposed population in a quarantine facility in Mumbai, India. Each group received one of the following:
- Arsenicum album 30c,
- Bryonia alba 30c,
- Arsenicum album 30c, Bryonia alba 30c, Gelsemium sempervirens 30c, and Influenzinum 30c
- coronavirus nosode CVN01 30c,
- Camphora 1M,
Six pills twice a day were administered for 3 days. The primary outcome measure used was testing recruitment and retention in this quarantined setting. Secondary outcomes were numbers testing positive for COVID-19 after developing symptoms of illness, the number of subjects hospitalized, and days to recovery.
Good rates of recruitment and retention were achieved. Of 4,497 quarantined individuals, 2,343 sought enrollment, with 2,294 enrolled and 2,233 completing the trial (49.7% recruitment, 97.3% retention). Subjects who were randomized to either Bryonia alba (group 2) or to the CVN01 nosode (group 4) signaled a numerically lower incidence of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 and a shorter period of illness, with evidence of fewer hospitalizations than those taking placebo. The three other groups did not show signals of efficacy.
The authors concluded that this pilot study supports the feasibility of a larger randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Bryonia alba 30c and CVN01 30c should both be explored in disease prevention or shortening the course of disease symptomatology in a COVID-19-exposed population.
Signals of efficacy?
Are they kidding us?
The results failed to be statistically significant!
Hence the conclusions should be rewritten as follows:
This pilot study supports the feasibility of a larger trial in India where people have been told by an irresponsible government to believe in homeopathy. None of the 5 homeopathic treatments generated encouraging findings and none should be explored further. Studies of this nature must be discouraged firstly because homeopaths would not accept the findings of a trial of non-individualized homeopathy, and secondly because such trials will further confuse the public who might think that homeopathy is worth trying.
“Edzard and his ilk are not really serious about honoring the Hippocratic tradiiton of “First, do no harm,” and even then, they will spin what seemingly good responses to homeopathic treatment as a placebo.”
This comment came recently from our good friend Dana Ullman, and it made me think again about homeopathy and the ‘first do no harm’ principle.
- The first thing to note is that the Hippocratic oath does not contain this sentence.
- And the second thing to stress is that clinicians are doing harm regularly. The ‘first do no harm’ principle has long been understood to mean that clinicians should always take care that their actions generate more benefit than harm.
As we discussed all this in more detail before, I do not intend to dwell on it. Today, I rather consider three exemplary scenarios in order to investigate how the principle of doing more good than harm applies to homeopathy (or indeed any other form of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM)).
PATIENT WITH A SELF-LIMITING CONDITION
Let’s assume our patient has a cold and consults her physician who prescribes a homeopathic remedy. One could argue that no harm is done in such a situation. The treatment will not help beyond a placebo effect, but the cold will disappear in just a few days, and the patient will not suffer any side effects. This attitude is common but it disregards the following potential harms:
- The cost for the treatment.
- The possibility that our patient suffered for several days needlessly from cold symptoms that might be treatable.
- The possibility of our patient getting the erroneous impression that homeopathy is an effective therapy (because the cold did go away quickly) and therefore opts to use it for future, more serious illnesses.
What if the physician only prescribed homeopathy because the patient asked him to do so? Strictly speaking, the above-named issues still apply in this situation. The ethical thing would have been to inform the patient what the best evidence tells us (namely that homeopathy is a placebo therapy), provide assurance about the nature of the condition, and prescribe effective treatments as needed.
And what if the physician does all of these things and, in addition, prescribes homeopathy because the patient wants it? In this case, the possibility of harms 1 and 3 does still apply.
PATIENT WITH A CHRONIC CONDITION
Consider a patient suffering from arthritis who consults her physician who prescribes homeopathic remedies as the sole therapy. In such a situation, the following harms apply:
- The cost for the treatment.
- The possibility that our patient suffers needlessly from symptoms that are treatable. As the symptoms can be serious, this would often amount to medical negligence.
What if the physician only prescribed homeopathy because the patient asked him to do so and the patient refuses conventional therapies? In such cases, it is the physician’s ethical duty to inform the patient about the best evidence as it pertains to homeopathy and conventional treatments for her condition. Failure to do so would amount to negligence. The patient is then free to decide, of course. But so is the physician; nobody can force him/her to prescribe ineffective treatments. If no consensus can be reached, the patient might have to change physician.
And what if the physician does inform the patient adequately but also prescribes homeopathy because the patient wants it? In this case, the possibility of harms 1 and 3 does still apply.
PATIENT WITH A LIFE-THREATENING CONDITION
Consider a young man with testicular cancer who consults his doctor who prescribes homeopathic remedies as the sole therapy. In such a situation, the physician is grossly negligent and could be struck off because of negligence.
What if the physician prescribed homeopathy because the patient asked him to do so and refuses conventional therapies? In such a case, it is the ethical duty of the physician to inform the patient about the best evidence as it pertains to homeopathy and to the conventional treatment for his cancer. Failure to do so would amount to negligence. The patient is then free to decide, of course. But so is the physician; nobody can force him to prescribe ineffective treatments. If no consensus can be reached between the physician and the patient, the patient might have to change physician.
And what if the physician does inform the patient adequately makes sure he receives effective oncological treatments, but also prescribes homeopathy because the patient insists on it? In this case, the possibility of harms 1 and 3 does still apply.
These scenarios are, of course, rather schematic and, in everyday practice, many other factors might need considering. They nevertheless show that the ‘do more good than harm’ principle does not support homeopathy (or any other ineffective SCAM). In other words, the practice of homeopathy is not ethical.
But what if someone (like Dana Ullman) strongly believes in the effectiveness of homeopathy? In this case, he or she is not acting according to the best available evidence – and that, of course, is also unethical.
This shocking paper presents 5 cases of patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 infections, 2 of them hospitalized in the intensive care unit, who were successfully treated with homeopathy. All 5 patients responded to homeopathic treatment in an unexpectedly short time span (in fact, it took up to 8 days), improving both physically and mentally.
The authors concluded that the present case series emphasizes the rapidity of response among moderate to severely ill patients to homeopathic treatment, when conventional medical options have been unable to relieve or shorten the disease. The observations described should encourage use of homeopathy in treating patients with COVID-19 during the acute phase of the disease.
If I hear about patients suffering from a cold, or tennis elbow, or otitis, or back pain, or allergy who responded to homeopathic treatment in an unexpectedly short time span, I tend to giggle and usually consider it a waste of time to explain that the observed outcome most likely is not a RESPONSE to homeopathic treatment but a non-causally related by-product. Correlation is not causation! What caused the outcome was, in fact, the natural history of the condition which would have improved even without homeopathy. To make this even clearer, I sometimes ask the homeopath: HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT THE PATIENT WOULD NOT HAVE IMPROVED EVEN FASTER IF YOU HAD NOT GIVEN HIM THE HOMEOPATHIC REMEDY? This question sometimes (sadly not always) leads to the realization that homeopathy may not have caused the outcome.
But when, in the middle of a pandemic during which millions of people died and continue to die, someone writes in a medical journal that 5 COVID patients responded to homeopathic treatment in an unexpectedly short time span, I feel compelled to disclose the statement as pure, unethical, irresponsible, and dangerous quackery.
The 5 patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized at a tertiary medical center in Jerusalem for moderate to severe
COVID-19-related symptoms. Each of them requested homeopathic treatment in addition to conventional therapy from the hospital’s ‘Center for Integrative Complementary Medicine’. All 5 patients were over 18 years old and had confirmed COVID-19 infection at the time of admission. They received their homeopathic medications as small round pills (globules); no further information about the homeopathic treatment was provided. Similarly, we also do not learn whether some patients who did not receive homeopathy recovered just as quickly (I am sure that worldwide thousands did), or whether some patients who did get homeopathic remedies failed to recover.
To make matters worse, the authors of this paper state this:
Several conclusions are evident from the cases presented:
1 homeopathy’s effect may be expected within minutes or, at most, hours;
2 contrary to classical homeopathic consultations, which may extend over an hour, correct medications for patients with acute COVID-19 symptoms may be determined in minutes;
3 there were no observable adverse effects to homeopathic treatment of COVID-19;
4 therapy can be administered via telehealth services, increasing safety of treating patients with active infection;
5 patient satisfaction was high; scoring their experience of homeopathic therapy on a 7-point scale, ranging
from “It greatly improved my condition” to “It greatly aggravated my condition,” all 5 patients indicated it
had greatly improved their condition.
The possibility that the outcomes are not causally related to the homeopathic treatment seems to have escaped the authors. The harm that can be done by such an article seems obvious: fans of homeopathy might be misled into assuming that homeopathy is an effective therapy for COVID infections and other serious conditions. It is not hard to imagine that this error would cost many lives.
The authors state in their article that, to the best of their knowledge, this is the first time that a tertiary medical center has permitted homeopathic therapy of patients under treatment for COVID-19-related illness.
I sincerely hope that it is also the last time!
Last week, a naturopath who has been practicing naturopathy for more than three years, appeared in the Paris High Court. He is accused of “illegal practice of medicine” and of “usurpation of the title of doctor” after two of his cancer patients died.
Charles B. was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2016 but wanted to avoid traditional medicine. In March 2017, he consulted the naturopath, Miguel B., who studied for fourteen years in the United States and has a degree in biochemistry and a doctorate in molecular medicine. He knew that his qualifications did not allow him to practice in France and presented himself as a naturopath. Knowing about his client’s cancer, Miguel B. drew up a health plan for him that included numerous fasts and purges to detox his body.
In the following months, the cancer spreads to the lungs and brain. Charles B. wrote to his naturopath in early February: “Great pain, don’t know what to do”. The naturopath continued his advice: “You should go on a diet, rest and purge in the evening. In court, Charles B.’s father recalled a conversation between his son and Miguel B. during which the latter had said to Charles B.: “It would be a pity if you were to undergo this chemotherapy.” On 22 February 2018, now weighing only 59 kg, Charles B. finally decided to start chemotherapy. But it was already too late, and he died on 18 December 2018, at the age of 41, of a cancer from which more than 98% of patients usually recover. Charles B.’s wife stated that the naturopath had told her husband that he would not need chemotherapy. She believes that the defendant is “responsible and even guilty” of her husband’s death.
The family of another patient of Miguel B. has also joined the case. Catherine F., who had been suffering from cervical cancer, died at the age of 39. She had followed, among other treatments, a fast recommended by the naturopath and was one of 149 further patients whose list was found on a USB stick belonging to the defendant.
Static or motion manual palpation tests of the spine are commonly used by chiropractors and osteopaths to assess pain location and reproduction in low back pain (LBP) patients. But how reliable are they?
The purpose of this review was to evaluate the reliability and validity of manual palpation used for the assessment of LBP in adults. The authors systematically searched five databases from 2000 to 2019 and critically appraised the internal validity of studies using QAREL and QUADAS-2 instruments.
A total of 2023 eligible articles were identified, of which 14 were at low risk of bias. Evidence suggests that reliability of soft tissue structures palpation is inconsistent, and reliability of bony structures and joint mobility palpation is poor. Preliminary evidence was found to suggest that gluteal muscle palpation for tenderness may be valid in differentiating LBP patients with and without radiculopathy.
The authors concluded that the reliability of manual palpation tests in the assessment of LBP patients varies greatly. This is problematic because these tests are commonly used by manual therapists and clinicians. Little is known about the validity of these tests; therefore, their clinical utility is uncertain. High quality validity studies are needed to inform the clinical use of manual palpation tests.
I have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that the diagnostic methods used by chiropractors and osteopaths are of uncertain or disproven validity (see for instance here, or here). Why is that important?
Imagine you consult a chiropractor or osteopath. Simply put, this is what is likely to happen:
- They listen to your complaint.
- They do a few tests which are of dubious validity.
- They give you a diagnosis that is meaningless.
- They treat you with manual therapies that are neither effective nor safe.
- You pay.
- They persuade you that you need many more sessions.
- You pay regularly.
- When eventually your pain has gone away, they persuade you to have useless maintenance treatment.
- You pay regularly.
In a nutshell, they have very little to offer … which explains why they attack everyone who dares to disclose this.
Prior research has generated inconsistent results regarding vaccination rates among patients using so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). Given that SCAM includes a wide range of therapies – about 400 different treatments have been counted – variable vaccination patterns may occur within consultations with different types of SCAM practitioners.
A recent analysis aimed to evaluate differences between categories of SCAM regarding vaccination behavior among US adults.
were less likely to be vaccinated. Other SCAMs showed no significant association with flu vaccination behavior. Independent predictors for a flu shot were prior diabetes, cancer, current asthma, kidney disease, overweight and current pregnancy. As well, higher educational level, age, ethnicity, health insurance coverage, and having seen a general physician or medical specialist in the past 12 months were also associated with a higher vaccination rate.
The authors concluded that SCAM users were equally likely to receive an influenza vaccination compared with non-users. Different SCAM therapies showed varied associations with vaccination behavior. Further analyses may be needed to distinguish influencing factors among patients’ vaccination behavior.
This survey confirms what we have discussed repeatedly on this blog (see, for instance here, here, here, here, and here). The reason why consumers who consult naturopaths, homeopaths, or chiropractors get vaccinated less regularly is presumably that these practitioners tend to advise against vaccinations. And why do they do that?
- Naturopaths claim that vaccines are toxic and their therapeutic options protect against infections.
- Homeopaths claim that vaccines are toxic and their therapeutic options protect against infections.
- Chiropractors claim that vaccines are toxic and their therapeutic options protect against infections.
Do these ‘therapeutic options’ – detox, nosodes, spinal manipulation – have anything in common?
Yes, they are bogus!
Many naturopaths, homeopaths, and chiropractors seem to be a risk to public health.