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

malpractice

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In the Republic of Ireland, chiropractors are not regulated and there is no legislation governing the profession. That means anyone who feels like it can call him/herself a chiropractor and start treating or advising patients regardless of what condition they may be suffering from. The ‘CHIROPRACTIC ASSOCIATION OF IRELAND‘ (CAI) is the professional organisation that represents chiropractors in the country. The purpose of the CAI is to maintain professional standards, liaise with various government and health bodies, and to be a professional voice for Chiropractic.

Recently, the CAI has warned that a proposed law banning practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) from claiming they can treat cancer without any medical evidence could have “unintended and unforeseen” consequences for its members. The CAI wrote to health minister Simon Harris claiming that a lack of “clarity” in the bill could have serious implications for chiropractic patients and chiropractors.

I am inclined to agree: the bill would reduce the cash-flow of many charlatans trying to make a fast buck on the desperation of cancer patients. But most probably, Tony Accardi, the president of the CAI, did not have this in mind when he said that, if patients with cancer inform a medical practitioner they are seeing a chiropractor, it may be construed that the chiropractor is “attempting to treat the cancer even though [it] may be for neck/back pain or overall wellbeing”.

As the evidence is hardly convincing that chiropractic is effective for neck/back pain or wellbeing (see numerous previous posts on this blog), we might well ask what else chiropractors have to offer for cancer patients. This website, for instance, is one of many that makes concrete claims:

Chiropractic treatment can benefit cancer patients in many ways. It can reduce stress, increase mobility, and optimize function, and generally improve quality of life.

By easing headaches and nausea, and relieving muscle tightness and neuropathy pain, chiropractic can help patients follow through with their treatment plans, which may even help extend their lives.

Chiropractors treating cancer patients approach patient care in much the same way as other primary care providers by:

  • Gathering a comprehensive health history
  • Conducting a thorough physical exam
  • Ordering necessary diagnostic tests
  • Deciding on an appropriate treatment plan

The chiropractic course of treatment often includes spinal manipulation and adjustments that provide patients with pain relief as well as overall improvement in function.

Chiropractic care can also be a viable alternative to pain medication for cancer patients. Although the use of medication is common in the management of a patient’s pain, it’s estimated that at least half of all cancer patients do not receive tolerable relief from their pain. Chiropractic care can address this issue, potentially even decreasing a cancer patient’s dependence on pain medication.

Cancer treatment has historically been focused on treating the disease itself. While doctors of chiropractic don’t treat cancer directly, they function very effectively as part of an integrated care plan to help the patient obtain the best treatment results possible.

The CHIROPRACTIC CANCER FOUNDATION FOR CHILDREN go even further:

Dr. Garvey has a strong belief in the human body’s innate ability to combat cancer cells and other diseases. He has first-hand experience with cancer since Dr. Garvey, himself, was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of eleven. Stress and poor circulation can undermine the body’s natural healing powers and interfere with the central nervous systems’s ability to communicate effectively. At the foundation, we believe that chiropractic adjustments and other natural healing techniques can mitigate or reverse stresses that lead to poor health and even life threatening diseases such as cancer.

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The claims can thus be summarised as follows:

  • reduce the stress suffered by cancer patients,
  • increase their mobility,
  • optimize their function,
  • improve their quality of life,
  • alleviate cancer pain,
  • serve as an alternative to pain medication,
  • decrease cancer patients’ dependence on pain medication,
  • the ‘innate’ (vital force which, according to DD Palmer is stimulated by chiropractic adjustments of spinal subluxations) can combat cancer.

Considering the above-mentioned dispute, it is only fair to ask: where is the evidence that chiropractic achieves the above (or indeed anything else)? I have to admit, I don’t find any sound evidence for any of these claims. But, of course, I might be biased or blind.

So, if anybody knows of compelling evidence to support the above claims, it would be helpful to let me have it. Meanwhile, it might be an excellent idea for the Irish government to go ahead with their plan of banning practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) from claiming they can treat cancer without any medical evidence, don’t you think?

It’s not (yet) a global emergency, the WHO have announced. But 26 fatalities have today been reported, and soon we will have thousands of people infected with the new coronavirus, experts predict. A vaccine will take at least a year to become available, and experts are alarmed.

But there is no need for panic!

Let’s just ask our homeopaths for help. They are excellent with curing viral infections!

You don’t believe me? But it must be true; take this website, for instance; its message could not be clearer :

… Homeopathic remedies can help you in fighting viral infections effectively… Homeopathy can be effective for viral infections including influenza-like symptoms, viral coughs and serious viral infections like herpes cold sores and genital herpes… The most common oral homeopathic remedy for herpes outbreaks is Rhus Toxicodendron (Rhus Tox in short), which is an extremely diluted form of poison ivy…

Another website offers more detail:

Conventional drugs do not offer comprehensive treatments for viral infections. Certain viruses like Influenza, HIV, etc. have tendencies to mutate (change) very rapidly, thereby lowering the effectiveness of such medicines. Additionally, viruses quickly develop resistance to these drugs, making the development of preventive medicine somewhat challenging. Conventional medications therefore only provide supportive management and suppression of the symptoms.
Homeopathic treatment for viral infections helps ease the symptoms and also enables the body to heal naturally.

Homeopathy treatment for viral infections is steadily gaining popularity as a natural way to deal with viral infections. These medicines help reduce the frequency and intensity of acute symptoms like weakness, fever, body pain, etc. These help with quick recovery. In some cases, they reduce the chances of further complications. Homeopathy treatment for viral infections treats the symptoms not by suppressing them, but by strengthening the immune system. It activates the body’s natural restorative properties by producing symptoms similar to the ones experienced by the patients. This method helps settle underlying internal disturbances in the body. Homeopathy treatment for viral infections also minimizes the weakness and fatigue commonly encountered as an aftermath of the infection.

Viral infections are highly communicable and spread rapidly from one person to another. Homeopathy treatment for viral infections is also preventative and helps reduce the chances of contracting the infection.

Yet another website is equally clear:

For viral ailments with symptoms that are fast and violent, use the following homeopathic remedies: Aconitum and Belladonna.

Aconitum – also known as Devil’s helmet or Queen of All Poisons – is a flowering plant that belongs to the family Ranunculacea. The flowers of this plant are harvested and then processed to treat various ailments, including viral infections.

Belladonna – also known as Deadly Nightshade – is a perennial herbaceous plant – prized for its medicinal benefits. It’s used as a muscle relaxant and pain reliever. The plant contains potent anti-inflammatory properties too. It’s an excellent remedy for viral infections.

What, you are still not convinced? In this case, have a look at what a Devon homeopaths stated only yesterday about the current epidemic:

Panic and anger in Wuhan as China orders city into lockdown.

A Coronavirus is a common virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Most corona viruses are not dangerous, they can in fact just cause symptoms which look like a mild cold.  Earlier this month though, the World Health Organization identified a new type (2019-nCoV) in China and to date there have been over 500 confirmed cases of this Corona virus with 17 fatalities reported so far this month.  The Media seems to be covering its progress with great relish, causing a lot of panic.

The virus starts with a fever, followed by a dry cough, and then after a week or so this leads to shortness of breath when some patients are hospitalised.  Pneumonia is one complication that can be caused by the virus. Most of the information spread about the virus is gained from these severe cases in hospital.

To protect yourself from any virus, you should boost your own immune symptom with a healthy diet and supplements if necessary.  I recommend the best vitamin C & D supplements you can get.  I also love Fermented Cod Liver Oil and a good Magnesium supplement.  Having homeopathic constitutional treatment is also proven to boost your immune system.

Homeopathic remedies can address every symptom caused by this virus so having an inexpensive homeopathy kit at home is an excellent resource.  I love the First Aid Kit by Helios Pharmacy which also comes with a booklet to guide you on which remedy to choose.  If you have remedies but feel you’re not equipped to use them, get in touch with me and I will send you a free PDF first aid booklet.

Here are a few homeopathic remedies which will be useful to treat viruses such as this one.  If you are confident the remedy is well indicated you need to repeat often in a 30C or 200C until it no longer helps, then move onto another if necessary:

Ferrum-phos: give this at the very first sign of symptoms.  Useful when you just don’t feel well, tired.  Red inflamed eyes, chill with shivering and fever.  Hot, burning eyes.  Worse cold, better rest.

Gelsemium: This is for when your symptoms start to feel more severe, especially if they have come on gradually.  You will feel dull, sluggish, heavy, often with a headache at the back of the neck.  Shivering up and down the spine, aching muscles, burning throat.  Worse cold, better after urination.

Pulsatilla: You will feel Chilly, even in a warm room.  Nose blocked up, bland and thick mucous.  Dry mouth with no thirst.  Changing, shifting symptoms, weepy and sorry for oneself.   You may often have a sore throat or ear ache with viruses.  Worse in a warm room, better in the open air.

Camphora: You will feel very cold, and may have laborious, asthmatic breathing with an accumulation of phlegm in the air tubes, cold, dry skin.  Total exhaustion, with coldness and shivering.  Weak pulse, irritability.  Worse cold.

Phosphorous:  For any virus which affects your lungs.  You may have bloody sputum and crave cold drinks.  Burning, pressure and constriction in the chest; worse lying on the left side or painful side.  Better in company, needing reassurance.

Bryonia: Excellent in pneumonia or pleurisy, especially when the right side is affected.  There is dryness everywhere, dry tongue, with generally a white coating.  There may be pain when breathing or coughing where the patient wants to hold steady as any movement hurts.  Irritable and thirsty.  Better rest, pressure.  Worse excitement, bright lights, noise, touch, movement.

This is outrageous, you claim? You insist that homeopathy is bunk, that homeopaths behave irrationally and their remedies are pure placebos? Placebos are no good for life-threatening infections! Anyone who says otherwise is deluded and irresponsible, you suggest.

I see, you might have a point.

Think of the time when homeopaths travelled to Liberia to cure Ebola. That was a homeopathic disaster, if there ever was one. Have homeopaths learnt their lesson since then? Clearly not: there are still hundreds of websites and books promoting homeopathy even for the most serious viral diseases. Do homeopaths provide sound evidence for their claims? I can see none.

Maybe that’s why nobody asks homeopaths to help with medical emergencies.

Chiropractors have a thing about treating children, babies and infants – not, I suspect, because it works but because it fills their bank accounts. To justify this abuse, they seem to go to any lengths – even to extrapolating from anecdote to evidence. This recently published case-report, for instance, described the chiropractic care of a neonate immediately post-partum who had experienced birth trauma.

The attending midwife noted the infant had an asynclitic head presentation at birth and as a result was born with an elongation of the occiput due to cranial molding, bilateral flexion at the elbows and shoulders with decreased range of motion in the cervical spine with tongue and lip tie. Oedema of the occiput with bruising was notable along with hypertonicity of cervical musculature at C1, hypertonicity (bilaterally) of the pectoral and biceps muscles, blanching and tension of lip tie, decreased suck reflex and tongue retraction with sucking, fascial restrictions at the ethmoid bones, at the occipital condyles (bilaterally), as well as at the shoulders and clavicles, bilaterally. An anterior subluxation of left sphenoid was noted.

The infant was cared for with chiropractic including a sphenobasilar adjustment. Following this adjustment, significant reduction in occipital edema was noted along with normal suck pattern and breastfeeding normalized.

The authors concluded that this case report provides supporting evidence that patients suffering from birth trauma may benefit from subluxation-based chiropractic care.

Oh no, this case report provides nothing of the sort! If anything, it shows that some chiropractors are so deluded that they even publish their cases of child abuse. The poor infant would almost certainly have developed at least as well without a chiropractor having come anywhere near him/her. And if the infant had truly been in need of treatment, then not by a chiropractor (who has no knowledge or training in diagnosing or treating a new-born), but by a proper paediatrician.

A 2020 review entitled ‘Prevention, Treatment and Management of Tuberculosis through Combinational Approaches of Different Indian Systems of Medicine’ stated that recent research suggests that Homeopathic treatment along with the antibiotics synergise the effect of antibiotics while reaching to its site of action. This is a surprising finding, if there ever was one. Therefore, I looked a bit closer with a view of determining what the original data were that led to this conclusion.

Here is the unaltered section on homeopathy from the review:

Homeopathy is a special, organic, holistic medicine process which activates the healing responses of the body without any known contraindications or common side effects. In his book Organon of Medicine, aka Organon of Healing Art, the founder of Homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, developed these principles. Homoeopathy does not have holistic treatment and hence is incapable of curing TB because of homeopathic portions of water, which is not enough to treat TB, but recent research suggests the use of homeopathic treatment along with the antibiotics, which results in synergising the effect of antibiotics while reaching to its site of action. As standard MDR-TB medicines are second-generation antibiotics taken for 24–27 months, thus, apart from conventional treatment, homeopathy in MDR-TB tends to improve outcome. Hence, it increases the bioavailability of the isoniazid and rifampicin, which resulted in the reduction of tuberculosis therapy. This study has been proving by analysing following parameters as below:

There was no significant difference in smear conversion from positive to negative at 95 % CI between homeopathy (H) and individualised standard treatment regimen (SR) + placebo (P). However, the conversion culture conversion from positive to negative in SR + H was seen in 29 (48.3 %) patients and 23 (38.3 %) patients in SR + P group (p = 0.269) (ITT) and 27 (55.1 %); 21 (42.8 %), p = 0.225 (PP) implying that as compared to SR + P group, culture conversion in SR + H group was more by 10 %. So the difference, although favourable to the SR + H group is not statistically significant as shown in table 4.

All patients had far advanced lung disease as evident from the extensive infiltration, cavitation ns and fibrosis/collapse. Chest X-ray (CXR) were further assessed using RAT (Radiological Assessment Tool), examples of one case rated as + 5 and one case as _4. Significant improvements were seen statistically in CXR in the SR + H 37 (61.7 %); as compared to SR + P 20 (33.3 %), p = 0.002 at 95 % CI (ITT). Homeopathy system having all possibility to enhance the treatment and management of the TB [13].

To be clear: there is no further mention or discussion of homeopathy in this paper. The above-quoted section (its multiple falsehoods are so obvious that I probably don’t need to mention them here) is thus the only evidence provided for backing up the claim that Homeopathic treatment along with the antibiotics synergise the effect of antibiotics while reaching to its site of action. I fail to see how the information provided supports the claim. Moreover, I am not aware of any sound evidence that would support the claim that homeopathy acts synergistically to antibiotics.

In the reference list, I found one of my own articles cited as reference 13 (see above). It refers to this article: Ernst E. A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy. Dr J Clin Pharmacol 2002; 54: 577–582. Here is its abstract:

Homeopathy remains one of the most controversial subjects in therapeutics. This article is an attempt to clarify its effectiveness based on recent systematic reviews. Electronic databases were searched for systematic reviews/meta-analysis on the subject. Seventeen articles fulfilled the inclusion/exclusion criteria. Six of them related to re-analyses of one landmark meta-analysis. Collectively they implied that the overall positive result of this meta-analysis is not supported by a critical analysis of the data. Eleven independent systematic reviews were located. Collectively they failed to provide strong evidence in favour of homeopathy. In particular, there was no condition which responds convincingly better to homeopathic treatment than to placebo or other control interventions. Similarly, there was no homeopathic remedy that was demonstrated to yield clinical effects that are convincingly different from placebo. It is concluded that the best clinical evidence for homeopathy available to date does not warrant positive recommendations for its use in clinical practice.

I fail to see how my paper backs up the very odd sentence: Homeopathy system having all possibility to enhance the treatment and management of the TB.

This is much more than sloppiness. In fact, it is one of the clearest cases of scientific misconduct I have ever come across. What is more, if its message would get adopted, it has the potential to do considerable harm. The authors of the paper in question, Priyanka Sharma , Ramesh K. Goyal,  and Mukesh Nandave, declared no conflicts of interest; their affiliation is provided as ‘Departments of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Delhi Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research University, New Delhi, India’. The journal that published their review is ‘Drug Research‘, a publication which I always had thought was reputable.

I am not sure what I should do next.

Any advice?

At the heart of this story is Joseph Mercola, a dietary supplement entrepreneur and osteopath.

His website states that:

EVERYONE can benefit from Dr Mercola’s unparalleled knowledge. For expertise in alternative healthcare and high quality supplemental medicine, it’s hard to beat visionary Dr Joseph Mercola. The Chicago-based health wizard has his own website, Mercola.com (‘Take Control of Your Health’), but you can find so many of his health support products right here at Evolution Organics. Our customers swear by them. They love the diversity of the range, and that the products are priced affordably, meaning that everyone can benefit from Dr Mercola’s vast experience and unmatched know-how. And it’s not just men, women and children who can feel better ‘the Dr Mercola way’ – his brand includes health support products for pets, too.

However, an article in the Washington Post tells a different story; allow me to quote a few excerpts:

The Northern Virginia-based National Vaccine Information Center lists Mercola.com as a partner on its homepage and links to the website, where readers can learn about and purchase Mercola’s merchandise. Last month, Mercola wrote on his website that measles “continues to be a Trojan Horse for increasing vaccine mandates.” A page that was recently removed said that “vitamin C supplementation is a viable option for measles prevention.” Elsewhere on the site, a page about vitamin D includes the headline, “Avoid Flu Shots With the One Vitamin that Will Stop Flu in Its Tracks.”

Mercola … has also given at least $4 million to several groups that echo the anti-vaccine message… Mercola … offers “simple, inexpensive and safe alternatives to the conventional medical system, which is contributing to the premature death of millions and is causing needless pain and suffering in great part because multinational corporations want to increase their revenues.” …  Supplements containing those vitamins are among Mercola’s “top products,” his website says… Earlier this month, Samoan anti-vaccine activist Edwin Tamasese, who touted vitamins as an alternative to vaccination, was arrested for allegedly claiming on social media that measles vaccinations would result in mass deaths…

The National Vaccine Information Center was founded in 1982 by Barbara Loe Fisher, who has said that her son was injured by a vaccine. The group claimed credit this year for helping to defeat legislation in a dozen states that would have made it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children. At the beginning of last year’s flu season, Fisher and Mercola appeared in a YouTube video urging people to be skeptical about flu shots. Mercola claimed that vaccines have been associated with “deaths and permanent neurological complications,” and he said vitamin D supplements were among “far more effective, less expensive and less risky alternatives.” … Fisher said in an interview that Mercola has asked for nothing in exchange for his donations and that the National Vaccine Information Center does not sell or advertise Mercola’s products on its site. “I do not take funding for a quid pro quo,” she said. “When [Mercola] called me, he said, ‘I admire your work. I’d like to help you.’ ” The center’s homepage, which the group says was visited more than 1.2 million times last year, displays Mercola.com’s logo. An affiliated website run by Fisher’s group refers numerous times to Mercola.com as one of the most popular health and wellness websites…

In recent years, the center has been at the forefront of a movement that has led some parents to forgo or delay immunizing their children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles… The Northern Virginia-based National Vaccine Information Center lists Mercola.com as a partner on its homepage and links to the website, where readers can learn about and purchase Mercola’s merchandise…Asked if his companies benefit from his donations to the anti-vaccine group, Mercola said in an email that “being an adversary to powerful industries is not a positive for a business like mine.” …

The FDA has taken no enforcement action against Mercola over his vaccine claims. The agency said in a statement that it has no role in approving dietary supplements or in evaluating claims about them — unless those products are purported to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure diseases and are reported to the agency as unapproved drugs. Agency officials did not answer questions about Mercola’s claims regarding vitamins C and D…

The resurgent movement found a handful of wealthy patrons, including hedge fund manager and philanthropist Bernard Selz and his wife, Lisa. The Selzes gave $200,000 to a legal fund for Wakefield in 2012, and they went on to give more than $3 million to anti-vaccine groups, including one that held forums this year in Brooklyn, the epicenter of the measles outbreak…

The $2.98 million Mercola has given to Fisher’s group since 2009 came from the Natural Health Research Foundation, a private foundation that is entirely funded by his business and that he leads as president, tax records show. The foundation has also given more than $3.3 million to the Organic Consumers Association, a health and environmental advocacy group, tax records show. On its website, the organization advertises Mercola’s products and reposts some of his content about vaccines and other topics, as well as articles by prominent anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. …

While Fisher emphasized that she does not promote any retailers’ products, she told potential sponsors of an anti-vaccine conference her group held in 2009 that the event could help them gain “access to both national and international markets” and “increase sales and visibility,” promotional material shows. Mercola attended the conference and received an “NVIC visionary award.” Mercola did not respond to questions about whether he was a sponsor. He donated $20,000 that year to the National Vaccine Information Center through his foundation. Without elaborating, Fisher said the money “was not an earmarked donation.” The following year, Fisher’s group and Mercola.com launched a website that tracks vaccine-related legislation in every state. The site provides activists with detailed information, including how to sign up for public comment to support or oppose legislation in their state, where to park to attend a public hearing and what color T-shirt to wear to rallies.

In 2011, Mercola co-sponsored a 15-second video ad on a Jumbotron in Times Square. The ad featured an image of a woman holding a baby with the message “Vaccines: Know the Risks.” Logos of both the National Vaccine Information Center and Mercola.com were prominently displayed…

In addition to the large contributions from Mercola, Fisher’s group has received financial support from Focus for Health. That foundation, funded by wealthy New Jersey businessman Barry Segal, gave Fisher’s group more than $400,000 from 2011 to 2017, according to tax records.

In September of this year, as flu season approached, Mercola and the National Vaccine Information Center co-sponsored their 10th annual “vaccine awareness week.” Mercola offered to match all donations made to the center that week up to $100,000, according to a video posted to his YouTube channel. In a video posted the following day, Fisher described her group’s recent successes in state legislatures across the country. Those states include Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon and Texas, Fisher said. “I look forward to another 30 years of working with you,” she told Mercola.

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On this blog, I have repeatedly warned that many so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) practitioners recommend against vaccinations. Specifically implicated are:

We knew about the ‘ideology’ and the misinformation pushing SCAM-related anti-vaccination sentiments. The article in the Washington Post is a stark reminder of the financial interests behind all this. As a result, SCAM-use is associated with low vaccination-uptake (as we have discussed ad nauseam – see for instance here, here, here and here). Anyone who needs more information will find it by searching this blog. Anyone claiming that this is all my exaggeration might look at papers which have nothing to do with me (there are plenty more for those who are willing to conduct a Medline search):

  • Lehrke P, Nuebling M, Hofmann F, Stoessel U. Attitudes of homeopathic physicians towards vaccination. Vaccine. 2001;19:4859–4864. doi: 10.1016/S0264-410X(01)00180-3. [PubMed]
  • Halper J, Berger LR. Naturopaths and childhood immunizations: Heterodoxy among the unorthodox. Pediatrics. 1981;68:407–410. [PubMed]
  • Colley F, Haas M. Attitudes on immunization: A survey of American chiropractors. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 1994;17:584–590. [PubMed]

On this blog and elsewhere, I have repeatedly claimed that as early as 2002 I published data to show that UK homeopaths advise their patients against vaccinations.

So sorry, but this not entirely true!

The truth is that I had forgotten about this article published 1995 in the British Journal of General Practice. As it is quite short and reveals several interesting facts, allow me to provide it here in full:

Homoeopathic remedies are believed by doctors and patients to be almost totally safe. Is homoeopathic advice safe, for example on the subject of immunization? In order to answer this question, a questionnaire survey was undertaken in 1995 of all 45 homoeopaths listed in the Exeter ‘yellow pages’ business directory. A total of 23 replies (51%) were received, 10 from medically qualified and 13 from non-medically qualified homoeopaths.

The homoeopaths were asked to suggest which conditions they perceived as being most responsive to homoeopathy. The three most frequently cited conditions were allergies (suggested by 10 respondents), gynaecological problems (seven) and bowel problems (five). They were then asked to estimate the proportion of patients that were referred to them by orthodox doctors and the proportion that they referred to orthodox doctors. The mean estimated percentages were 1 % and 8%, respectively. The 23 respondents estimated that they spent a mean of 73 minutes on the first consultation.

The homoeopaths were asked whether they used or recommended orthodox immunization for children and whether they only used and recommended homoeopathic immunization. Seven of the 10 homoeopaths who were medically qualified recommended orthodox immunization but none of the 13 non-medically qualified homoeopaths did. One non-medically qualified homoeopath only used and recommended homoeopathic immunization.

Homoeopaths have been reported as being against orthodox immunization and advocating homoeopathic immunization for which no evidence of effectiveness exists. As yet there has been no attempt in the United Kingdom to monitor homoeopaths’ attitudes in this respect. The above findings imply that there may be a problem.

The British homoeopathic doctors’ organization (the Faculty of Homoeopathy) has distanced itself from the polemic of other homoeopaths against orthodox immunization, and editorials in the British Homoeopathic Journal call the abandonment of mass immunization ‘criminally irresponsible’ and ‘most unfortunate, in that it will be seen by most people as irresponsible and poorly based’.’ Homoeopathic remedies may be safe, but do all homoeopaths merit this attribute?

Yes indeed! These findings indicate that there may be a problem with non-medically trained homeopaths in the UK. It is good to see that now (24 years later) the NHS has taken note of it. At the same time, it is not at all good to see that non-medically trained homeopaths and their professional organisations have managed to remain in complete denial of it.

The UK homeopathy sector have issued a joint statement. The reason for this action is a series of allegedly negative press stories about homeopathy. Here is the full statement:

Homeopathy registers including the Society of Homeopaths, Faculty of Homeopathy and Alliance of Registered Homeopaths in conjunction with other homeopathy partners have come together to provide clarification for patients seeking advice and homeopathy treatment.

The joint homeopathy sector statement

“Recent media reports have incorrectly linked homeopathy to the anti-vaccination movement. A registered homeopath provides care according to the guidelines outlined in the Code of Practice of their registering body. This code ensures that the homeopath operates professionally, safely, and within their bounds of competence. Homeopathic medicines are prescribed on an individual basis to match a patient’s specific symptoms. Questions about vaccination from the public to a registered homeopath should be deferred to those medically trained to answer them, such as GPs.”

Emily Buttrum Chief Executive of the Society of Homeopaths commented that she was positive the joint statement would bring the homeopathic community together and protect the future of homeopathy and in turn patient choice. The joint statement reflects the Society’s clear guidance on professional standards.

The Society’s position statements may be viewed here 

The Homeopathy sector statement may be viewed here 

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When homeopaths try to issue a serious ‘statement’, hilarity is rarely very far. Let me suggest what, in my view, the main reasons for hilarity are in the recent outburst:

  • Homeopaths and homeopathic organisations are hubs of anti-vaccination propaganda. To deny this means being in denial.
  • The anti-vaccination stance of UK lay homeopaths has  repeatedly been demonstrated (we have shown this already in 2002).
  • The recent media reports were not incorrect.
  • These reports were necessary steps to protect the public from charlatans.
  • Homeopaths provide care according to guidelines, unless they violate them.
  • Violations have happened repeatedly.
  • The homeopathic organisations have a long history of failing to adequately address this problem.
  • Arguably, homeopaths do not operate within any bounds of competence; if they did, they would not prescribe ineffective treatments.
  • Homeopathic remedies are individualised, except in ‘clinical homeopathy’ where they are not.
  • Questions about vaccination should be referred to GPs; except they are often not, as the recent evidence has shown.

I am glad to hear that Mrs Buttrum believes that a bunch of pranks, porkies and outright falsehoods will bring homeopaths together. In fact, I am optimistic they will, not lease because, for more than 200 years, homeopathy is being held together by little more than that.

We have discussed the tragic case of John Lawler before. Today, the Mail carries a long article about it. Here I merely want to summarise the sequence of events and highlight the role of the GCC.

  • In 2017, Mr Lawler, aged 79 at the time, has a history of back problems, including back surgery with metal implants and suffers from pain in his leg.
  • His GP recommends to consult a physiotherapist.
  • As waiting lists are too long, Mr Lawler sees a chiropractor shortly after his 80th birthday who calls herself ‘doctor’ and who he assumes to be a medic specialising in back pain.
  • The chiropractor uses a spinal manipulation of the neck with the drop table.
  • There is no evidence that this treatment is effective for pain in the leg.
  • No informed consent is obtained from the patient.
  • This is acutely painful and brakes the calcified ligaments of Mr Lawler’s upper spine.
  • Mr Lawler is immediately paraplegic.
  • The chiropractor who had no training in resuscitation is panicked tries mouth to mouth.
  • Bending the patient’s neck backwards the chiropractor further compresses his spinal cord.
  • When ambulance arrives, the chiropractor misleads the paramedics telling them nothing about a forceful neck manipulation with the drop and suspecting a stroke.
  • Thus the paramedics do not stabilise the patient’s neck which could have saved his life.
  • Mr Lawler dies the next day in hospital.
  • The chiropractor is arrested immediately by the police but then released on bail.
  • The expert advising the police is a prominent chiropractor.
  • One bail condition is not to practise, pending a hearing by the GCC.
  • The GCC decide not to take any action.
  • The police therefore release the bail conditions and she goes back to practising.
  • The interim suspension hearing of the GCC is being held in September 2017.
  • The deceased’s son wants to attend but is not allowed to be present at the hearing even though such events are normally public.
  • The coroner’s inquest starts in 2019.
  • In November 2019, a coroner rules that Mr Lawler died of respiratory depression.
  • The coroner also calls on the GCC to bring in pre-treatment imaging to protect vulnerable patients.
  • The GCC announce that they will now continue their inquiry to determine whether or not chiropractor will be struck off the register.

The son of the deceased is today quoted stating that the GCC “seems to be a little self-regulatory chiropractic bubble where chiropractors regulate chiropractors.”

I sympathise with this statement. On this blog, I have repeatedly voiced my concerns about the GCC – see here, for instance – which I therefore do not need to repeat. My opinion of the GCC is also coloured by a personal experience which I will quickly recount now:

A long time ago (I estimate 10 – 15 years), the GCC invited me to give a lecture and I accepted. I do not remember the exact subject they had given me, but I clearly recall elaborating on the risks of spinal manipulation. This was not too well received. When I had finished, a discussion ensued in which I was accused of not knowing my subject and aggressed for daring to ctiticise chiropractic. I had, of couse, given the lecture assuming they wanted to hear my criticism. In the end, I left with the impression that this assumption was wrong and that they really just wanted to lecture, humiliate and punish me for having been a long-term critic of their trade.

I therefore can fully understand of David Lawler’s opinion about the GCC. To me, they certainly behaved as though their aim was not to protect the public, but to defend chiropractors from criticism.

This letter (dated 21 June 2019) to the Safer Care Victoria review team represents a statement by the Australian Medical Association of Victoria on chiropractic for children. As it is highly relevant to many of the discussions we had on this blog, I take the liberty of copying it here in full:

RE: Review of chiropractic spinal care for children under 12 years

The Australian Medical Association (AMA Victoria) appreciates the opportunity to respond to the Safer Care Victoria (SCV) consultation on chiropractic manipulation of children under 12 years.

The AMA is pleased that SCV has decided to review this practice which is manifestly unsafe and unwarranted.

Chiropractic spinal manipulation on children has received recent media attention and prompted community concerns about its safety, appropriateness and the professional duties of those undertaking it.  Most notably, in February this year medical experts and the Victorian Government condemned the controversial practice of infant spine manipulation after footage emerged of a Melbourne chiropractor treating a two-week old baby on the chiropractor’s own site.

Treatment of infants and very young children

We are aware that chiropractors are treating children for problems such as “infantile colic” by manipulative therapies.  There is no credible evidence for this, it is a dangerous practice in itself and it potentially impedes the proper assessment and management of an infant.  Additionally, it preys on often tired parents by the promise of a frequently false unequivocal diagnosis and false “quick fix”. This is plainly unconscionable and dangerous behaviour.

In preparing our response, we engaged with doctors across many specialities who have offered valuable insights into the matters being considered as part of this review.  It is our very firm view that the risk of undertaking spinal manipulation on small infants is of no benefit and is potentially extremely dangerous.  Newborn babies are extremely fragile and AMA Victoria warns that damage done to a baby or infant may not be immediately obvious to parents, and may not manifest until many years later.  This is supported by a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics [1] which found serious adverse events may be associated with paediatric spinal manipulation.1

Another critical issue is that it is very unlikely that parents are providing informed consent to such procedures.  For parents to provide informed consent, they would need to be fully advised of the risks including, for example:

• the diagnosis of “infant colic” is a catch all for a range of symptoms with different aetiologies;

• the potential drastic short and long term consequences of spinal manipulation on their baby;

• there are no scientific safety and efficacy studies undertaken; and

• there is no credible scientific evidence for manipulation.

Chiropractors should also be directing parents to general practitioners for the proper holistic assessment and care of the child and family.

Additionally, infants and very young children cannot provide assent for a procedure for which there is no evidence they require and which may leave them with long term consequences.  Consideration of whether such potentially dangerous therapies, which are not underpinned by a strong evidence-base, should be supported by private health insurance rebates is also warranted.

Treatment of children under 12 years of age

Although there is limited evidence that some musculoskeletal treatments are effective in adults, there is no credible scientific evidence that manipulation, mobilisation or any applied spinal therapy in children under 12 years of age is warranted or safe.

AMA Victoria does not support clinical interventions unless there is scientific evidence that such treatments are useful in treating the illness.  AMA Victoria also supports patients being fully informed on the illness and the risks and benefits to any treatment. When the risks are to be borne by a non-assenting child, the requirement of evidence and consent is especially important.

AMA Victoria strongly advocates that chiropractic (and other health professionals) spinal care for children under 12 years of age is dangerous, unwarranted and must cease immediately.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of our response, please contact Ms Nada Martinovic, Senior Policy Advisor on (03) 9280 8773 or nadam@amavic.com.au.

Yours sincerely

Associate Professor Julian Rait OAM AMA VICTORIA PRESIDENT

1 Sunita, V., et al., Adverse Events Associated with Pediatric Spinal Manipulation: A Systemic Review, Pediatrics, 2007: 119; 275-283.

___________________________________________________________

I am truly delighted that the AMA Victoria agrees with many points I have tried to make previously (see for instance here, here and here). The statement is unsurpassed in its directness and strength. My congratulations to Prof Raith – very well done!

Let’s hope that professional bodies of other regions and counties will swiftly follow suit with equal clarity.

As reported, the Bavarian government has set aside almost half a million Euros for research to determine whether the over-use of antibiotics can be reduced by replacing them with homeopathic remedies. Homeopaths in and beyond Germany were delighted, of course, but many experts were bewildered (see also this or this, if you read German).

While the Bavarians are entering the planning stage of this research, I want to elaborate on the question what methodology might be employed for this task. As far as I can see, there are, depending on the precise research questions, various options.

IN VITRO TESTS OF HOMEOPATHICS

The most straight forward way to find out whether homeopathics are an alternative to antibiotics would be to screen them for antibiotic activity. For this, we would take all homeopathic remedies in several potencies that are commonly used, for instance D12 and C30, and add them to bacterial cultures. To cover even part of the range of homeopathic remedies, several thousand such tests would be required. The remedies that show activity in vitro would then be candidates for further clinical tests.

I doubt that this will generate meaningful findings. As homeopaths would probably point out quickly, they never claimed that their remedies have any antibiotic effects. Homeopathics work not via pharmacological mechanisms (there is none), they stimulate the vital force, the immune system, or whatever mystical force you fancy. Faced with the inevitably negative results of in vitro tests, homeopaths would merely shrug their shoulders and say: ‘we told you so’.

ANIMAL MODELS

Thus it might be more constructive to go directly into animal models. Such tests could take several shapes and forms. For instance, scientists could infect animals with a bacterium and subsequently treat one group with a high potency homeopathic remedy and the control group with a placebo. If the homeopathic animals survive, while the controls die, the homeopathic treatment was effective.

Such concepts would run into problems on at least two levels. Firstly, any ethics committee worth its name would refuse to pass such a protocol and argue that it is not ethical to infect and then treat animals with two different types of placebo. Secondly, the homeopathic fraternity would explain that homeopathy must be individualised which cannot be done properly in animals. Faced with the inevitably negative results of such animal studies, homeopaths would merely shrug their shoulders and say: ‘we told you so’.

CLINICAL TRIALS

Homeopathy may, according to some homeopaths, defy in vitro and animal tests, but it is most certainly amenable to being tested in clinical trials. The simplest version of a clinical study would entail randomising a group of patients with bacterial infections – say pneumonia – into receiving either individualised homeopathy or placebo. Possibly, one could add a third group of patients being treated with appropriate antibiotics.

The problem here would again be the ethics; no proper ethic committee would pass such a concept (see above). Another problem might be that even the homeopathic fraternity would oppose such a study. Why? Because all but the most deluded homeopaths know only too well that the result of such a trial would be devastatingly negative for homeopathy.

Therefore, homeopaths are likely to go for a different study design, for instance, one where patients suspected to have a bacterial infection are randomised to two groups of GPs. One group of ‘normal’ GPs would proceed as usual, while the other group are also trained in homeopathy and would be free to give whatever they feel is right for each individual patient. With a bit of luck, the ‘normal’ GPs would over-prescribe antibiotics (because that’s what they are apparently doing routinely), while the homeopathic GPs would often use homeopathics instead.

Such a study would indeed generate a result alleging that the use of homeopathy reduces the use of antibiotics. Of course, to be truly ‘positive’ it would need to exclude any clinical outcome such as time to recovery, because that might not be in favour of homeopathy.

The problem might again be the ethics committee. Assuming they are scientifically switched on, they will see through the futility of a trial designed to produce the desired result. They might also argue that science is not for testing one faulty approach (over-prescribing) against another (homeopathy) and insist that science is about finding the best treatment (which is neither of the two).

There are, of course, many other study designs that could be considered. Generally, they fall into two different categories: if they are rigorous tests of a hypothesis, they are sure to produce a result unfavourable to homeopathy. Such studies will therefore be opposed to by the powerful homeopathic fraternity. If, however, studies are flimsily designed to generate a positive finding, they might be liked by homeopaths, yet rejected by scientists and ethicists.

SURVEYS

A much easier solution to the question ‘does the use of homeopathy reduce the use of antibiotics’ might be to not do a trial at all, but to run a simple survey. For instance, one could retrospectively assess how many antibiotics 100 homeopathic GPs have prescribed during the last year and compare this to the figure of 100 over-prescribing, ‘normal’ GPs. This type of ‘research’ is a sure winner for the homeopaths. Therefore, I predict that they will advocate this or a similarly flawed concept.

Most politicians are scientifically illiterate to such a degree that they might actually agree to finance such a survey and then confuse correlation with causation by triumphantly stating that the use of homeopathy reduces over-prescribing of antibiotics. Few, I fear, will realise that there is only one method for reducing the over-prescribing of antibiotics: remind doctors what they all learnt in medical school, namely to prescribe antibiotics only in cases where they are indicated. And for that we evidently need no homeopathy or other SCAM.

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