Currently, 15.2 percent of German adults have not even had their first COVID vaccination. A long-term study has recently investigated why some Germans do behave in this way.
Researchers from the University of Erfurt surveyed around 1,200 unvaccinated and 2,000 vaccinated people in Germany. Here is a summary of the findings:
- 74% of the unvaccinated definitely do not want to be vaccinated against Corona
- 6% are willing to get vaccinated
- 37 percent of those who have not been vaccinated against Corona do not want to be vaccinated against anything
- thus, about two-thirds of them are not principled vaccination refusers.
The researchers also asked the unvaccinated Germans about their reasons for deciding against vaccination:
- 56% of the unvaccinated are afraid of vaccination
- 64% of these people cite fear of vaccination consequences and side effects as their reason
- 8% are even afraid of dying from the vaccination
- 38% of the unvaccinated agree with the statement, “I am proud not to have been vaccinated against Covid-19”, while 60% of the vaccinated agree with the sentence “I am proud to be vaccinated against Covid-19.” Unvaccinated people also have much less trust in the federal government and the Robert Koch Institute than vaccinated people.
- 86% of the unvaccinated Germans find the current debate unfair, arrogant, and moralizing.
Based on these findings, the researchers recommend that measures to combat the pandemic should focus above all on maintaining the trust of the majority of those who have been vaccinated. The researchers also advise that attention should be paid to respectful and factual communications, especially by VIPs.
Personally, I find the notion that 56% of the unvaccinated are afraid of vaccination the most interesting finding here. It means we need to communicate the safety aspect much better than we have managed so far. As there is good reason to believe that many of the unvaccinated people are proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) – see for instance here and here – a reasonable strategy should probably include making sure that SCAM practitioners inform their patients correctly and responsibly.
How can this be done?
I am not sure that I know the answer. But I know that there are psychologists who specialize in this sort of thing. It would, I think, be wise to create a multidisciplinary team to tackle the problem. Any solutions that could come out of such an exercise would come too late for the current Omicron wave. But there will be more to come, and we should be better prepared, I feel.
The use of the doctor title by chiropractors has long been a controversial issue. A recent statement from the UK General Chiropractic Council (GCC) is aimed at creating clarity for UK chiropractors. It is directly from the website of the GCC:
Recently, the GCC has received some queries regarding the use of ‘Doctor’ for chiropractors.
As a reminder, if the courtesy title of ‘Doctor’, or its abbreviation ‘Dr’ or ‘DC’ is used, any public-facing content must state clearly that this is not as a registered medical practitioner, but a ‘Doctor of Chiropractic’.
We urge all registrants to review their public-facing materials, on- and offline, to ensure that they fully comply with these requirements. To assist, we have published three communication-focussed toolkits on social media, advertising and websites, providing useful guidance and advice on how best to remain compliant to GCC and Advertising Standards Authority requirements.
Internationally, chiropractors seem keen on the doctor title. So much so, that they even claim that DD and BJ Palmer, the inventors of chiropractic, were doctors:
Chiropractic as a profession was established by Dr. D. D. Palmer in 1895 … The International Chiropractors Association (ICA) is here to serve the chiropractic community worldwide. Established in 1926 in Davenport, Iowa, USA by Dr. B.J. Palmer, the ICA is the world’s oldest international chiropractic professional organization representing practitioners, students, chiropractic assistants, educators and lay persons globally.
In the US, it seems therefore entirely normal that chiropractors use the doctor title. In the UK, however, it is less common.
Remember the tragic case of John Lawler? He consulted a ‘Dr.’ thinking she was a medical doctor. She turned out to be a chiro and the patient paid with his life. Recently, the GCC found that the chiro was not guilty of any wrongdoing. It took me less than 10 minutes on the Internet to find plenty who do use the doctor title or allow it to be used on their website:
- Thanks to Dr Jasper for helping me to get rid of the terrible back pain
- Dr. Mo is a chiropractor in Manchester and Stockport helping with back pain, sciatica, neck pain, headaches.
- Dr Maria Madge is an experienced chiropractor working in Norfolk.
- Dr James Shervell has 25 years’ experience to help with your pain…
So, in the spirit of goodwill and constructive criticism, may I make a suggestion to the GCC? Instead of issuing reminders like the one above, could you please invest a little time (a few hours would probably suffice), identify all of those of your members who still misuse the title, and instruct them to stop? It just might prevent tragedies like the above-mentioned Lawler case from happening again!
It was reported yesterday that the district court of Schönau in Germany has issued an order to arrest Dr. Mathias Poland, a family doctor who used to practice in Zell. He is accused of issuing certificates of favor to opponents of wearing masks during the pandemic. The order of arrest was “against a doctor from the district of Lörrach” for “issuing false certificates”.
The fact, that some German doctors have issued false exemptions from wearing masks has been known for some time. Similar things have also been reported from other countries. Often, these physicians in question seem to be practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that a doctor has been arrested for such a crime.
So, what do we know about Mathias Poland?
His is what Dr. Poland tells us about himself (my translation):
I was born in 1958 and grew up in Stuttgart. From 1976 I studied medicine in Ulm, where I came into intensive contact with anthroposophy, which has accompanied me ever since. Further stations of my studies were Münster/Westphalia (D) and Poitiers (F). Doctorate in 1983 in Münster on a pediatric oncological topic. This was followed by further training as a specialist in general medicine in several clinics in northern Germany, acquisition of the additional qualification in homeopathy. Further training in anthroposophical medicine through numerous seminars. In 1990 I set up as a general practitioner and family doctor in Wehr/Baden (Germany) – in the following years I gained additional qualifications in Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture at the University of Freiburg (Germany).
Recognition as an anthroposophical doctor by the GAÄD.
I became the doctor in charge of the Kaspar Hauser School Schopfheim 1999 – 2006. From 2009, I took over a GP practice in Zell im Wiesental (D) with an additional focus on proctology.
… Since 1.9.2019, I have been the senior physician in general medicine at the Arlesheim Clinic …
Anthroposophic medicine is a form of healthcare developed in the 1920s by Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) in collaboration with the physician Ita Wegman (1876–1943). It is based on Steiner’s mystical ideas of anthroposophy. Why do anthroposophical doctors issue such false certificates? As far as I understand it (and to explain it very simply), anthroposophical medicine teaches that infections should not be fought against but accepted and experienced. Why? Because they are important milestones that make us better and more whole as human beings.
And why do doctors believe in anthroposophical medicine?
On this blog and elsewhere, I have heard many strange arguments against COVID-19 vaccinations. I get the impression that most proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) hold or sympathize with such notions. Here is a list of those arguments that have come up most frequently together with my (very short) comments:
COVID is not dangerous
It’s just a flu and nothing to be really afraid of, they say. Therefore, no good reason exists for getting vaccinated. This, I think, is easily countered by pointing out that to date about 5.5 million people have died of COVID-19. In addition, I fear that the issues of ‘long-COVID’ is omitted in such discussions
It’s only the oldies who die
As an oldie myself, I find this argument quite distasteful. More importantly, it is simply not correct.
Vaccines don’t work
True they do not protect us 100% from the infection. But they very dramatically reduce the likelihood of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
Vaccines are unsafe
We have now administered almost 10 billion vaccinations worldwide. Thus we know a lot about the risks. In absolute terms, there is a vast amount of cases, and it would be very odd otherwise; just think of the rate of nocebo effects that must be expected. However, the risks are mostly minor, and serious ones are very rare. Some anti-vaxxers predicted that, by last September, the vaccinated population would be dead. This did not happen, did it? The fact is that the benefits of these vaccinations hugely outweigh the risks.
Vaccines are a vicious tracking system
Some claim that ‘they‘ use vaccines to be able to trace the vaccinated people. Who are ‘they‘, and why would anyone want to trace me when my credit card, mobile phone, etc. already could do that?
Vaccines are used for population control
‘They‘ want to reduce the world population through deadly vaccines to ~5 billion, some anti-vaxxers say. Again, who are ‘they‘ and would ‘they‘ want to do that? Presumably ‘they‘ need us to pay taxes and buy their goods and services.
There has not been enough research
If those who make this argument would bother to go on Medline and look for COVID-related research, they might see how ill-informed this argument is. Since 2021, more than 200 000 papers on the subject have emerged.
I trust my immune system
This is just daft. I am triple-vaccinated and also hope that I can trust my immune system – this is why I got vaccinated in the first place. Vaccinations rely on the immune system to work.
It’s all about making money
Yes, the pharma industry aims to make money; this is a sad reality. But does that really mean that their products are useless? I don’t see the logic here.
People should have the choice
I am all for it! But if someone’s poor choice endangers my life, I do object. For instance, I expect other people not to smoke in public places, stop at red traffic lights and drive on the correct side of the street.
Most COVID patients in hospitals have been vaccinated
If a large percentage of the population has been vaccinated and the vaccine conveys not 100% protection, it would be most surprising, if it were otherwise.
I have a friend who…
All sorts of anecdotes are in circulation. The thing to remember here is that the plural of anecdote is anecdotes and not evidence.
SCAM works just as well
Of course, that argument had to be expected from SCAM proponents. The best response here is this: SHOW ME THE EVIDENCE! In response SCAM fans have so far only been able to produce ‘studies’ that are unconvincing or outright laughable.
In conclusion, the arguments put forward by anti-vaxxers or vaccination-hesitant people are rubbish. It is time they inform themselves better and consider information that originates from outside their bubble. It is time they realize that their attitude is endangering others.
As you know, I am not in the habit of telling personal stories on this blog. Today, allow me to make an exception by taking you back 40 years into my own history.
Back in the 1980s, I spent much of my time doing research in hemorheology (flow properties of blood). At the time, this was a buoyant area of research, and my late friend Arpad Matrai and I were enthusiastically investigating it, first in London under John Dormandy and later at the LMU in Munich. But we were by no means the only team working in hemorheology. Another group at Aachen was much larger, better-funded, and in many ways way ahead of us. One member of that group regularly irritated us; this was Holger Kiesewetter, the ‘hero’ of my story.
Arpad was sure that much of Kiesewetter’s work and even more of his financial dealings were suspect (“How come a junior research can afford driving a Porsche?”, he used to wonder). Something did not seem quite right. Despite our reservations, we did collaborate occasionally. In 1984, we even managed to co-organize a conference and jointly publish its proceedings.
After my friend and co-worker Arpad had died of leukemia, I gradually drifted back into clinical medicine, became a professor of rehab medicine first in Hannover and then in Vienna. This also meant that I completely lost touch with Holger Kiesewetter. I was, therefore, more than a little surprised to one day receive a phone call from him in Vienna. He told me that he had applied for a professorship at my Uni and asked me to support his application. I did not promise to do so and I certainly did not lend my support to his application. Quite simply, I remembered too many instances that gave me reasons to be concerned about my ‘friend’s’ integrity.
Kiesewetter did not get the Vienna post but I later learned that he had become a professor of transfusion medicine at the Charite in Berlin. In the mid-1990s, a chance meeting at an airport occurred when we were both catching flights. He told me that he was doing fine, and he seemed to have his fingers in many pies.
Then I lost sight of him completely.
Until yesterday, that is.
I was doing some searches on herbal remedies when I came across the intriguing subject of ‘BIO VIAGRA‘. A German article reported this:
“In clinical trials, 50 men had much better sex afterward, more fun in bed, and just generally felt better about themselves,” the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily cited Olaf Schroeder from Berlin’s Charite hospital as saying. “Their libido was even higher than the control group taking Viagra,” he said. The potent cocktail includes tribulus terrestris, a herb already used in alternative medicine, a root vegetable found in the Andes called maca and grape juice extract, newspapers said. The treatment, dubbed “Plantagrar”, is due to be launched in early 2010, the Bild daily said.
Having published a review of maca, I was interested and continued searching.
Another article stated that a certain Mr. Schröder had stated that he had investigated the efficacy of the remedy on 50 test persons. However, the data of the experiment have not been published. In addition, the researchers’ procedure has been massively criticized: 25 men were given the bio-potency drug, 25 others a placebo, i.e. a tablet without active ingredients. Afterward, the test persons were to compare their experiences with those they had had with Viagra. Fritz Sörgel, director of the Nuremberg Institute for Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research, calls the procedure “completely dubious”. “This is a completely new kind of study that this doctoral student has invented.” The number of test persons is much too low, the comparison with Viagra cannot be taken seriously.
This sounded already quite dodgy, and a third article in the usually reliable German Medical Journal provided more details:
For several months, those involved kept a low profile, but now the affair surrounding the development of a herbal aphrodisiac at Berlin’s Charité University Hospital has consequences: Last week, the head of the Institute for Transfusion Medicine, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. med. Holger Kiesewetter, was given leave of absence. This step was taken “at his own request”, said hospital spokesperson Claudia Peter. The withdrawal came about two weeks after the public prosecutor’s office searched his work and private rooms as well as other locations.
The “Bio-Viagra affair” had caused a furore in mid-March. A doctoral student of Kiesewetter’s had claimed to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur that he had successfully developed an aphrodisiac on a purely herbal basis. Some daily newspapers reported on the remedy, which was called “Plantagrar”. A little later, however, the Charité management denied it. It was “the activity of an employee (. . .) on his own responsibility”. The case also came to the attention of the drug supervisory authority. Erectile dysfunctions are recognised diseases according to the ICD-10 classification system. The “Bio-Viagra” was therefore a drug whose development should have been controlled, the state office for health and social affairs said.
A spokesperson for the Berlin public prosecutor’s office confirmed the presumption of a violation of the German Medicines Act to the Deutsches Ärzteblatt. In addition, Kiesewetter is being investigated for bribery, corruption and breach of trust to the detriment of the Charité. The head of the institute had apparently been promised benefits by private companies.
That sounded very much like the Kiesewetter I remembered. I was unable to find the actual trial or more details about the herbal remedy. The scandal seems to have put an end not only to the university career of the researchers but also to the aphrodisiac.
However, I did find a Wiki page about Kiesewetter that suggests that ‘bio viagra’ was by no means the only escapade from the straight and narrow. But what is he up to today? Did he retire? No, after the debacle at the Charite, he seems to have gone into private practice:
After working as director of the Institute for Transfusion Medicine and Immunohaematology at the Charité and head of the coagulation outpatient clinic at the Charité, he has been providing patient care at the Hämostaseologicum Berlin-Mitte since 2010.
This is also the address he used for his most recent (2020) publication.
Am I worried about my old ‘friend’?
No, I am confident that he is doing just fine … financially, I mean.
Conversion therapy has been banned last week in Canada. These therapies – also known as sexual orientation change effort (SOCE), reparative therapy, reintegrative therapy, reorientation therapy, ex-gay therapy, and gay cure – rely on the assumption that sexual orientation can be changed, an idea long discredited by major medical associations in the US, the UK, France, and elsewhere. The new law makes “providing, promoting, or advertising conversion therapy” a criminal offense. It will also be an offense to profit from the provision of conversion therapy. In addition, the bill states a person cannot remove a “child from Canada with the intention that the child undergo conversion therapy outside Canada.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed the law’s Royal Assent: “It’s official: Our government’s legislation banning the despicable and degrading practice of conversion therapy has received Royal Assent — meaning it is now law.”
Conversion therapy is the attempt to change an individual’s sexual or gender identity by psychological, medical, or surgical interventions. Often, informed consent is insufficient or lacking. In conventional medicine, numerous treatments have been tried for this purpose, some of them dangerous and all of them ineffective. In alternative medicine, approaches that have been advocated include:
- Homeopathy (see below),
- Spiritual healing,
- Eye Movement Desensitization,
- and others.
- Faith-based organizations or leaders
- Licensed healthcare professionals
- Unlicensed healthcare professionals
As previously reported, the German ‘Association of Catholic Doctors’ claimed that homeopathic remedies can cure homosexuality. Specifically, they advised that ‘…the working group ‘HOMEOPATHY’ of the Association notes homeopathic therapy options for homosexual tendencies…repertories contain special rubrics pointing to characteristic signs of homosexual behavior, including sexual peculiarities such as anal intercourse. And a homeopathic remedy called ‘Dr. Reckeweg R20 Glandular Drops for Women’ was claimed to treat “lesbian tendencies.” The product is “derived and potentised from fetal tissues.”
Several countries are now in the process of banning conversion therapy. France has already banned it and so has Germany. The UK government intends to introduce a legislative ban on the practice of conversion therapy. The consultation on how to best do this is open until 4 February 2022.
By guest blogger Ken Harvey
Loretta Marron was the catalyst. The ‘critical thinking’ bug hit her as a child, reinforced by a BSc in Physics. If something didn’t sound logical, she couldn’t let it go. She had to check. She killed many a party by disputing misinformation – with evidence.
TV advertisements for magnetic underlays got her going, then homeopathic remedies, followed by ‘natural’ cures for cancer. To investigate outlandish claims and submit complaints, she needed to consult with experts. These included Professors John Dwyer (Medicine and Immunology) and Alastair MacLennan (Obstetrics and Gynaecology). They were always willing to help.
They also had concerns about universities teaching pseudoscience, such as ‘subluxation theory’ in chiropractic and ‘meridians’ in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In late 2011, Professor Dwyer proposed that Loretta join forces with Professors Alastair MacLennan, Marcello Costa (neuroscientist), and Rob Morrison (science communicator) to form a new organisation promoting scientific evidence in health care. Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) was born. John Dwyer was the inaugural President and Loretta Marron Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
The aim was to emphasise the importance of basing Australian health care on scientifically sound research and established scientific knowledge published in peer-reviewed journals of accepted standing. Valuing scientific rigour is especially important in an age where unsubstantiated health claims are rampant and scientific consensus is ‘imbalanced’ by the views of extremists.
FSM’s focus is helping consumers and health professionals to make more informed choices about medical interventions, medicines, and medical devices. We do this by submitting complaints about unethical practice, analysing policy, making submissions, encouraging regulators to act, and being a credible source of expertise for the media and others. We also encourage tertiary institutions and medicine and health sciences students to critically appraise therapeutic products and services as part of the courses offered.
Currently, FSM has more than 1,200 leading scientists, clinicians, lawyers, and consumer advocates as supporters. We also work closely with organisations such as Australian Skeptics and Choice (Australian Consumers Association).
I took over as President from John Dwyer in 2019. Loretta remains FSM CEO. The founding members continue their involvement as consultants. Ten years on, it’s worth reflecting on what has been achieved and the ongoing challenges.
An appendix lists some of the areas in which FSM has been involved and the outcomes achieved (often with the help of others).
Unethical promotion of therapeutic goods and services remain an ongoing concern. The advertising of therapeutic goods is subject to provisions in the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code, first promulgated in 1999. Until July 2018, complaints about alleged Code violations were heard by the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Complaints Resolution Panel (CRP), thereafter by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
FSM members submitted numerous complaints to the CRP and analysed the outcome. If a complaint was upheld, the CRP could only ‘recommend’ that it be removed. If it was not, the complaint was referred to the TGA for action. We found that certain companies consistently ignored the determinations of the CRP and, when referred to the TGA, took resulting action.
In July 2018, FSM engagement with numerous consultations and reviews eventually resulted in the TGA taking over the advertising complaint system. The TGA was given stronger investigative and compliance powers and a revised, legally enforceable advertising code. However, given the TGA’s previous track record, we continued to submit complaints, including many previously upheld by the CRP, but for which promotion continued.
An analysis of the first 12 months of the new system found that the TGA had classified most complaints as ‘low priority’. These were either ignored or closed by sending the advertiser a ‘Regulatory Obligation letter’ which stated that no further action would be taken. While the letter sometimes worked, often it did not. Stronger compliance powers were rarely used. The new complaint system was also less transparent than the one it replaced. For those low priority complaints with published outcomes, no details of the product, advertiser, or alleged Code violation were published, and no follow-up was recorded. Of 121 higher priority complaints, 79% failed to meet their key performance indicator, time to closure in 60–90 days. These included complaints about dangerous sports supplements and ineffective weight loss and hangover products.
In August 2020, an independent review of the first two years of the TGA’s compliant system was published. The study noted an unexpectedly high volume of complaints since the TGA took over the advertising complaints system, producing a large and growing backlog. A government-appointed consultant (ThinkPlace Pty Ltd) stated that providing more resources would not be in the public interest. Instead, they recommended a more cost-effective and efficient approach: amalgamating all complaints into an information database from which the TGA could consider compliance priorities.
As a result, complaints were closed by sending complainants a letter stating that their complaints will be used for ‘intelligence’ to set priorities. The TGA said risk assessment informed whether a complaint was converted into a case for investigation or stored in their information database to determine future compliance priorities. Therapeutic goods associated with COVID-19 were declared ‘priority 1’, while weight loss, hangover, and four other products groups were said to be ‘priority 2’.
A focus on COVID-19 stimulated the TGA to deal with some of these complaints more effectively. However, apart from token action on individual products, no systemic action was taken on weight loss, hangover products and many other objects of our complaints.
More recently, the TGA’s complaint database for 2018 -2020 has been removed and replaced by a new database containing only a few complaints pre-2021. In addition, the fields of many ‘products’ and ‘responsible person’, are missing. The TGA say that migration of data to the new system is continuing. Meanwhile, complainants now only receive an automated acknowledgment.
Transparency remains a problem as there is no clear indication of how many complaints the TGA receives, what they are about, how many are filed for ‘intelligence’’, how many are actioned, and what outcome eventuates.
Given this lamentable state of affairs, in association with Australian Skeptics, it is proposed to publish reports on all complaints submitted to the TGA in 2022 and their outcomes. Past experience shows that documenting problems, pointing out underlying issues and putting forward solutions can produce progress. But patience and persistence are required.
FSM has grappled with unethical advertising of pseudo-medical interventions. Controls differ for practitioners regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and those regulated by State and Territory Health Complaints Commissioners. The former includes medical practitioners, pharmacists, nurses, chiropractors, osteopaths, and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners. The latter includes naturopaths, homeopaths, and practitioners of western herbal medicine.
FSM has held regular meetings with AHPRA senior managers. We have also met several of their national boards and attended stakeholder forums. Chiropractic was an initial focus. Many practitioners advertised that chiropractic care in pregnancy could shorten labour duration and prevent caesarean delivery – despite the absence of evidence. Pregnant women were warned that labour often resulted in the newborn babe’s spinal misalignment, which could lead to numerous problems unless put right by regular chiropractic adjustments. It was also claimed that chiropractic ‘adjustments’ could improve attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, infantile colic, and ear infection.
In 2015, FSM submitted hundreds of complaints to AHPRA, alleging that chiropractic websites were in breach of both s.133 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 and the Chiropractic Board of Australia’s Guidelines for advertising regulated health services. These provisions prohibit advertising which is false, misleading, or deceptive, creates an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment, or can encourage the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of health services.
Five years have passed since the Chiropractic Board first asked practitioners to ensure that their websites met legal advertising requirements. Over this time, the Board’s sole approach to this problem was educational. Although chiropractors consistently had the highest advertising complaints of all practitioners (38 per 1,000 chiropractors in 2013–14), no penalties nor disciplinary action had been applied for advertising offences.
FSM argued that repeated advertising offences required appropriate penalties. We also pointed out that some practitioners now invited patients to consult them about services they were no longer permitted to advertise. We said that limitations should be placed on chiropractic practice which lacked evidence.
AHPRA responded that, although it could act on misleading advertising, it had no power to restrict the scope of practice of chiropractors (or other registered practitioners). We said that, if lack of good evidence makes it illegal to publicly advertise a treatment, then it should be equally illegal to offer it to patients privately; after all, the real harm is caused by the treatment, not the advertising.
In 2019, following damning publicity and further representations, the Victorian Health Minister eventually instructed Safer Care Victoria (SCV) to undertake an independent review of the practice of chiropractic spinal manipulation on children under 12 years. The result was a recommendation that spinal manipulation should not be provided to children under 12 years of age, for general wellness or for the management of conditions such as hyperactivity disorders, infantile colic, or ear infections.
The Chiropractic Board has also stated that chiropractors are not trained to apply any direct treatment to an unborn child and should not deliver any treatment to the unborn child. Neither should they provide materials, information or advice that is anti-vaccination in nature. After numerous complaints from FSM members, the Chiropractic Board finally referred a prominent anti-vax chiropractor, Simon Floreani, to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). His registration was suspended for 6 months, and conditions placed on his re-registration.
FSM has not just been concerned about chiropractors. We have complained (with varied success) about medical practitioners promoting stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis, Traditional Chinese Medical practitioners claiming that acupuncture can treat infertility and dubious laboratory tests used in complementary and alternative medicine.
In conclusion, the peddling of unproven and sometimes dangerous remedies has existed throughout human history.
There will always be companies (and individuals) who put the pursuit of profit before ethical behaviour. There will always be advocates for de-regulation and regulators captured by industry. To protect consumers there must be opposing forces. That is the role that FSM is proud to play, along with colleagues from the sceptical community and consumer movements.
FSM activities and outcomes (often in association with others), 2011-2021.
- Removal of extravagant claims for acupuncture from the World Health Organization website and instigation of a WHO evidence review.
- Involvement in the 2015 Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Private Health Insurance for Natural Therapies. This led to removal of cover for therapies that lacked evidence such as homeopathy, iridology, reflexology and naturopathy (currently being reviewed again to see if additional evidence exits).
- Removal of unproven/disproven courses or modules from Australian universities.
- Removal of continuing professional development (CPD) points required annually by relevant registered practitioners for a number of AltMed courses.
- Following complaints to the TGA, removal of some illegal medicines not on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
- De-listing some complementary medicines and medical devices (such as ‘bio-resonance’ machines) lacking evidence.
- Getting the TGA to declare two products of self-declared ‘Foods for special medical purposes’ illegal therapeutic goods and have them removed from the market-place.
- Publishing academic articles, in peer-reviewed journals, documenting regulatory problems investigated and solutions suggested.
- Publishing articles in lay media on current problems including in The Conversation, MJA Insight and Pearls and Irritations (around 200 over the last 5 years).
- Responding to consultation requests from the TGA, Medical Boards, National Medicines Policy Review, and others.
- Achieving the suspension of anti-vax chiropractor Simon Floreani’s registration.
- Stimulating the Chiropractic Board to publish standards on pregnancy and paediatric care.
- Responsible for the setting up of AHPRA’s ‘Advertising Compliance’ section, including their pilot auditing system (yet to report).
- Responding to requests for information from journalists.
- Correction of misinformation from the Victorian government’s ‘Better Health’ Channel.
- Providing a complaints avenue for people who want to remain anonymous.
Yesterday, it was reported that one of Austria’s best-known opponents of vaccination has died as a result of coronavirus infection. He vehemently refused treatment in hospital. Instead, he insisted on treating himself – and tragically, he is not an isolated case.
“Miracle Mineral Solution” (MMS) is being promoted as a treatment for all kinds of diseases – including, of course, the coronavirus. But MMS is nothing more than the bleach and disinfectant chlorine dioxide, or CDL for short. It made headlines when Donald Trump suggested it as a remedy against Covid-19. Subsequently, CDL became highly popular amongst the anti-vax brigade.
Johann Biacsics was one of the leading figures of the anti-vaccination scene in Austria. On 11 November, he was seen in a Vienna hospital with an acute corona infection. At this stage, he had already taken chlorine dioxide because of fever complaints. Biacsics was, of course, not vaccinated and refused treatment. He was firmly convinced that he had already overcome the infection thanks to his treatment with chlorine dioxide.
The senior physician at the Vienna hospital saw things differently. His condition was “life-threatening”, she said. But instead of accepting treatment in hospital, Biacsics discharged himself and said he would rather treat himself. Once home, Biacsics put in an IV line with chlorine dioxide and sodium chloride. Two days later he was dead.
Only two weeks before his death, Biacsics had demonstrated in Vienna against the Austrian Corona measures. In a television interview from September, he can be seen in front of the parliament. “There are mainly vaccinated people in the intensive care units. 67 percent of them are vaccinated,” he said on camera at the time. When the reporter corrected him, he only replied that he had “inside information”.
His followers are now suggesting that he was poisoned. And for once they are, of course, correct. He basically poisoned himself with MMS. His family, meanwhile, blames the hospital and claim that he did not die of COVID, nor that Biacsics’ death is the result of treatment with chlorine dioxide.
Biacsics is not the first Austrian Covid patient who has refused treatment or used “alternative remedies”. And he is not the first who has died as a result. Self-treatment is booming among vaccination opponents and Corona deniers. It was even propagated in the Austrian parliament. For weeks, FPÖ leader Herbert Kickl (who also is COVID-positive) and his party colleagues have been promoting the deworming drug ivermectin – despite warnings from doctors, scientists, and the manufacturer.
All too often, the consequences are fatal: In Styria, two patients died from poisoning with ivermectin, in the district of Rohrbach in Upper Austria, a Corona patient left the intensive care unit in critical condition and died. He had also relied on ivermectin and refused other treatments.
Neck pain affects a vast number of people and leads to reduced quality of life and high costs. Clinically, it is a difficult condition to manage, and the effect sizes of the currently available treatments are moderate at best. Activity and manual therapy are first-line treatment options in several guidelines. But how effective are they really?
This study investigated the combination of home stretching exercises and spinal manipulative therapy in a multicentre randomized controlled clinical trial, carried out in a multidiscipline range of primary care clinics.
The treatment modalities utilized were spinal manipulative therapy combined with home stretching exercises compared to home stretching exercises alone. Both groups received 4 treatments for 2 weeks. The primary outcome was pain, where the subjective pain experience was investigated by assessing pain intensity (NRS – 11) and the quality of pain (McGill Pain Questionnaire). Neck disability and health status were secondary outcomes, measured using the Neck Disability Indexthe EQ-5D, respectively.
One hundred thirty-one adult subjects were randomized to one of the two treatment groups. All subjects had experienced persistent or recurrent neck pain the previous 6 months and were blinded to the other group intervention. The clinicians provided treatment for subjects in both groups and could not be blinded. The researchers collecting data were blinded to treatment allocation, as was the statistician performing data analyses. An intention-to-treat analysis was used.
Sixty-six subjects were randomized to the intervention group, and 65 to the control group. For NRS – 11, a B-coefficient of – 0,01 was seen, indication a 0,01 improvement for the intervention group in relation to the control group at each time point with a p-value of 0,305. There were no statistically significant differences between groups for any of the outcome measures.
Four intense adverse events were reported in the study, three in the intervention group, and one in the control group. More adverse incidents were reported in the intervention group, with a mean pain intensity (NRS-11) of 2,75 compared to 1,22 in the control group. There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups.
The authors concluded that there is no additional treatment effect from adding spinal manipulative therapy to neck stretching exercises over 2 weeks for patients with persistent or recurrent neck pain.
This is a rigorous and well-reported study. It suggests that adjuvant manipulations are not just ineffective for neck pain, but also cause some adverse effects. This seems to confirm many previously discussed investigations concluding that chiropractors do not generate more good than harm for patients suffering from neck pain.
Steiner (Waldorf) schools, like anthroposophical medicine, are the inventions of Rudolf Steiner. His followers have often been associated with rampant anti-vax sentiments. Yet, officially such beliefs are usually denied.
A few days ago, I came across this tweet:
Der Dachverband der anthroposophischen Medizin begrüßt Corona-Impfungen… & distanziert sich von Querdenken und Co. Steiner war selbst gegen Pocken geimpft und ließ impfen.
As it is in German, allow me to translate it for you:
The umbrella organization of anthroposophical medicine welcomes corona vaccinations… & distances itself from lateral thinking and co. Steiner himself was vaccinated against smallpox and had it vaccinated.
Almost simultaneously, it was reported that, after the Corona outbreak at a Freiburg Steiner school with more than 100 people infected, it is now certain: the certificates presented to the school for exemption from wearing masks were invalid.
During circus performances at the Steiner school in Freiburg, more than 100 people had become infected with the coronavirus in October: among them pupils, teachers, and contact persons. Therefore, the school inspectorate of the Freiburg Regional Council examined the certificates that freed people from the obligation to wear masks at school for health reasons. Heike Spannagel, a spokeswoman for the Freiburg Regional Council, called the results surprising. There were 55 certificates, 52 from pupils and three from teachers – and all of them were invalid. Heike Spannagel added that the school will no longer recognize any of the certificates. Those who cannot present new certificates that are more convincing will therefore have to wear the mask, Spannagel said.
It was noticeable that many certificates came from (far remote) private clinics in Bavaria or Berlin. In addition, a Freiburg doctor had exempted pupils from the obligation to wear a mask with identical justifications. According to the regional council, however, justifications must be individually tailored. In the meantime, the public prosecutor’s office in Freiburg has requested documents from the regional council in order to initiate an investigation.
So, what has been going on?
To me, it looks like the Steiner school was tolerating or even encouraging the use of dodgy certificates. This contrasts somewhat with the tweet cited above. And, in turn, this seems to indicate that proponents of anthroposophy say one thing about COVID and then do something entirely different. This suspicion was strengthened by a tweet that appeared a little while later as a response to the tweet cited above:
Alle Anhänger der Anthroposophie, die ich kenne, sind nicht geimpft. Es ist ja schön, wenn diese Verbände das öffentlich so verkünden. Die Praxis sieht leider anders aus.
Allow me to translate again:
All the followers of anthroposophy that I know are not vaccinated. It is nice when these associations proclaim this publicly. Unfortunately, the practice looks different.