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

neglect

On the occasion of a talk that I recently gave in Italy, I was interviewed by VANITY FAIR ITALY. I gave it in English and it was published in Italian. As I don’t expect many readers to be fluent in Italian and since it was a good interview, in my view, I thought I give you here the English original:

 

1.How can we exactly define «alternative medicine»?

There is much confusion and a plethora of definitions, none of which is fully satisfactory. In fact, the term “alternative medicine” itself is nonsensical: if a therapy works, it belongs to evidence-based medicine; and if it doesn’t work, it cannot possibly be an alternative. I therefore have long been calling it “so-called alternative medicine” (SCAM). The definition I use for SCAM with lay audiences is simple: SCAM is an umbrella term for a diverse range of therapeutic and diagnostic methods that have little in common, other than being excluded from mainstream medicine.

2.Who uses it and why?

Predominantly women! Statistics say about 30-70% of the general population use SCAM. And with patient populations, the percentage can be close to 100%. They use it because they are told over and over again that SCAM is natural and thus safe, as well as effective for all sorts of conditions.

3.Focusing on terminology, is there a difference between «complementary» and «alternative» medicine?

Theoretically, there is a big difference between «complementary» and «alternative» medicine. The former is supposed to be used as an add-on to, while the latter is a replacement of mainstream medicine. In practice, this dividing line is very blurred; most SCAMs are used in both ways, depending on the actual situation and circumstance.

4.Are users different from non-users?

Yes, there has been much research on this and my reading of it is that SCAM users tend to be less intelligent, more religious, more superstitious, less trusting in science, and more prone to conspiracy theories, for instance.

5.Which forms of alternative medicine are the most popular?

There are certain national differences, but in most European countries herbal medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic, osteopathy, homeopathy, aromatherapy, and reflexology are amongst the most popular SCAMs.

6.Does it work?

With such a wide range – someone once counted over 400 modalities and my last book evaluated 202 of them (Alternative Medicine: A Critical Assessment of 202 Modalities (Copernicus Books): Amazon.co.uk: Ernst, Edzard: 9783031107092: Books) – it is impossible to answer with yes or no. In addition we need to consider the conditions that are being treated. Acupuncture, for example, is touted as a panacea, but might just work for pain. If you take all this into account, I estimate that less than 3% of the therapeutic claims that are being made for SCAM are supported by sound evidence.

Is it safe?

Again, impossible to say. Some treatments are outright dangerous; for instance, chiropractic neck manipulations can injure an artery and the patient suffers a stroke of which she can even die. Other treatments are assumed to be entirely harmless; for example homeopathy. But even that is untrue: if a cancer patient relies exclusively on homeopathy for a cure, she might easily hasten her death. Sadly, such things happen not even rarely.

Do its benefits outweigh its risks?

That depends very much on the treatment, the disease, and the precise situation. Generally speaking, there are very few SCAMs that fulfill this condition.

You said that these were the research questions that occupied all your life in Exeter. Did you find the answers?

We published more on SCAM than any other research group, and we found mostly disappointing answers. But still, I am proud of having found at least some of the most pressing answers. Even negative answers can make an important contribution to our knowledge.

7.What is the problem with the placebo effect?

All therapies can prompt a placebo effect. Thus an ineffective treatment can easily appear to be effective through generating a placebo effect. This is why we need to rely on properly conducted, if possible placebo-controlled trials, if we want to know what works and what not.

8.Is it true that some alternative medicines can cause significant harm?

see above

9.What about herbal remedies? What do studies show about them?

Many of our modern drugs originate from plants, Therefore, it is not surprising that we find herbal remedies that are effective. But careful! This also means that plants can kill you – think of hemlock, for instance. In addition herbal medicine can interact powerfully with synthetic drugs. So, it is wise to be cautious and get responsible advice.

10.Which alternative therapies are overrated and why?

In my view, almost all SCAMs are over-rated. If you go on the Internet, you find ~5 000 000 websites on SCAM. 99% of them try to sell you something and are unreliable or even dangerous. We need to be aware of the fact that SCAM has grown into a huge business and many entrepreneurs are out to get your money based on bogus claims.

11.On the contrary, which therapies could be seen as an integration in routine care?

The best evidence can be found in the realm of herbal medicine, for instance St John’s Wort. Some mind-body interventions can be helpful; also a few massage techniques might be worth a try. Not a lot, I’m afraid.

12.Would you tell us what happened in 2005 with Prince Charles?

He complained about my actions via his private secretary to my University. A 13 month investigation followed. At the end, I was found not guilty but my funding, my team, my infrastructure had been dismantled. So, in effect, Charles managed to close down what was the only research group that looked critically and systematically into SCAM. A sad story – not so much for me but for progress and science, I think.

3.Why is alternative medicine still a controversial subject?

Mainly because the gap between the claims and the evidence is so very wide – and getting wider all the time.

14.Would you suggest the «right way» to approach it?

I often recommend this: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! I might add that, if you want reliable advice, don’t listen to those who profit from giving it.

Suzanne Somers, born Suzanne Marie Mahoney on October 16, 1946 in San Bruno, California, was an American actress, author and businesswoman.  Somers has published several best-selling self-help books, such as I’m Too Young for This! and The Natural Hormone Solution to Enjoy Menopause. In 2001, it was reported that she had breast cancer and was opting for so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) to treat it, In particular, she used Iscador, a preparation of mistletoe that we have discissed many times before on this blog, e.g.:

In an interview with Larry King in 2001, Somers revealed that she had been receiving treatment for a year. She also explained that she refused to go through with chemotherapy and instead used SCAM. “I decided to find alternative things to do,” she continued. “Because I have done so much work in my books about hormones, and that hormonal balance is why people gain or lose weight, and, it was my belief that a balanced environment of hormones prevents disease. And the first thing they said to me, we are taking of off all hormones. I said no, I’m going to continue taking my hormones, which is the first thing against the common course…”

Recently, it was reported that Somers has died of cancer aged 76. Earlier this year, Somers said they had “used the best alternative and conventional treatments to combat it [her cancer].” But now, a source close to the star shares that many around her didn’t like it. Somers’ friends tried to convince her to ditch SCAM in favor of chemotherapy. “She was advised by several people to consider the more conventional approach, but she did not listen,” a source close to Somers told the Daily Mail. The source continued, “She has always rejected chemo, so it wasn’t even an option. Her friends and loved ones urged her to reconsider so many times during her cancer battles and at the end.” A statement read. “Her family was gathered to celebrate her 77th birthday on October 16th. Instead, they will celebrate her extraordinary life, and want to thank her millions of fans and followers who loved her dearly.”

Perhaps this sad case is an apt occasion for rephrasing the warning that I posted only a few days ago:

be very cautious about using SCAMs for cancer and seek professional advice, preferably NOT from a SCAM provider.

 

Robert Jütte, a German medical historian, has long been a defender of homeopathy and other forms of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). His latest paper refers to the situation in Switzerland where the public was given the chance to vote for or against the reimbursement of several SCAMs, including homeopathy. I reported previously about this unusual situation, e.g.:

Unsurprisingly, Prof Jütte’s views are quite different from mine. Here is the abstract of his recent paper:

Behind the principle of involving users and voters directly in decision-making about the health care system are ideas relating to empowerment. This implies a challenge to the traditional view that scientific knowledge is generally believed to be of higher value than tried and tested experience, as it is the case with CAM. The aim of this review is to show how a perspective of the history of medicine and science as well as direct democracy mechanisms such as stipulated in the Swiss constitution can be used to achieve the acceptance of CAM in a modern medical health care system. A public health care system financed by levies from the population should also reflect the widely documented desire in the population for medical pluralism (provided that therapeutical alternatives are not risky). Otherwise, the problem of social inequality arises because only people with a good financial background can afford this medicine.

I think that Jütte’s statement that “a public health care system financed by levies from the population should also reflect the widely documented desire in the population for medical pluralism provided that therapeutical alternatives are not risky. Otherwise, the problem of social inequality arises because only people with a good financial background can afford this medicine” is untenable. Here are my reasons:

  • Lay people are not normally sufficiently informed to decide which treatments are effective and which are not. If we leave these decisions to the public, we will end up with all manner of nonsense diluting the effectiveness of our health services and wasting our scarce public funds.
  • Jütte seems to assume that SCAMs that are not risky do no harm. He fails to consider that ineffective treatments inevitably do harm by not adequately treating symptoms and diseases. In serious conditions this will even hasten the death of patients!
  • Jütte seems concerned about inequity, yet I think this concern is misplaced. Not paying from the public purse for nonsensical therapies is hardly a disadvantage. Arguably, those who cannot affort ineffective SCAMs are even likely to benefit in terms of their health.

I do realize that there might be conflicting ethical principles at play here. I am, however, convinced that the ethical concern of doing more good than harm to as many consumers as possible is best realized by implementing the principles of evidence-based medicine. Or – to put it bluntly – a healthcare system is not a supermarket where consumers can pick and chose any rubbish they fancy.

I wonder who you think is correct, Jütte or I?

Guest post by Ken McLeod

Readers will recall that Barbara O’Neill is an Australian health crank, completely unqualified in anything, who is subject of a Permanent Prohibition Order issued by the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission, (HCCC),[1] preventing her from engaging in any health-related activity, including ‘health education,’ in Australia. The NSW Public Health Act 2010 provides that it is an offence for a person to provide ‘health education’ in contravention of a prohibition order, with a fine of $60,500 AUD ($38,151 USD, 36251 Euros) for an individual or imprisonment for 3 years, or both, or $121,000 AUD for a corporation.

For jurisdictional reasons that Order does not apply outside Australia and for several years she been touring the world giving health education lectures. The latest was a lecture tour of Ireland.[2] Despite the thorough debunking of her fruitloop beliefs by the HCCC,[3] she has maintained them and continues to give the ‘health education’ that was so dangerous that it led to the Prohibition Order in Australia.

Her Irish ‘health education’ lectures were live-streamed to people in Australia who paid the 20 Euro fee, and one was recorded by us.[4]

A transcript was made and is available online.[5] Her statements were analysed and some comments are made as follows. Alas, we didn’t have time to take a deep dive of her lecture to find the best references, but the following shows that an amateur with limited time and resources can prove that she does not know what she is talking about and that her advice is dangerous, even life-threatening.

It is up to the health regulators and immigration authorities in each country to act on her activities there, but so far none outside Australia have done so.

So a quick analysis of her ‘lecture’ in Dublin on 27 September 2023 shows that O’Neill has learned nothing from her experience with the HCCC. Some comments:

1. O’Neill and her husband, after the Prohibition Order was issued, changed the name of their facility from ‘Misty Mountain Health Retreat’ to ‘Misty Mountain Lifestyle Retreat’ to avoid the jurisdiction of the HCCC. However on four occasions in her lecture O’Neill referred to it as a ‘health retreat.’ 00:07:23 , 00:15:48, 01:30:04, 01:40:16.

2. At 00:12:53 O’Neill claims that the Amish don’t get autism. That is false, as explained by AP Factcheck. [6]

3. At 00:12:54 O’Neill claims that the Amish, ‘They don’t vaccinate their Children. Did you know that they don’t vaccinate their Children and yet they don’t get autism Very rare. Maybe 1%. And often that’s because of chemical exposure. There is always a reason. So why are vaccinations causing autism? Well, it’s neurotoxins, the neurotoxins. ‘

False; Amish do vaccinate their children. [7] However, studies have documented cases of autism, diabetes and cancer among the Amish, albeit at lower rates in some cases than the broader population and for reasons that are unrelated to their vaccination status. These reasons include the cultural norms and customs that may be playing a role in the reporting style of caregivers. [8] O’Neill is engaging in cherry-picking on a grand scale here.

4. At 00:13:37 O’Neill claims that ‘there are still two more neurotoxins’ (In vaccines.) Because children are still autistic. There’s formaldehyde, and there is aluminium, both neurotoxins.’

This is scaremongering disinformation. The CDC says ‘Formaldehyde is diluted during the vaccine manufacturing process, but residual quantities of formaldehyde may be found in some current vaccines. The amount of formaldehyde present in some vaccines is so small compared to the concentration that occurs naturally in the body that it does not pose a safety concern.’ As for aluminium, the CDC says ‘Ingredients like aluminum salt help boost the body’s response to the vaccine.’ The CDC says that both are safe. [9]

5. At 00:15:01 O’Neill claims ‘did you know that the milk in the supermarket if you give that to a newborn baby cow, that cow will die?’

I can find no reference supporting that and I suggest that it is pure fantasy.

6. At 00:18:29 O’Neill claims that ‘parents discover that they put their trust in the princes and vaccinated their child. Now their child has epilepsy. Now their child has autism.’

This is misleading panic-mongering that is a misrepresentation of the science. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners says ‘Seizures and status epilepticus can occur within 14 days following administration of inactivated and live-attenuated vaccines. These vaccine-proximate seizures can undermine parental confidence in vaccine safety and affect further vaccination decisions. Vaccine-proximate status epilepticus (VP-SE) is uncommon but may be the first manifestation of genetic developmental epileptic encephalopathies, including Dravet syndrome.’ So ‘epilepsy’ may be first encountered [10] following vaccination but the root cause is genetic.

7. At 00:20:27 O’Neill says that she would like to suggest that no child would be vaccinated, because the fact is, our body was designed to heal itself.

This is pure crazy antivax propaganda, unsupported by the facts.

8. At 00:22:01 O’Neill claims ‘skin cancer has only been around in about the last 80 years, and you know what they’re finding today? That vitamin D deficiency is a big contributing back factor to skin cancer’.

The first claim is false; the science shows that skin cancers have been around ‘since the beginning of time.’ [11]

As for the second claim, the research published at the US National Library of Medicine shows that O’Neill’s advice is dangerous. ‘It is, therefore, preferable and safer to obtain adequate levels of vitamin D through diet than through sun exposure. In fact, it is currently accepted that dietary and supplemental vitamin D is functionally identical to that produced after UV exposure, being more reliable and quantifiable (the risks of keeping high levels of vitamin D have not been extensively studied) source of this vitamin.’ And ‘Neither natural nor artificial sun exposure should be encouraged as the main source of vitamin D.’ [12]

9. At 00:23:18 O’Neill disputes claims that ‘cholesterol causes heart disease. Well, it’s been going for 40 years now, and it still hasn’t proven that. But you know what? It has proven that people with high cholesterol levels don’t get Alzheimer’s.’

O’Neill’s first claim points to the conflicting research as revealed by the Cochrane Collaboration. [13] As for her second claim, the research does not justify her claim that it is ’proven.’ The evidence is conflicting and as the Alzheimer’s Society of the UK say, ‘More research is needed to better understand this relationship and what it can tell us.’ [14] O’Neill’s conviction is not based on evidence.

10. At 00:34:41 O’Neill said that at Dublin airport ‘about 10 days ago,’ she was approached by a man who asked ‘Are you the Australian doctor? And I smiled.’

O’Neill did not correct him and allowed him to be duped into believing she is a real doctor. Despite having no qualifications in anything O’Neill has used the honorific title ‘Dr’ many times in social media,[15] so it is no surprise that he assumed she was a doctor. I can’t help but be confused by her use of the ‘Dr.’ Throughout her lectures she denigrates real doctors, and then tries to boost her credibility by adopting the title.

11. At 00:35:21 she claimed that with ‘epigenetics, you can actually turn your genes on or off.’…. ‘So Michael effectively turned those genes off with castor oil. Castor is very effective for for cataracts. Put it in your eye, one lady said. Is it safe? Does anyone ever ask that of the doctor? Is that drug safe? Then the people have been putting cholesterol in their eyes for centuries. It’s safe.’

Bollocks! As Consumer Lab says ‘Although eye drops containing castor oil may help improve symptoms of dry eye and blepharitis, there is currently no compelling evidence that applying castor oil to the eye can diminish cataracts.’ [16] And there is no evidence that Michael turned the genes off.

12. At 00:40:08 she refers to a woman who recently had a stroke. She says

‘… because she had a stroke, she was put on the protocol she was on put on statins. Cholesterol lowering medication with clear arteries. How much sense does that make? You don’t have. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work this out. Trust in your gut feeling trust in this incredible body that God has given you. Her blood was no longer thick. Her arteries are open now. And so she came to our retreat and I said, Well, I can’t tell you what to do. And I have no authority over your medication. Only you, and go. You and your doctor do. But this is what I would do. I would stop the blood thinning medication immediately because that aspirin causes brain bleeds, eye bleeds and stomach bleeds. Got that? And I would stop the statin drugs because that the side effect of statin drugs is Alzheimer’s dementia, uh, memory loss, muscle wasting. And they’ve just added another one, which is breast cancer, because all our sex hormones are made from cholesterols.’

O’Neill told a woman who had suffered a stroke to stop taking her life-saving medication! These medications are prescribed by highly qualified medical specialists based on the research. As the UK Stroke Association says, ‘Blood-thinning medications reduce your risk of stroke by helping to prevent blood clots from forming. You might be prescribed them after a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or a stroke caused by a blockage (an ischaemic stroke, or clot).’[17] It is clear that O’Neill, who has no qualifications in anything, does not know what she is talking about.

As for her claim that the side effects of statins is breast cancer, the research shows the opposite. ‘While statins do not affect the incidence of most cancers, they do exert significant benefits on recurrence and survival in many cancer types, including breast cancer.’ [18]

13. At 42:48 O’Neill claims ‘If you are on cholesterol lowering medication and many have been deceived….’ As above, it is O’Neill who is doing the deceiving.

14. At 45:09 O’Neill claims that ‘If you stop your cholesterol lowering medication, there will be a side effect. Your memory will return. Your muscles will get stronger. Any little appearances of Alzheimer’s will start to ease.’

As above, the available research does not show that.

15. At 48:57 O’Neill claims ‘Why did they put fluoride in water? The claim was to harden the teeth. Has it hardened the teeth? Not at all. Has it reduced tooth decay? Not at all.’ And ‘But that fluoride is very hard on the kidneys, very hard on the liver.’

The research here is overwhelming; as the CDC says: ‘The CDC named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

‘Many research studies have proven the safety and benefits of fluoridated water. For  75 years people in the United States have been drinking water with added fluoride and enjoying the benefits of better dental health.

‘Drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities (also called tooth decay) by about 25% in children and adults.’

As for O’Neill’s claim that fluoride is very hard on the kidneys, very hard on the liver,’ the research is inconclusive, and in fact the reverse may be true. Research shows ‘Fluoride exposure may contribute to complex changes in kidney and liver related parameters among U.S. adolescents. As the study is cross-sectional, reverse causality cannot be ruled out; therefore, altered kidney and/or liver function may impact bodily fluoride absorption and metabolic processes.’ So the science does not support O’Neill’s certainty.

16. At 48:57 O’Neill claims that ‘all body symptoms and body diseases and shows how dehydrating has a huge factor.’ O’Neill gives no evidence to support that huge claim.

17. At 01:00:20 O’Neill claims that a woman told her ‘I had the vaccine. Now I’ve got clots. Barbara, I had the vaccine. I can’t. I cannot even remember all the diseases that are arising. Have you noticed? And so many people were blackmailed into that vaccine.’ And ‘Is that (COVID19) a crisis? it’s not a crisis at all. And yet we’re seeing so many problems arising.’

O’Neill is dreadfully wrong here. COVID 19 was a crisis. How else would we describe a pandemic that is known to have killed at least 6,961,014 deaths, as reported to the WHO? [19] And what are the problems that we are seeing arising? Outside her imagination, that is.

18. At 01:00:20 O’Neill claims that ‘one man said, Show me the safety studies. They gave him three pages of blank paper. No safety studies, no safety studies at all.’ (On vaccines). And ‘drugs never cure disease.’ And a few lines later, again, ‘Drugs never cure disease.’

The allegation that ‘They (doctors) gave him three pages of blank paper’, is just so deranged. No doctor would do that because there are thousands of studies of vaccine safety.

O’Neill’s claim that there are no safety studies on vaccines is hopelessly wrong and dishonest. It’s one of the many anti-vax lies circulating on the internet, so beloved by the gullible. As the Australian Dept of Health and Aged Care say, ‘Research and testing is an essential part of developing safe and effective vaccines. In Australia, every vaccine must pass strict safety testing before the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) will register it for use. Before vaccines become available to the public, they are tested on thousands of people who take part in large clinical trials.’ [20] It took me a few seconds on the internet to find an interesting research paper on HPV vaccines, including a section on safety. [21] O’Neill could do that so the inevitable conclusion is that she set out to deceive. As for ‘drugs never cure disease,’ that is so bizarre, so whacky, so deluded, that it almost not worth challenging. But I will anyway; medical professionals have seen drugs work billions of times, and I can testify that I was saved from a life-threatening illness due to cephalexin.

19. At 01:10:49 O’Neill claims ‘some (medications) can be stopped immediately, like your statin drugs and your blood thinners. Yeah, what do you take instead of statin drugs? Well, there’s no need, because cholesterol is not a problem.’

O’Neill’s advice here is life-threatening rubbish. As the Mayo Clinic says ‘Abruptly stopping an anticoagulant can increase your risk of a stroke.’ [22] As for her advice on cholesterol, see above.

20. At 01:15:39 O’Neill claims that there was ‘No diabetes on the planet til sugar was well established.’ And lack of nose-breathing causes ‘Chronic fatigue syndrome. There’s one cause; it’s lack of oxygen at the cellular level.’

Humans have gathered sugar since we first became homo sapiens and diabetes has always been a problem for us and other animals.

As for her claim that lack of nose-breathing causes ‘Chronic fatigue syndrome;’ the Mayo Clinic says ‘The cause of ME/CFS is unknown, although there are many theories. Experts believe it might be triggered by a combination of factors.’ They go on to list many possible causes but lack of nose-breathing is not one of them.[23]

21. At 01:26:08 O’Neill claims that a researcher ‘…. could turn cancer cells on and off by the amount of animal, pro and animal protein that he was giving’ and liver cancer could be prevented by ‘a simple diet and cancer weights were very low low compared to the city again, with that high meat diet….’ There is some truth in this, but it does not justify O’Neill’s other advice to avoid prescribed medications.

22. At 01:49:26 O’Neill claims ‘if someone has a rash and they put cortisone on it, what happens to the rash? It’s gone, but But it comes back in about another week. Is that right? Twice as bad.’ And ‘No drug can heal cancer. The body and the body alone when it’s given the right conditions can cause cancer to be conquered in the body.’ And ‘A fever is nothing to fear.’

O’Neill’s claim that ‘No drug can heal cancer’ is demonstrably wrong. Life expectancy following cancer treatment has improved vastly over the decades, largely due to better detection and prescribed medications. As the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates, ‘due to improved detection and treatment, deaths have dropped 41 percent from 1989 to 2018, according to the ACS.’ [24]

As for O’Neill’s claim that ‘a fever is nothing to fear,’ the Victorian Dept of Health says ‘High fever (about 41.5°C or more) is extremely dangerous and could trigger convulsions.’ [25]

23. At 01:53:47 O’Neill claims that drug therapy is not working.

What does O’Neill mean by that? Does she mean that prescribed medication does not work? If she is repeating her earlier claim that ‘drugs never cure disease?’ I repeat my earlier rebuttal. That is so bizarre, so whacky, so deluded, that it almost not worth challenging. But I will anyway; medical professionals have seen drugs work billions of times, and I can testify that I was saved from a life-threatening illness due to cephalexin.

I’ll finish the analysis here because you have suffered enough.

Readers everywhere now have rock-solid evidence that should be presented to their national health regulators, showing that O’Neill, as the HCCC put it, ‘poses a risk to the health and safety of members of the public’ and therefore ‘should be permanently prohibited from providing any health services, whether in a paid or voluntary capacity.’ And you have rock-solid evidence that should be presented to venue managers who have allowed O’Neill to present life-threatening ‘education’ to the public on their premises, asking them to cancel the booking. It’s not hard; it was done in Ireland by members of the public. That led to cancellation of the booking, and a rush by O’Neill’s supporters to find a new venue.

References

1 https://www.hccc.nsw.gov.au/decisions-orders/public-statements-and-warnings/public-statement-and-statement-of-decision-in-relation-to-in-relation-to-mrs-barbara-o-neill

2 https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/controversial-wellness-coach-barbara-oneill-set-to-host-talk-in-ireland-this-month/a1781099169.html

3 https://www.hccc.nsw.gov.au/ArticleDocuments/216/Statement%20of%20Decision%20-%20Mrs%20Barbara%20ONeill.pdf.aspx

4 The video is available at https://rumble.com/v3lt611-barbara-oneill-positive-life-event-27th-september.html and a backup is available at https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fi/vqe9plhgjijunvl22kvb6/Barbara-ONeill-Positive-Life-Event-27th-September.mp4?rlkey=1kjyi9jdl8kfdp8kcdf1p4xba&dl=0

5 https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fi/csl95hg7gomr318nygotx/TRANSCRIPT-BARBARA-O-NEILL-POSITIVE-LIFE-EVENT-DUBLIN-27-SEPT-2023.pdf?rlkey=z2d5uh59fwagzdfdk30hvpauy&dl=0

6 https://apnews.com/article/fact-check-amish-covid-vaccines-cancer-diabetes-autism-356029928165

7 https://apnews.com/article/fact-check-amish-covid-vaccines-cancer-diabetes-autism-356029928165

8https://www.researchgate.net/publication/268144514_Prevalence_Rates_of_Autism_Spectrum_Disorders_Among_the_Old_Order_Amish

9 https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/additives.htm

10 https://www1.racgp.org.au/ajgp/2020/october/seizures-following-vaccination-in-children

11 https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2023/08/03/false-claim-skin-cancer-has-only-been-around-for-60-years-fact-check/70515019007/

12 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8709188/

13 https://s4be.cochrane.org/blog/2018/07/02/cholesterol-and-heart-disease-whats-the-evidence/

14 https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-prevention/cholesterol-and-dementia

15 https://www.facebook.com/people/Dr-Barbara-ONeill/100093111507726/

16 https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/castor-oil-eye-drops-for-cataracts/castor-oil-cataracts/

17 https://www.stroke.org.uk/resources/blood-thinning-medication-and-stroke

18 https://breast-cancer-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13058-018-1066-z#author-information

19 https://covid19.who.int/

20 https://www.health.gov.au/are-vaccines-safe

21 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7565290/

22 https://connect.mayoclinic.org/blog/take-charge-healthy-aging/newsfeed-post/know-the-warning-signs-of-blood-thinner-complications/

23 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360490

24 https://www.healthline.com/health/breast-cancer/survival-facts-statistics#breast-cancer-stages

25 https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fever#bhc-content

Vaccine hesitancy has become a threat to public health, especially as it is a phenomenon that has also been observed among healthcare professionals.

In this study, an international team of researchers analyzed the relationship between endorsement of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and vaccination attitudes and behaviors among healthcare professionals, using a cross-sectional sample of physicians with vaccination responsibilities from four European countries:

  • Germany,
  • Finland,
  • Portugal,
  • France.

In total the sample amounted to 2,787 physicians.

The results suggest that, in all the participating countries, SCAM endorsement is associated with lower frequency of vaccine recommendation, lower self-vaccination rates, and being more open to patients delaying vaccination, with these relationships being mediated by distrust in vaccines. A latent profile analysis revealed that a profile characterized by higher-than-average SCAM endorsement and lower-than-average confidence and recommendation of vaccines occurs, to some degree, among 19% of the total sample, although these percentages varied from one country to another:

  • 24% in Germany,
  • 18% in France,
  • 10% in Finland,
  • 6% in Portugal.

These results constitute a call to consider health care professionals’ attitudes toward SCAM as a factor that could hinder the implementation of immunization campaigns.

The authors also point out that the link between SCAM endorsement and negative attitudes toward vaccines has been documented in previous research among the general public. A systematic review, which categorized arguments against vaccines retrieved from peer-reviewed articles and debunking texts published by international fact checking agencies, identified a category of arguments largely based on alternative health beliefs related to SCAM. This category was the third most common in the scientific and fact-checking literature. Furthermore, in a British study, anti-vaccination arguments related to SCAM were also among the most endorsed arguments by individuals. These results suggest that SCAM beliefs play an important role in individuals’ justification of their hesitant attitudes toward vaccines for both adults and children. Analyses of samples from the Australian, Finnish, American, and Spanish general populations found that positive attitudes toward SCAM were related to negative attitudes toward vaccines. In a recent large-scale study in 18 European countries, parental consultation with homeopaths was associated with higher vaccine hesitancy than consultation with pediatricians or nurses. Moreover, a systematic review found that SCAM use tended to be positively associated with lower childhood immunization. Similar findings were reported also from the US and Australia.

There are several potential causes for the observed relationship between vaccine hesitancy and SCAM. Since SCAM use occurs more frequently at the poles of the disease spectrum (i.e., in cases of minor or life-threatening illness), SCAM use has been identified as a marker of both misperception of risk and frustration with regular healthcare (e.g., negative prognosis or lack of remission of symptoms). Accordingly, SCAM-related health conceptions could be motivating healthcare practitioners (HCPs) to be more reluctant to recommend and receive vaccinations both for illnesses that are perceived as minor and in cases of severe clinical pictures. There are also reasons related to the potential alignment between SCAM and the ideology or worldview of the HCP, such as their distrust in “Big Pharma” or a general disregard for scientific knowledge. Along the same lines, it has been shown that the main reasons for their preference for SCAM included a greater affinity between SCAM, their do-it-yourself approach to health care, and their sympathy for natural and allegedly harm-free products in contrast to medications marketed by pharmaceutical companies, which were perceived as ineffective, “toxic” and “adulterating.”

Besides these implicit reasons, some SCAM traditions are theoretically incompatible with vaccination and portrayed as a valid, or even superior, alternative to scientific knowledge. A quantitative study found that pro-SCAM and anti-vaccination attitudes both reflect beliefs contrary to basic scientific knowledge, such as “an imbalance between energy currents lies behind many illnesses” and “an illness should be treated with a medicine that has properties similar to those of the illness.” An example of these SCAM-related beliefs that contradict the theoretical basis of vaccinations is “homeopathic immunization” through so-called “nosodes” – orally administered extreme dilutions of infectious agents. Similarly, Rudolf Steiner and Ryke Geerd Hamer, promoters of anthroposophic medicine and ‘German New Medicine’, respectively, have sown doubts about vaccinations based on their conceptions of the etiology and treatment of diseases. Consequently, strong science denial and vaccine hesitancy can be found within these communities, and outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, have been reported in educational centers linked to anthroposophy.

PS

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

We have repeatedly discussed the fact that so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is related to magical health and pseudoscientific assumptions. Now new evidence has emerged on this subject. This study (Alternative Medicine, COVID-19 Conspiracies, and Other Health-Related Unfounded Beliefs: The Role of Scientific Literacy, Analytical Thinking, and Importance of Epistemic Rationality | Studia Psychologica (savba.sk)) examined how scientific literacy (scientific reasoning, scientific knowledge, and trust in science), analytical thinking and the importance of epistemic rationality relate to the belief in the efficacy of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and other health-related unfounded beliefs (COVID-19 conspiracies, pseudoscientific and magical beliefs, and cancer myths).

A representative sample of 1038 Slovaks (age = 42.08, SD = 13.99) participated in the study. While SCAM belief correlated with COVID-19 conspiracy theories, pseudoscientific beliefs, magical health-related beliefs, and cancer myths, it appeared that belief in SCAM was primarily driven by lower trust in science, lower analytical thinking, and, interestingly, a higher need to be epistemically rational. Other components of scientific literacy did not significantly predict SCAM belief but they did predict other health-related unfounded beliefs, which may suggest that a more fine-tuned approach to studying SCAM beliefs is needed.

The authors commented that SCAM is moderately related to magical health beliefs and pseudoscientific beliefs and only weakly related to COVID-19 conspiracy theories. However, the weak association between SCAM and conspiracy beliefs is in line with previous findings (Mijatović et al., 2022; Vujić et al., 2022). Similar to previous studies (Fasce & Picó, 2019; Lobato et al., 2014), we found that different unfounded beliefs tend to correlate with each other. However, it appears that COVID-19 conspiracy beliefs are distinct from magical and pseudoscientific beliefs (as evidenced by weaker correlations), whereas SCAM beliefs overlap more with magical health and pseudoscientific beliefs. SCAM beliefs correlated positively with all types of unfounded beliefs, from low to moderate levels (r values between -.16 and -.50) but did not have the same predictors. Contrary to previous findings about the stronger predictive power of scientific reasoning compared to analytical thinking in unfounded beliefs (Čavojová et al., 2020; 2022), our results point to more balanced strengths, except for belief in SCAM, which was not predicted by scientific reasoning. One of the possible explanations lies in the very low reliability of the Scientific Reasoning Scale in this study. On the other hand, other studies using the same scale showed only slightly higher reliability (e.g., Bašnáková et al., 2021, Čavojová et al., 2020; 2023; Čavojová & Ersoy, 2020) and it predicted both COVID-19 conspiracy theories, as well as pseudoscientific/magical component, similarly to the results of previous studies.

Anja Zeidler (born 1993) became known in 2012 as the most successful fitness personality in Switzerland. After joining the bodybuilding scene in Los Angeles, a phase of self-discovery followed. Anja published her development and became what one nowadays calls an ‘INFLUENCER’. As Managing Director and Content Director of her own company, Anja Zeidler GmbH, Anja has made a name for herself as a public figure far beyond the fitness market with her activities as a ‘Selflove Influencer’, blogger, book author, motivational speaker, presenter and expert in the food & health sector. Furthermore, she is completing a degree at the Academy of Naturopathy for Holistic Health.

About a year and a half ago, Anja Zeidler had a desmoid tumor removed from under her left breast – and now it was reported to be back. The conventional treatment methods are clear: another surgical procedure or radiation. But Zeidler said she wants to wait with such interventions. For the time being, she has decided to go her own way. She wants to “balance any imbalances” with her naturopathic doctor and wishes to fight the disease on her own and with a “positive mindset.”

“On a spiritual level, they say that tumors can be related to trauma. That’s why I’ve tried breathing exercises and cocoa ceremonies. With these methods, I get into my subconscious and get closer to traumas, which I am not aware of, and try to dissolve them. So far, blatant things have come up that I had long forgotten and repressed,” she says enthusiastically. In addition, Zeidler wants to give up refined sugar with immediate effect, keep better control of her diet in general – even in her stressful everyday life – and drink freshly squeezed celery and beetroot juice every morning. In addition, she relies on “natural capsules with and grape seed OPC.” “I’ve read in studies that certain types of fungi and strong antioxidants like OPC are supposed to fight tumor cells.” There I follow the motto: ‘if it doesn’t help, at least it does not harm.'”

Zeidler’s tumor is a desmoid tumor, an abnormal growth that arises from connective tissues. These tumors are generally not considered malignant because they do not spread to other parts of the body; however, they can aggressively invade the surrounding tissue and can be very difficult to remove surgically. These tumors often recur, even after apparently complete removal.

Zeidler commented: “I am convinced that with a positive mindset you can contribute extremely much to the healing process. If the checks reveal rapid growth, I will of course seek medical treatment. Then I would opt for radiation.”

The trouble with ‘influencers’ is that they are gullible and influence the often gullible public to become more gullible. Thus their influence might cost many lives. Personally, I hope that the young woman does well with her erstwhile refusal of evidence-based treatments. Yet, I fear that the ‘Academy of Naturopathy for Holistic Health’ will teach her a lot of BS about the power of natural cancer cures. The sooner she agrees to have her tumor treated based on evidence, the better her prognosis, I’m sure.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been notable for the widespread dissemination of misinformation regarding the virus and appropriate treatment. The  objective of this study was to quantify the prevalence of non–evidence-based treatment for COVID-19 in the US and the association between such treatment and endorsement of misinformation as well as lack of trust in physicians and scientists.

This single-wave, population-based, nonprobability internet survey study was conducted between December 22, 2022, and January 16, 2023, in US residents 18 years or older who reported prior COVID-19 infection.

Self-reported use of ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine, endorsing false statements related to COVID-19 vaccination, self-reported trust in various institutions, conspiratorial thinking measured by the American Conspiracy Thinking Scale, and news sources.

A total of 13 438 individuals (mean [SD] age, 42.7 [16.1] years; 9150 [68.1%] female and 4288 [31.9%] male) who reported prior COVID-19 infection were included in this study. In this cohort, 799 (5.9%) reported prior use of hydroxychloroquine (527 [3.9%]) or ivermectin (440 [3.3%]). In regression models including sociodemographic features as well as political affiliation, those who endorsed at least 1 item of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation were more likely to receive non–evidence-based medication (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 2.86; 95% CI, 2.28-3.58). Those reporting trust in physicians and hospitals (adjusted OR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.56-0.98) and in scientists (adjusted OR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.51-0.79) were less likely to receive non–evidence-based medication. Respondents reporting trust in social media (adjusted OR, 2.39; 95% CI, 2.00-2.87) and in Donald Trump (adjusted OR, 2.97; 95% CI, 2.34-3.78) were more likely to have taken non–evidence-based medication. Individuals with greater scores on the American Conspiracy Thinking Scale were more likely to have received non–evidence-based medications (unadjusted OR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.06-1.11; adjusted OR, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.07-1.13).

The authors concluded that, in this survey study of US adults, endorsement of misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of trust in physicians or scientists, conspiracy-mindedness, and the nature of news sources were associated with receiving non–evidence-based treatment for COVID-19. These results suggest that the potential harms of misinformation may extend to the use of ineffective and potentially toxic treatments in addition to avoidance of health-promoting behaviors.

This study made me wonder to what extend a lack of trust in physicians or scientists, and conspiracy-mindedness are also linked to the use of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) for treatning COVID infections. As I have often discussed, such associations have been reported regularly, e.g.:

The authors point out that the endorsement of misinformation related to COVID-19 has been shown to decrease the intention to vaccinate against COVID-19, to decrease the belief that it is required for herd immunity, and to correlate with forgoing various COVID-19 prevention behaviors. Such false information is largely spread online and often originates as disinformation intentionally spread by political actors and media sources, as well as illicit actors who profit from touting supposed cures for COVID-19.  A substantial minority of the public endorses false information related to COVID-19, although certain subgroups are more likely to do so, including those who are more religious, who distrust scientists, and who hold stronger political affiliations. Cultivating and maintaining trust is a crucial factor in encouraging the public to engage in prosocial health behaviors. The extent to which addressing conspiratorial thinking could represent a strategy to address obstacles to public health merits further investigation.

The Skeptic reported that a cardiologist and one of the UK’s most influential critics of the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr Aseem Malhotra, has been named the 2023 recipient of the “Rusty Razor” award, the prize given by The Skeptic to the year’s worst promoters of pseudoscience.

Dr Malhotra has made a name for himself over the last decade as a cardiologist who advocates strongly against the broad use of statins. He has described the drugs as a multi-billion dollar “con” by the pharmaceutical industry, saying that his critics have “received millions in research funding from the pharmaceutical industry”. He has described the link between heart disease and saturated fat as a “myth”, drawing criticism from the British Heart Foundation.

In 2017, his book The Pioppi Diet put forward a diet that he claimed could prevent 20 million deaths per year from cardiovascular disease. The book was named by the British Dietetic Association as one of the celebrity diets to most avoid – with the BDA highlighting his apparently Mediterranean diet excluded pasta and bread, but included coconuts.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Malhotra has been a prolific and powerful voice spreading narratives that run contrary to the best available evidence. In 2021, his book The 21-Day Immunity Plan included a diet claimed to improve the immune system and help fight off infections – claims that drew criticism from medical professionals.

In 2022, Dr Malhotra released a paper claiming that COVID-19 mRNA vaccines posed a serious risk to cardiovascular health and that the vaccines were “at best a reckless gamble”. The paper was published in the Journal of Insulin Resistance – where Dr Malhotra sits on the editorial board.

Dr Malhotra and his campaign against the COVID-19 vaccine was subsequently praised in Parliament by Andrew Bridgen MP as part of the reasoning behind his ongoing anti-vaccine crusade. In January of this year, Dr Malhotra used a BBC interview about statins to claim that deaths from coronary artery disease were actually complications from the vaccine, prompting a slew of complaints, and an apology from the broadcaster.

The Skeptic Editor Michael Marshall said: “In our opinion, Dr Malhotra has been an incredibly prolific promoter of pseudoscience throughout the pandemic, including spreading the false notion that vaccines are responsible for thousands of excess deaths.

“Dr Malhotra’s media career has given him a very large platform, from which he spreads misinformation that undermines confidence in a health intervention that has saved the lives of countless people across the world. In doing so, he stokes the flames of conspiracy, paranoia and mistrust of medical consensus.

“For anyone with so large a platform to do this would be concerning enough, but Dr Malhotra shares these pseudoscientific messages as a registered medical professional whose opinions have influenced at least one current member of parliament.

“All of this, we feel, makes Dr Aseem Malhotra a highly deserving winner of the 2023 Rusty Razor award”

The ‘Rusty Razor’ award was announced as part of The Skeptic’s annual Ockham Awards at a ceremony that took place during Saturday’s QED conference on science and skepticism, in Manchester. Also recognised during the event was the Knowledge Fight podcast, who won the 2023 award for Skeptical Activism.

I agree, Malhortra is a deserverd winner. The prize raises, in my view, an important question:

WHAT ON EARTH IS THE GENERAL MEDICIN COUNCIL (GMC) DOING ABOUT THIS GUY?

Malhotra’s activities have been compared to the case of Andrew Wakefield who falsely claimed that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism. While Wakefield was ultimately struck off by the GMC in 2010, the regulator has so far rebuffed repeated pleas to investigate Dr Malhotra.

The BMJ recently reported that Dr. Matt Kneale, who had previously complained to the GMC about the conduct of Aseem Malhotra, was told that the GMC would not be investigating Malhotra because his statements were not sufficiently “egregious” to merit action and he had a right to “freedom of speech.” Kneale’s appeal against this decision in 2023 was also turned down.

Kneale has now filed a claim with the High Court, arguing that the GMC should consider not only whether a doctor’s behaviour could harm individual patients but also whether their actions undermined public trust in medicine. He said that this was particularly important when examining statements relating to vaccines, where doctors with a high profile on social media could potentially cause great harm.

The US ‘Public Citizen‘ is an American non-profit, progressive consumer rights advocacy group, and think tank based in Washington, D.C. They recently published an article entitled “FDA Guidance on Homeopathic Drugs: An Ongoing Public Health Failure“. Here are a few excerpts:

In December 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new guidance on homeopathic drug products. The guidance states that the agency now “intends to apply a risk-based enforcement approach to the manufacturing, distribution and marketing of homeopathic drug products.”

Under this new risk-based approach, the agency plans to target its enforcement actions against homeopathic drug products marketed without FDA approval that fall within the following limited categories:

  • products with reports of injury that, after evaluation, raise potential safety concerns
  • products containing or purportedly containing ingredients associated with potentially significant safety concerns (for example, infectious agents or controlled substances)
  • products that are not administered orally or topically (for example, injectable drug products and ophthalmic drug products)
  • products intended to be used to prevent or treat serious or life-threatening diseases
  • products for vulnerable populations, such as immunocompromised individuals, infants and the elderly
  • products with significant quality issues (for example, products that are contaminated with foreign materials or objectionable microorganisms)

But this new FDA guidance fails to adequately address the public health threat posed by the agency’s decades-long permissive approach to these illegal drug products.

Under FDA regulations, prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic products are considered drugs and are supposed to be subject to the same review and approval requirements as all other prescription and OTC medications. However, under a flawed enforcement policy issued in 1988, the FDA has allowed these drug products to be marketed in the U.S. without agency review or approval. Thus, all products labeled as homeopathic are being marketed without the FDA having evaluated their safety, effectiveness or quality…

… there is no plausible physiologic or medical basis to support the theory underlying homeopathy, nor is there evidence from well-designed, rigorous clinical trials showing that homeopathic drugs are safe and effective.

The FDA should declare unequivocally that all unapproved homeopathic drug products are illegal and direct all manufacturers to immediately remove such products from the market. In the meantime, as we have recommended for many years, consumers should not use homeopathic products. At best, the products are a waste of money, given the lack of any evidence that they are effective. At worst, they could cause serious harm because of the lack of FDA oversight to ensure safety.

_____________________

I fully agree with these sentiments. The harm caused by homeopathy is considerable and multi-facetted. Many previous posts have discudded these problems, e.g.:

Having warned about the dangers of homeopathy for decades, I feel it is high time for regulators across the world to take appropriate action.

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