1 2 3 43

On this blog, we have some people who continue to promote conspiracy theories about Covid and Covid vaccinations. It is, therefore, time, I feel, to present them with some solid evidence on the subject (even though it means departing from our usual focus on SCAM).

This Cochrane review assessed the efficacy and safety of COVID‐19 vaccines (as a full primary vaccination series or a booster dose) against SARS‐CoV‐2. An impressive team of investigators searched the Cochrane COVID‐19 Study Register and the COVID‐19 L·OVE platform (last search date 5 November 2021). They also searched the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, regulatory agency websites, and Retraction Watch. They included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing COVID‐19 vaccines to placebo, no vaccine, other active vaccines, or other vaccine schedules.

A total of 41 RCTs could be included and analyzed assessing 12 different vaccines, including homologous and heterologous vaccine schedules and the effect of booster doses. Thirty‐two RCTs were multicentre and five were multinational. The sample sizes of RCTs were 60 to 44,325 participants. Participants were aged: 18 years or older in 36 RCTs; 12 years or older in one RCT; 12 to 17 years in two RCTs; and three to 17 years in two RCTs. Twenty‐nine RCTs provided results for individuals aged over 60 years, and three RCTs included immunocompromised patients. No trials included pregnant women. Sixteen RCTs had two‐month follow-ups or less, 20 RCTs had two to six months, and five RCTs had greater than six to 12 months or less. Eighteen reports were based on preplanned interim analyses. The overall risk of bias was low for all outcomes in eight RCTs, while 33 had concerns for at least one outcome. 343 registered RCTs with results not yet available were identified.The evidence for mortality was generally sparse and of low or very low certainty for all WHO‐approved vaccines, except AD26.COV2.S (Janssen), which probably reduces the risk of all‐cause mortality (risk ratio (RR) 0.25, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.67; 1 RCT, 43,783 participants; high‐certainty evidence).High‐certainty evidence was found that BNT162b2 (BioNtech/Fosun Pharma/Pfizer), mRNA‐1273 (ModernaTx), ChAdOx1 (Oxford/AstraZeneca), Ad26.COV2.S, BBIBP‐CorV (Sinopharm‐Beijing), and BBV152 (Bharat Biotect) reduce the incidence of symptomatic COVID‐19 compared to placebo (vaccine efficacy (VE): BNT162b2: 97.84%, 95% CI 44.25% to 99.92%; 2 RCTs, 44,077 participants; mRNA‐1273: 93.20%, 95% CI 91.06% to 94.83%; 2 RCTs, 31,632 participants; ChAdOx1: 70.23%, 95% CI 62.10% to 76.62%; 2 RCTs, 43,390 participants; Ad26.COV2.S: 66.90%, 95% CI 59.10% to 73.40%; 1 RCT, 39,058 participants; BBIBP‐CorV: 78.10%, 95% CI 64.80% to 86.30%; 1 RCT, 25,463 participants; BBV152: 77.80%, 95% CI 65.20% to 86.40%; 1 RCT, 16,973 participants).Moderate‐certainty evidence was found that NVX‐CoV2373 (Novavax) probably reduces the incidence of symptomatic COVID‐19 compared to placebo (VE 82.91%, 95% CI 50.49% to 94.10%; 3 RCTs, 42,175 participants).There is low‐certainty evidence for CoronaVac (Sinovac) for this outcome (VE 69.81%, 95% CI 12.27% to 89.61%; 2 RCTs, 19,852 participants).High‐certainty evidence was found that BNT162b2, mRNA‐1273, Ad26.COV2.S, and BBV152 result in a large reduction in the incidence of severe or critical disease due to COVID‐19 compared to placebo (VE: BNT162b2: 95.70%, 95% CI 73.90% to 99.90%; 1 RCT, 46,077 participants; mRNA‐1273: 98.20%, 95% CI 92.80% to 99.60%; 1 RCT, 28,451 participants; AD26.COV2.S: 76.30%, 95% CI 57.90% to 87.50%; 1 RCT, 39,058 participants; BBV152: 93.40%, 95% CI 57.10% to 99.80%; 1 RCT, 16,976 participants).

Moderate‐certainty evidence was found that NVX‐CoV2373 probably reduces the incidence of severe or critical COVID‐19 (VE 100.00%, 95% CI 86.99% to 100.00%; 1 RCT, 25,452 participants).

Two trials reported high efficacy of CoronaVac for severe or critical disease with wide CIs, but these results could not be pooled.

mRNA‐1273, ChAdOx1 (Oxford‐AstraZeneca)/SII‐ChAdOx1 (Serum Institute of India), Ad26.COV2.S, and BBV152 probably result in little or no difference in serious adverse events (SAEs) compared to placebo (RR: mRNA‐1273: 0.92, 95% CI 0.78 to 1.08; 2 RCTs, 34,072 participants; ChAdOx1/SII‐ChAdOx1: 0.88, 95% CI 0.72 to 1.07; 7 RCTs, 58,182 participants; Ad26.COV2.S: 0.92, 95% CI 0.69 to 1.22; 1 RCT, 43,783 participants); BBV152: 0.65, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.97; 1 RCT, 25,928 participants). In each of these, the likely absolute difference in effects was fewer than 5/1000 participants.

Evidence for SAEs is uncertain for BNT162b2, CoronaVac, BBIBP‐CorV, and NVX‐CoV2373 compared to placebo (RR: BNT162b2: 1.30, 95% CI 0.55 to 3.07; 2 RCTs, 46,107 participants; CoronaVac: 0.97, 95% CI 0.62 to 1.51; 4 RCTs, 23,139 participants; BBIBP‐CorV: 0.76, 95% CI 0.54 to 1.06; 1 RCT, 26,924 participants; NVX‐CoV2373: 0.92, 95% CI 0.74 to 1.14; 4 RCTs, 38,802 participants).

The authors’ conclusions were as follows: Compared to placebo, most vaccines reduce, or likely reduce, the proportion of participants with confirmed symptomatic COVID‐19, and for some, there is high‐certainty evidence that they reduce severe or critical disease. There is probably little or no difference between most vaccines and placebo for serious adverse events. Over 300 registered RCTs are evaluating the efficacy of COVID‐19 vaccines, and this review is updated regularly on the COVID‐NMA platform (


As some conspiratorial loons will undoubtedly claim that this review is deeply biased; it might be relevant to add the conflicts of interest of its authors:

  • Carolina Graña: none known.
  • Lina Ghosn: none known.
  • Theodoros Evrenoglou: none known.
  • Alexander Jarde: none known.
  • Silvia Minozzi: no relevant interests; Joint Co‐ordinating Editor and Method editor of the Drugs and Alcohol Group.
  • Hanna Bergman: Cochrane Response – consultant; WHO – grant/contract (Cochrane Response was commissioned by the WHO to perform review tasks that contribute to this publication).
  • Brian Buckley: none known.
  • Katrin Probyn: Cochrane Response – consultant; WHO – consultant (Cochrane Response was commissioned to perform review tasks that contribute to this publication).
  • Gemma Villanueva: Cochrane Response – employment (Cochrane Response has been commissioned by WHO to perform parts of this systematic review).
  • Nicholas Henschke: Cochrane Response – consultant; WHO – consultant (Cochrane Response was commissioned by the WHO to perform review tasks that contributed to this publication).
  • Hillary Bonnet: none known.
  • Rouba Assi: none known.
  • Sonia Menon: P95 – consultant.
  • Melanie Marti: no relevant interests; Medical Officer at WHO.
  • Declan Devane: Health Research Board (HRB) – grant/contract; registered nurse and registered midwife but no longer in clinical practice; Editor, Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group.
  • Patrick Mallon: AstraZeneca – Advisory Board; spoken of vaccine effectiveness to media (print, online, and live); works as a consultant in a hospital that provides vaccinations; employed by St Vincent’s University Hospital.
  • Jean‐Daniel Lelievre: no relevant interests; published numerous interviews in the national press on the subject of COVID vaccination; Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Immunology CHU Henri Mondor APHP, Créteil; WHO (IVRI‐AC): expert Vaccelarate (European project on COVID19 Vaccine): head of WP; involved with COVICOMPARE P et M Studies (APHP, INSERM) (public fundings).
  • Lisa Askie: no relevant interests; Co‐convenor, Cochrane Prospective Meta‐analysis Methods Group.
  • Tamara Kredo: no relevant interests; Medical Officer in an Infectious Diseases Clinic at Tygerberg Hospital, Stellenbosch University.
  • Gabriel Ferrand: none known.
  • Mauricia Davidson: none known.
  • Carolina Riveros: no relevant interests; works as an epidemiologist.
  • David Tovey: no relevant interests; Emeritus Editor in Chief, Feedback Editors for 2 Cochrane review groups.
  • Joerg J Meerpohl: no relevant interests; member of the German Standing Vaccination Committee (STIKO).
  • Giacomo Grasselli: Pfizer – speaking engagement.
  • Gabriel Rada: none known.
  • Asbjørn Hróbjartsson: no relevant interests; Cochrane Methodology Review Group Editor.
  • Philippe Ravaud: no relevant interests; involved with Mariette CORIMUNO‐19 Collaborative 2021, the Ministry of Health, Programme Hospitalier de Recherche Clinique, Foundation for Medical Research, and AP‐HP Foundation.
  • Anna Chaimani: none known.
  • Isabelle Boutron: no relevant interests; member of Cochrane Editorial Board.


And as some might say this analysis is not new, here are two further papers just out:

Objectives To determine the association between covid-19 vaccination types and doses with adverse outcomes of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection during the periods of delta (B.1.617.2) and omicron (B.1.1.529) variant predominance.

Design Retrospective cohort.

Setting US Veterans Affairs healthcare system.

Participants Adults (≥18 years) who are affiliated to Veterans Affairs with a first documented SARS-CoV-2 infection during the periods of delta (1 July-30 November 2021) or omicron (1 January-30 June 2022) variant predominance. The combined cohorts had a mean age of 59.4 (standard deviation 16.3) and 87% were male.

Interventions Covid-19 vaccination with mRNA vaccines (BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) and mRNA-1273 (Moderna)) and adenovirus vector vaccine (Ad26.COV2.S (Janssen/Johnson & Johnson)).

Main outcome measures Stay in hospital, intensive care unit admission, use of ventilation, and mortality measured 30 days after a positive test result for SARS-CoV-2.

Results In the delta period, 95 336 patients had infections with 47.6% having at least one vaccine dose, compared with 184 653 patients in the omicron period, with 72.6% vaccinated. After adjustment for patient demographic and clinical characteristics, in the delta period, two doses of the mRNA vaccines were associated with lower odds of hospital admission (adjusted odds ratio 0.41 (95% confidence interval 0.39 to 0.43)), intensive care unit admission (0.33 (0.31 to 0.36)), ventilation (0.27 (0.24 to 0.30)), and death (0.21 (0.19 to 0.23)), compared with no vaccination. In the omicron period, receipt of two mRNA doses were associated with lower odds of hospital admission (0.60 (0.57 to 0.63)), intensive care unit admission (0.57 (0.53 to 0.62)), ventilation (0.59 (0.51 to 0.67)), and death (0.43 (0.39 to 0.48)). Additionally, a third mRNA dose was associated with lower odds of all outcomes compared with two doses: hospital admission (0.65 (0.63 to 0.69)), intensive care unit admission (0.65 (0.59 to 0.70)), ventilation (0.70 (0.61 to 0.80)), and death (0.51 (0.46 to 0.57)). The Ad26.COV2.S vaccination was associated with better outcomes relative to no vaccination, but higher odds of hospital stay and intensive care unit admission than with two mRNA doses. BNT162b2 was generally associated with worse outcomes than mRNA-1273 (adjusted odds ratios between 0.97 and 1.42).

Conclusions In veterans with recent healthcare use and high occurrence of multimorbidity, vaccination was robustly associated with lower odds of 30 day morbidity and mortality compared with no vaccination among patients infected with covid-19. The vaccination type and number of doses had a significant association with outcomes.

SECOND EXAMPLE Long COVID, or complications arising from COVID-19 weeks after infection, has become a central concern for public health experts. The United States National Institutes of Health founded the RECOVER initiative to better understand long COVID. We used electronic health records available through the National COVID Cohort Collaborative to characterize the association between SARS-CoV-2 vaccination and long COVID diagnosis. Among patients with a COVID-19 infection between August 1, 2021 and January 31, 2022, we defined two cohorts using distinct definitions of long COVID—a clinical diagnosis (n = 47,404) or a previously described computational phenotype (n = 198,514)—to compare unvaccinated individuals to those with a complete vaccine series prior to infection. Evidence of long COVID was monitored through June or July of 2022, depending on patients’ data availability. We found that vaccination was consistently associated with lower odds and rates of long COVID clinical diagnosis and high-confidence computationally derived diagnosis after adjusting for sex, demographics, and medical history.


There are, of course, many more articles on the subject for anyone keen to see the evidence. Sadly, I have little hope that the COVID loons will be convinced by any of them. Yet, I thought I should give it nevertheless a try.

A ‘manifesto’ is not something that I come across often in my area of research, i.e. so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). This one is in German, I, therefore, translated it for you:

Manifesto for healthy medicine
With the Manifesto for healthy medicine, we, the citizens and patients alliance weil’s hilft! (‘BECAUSE IT HELPS’) demand a fundamental change in our healthcare system, towards a diverse medicine that focuses on people and health. Be part of it! Sign the manifesto and become part of the movement.

It’s of paramount importance, the Manifesto for healthy medicine. About the way we live. It’s about our health. It’s about you and it’s about me.

We want our healthcare system to actually focus on health.

We want a medicine that doesn’t ask what’s missing, but what is possible.

We want a medicine that cares about people, that takes care, gets to the bottom of things, and uses innovative technologies to do so.

We want more bio, so that the chemistry is right, and we want naturopathic procedures and naturally effective medicines to be recognized, promoted, and researched further.

We want research that creates knowledge because, in addition to studies, it also takes into account the experience of physicians and the needs of patients.

We want carers and doctors to be able to work in a way that is good for their patients and for themselves.

We want people from all healthcare professions to work together as equals.

We want a medicine that creates awareness for a good and healthy life because climate protection also begins in one’s own body.

We want an integrative medicine that puts people at the center and self-evidently combines conventional and natural healing methods.

And we want this medicine to be accessible and affordable for everyone.

We fight for a healthy medicine of the future.
Be part of it!

(sorry, if some of it might sound badly translated but the German original is in parts pure gibberish)


Who writes such tosh composed of every thinkable platitude and then pompously calls it a MANIFESTO?

BECAUSE IT HELPS! (weil’s hilft!) is a citizens’ movement that demands a change in the health care system – towards the needs and preferences of patients, towards a holistic view of people, and a focus on health instead of disease. The sensible combination of natural medicine and conventional medicine, an integrative medicine, makes an indispensable contribution to this. This is because it relies fully on the patients and involves them as active partners in the treatment. Modern medicine of the future, therefore, needs the equal cooperation of natural medicine and conventional medicine – in the everyday life of physicians and patients, in the reimbursement by the health insurance companies as well as in research and teaching.

On the information platform weil’s hilft! informs about current developments in integrative medicine, provides background information, and publishes a podcast once a month. The movement is also active on social media at and

weil’s hilft! is supported by the health and patient organizations GESUNDHEIT AKTIV, KNEIPP-BUND, and NATUR UND MEDIZIN. Together, the alliance represents the interests of more than 220,000 people.


One could easily disclose the funny side of this, the utter stupidity of the arguments, the platitudes, fallacies, misunderstandings, ignorance, etc. Yes, that would hardly be difficult. But it would ignore how worrying this and similar movements are. They systematically misinform consumers with the sole aim of persuading them that the integration of unproven or disproven treatments into medical routine is in their interest. Yet, if we only scratch the surface of their arguments, we realize that it is exclusively in the interest of those who profit from this type of misinformation.

Following the death from cancer of a 14-year-old Carinthian girl, the Klagenfurt public prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation against the girl’s parents. In February this year, the 14-year-old was taken to a hospital in Graz, Austria, where she died a few days later from cancer. The hospital filed charges because the tumor had been treated incorrectly with so-called alternative medicine (SCAM).

Investigations are underway on suspicion of torturing or neglecting underage, younger, or defenseless persons. Currently, the accused and witnesses are being questioned. The parents’ lawyer, Alexander Todor-Kostic, stated that the accusations were without any basis and claimed that the 14-year-old girl had decided of her own free will against being treated with chemotherapy and surgery. The parents respected this, allowed her alternative treatment methods, and acted in accordance with the applicable legal situation.

The girl had developed cancer the previous year that was not detected. Instead of seeing conventional oncologists for a reliable diagnosis and effective treatments, the parents consulted private doctors. Instead of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, the girl had deliberately chosen “alternative treatments” herself, the lawyer stressed.

Even though the case has been reported in several Austrian papers, I did not succeed in finding further details about it. In particular, it is unclear what type of cancer the girl had been suffering from and what type of SCAMs she received.

The Austrian skeptic Christian Kreil commented: “Sugar pills in the pharmacies, homeopathic advanced training for doctors, a proliferation of energetics offering every conceivable bullshit … the dead girl is the logical result of this esoteric foolishness covered by politics and chambers.”

I am afraid that he might have a point here: as we have discussed repeatedly on this blog, Austria is currently particularly prone to misinformation about SCAM. Here are a few examples of previous blog posts on this subject:

Misinformation about SCAM can be lethal. This is one of the reasons why responsible information is so very important.

Social prescribing (SP) has been mentioned here several times before. It seems important to so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), as some enthusiasts – not least King Charles – are trying to use it as a means to smuggle nonsensical treatments into routine healthcare.

SP is supposed to enable healthcare professionals to link patients with non-medical interventions available in the community to address underlying socioeconomic and behavioural determinants. The question, of course, is whether it has any relevant benefits.

This systematic review included all randomised controlled trials of SP among community-dwelling adults recruited from primary care or community setting, investigating any chronic disease risk factors defined by the WHO (behavioural factors: smoking, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and excessive alcohol consumption; metabolic factors: raised blood pressure, overweight/obesity, hyperlipidaemia and hyperglycaemia). Random effect meta-analyses were performed at two time points: completion of intervention and follow-up after trial.

The researchers identified 9 reports from 8 trials totalling 4621 participants. All studies evaluated SP exercise interventions which were highly heterogeneous regarding the content, duration, frequency and length of follow-up. The majority of studies had some concerns about the risk of bias. A meta-analysis revealed that SP likely increased physical activity (completion: mean difference (MD) 21 min/week, 95% CI 3 to 39, I2=0%; follow-up ≤12 months: MD 19 min/week, 95% CI 8 to 29, I2=0%). However, SP may not improve markers of adiposity, blood pressure, glucose and serum lipid. There were no eligible studies that primarily target unhealthy diet, smoking or excessive alcohol-drinking behaviours.

The authors concluded that SP exercise interventions probably increased physical activity slightly; however, no benefits were observed for metabolic factors. Determining whether SP is effective in modifying the determinants of chronic diseases and promotes sustainable healthy behaviours is limited by the current evidence of quantification and uncertainty, warranting further rigorous studies.

Great! Regular exercise improves physical fitness.

But do we need SP for this?

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against connecting patients with social networks to improve their health and quality of life. I do, however, object if SP is used to smuggle unproven or disproven SCAMs into EBM. In addition, I ask myself whether we really need the new profession of a ‘link worker’ to facilitate SP. I remember being taught that a good doctor should look after his/her patients holistically, and surely that includes mentioning and facilitating social networks for those who need them.

I, therefore, fear that SP is taking something valuable out of the hands of doctors. And the irony is that SP is favoured by those who are all too quick to turn around and say: LOOK AT HOW FRIGHTFULLY REDUCTIONIST AND HEARTLESS DOCTORS HAVE BECOME. WE NEED MORE HOLISM IN MEDICINE AND THAT CAN ONLY BE PROVIDED BY SCAM PRACTITIONERS!

I have often blogged about informed consent. Recently, I have come across a quote about informed consent to medical research that I find remarkable in several ways. It was made by a German physician and I present you with the original and with my translation of it.

The person who correctly guesses the author of the quote will – if he/she wants – receive a free copy of one of my books delivered through the post.

Here we go:


Zum einen gibt es Versuche, die fuer order mit jemandem auf freiwilliger Basis durchgefuehrt werden; zum anderen solche, die gegen den Willen der betroffenen Person stattfinden. Eine weitere Unterteilung gibt an, of sie besonders gefaehrlich offer vergleichsweise unbedenklich und ohne Gefahrenpotenzial sind. Zu unterscheiden ist ausserdem, ob das Ergebnis des Versuchs wichtig ist oder ob es sich nur um eine laecherliches Spiel einer wissenschaftlich gebildeten Person handelt. Aus diesen sechs Kriterien ergibt sich eine Art Richtlinie, die es einem vom medizinischen Standpunkt aus ermoeglicht JA oder NEIN zu sagen.


On the one hand, there are experiments that are carried out for or with someone on a voluntary basis; on the other hand, there are those that take place against the will of the person concerned. A further subdivision indicates whether they are particularly dangerous or comparatively harmless and without any potential for danger. A further distinction must be made as to whether the result of the experiment is important or whether it is merely a ridiculous game played by a scientifically educated person. These six criteria form a kind of guideline that enables one to say YES or NO from a medical point of view.


I don’t think you will find the author by googling the text. So, don’t bother.

The author, a German physician, is no longer alive but was very famous at one time. I will disclose his – yes it was a man –  identity as soon as someone got the correct answer. If nobody does guess correctly, I will disclose it in a few days.

If you are unable to guess the author, I would still be interested in what you think of the quote and the frame of mind of the physician who said these intriguing sentences.

A German newspaper reported the experience of two journalists who went undercover to consult several practitioners of so-called alternative medicine to receive treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma. Here are several passages from their important article (my translation, my bolding)

… Doctor Uwe Reuter invites us in. He is sitting behind an iMac on which he sometimes shows me pictures of his therapies. He is around 50, tall and lean, his face looks particularly serious through frameless glasses. I tell him my story. He listens attentively, and then it seems for a while as if he can’t decide what to advise me. Finally, he has it: I should first do a “diagnostic series” in his clinic, three or even better five days, for about 1000 Euros. This would include “electromagnetic measurements” for the “energy balance of individual organs”. Only then can he determine which therapy might be indicated in my case. “Hypnosis, homeopathy, vitamin B17 infusions” will probably play a role, says Reuter, and a “fever therapy” in which I will be injected with dead bacteria.

“In addition to chemotherapy or alone?”, I ask. The doctor says he can’t make this decision for me, I should make it from my “inside”. I have to understand that my illness does not come from the outside and that therapies only have a supporting effect – the healing “has to come from within”.

… In the end, Reuter suggests postponing chemotherapy for a quarter of a year and using his therapy to “push aside everything that prevents healing” – toxins, distractions, and fears. The cost? Around 10,000 Euros for the entire therapy…

[Next doctor is] the well-known alternative doctor Klaus Maar in Düsseldorf…  His wrinkled face is dominated by a large nose, his hair is enviably thick and black for a man of his age. “Well,” he says in his comforting voice, “why don’t you describe what happened to you?” I am nervous. Will he believe that I am terminally ill? I stammer and tell my story. He listens to me, looks at me, answers calmly, and takes his time – and attention that few orthodox doctors can afford today, which is one of the reasons that drive people into the arms of alternative healers.

Finally, Maar advises a “heat therapy” in which the tumor is heated locally. Yet Klaus Maar is still one of the more serious healers. He does not directly advise against chemotherapy, but warns about the side effects. In the end, he recommends postponing it for a fortnight and starting the 8,000-euro heat treatment as soon as possible. “But don’t delay, don’t blame me and say I delayed the chemotherapy,” Maar says. I guess that’s his way of hedging his bets: If he were to successfully dissuade me from chemotherapy, my family could sue him one day. I come across such phrases again and again.

… next visit; the alternative practitioner Ursula Stoll specializes in “Germanic New Medicine”. Ryke Geerd Hamer, a former doctor, founded this doctrine in the early 1980s as a reaction to “Jewish” orthodox medicine. No wonder it enjoys great popularity in völkisch circles. Hamer’s abstruse and dangerous theories led to the withdrawal of his license. He continued to practice illegally, however, and several of his patients died… Even Ursula Stoll thinks he was crazy – but not his theory…  Stoll practices in Öhringen, an idyllic little town north of Stuttgart, in her nondescript detached house. She wears a white shirt and horn-rimmed glasses, her brown hair pinned back in a plait, an accurate governess with a stern look.

As I tell her about my suffering, she quickly interrupts me: “What is cancer?” she asks. We have to get rid of the term. There is no such thing as cancer. All I have is a swelling of the lymph nodes in my neck. That’s all. The cause: a self-deprecation of a professional nature. In my case, there is also an existential fear, and like a fish on land, I store water in my body in order to survive. Hence the swollen lymph nodes. Metastases? There are none. The medical report? She skims over it casually and asks: Did you sweat when you were sick? Did the sweat smell? Did it have a color? Where exactly was the itch?

I tell her about the lecture I gave and that my boss didn’t like. Yes! That could be the reason for the cancer. She says my symptoms are a reaction to this slight, my body is trying to heal itself, but the first chemotherapy interrupted and disrupted the process. Her advice to beat the cancer: I should move back in with my parents, life as a single person is too much for me, Berlin is a terrible city anyway… I ask again about chemotherapy. “I personally wouldn’t do it,” she says, “and for my children and my parents I would decide the same.” There it is again, this nappy-soft formulation with which the healers evade their legal responsibility. One more question: isn’t it dangerous to forego chemotherapy? The alternative practitioner Ursula Stoll: “Humans can withstand a lot.”

… Since the spiritual healers Wolfgang Bittscheidt and Teresa Schuhl were favorably discussed on German TV, their practice in Siegburg near Bonn has enjoyed great popularity: appointments are made only months in advance. When we are asked into the treatment room, it is dark, the blinds are half closed. A candle burns on the dark wooden desk. Teresa Schuhl is blond, has blue eyes, and seems cool and aloof, gesticulating strangely with her hands. She whispers more than she speaks; I have to lean forward to understand her. Her advice? “If you were my son right now, I would say, hands off chemo!” For herself, she would decide the same. “One possibility is vitamin B17. Have you heard of it?”

I have heard of it. The so-called vitamin B17 is in fact not a vitamin at all, but a toxic substance, related to prussic acid. It is currently experiencing a boom in the alternative scene and has no proven benefit for cancer. Several people have died from overdoses.

Schuhl is now poking around in my spiritual life and in the relationship between me and my parents. She also suspects a trauma behind my cancer. “The thyroid represents the hormonal. The balance between male and female. Do you know where you belong? Male or female?” What is she trying to say?

“I come from Tajikistan,” he says, “where they say: sickness is a sacred time. When you are sick, God talks to you. He tells you what life really is. What we live is not life, it’s shit. Sickness asks us to make a change.” He continues, “Death is the most beautiful thing there is. Like a trip to the Caribbean. Why are we afraid of it? On this tortured planet here?”

After this introduction, my head is spinning, but now the actual treatment begins. I lie down on a couch. Schuhl runs her hands over my stomach and holds my shoulder. At the same time, she says prayers. She changes into the extinct Aramaic that is sometimes used in Christian services. Then she leaves me alone. Later, her partner, a licensed doctor, recommends that I read up on vitamin B17, come to them once a month and light a candle in a church in Cologne. I walk out of the practice befuddled…

The practitioners protect themselves legally. They make the patients sign contracts stating that the patient has been informed about orthodox medicine and that they reject it willy-nilly, even though the information is often not worth mentioning. What would be the solution?

… The doctor Achim Schuppert in Bonn suspects mobile phone radiation as the cause of my tumor and wants to measure my magnetic aura. It was important to him to “exclude electrosmog as a possible damaging factor”, he writes later.

Lothar Hollerbach, who runs an alternative practice in a Heidelberg city villa, gives a philosophical lecture: “We are spiritual beings and only for a short time in a mobile home we call a body.” Every crisis is a lesson, he says, but perhaps that lesson is for the next life. One of the things he recommends to me for recovery is Rudolf Steiner‘s lectures. How many patients has he successfully treated? He doesn’t count them, Hollerbach waves off. And after all, it’s not just about surviving. Some of his patients could have led a totally different life “in the next incarnation”. For those who long for death – his practice is highly recommended…

… The “medical director” Elke Tegel, a blonde alternative practitioner, leads me through the bright house, shows me the “inner world travel room” where traumatic situations are processed, the room for “healing music“, and also the impressive machine for “high-frequency therapy“, in which electrical energy is supplied to the cells. Costs: 13670 Euros for five weeks.

Cancer, says the alternative practitioner, is “suppressed anger and suppressed resentment”; Hodgkin’s lymphoma in particular is about guilt. She asks: “Where do you feel guilty? Guilty of being a man?” Later she advises a “biological chemotherapy” of highly concentrated vitamin C. This, she says, is far superior to conventional chemo. She confuses my well-treatable Hodgkin’s lymphoma with the fundamentally different non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And justifies herself: “With us, it’s not about diagnosis, that’s not of interest.” …


What I like about this report is that they exposed both doctors and non-medically trained practitioners, i.e. Heilpraktiker. We see yet again that the study of medicine does not protect people from becoming dangerous charlatans. Yet, there are important differences between doctors and Heilpraktiker:

  1. Only a very small proportion of doctors would treat Hodgkin lymphoma with ineffective quackery, whereas the proportion with Heilpraktiker would, I guess, be not far from 100%.
  2. Doctors will get struck off for such behavior, whereas this happens to Heilpraktiker as good as never.




Conspiracy beliefs have become a major issue and obstacle to progress. While holding conspiracy beliefs has been associated with several detrimental social, personal, and health consequences, little research has been dedicated to systematically reviewing the methods that could reduce conspiracy beliefs.

A team of researchers conducted a systematic review to identify and assess interventions that have sought to counter conspiracy beliefs. They included 25 studies (total N = 7179) and discovered that, while the majority of interventions were ineffective in terms of changing conspiracy beliefs, several interventions were particularly effective. Interventions that fostered an analytical mindset or taught critical thinking skills were found to be the most effective in terms of changing conspiracy beliefs.

Approximately half of the examined interventions consisted of priming-based tasks. The majority of these interventions demonstrated a significant change in conspiracy beliefs. The effects were all either small or very small. Participants who were primed to be less susceptible to persuasion tactics showed significantly lower conspiracy beliefs when compared to controls among three experimental comparisons. These effects were shown to range from small to medium.

Interventions that primed participants to engage in analytical thinking resulted in primed participants having lower conspiracy beliefs than controls. However, the effects of these differences were small. Other priming interventions focused on manipulating participants’ sense of control. They had mixed results, either increasing or decreasing conspiracy beliefs with very small effects.

About a sixth of all interventions used inoculation methods. All successfully reduced conspiracy beliefs, relative to controls, all with either medium or large effects. Inoculations that identified the factual inaccuracies of conspiracy beliefs were found to be the most effective of all the interventions in the review. Inoculations that demonstrated the logical fallacies of conspiracy beliefs were found to be the second most effective intervention.

The authors concluded that their review found that overall, the majority of current conspiracy interventions are ineffective in terms of changing conspiracy beliefs. Despite this, we have identified several promising interventions that may be fruitful to pursue in future studies. We propose that a focus on inoculation-based and critical thinking interventions will bear more promising results for future research, though further efforts are needed to reduce participant burden and more easily implement these interventions in the real world.

The identification of the factual inaccuracies of conspiracy beliefs plus the stimulation of critical thinking are two aims I actively pursue with this blog. Thus, one might hope that I do make a small contribution to the reduction of conspiracy beliefs.

Yes, one might hope – but judging from many comments posted in the discussion sections, one could easily get a different impression.

During the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, Ayurvedic herbal supplements and homeopathic remedies were promoted as immune boosters (IBs) and disease-preventive agents. This happened in most parts of the world but nowhere more intensely than in India.

The present study examined the clinical outcomes among patients with chronic liver disease who presented with complications of portal hypertension or liver dysfunction temporally associated with the use of IBs in the absence of other competing causes. This Indian single-center retrospective observational cohort study included patients with chronic liver disease admitted for the evaluation and management of jaundice, ascites, or hepatic encephalopathy temporally associated with the consumption of IBs and followed up for 180 days. Chemical analysis was performed on the retrieved IBs.

From April 2020 to May 2021, 1022 patients with cirrhosis were screened, and 178 (19.8%) were found to have consumed complementary and alternative medicines. Nineteen patients with cirrhosis (10.7%), jaundice, ascites, hepatic encephalopathy, or their combination related to IBs use were included. The patients were predominantly male (89.5%). At admission, 14 (73.75%) patients had jaundice, 9 (47.4%) had ascites, 2 (10.5%) presented with acute kidney injury, and 1 (5.3%) had overt encephalopathy. Eight patients (42.1%) died at the end of the follow-up period. Hepatic necrosis and portal-based neutrophilic inflammation were the predominant features of liver biopsies.

Ten samples of IBs, including locally made ashwagandha powder, giloy juice, Indian gooseberry extracts, pure giloy tablets, multiherbal immune-boosting powder, other multiherbal tablets, and the homeopathic remedy, Arsenicum album 30C, were retrieved from our study patients. Samples were analyzed for potential hepatotoxic prescription drugs, known hepatotoxic adulterants, pesticides, and insecticides, which were not present in any of the samples. Detectable levels of arsenic (40%), lead (60%), and mercury (60%) were found in the samples analyzed. A host of other plant-derived compounds, industrial solvents, chemicals, and anticoagulants was identified using GC–MS/MS. These include glycosides, terpenoids, phytosteroids, and sterols, such as sitosterol, lupeol, trilinolein, hydroxy menthol, methoxyphenol, butyl alcohol, and coumaran derivatives.

The authors concluded that Ayurvedic and Homeopathic supplements sold as IBs potentially cause the worsening of preexisting liver disease. Responsible dissemination of scientifically validated, evidence-based medical health information from regulatory bodies and media may help ameliorate this modifiable liver health burden.

The authors comment that Ayurvedic herbal supplements and homeopathic remedies sold as IBs, potentially induce idiosyncratic liver injury in patients with preexisting liver disease. Using such untested advertised products can lead to the worsening of CLD in the form of liver failure or portal hypertension events, which are associated with a high risk of mortality compared to those with severe AH-related liver decompensation in the absence of timely liver transplantation. Severe mixed portal inflammation and varying levels of hepatic necrosis are common findings on liver histopathology in IB-related liver injury. Health regulatory authorities and print and visual media must ensure the dissemination of responsible and factual scientific evidence-based information on herbal and homeopathic “immune boosters” and health supplements to the public, specifically to the at-risk patient population.

Research by the Milner Center for Evolution at the University of Bath, U.K., along with colleagues at the Universities of Oxford and Aberdeen, found that trust in scientists has hugely increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also found that people were more likely to take the COVID-19 vaccine if their trust in the science had increased.

Using data from a survey of more than 2,000 U.K. adults commissioned by the Genetics Society, the team asked individuals whether their trust in scientists had gone up, down, or stayed the same.

  • A third of people reported that their trust in scientists had gone up.
  • When Pfizer, a company that made COVID-19 vaccines, was used as an example of the pharma industry, more people reported a positive response than when GlaxoSmithKline, a company not associated with the COVID-19 vaccine, was mentioned.
  • The researchers also found that people who reported holding a negative view of science before the pandemic had become even more negative.
  • People reporting increased trust were most likely to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Those preferring not to do so reported a decline in trust.

This is an interesting study with relevance to many discussions we had on this blog. I recommend reading it in full. Here are the abstract and link to the paper:

While attempts to promote acceptance of well-evidenced science have historically focused on increasing scientific knowledge, it is now thought that for acceptance of science, trust in, rather than simply knowledge of, science is foundational. Here we employ the COVID-19 pandemic as a natural experiment on trust modulation as it has enabled unprecedented exposure of science. We ask whether trust in science has on the average altered, whether trust has changed the same way for all and, if people have responded differently, what predicts these differences? We 1) categorize the nature of self-reported change in trust in “scientists” in a random sample of over 2000 UK adults after the introduction of the first COVID vaccines, 2) ask whether any reported change is likely to be real through consideration of both a negative control and through experiment, and 3) address what predicts change in trust considering sex, educational attainment, religiosity, political attitude, age and pre-pandemic reported trust. We find that many more (33%) report increased trust towards “scientists” than report decreased trust (7%), effects of this magnitude not being seen in negative controls. Only age and prior degree of trust predict change in trust, the older population increasing trust more. The prior degree of trust effect is such that those who say they did not trust science prior to the pandemic are more likely to report becoming less trusting, indicative of both trust polarization and a backfire effect. Since change in trust is predictive of willingness to have a COVID-19 vaccine, it is likely that these changes have public health consequences.

It has been reported that the PLASTIC SURGERY INSTITUTE OF ·UTAH, INC.; MICHAEL KIRK MOORE JR.; KARI DEE BURGOYNE; KRISTIN JACKSON ANDERSEN; AND SANDRA FLORES, stand accused of running a scheme out of the Plastic Surgery Institute of Utah, Inc. to defraud the United States and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Michael Kirk Moore, Jr. and his co-defendants at the Plastic Surgery Institute of Utah have allegedly given falsified vaccine cards to people in exchange for their donating $50 to an unnamed organization, one which exists to “liberate the medical profession from government and industry conflicts of interest.” As part of the scheme, Moore and his co-defendants are accused of giving children saline injections so that they would believe they were really being vaccinated.

The co-defendants are Kari Dee Burgoyne, an office manager at the Plastic Surgery Institute of Utah; Sandra Flores, the office’s receptionist; and, strangest of all, a woman named Kristin Jackson Andersen, who according to the indictment is Moore’s neighbor. Andersen has posted copious and increasingly conspiratorial anti-vaccine content on Facebook and Instagram; Dr. Moore himself was a signatory on a letter expressing support for a group of COVID-skeptical doctors whose certification was under review by their respective medical boards. The letter expresses support for ivermectin, a bogus treatment for COVID.

According to the indictment, the Plastic Surgery Center of Utah was certified as a real vaccine provider and signed a standard agreement with the CDC, which among other things requires doctor’s offices not to “sell or seek reimbursement” for vaccines.

Prosecutors allege that, when people seeking falsified vaccine cards contacted the office, Burgoyne, the office manager, referred them to Andersen, Dr. Moore’s neighbor. Andersen, according to the indictment, would ask for the name of someone who’d referred them—it had to be someone who’d previously received a fraudulent vaccine card, per the indictment—then direct people to make a $50 donation to a charitable organization, referred to in the indictment only as “Organization 1.” Each vaccine card seeker was required to put an orange emoji in the memo line of their donation.

After making a donation to the unnamed charitable organization, prosecutors allege, Andersen would send a link to vaccine card seekers to enable them to make an appointment at the Plastic Surgery Institute. With adult patients, Moore would allegedly use a real COVID vaccine dose in a syringe, but squirt it down the drain. Flores, the office’s receptionist, gave an undercover agent a note, reading “with 18 & younger, we do a saline shot,” meaning that kids were injected with saline instead of a vaccine. Prosecutors allege the team thus disposed of at least 1,937 doses of COVID vaccines.

All four people are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to convert, sell, convey, and dispose of government property; and conversion, sale, conveyance, and disposal of government property and aiding and abetting.

Throughout the scheme, the group reported the names of all the vaccine seekers to the Utah Statewide Immunization Information System, indicating that the practice had administered 1,937 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which included 391 pediatric doses. The value of all the doses totaled roughly $28,000. With the money from the $50 vaccination cards totaling nearly $97,000, the scheme was valued at nearly $125,000, federal prosecutors calculated.

“By allegedly falsifying vaccine cards and administering saline shots to children instead of COVID-19 vaccines, not only did this provider endanger the health and well-being of a vulnerable population, but also undermined public trust and the integrity of federal health care programs,” Curt Muller, special agent in charge with the Department of Health and Human Services for the Office of the Inspector General, said in a statement.



I am already baffled by anti-vax attitudes when they originate from practitioners of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). When they come from real physicians and are followed by real actions, I am just speechless. As I stated many times before: studying medicine does unfortunately not protect you from recklessness, greed, or stupidity.

1 2 3 43
Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new blog posts by email.

Recent Comments

Note that comments can be edited for up to five minutes after they are first submitted but you must tick the box: “Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.”

The most recent comments from all posts can be seen here.