By guest blogger Ken Harvey
Loretta Marron was the catalyst. The ‘critical thinking’ bug hit her as a child, reinforced by a BSc in Physics. If something didn’t sound logical, she couldn’t let it go. She had to check. She killed many a party by disputing misinformation – with evidence.
TV advertisements for magnetic underlays got her going, then homeopathic remedies, followed by ‘natural’ cures for cancer. To investigate outlandish claims and submit complaints, she needed to consult with experts. These included Professors John Dwyer (Medicine and Immunology) and Alastair MacLennan (Obstetrics and Gynaecology). They were always willing to help.
They also had concerns about universities teaching pseudoscience, such as ‘subluxation theory’ in chiropractic and ‘meridians’ in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In late 2011, Professor Dwyer proposed that Loretta join forces with Professors Alastair MacLennan, Marcello Costa (neuroscientist), and Rob Morrison (science communicator) to form a new organisation promoting scientific evidence in health care. Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) was born. John Dwyer was the inaugural President and Loretta Marron Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
The aim was to emphasise the importance of basing Australian health care on scientifically sound research and established scientific knowledge published in peer-reviewed journals of accepted standing. Valuing scientific rigour is especially important in an age where unsubstantiated health claims are rampant and scientific consensus is ‘imbalanced’ by the views of extremists.
FSM’s focus is helping consumers and health professionals to make more informed choices about medical interventions, medicines, and medical devices. We do this by submitting complaints about unethical practice, analysing policy, making submissions, encouraging regulators to act, and being a credible source of expertise for the media and others. We also encourage tertiary institutions and medicine and health sciences students to critically appraise therapeutic products and services as part of the courses offered.
Currently, FSM has more than 1,200 leading scientists, clinicians, lawyers, and consumer advocates as supporters. We also work closely with organisations such as Australian Skeptics and Choice (Australian Consumers Association).
I took over as President from John Dwyer in 2019. Loretta remains FSM CEO. The founding members continue their involvement as consultants. Ten years on, it’s worth reflecting on what has been achieved and the ongoing challenges.
An appendix lists some of the areas in which FSM has been involved and the outcomes achieved (often with the help of others).
Unethical promotion of therapeutic goods and services remain an ongoing concern. The advertising of therapeutic goods is subject to provisions in the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code, first promulgated in 1999. Until July 2018, complaints about alleged Code violations were heard by the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Complaints Resolution Panel (CRP), thereafter by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
FSM members submitted numerous complaints to the CRP and analysed the outcome. If a complaint was upheld, the CRP could only ‘recommend’ that it be removed. If it was not, the complaint was referred to the TGA for action. We found that certain companies consistently ignored the determinations of the CRP and, when referred to the TGA, took resulting action.
In July 2018, FSM engagement with numerous consultations and reviews eventually resulted in the TGA taking over the advertising complaint system. The TGA was given stronger investigative and compliance powers and a revised, legally enforceable advertising code. However, given the TGA’s previous track record, we continued to submit complaints, including many previously upheld by the CRP, but for which promotion continued.
An analysis of the first 12 months of the new system found that the TGA had classified most complaints as ‘low priority’. These were either ignored or closed by sending the advertiser a ‘Regulatory Obligation letter’ which stated that no further action would be taken. While the letter sometimes worked, often it did not. Stronger compliance powers were rarely used. The new complaint system was also less transparent than the one it replaced. For those low priority complaints with published outcomes, no details of the product, advertiser, or alleged Code violation were published, and no follow-up was recorded. Of 121 higher priority complaints, 79% failed to meet their key performance indicator, time to closure in 60–90 days. These included complaints about dangerous sports supplements and ineffective weight loss and hangover products.
In August 2020, an independent review of the first two years of the TGA’s compliant system was published. The study noted an unexpectedly high volume of complaints since the TGA took over the advertising complaints system, producing a large and growing backlog. A government-appointed consultant (ThinkPlace Pty Ltd) stated that providing more resources would not be in the public interest. Instead, they recommended a more cost-effective and efficient approach: amalgamating all complaints into an information database from which the TGA could consider compliance priorities.
As a result, complaints were closed by sending complainants a letter stating that their complaints will be used for ‘intelligence’ to set priorities. The TGA said risk assessment informed whether a complaint was converted into a case for investigation or stored in their information database to determine future compliance priorities. Therapeutic goods associated with COVID-19 were declared ‘priority 1’, while weight loss, hangover, and four other products groups were said to be ‘priority 2’.
A focus on COVID-19 stimulated the TGA to deal with some of these complaints more effectively. However, apart from token action on individual products, no systemic action was taken on weight loss, hangover products and many other objects of our complaints.
More recently, the TGA’s complaint database for 2018 -2020 has been removed and replaced by a new database containing only a few complaints pre-2021. In addition, the fields of many ‘products’ and ‘responsible person’, are missing. The TGA say that migration of data to the new system is continuing. Meanwhile, complainants now only receive an automated acknowledgment.
Transparency remains a problem as there is no clear indication of how many complaints the TGA receives, what they are about, how many are filed for ‘intelligence’’, how many are actioned, and what outcome eventuates.
Given this lamentable state of affairs, in association with Australian Skeptics, it is proposed to publish reports on all complaints submitted to the TGA in 2022 and their outcomes. Past experience shows that documenting problems, pointing out underlying issues and putting forward solutions can produce progress. But patience and persistence are required.
FSM has grappled with unethical advertising of pseudo-medical interventions. Controls differ for practitioners regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and those regulated by State and Territory Health Complaints Commissioners. The former includes medical practitioners, pharmacists, nurses, chiropractors, osteopaths, and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners. The latter includes naturopaths, homeopaths, and practitioners of western herbal medicine.
FSM has held regular meetings with AHPRA senior managers. We have also met several of their national boards and attended stakeholder forums. Chiropractic was an initial focus. Many practitioners advertised that chiropractic care in pregnancy could shorten labour duration and prevent caesarean delivery – despite the absence of evidence. Pregnant women were warned that labour often resulted in the newborn babe’s spinal misalignment, which could lead to numerous problems unless put right by regular chiropractic adjustments. It was also claimed that chiropractic ‘adjustments’ could improve attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, infantile colic, and ear infection.
In 2015, FSM submitted hundreds of complaints to AHPRA, alleging that chiropractic websites were in breach of both s.133 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 and the Chiropractic Board of Australia’s Guidelines for advertising regulated health services. These provisions prohibit advertising which is false, misleading, or deceptive, creates an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment, or can encourage the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of health services.
Five years have passed since the Chiropractic Board first asked practitioners to ensure that their websites met legal advertising requirements. Over this time, the Board’s sole approach to this problem was educational. Although chiropractors consistently had the highest advertising complaints of all practitioners (38 per 1,000 chiropractors in 2013–14), no penalties nor disciplinary action had been applied for advertising offences.
FSM argued that repeated advertising offences required appropriate penalties. We also pointed out that some practitioners now invited patients to consult them about services they were no longer permitted to advertise. We said that limitations should be placed on chiropractic practice which lacked evidence.
AHPRA responded that, although it could act on misleading advertising, it had no power to restrict the scope of practice of chiropractors (or other registered practitioners). We said that, if lack of good evidence makes it illegal to publicly advertise a treatment, then it should be equally illegal to offer it to patients privately; after all, the real harm is caused by the treatment, not the advertising.
In 2019, following damning publicity and further representations, the Victorian Health Minister eventually instructed Safer Care Victoria (SCV) to undertake an independent review of the practice of chiropractic spinal manipulation on children under 12 years. The result was a recommendation that spinal manipulation should not be provided to children under 12 years of age, for general wellness or for the management of conditions such as hyperactivity disorders, infantile colic, or ear infections.
The Chiropractic Board has also stated that chiropractors are not trained to apply any direct treatment to an unborn child and should not deliver any treatment to the unborn child. Neither should they provide materials, information or advice that is anti-vaccination in nature. After numerous complaints from FSM members, the Chiropractic Board finally referred a prominent anti-vax chiropractor, Simon Floreani, to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). His registration was suspended for 6 months, and conditions placed on his re-registration.
FSM has not just been concerned about chiropractors. We have complained (with varied success) about medical practitioners promoting stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis, Traditional Chinese Medical practitioners claiming that acupuncture can treat infertility and dubious laboratory tests used in complementary and alternative medicine.
In conclusion, the peddling of unproven and sometimes dangerous remedies has existed throughout human history.
There will always be companies (and individuals) who put the pursuit of profit before ethical behaviour. There will always be advocates for de-regulation and regulators captured by industry. To protect consumers there must be opposing forces. That is the role that FSM is proud to play, along with colleagues from the sceptical community and consumer movements.
FSM activities and outcomes (often in association with others), 2011-2021.
- Removal of extravagant claims for acupuncture from the World Health Organization website and instigation of a WHO evidence review.
- Involvement in the 2015 Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Private Health Insurance for Natural Therapies. This led to removal of cover for therapies that lacked evidence such as homeopathy, iridology, reflexology and naturopathy (currently being reviewed again to see if additional evidence exits).
- Removal of unproven/disproven courses or modules from Australian universities.
- Removal of continuing professional development (CPD) points required annually by relevant registered practitioners for a number of AltMed courses.
- Following complaints to the TGA, removal of some illegal medicines not on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
- De-listing some complementary medicines and medical devices (such as ‘bio-resonance’ machines) lacking evidence.
- Getting the TGA to declare two products of self-declared ‘Foods for special medical purposes’ illegal therapeutic goods and have them removed from the market-place.
- Publishing academic articles, in peer-reviewed journals, documenting regulatory problems investigated and solutions suggested.
- Publishing articles in lay media on current problems including in The Conversation, MJA Insight and Pearls and Irritations (around 200 over the last 5 years).
- Responding to consultation requests from the TGA, Medical Boards, National Medicines Policy Review, and others.
- Achieving the suspension of anti-vax chiropractor Simon Floreani’s registration.
- Stimulating the Chiropractic Board to publish standards on pregnancy and paediatric care.
- Responsible for the setting up of AHPRA’s ‘Advertising Compliance’ section, including their pilot auditing system (yet to report).
- Responding to requests for information from journalists.
- Correction of misinformation from the Victorian government’s ‘Better Health’ Channel.
- Providing a complaints avenue for people who want to remain anonymous.
The ‘Control Group Cooperative Ltd‘ is a UK Company (Registration Number: 13477806) is registered at 117 Dartford Road, Dartford, Kent DA1 3EN, UK. On its website, it provides the following statement:
The Vaccine Control Group is a Worldwide independent long-term study that is seeking to provide a baseline of data from unvaccinated individuals for comparative analysis with the vaccinated population, to evaluate the success of the Covid-19 mass vaccination programme and assist future research projects. This study is not, and will never be, associated with any pharmaceutical enterprise as its impartiality is of paramount importance.
The VaxControlGroup is a community cooperative, for the people. All monies raised will be re-invested into the project and its community.
Volunteers for this study are welcome from around the world, providing they have not yet received any of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccinations and are not planning to do so.
So, the Vaccine Control Group (VCC) aims at recruiting people who refuse COVID vaccinations. The VCC issues downloadable and printable COVID-19 Vaccine self exemption forms that you can complete (either online or by hand) supplied by: Professionals for Medical Informed Consent and Non-Discrimination (PROMIC). The form contains the following text:
COVID-19 vaccines, that have been administered to the public under emergency use authorisation, have been
associated with moderate to severe adverse events and deaths in a small proportion of recipients. There are currently insufficient available long-term safety data from Phase 3 trials and post-marketing surveillance to be able to predict which population sub-groups are likely to be most vulnerable to these reactions. However, clinical assessments have identified a range of conditions or medical histories that are associated with increased risk of serious adverse events (see Panel B). Individuals with such medical concerns, along with those who have already had COVID-19 and acquired natural immunity, have justifiable grounds to not consent to COVID-19 vaccination. Such individuals may choose to use alternate approaches to reduce their risk of developing serious COVID-19 disease and associated viral transmission. UK and international law enshrines an individual’s right to refuse any medical treatment or intervention without being subjected to penalty, restriction or limitation of protected rights or freedoms, as this would otherwise constitute coercion.
I do wonder, after reading this, what scientific value this ‘study’ might have (nowhere could I find relevant methodological details about the ‘study’). In search of an answer, I found ‘Doctors & Health Professionals supportive of this project’. The only one supportive of the VCC seems to be Prof Harald Walach who offers his support with these words:
A vaccine control group, especially for Covid-19 vaccines, is extremely useful, even necessary, for the following reasons:
- We are dealing with a vaccination technology that has never been used in humans before.
- All studies that have planned a control group long term, i.e. longer than only 6 weeks, have meanwhile been compromised, i.e. there are no real control groups around, because those originally allocated to the control group have mostly been vaccinated now. So there are no real control groups available.
- Covid-19 vaccinations are one of the biggest experiments on mankind ever conducted – without a control group. Hence those, who are either not willing to be vaccinated or have not yet been vaccinated are our only chance to understand whether the vaccines are safe or whether symptoms reported after vaccination are actually due to the vaccination or are only an incidental occurrence or random fluctuation.
Comparing unvaccinated people and those with a vaccination history regarding Covid-19 vaccines long term is important to determine long-term safety, because in many instances in the past some problems only were seen after quite some time. This can happen, if auto-immune processes are triggered, which often occur only in very few people. Hence, it is also important to have a long-term observation period and a large number of people participating.
Prof. Dr. Dr. phil. Harald Walach
This does not alleviate my doubts about the scientific value at all. Prof Walach, promoter of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and pseudoscientist of the year 2012, has in the past drawn our attention to his odd activities around COVID and vaccinations. Here are three recent posts on the subject:
- Prof Harald Walach is really unlucky
- Is Prof Harald Walach incompetent or dishonest?
- COVID-19 vaccinations: Prof Walach wants to “dampen the enthusiasm by sober facts”
In view of all this, I do wonder what the VCC is truly about.
It couldn’t be a front for issuing dodgy exemption certificates, could it?
Dr. Mehmet Oz is one of the most influential promoters of outright quackery. I once (many years ago) met him at a meeting where we both were lecturing. My impression was that he does not believe a single word he speaks. Oz later became a TV star and had ample occasion to confirm my suspicion.
Oz’s wife, Lisa, is a Reiki master and has spoken widely of her insights into energy and health. Mehmet Oz appeared as a health expert on The Oprah Winfrey Show. In 2009, Winfrey offered to produce a syndicated series. The Dr. Oz Show debuted in September 2009 and became the most successful promotion of charlatanery in the US. During a Senate hearing on consumer protection in 2014, Senator Claire McCaskill stated that “the scientific community is almost monolithic against you” for airing segments on weight loss products that are later cited in advertisements, concluding that Oz plays a role, intentional or not, in perpetuating these scams, and that she is “concerned that you are melding medical advice, news, and entertainment in a way that harms consumers.” This judgement was supported by a 2014 analysis published in the BMJ; here is the abstract:
Objective To determine the quality of health recommendations and claims made on popular medical talk shows.
Design Prospective observational study.
Setting Mainstream television media.
Sources Internationally syndicated medical television talk shows that air daily (The Dr Oz Show and The Doctors).
Interventions Investigators randomly selected 40 episodes of each of The Dr Oz Show and The Doctors from early 2013 and identified and evaluated all recommendations made on each program. A group of experienced evidence reviewers independently searched for, and evaluated as a team, evidence to support 80 randomly selected recommendations from each show.
Main outcomes measures Percentage of recommendations that are supported by evidence as determined by a team of experienced evidence reviewers. Secondary outcomes included topics discussed, the number of recommendations made on the shows, and the types and details of recommendations that were made.
Results We could find at least a case study or better evidence to support 54% (95% confidence interval 47% to 62%) of the 160 recommendations (80 from each show). For recommendations in The Dr Oz Show, evidence supported 46%, contradicted 15%, and was not found for 39%. For recommendations in The Doctors, evidence supported 63%, contradicted 14%, and was not found for 24%. Believable or somewhat believable evidence supported 33% of the recommendations on The Dr Oz Show and 53% on The Doctors. On average, The Dr Oz Show had 12 recommendations per episode and The Doctors 11. The most common recommendation category on The Dr Oz Show was dietary advice (39%) and on The Doctors was to consult a healthcare provider (18%). A specific benefit was described for 43% and 41% of the recommendations made on the shows respectively. The magnitude of benefit was described for 17% of the recommendations on The Dr Oz Show and 11% on The Doctors. Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest accompanied 0.4% of recommendations.
Conclusions Recommendations made on medical talk shows often lack adequate information on specific benefits or the magnitude of the effects of these benefits. Approximately half of the recommendations have either no evidence or are contradicted by the best available evidence. Potential conflicts of interest are rarely addressed. The public should be skeptical about recommendations made on medical talk shows.
During the presidential campaign in 2016, Oz supported Trump and hosted him on his TV show. In 2018, Donald Trump appointed him to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, Oz was criticized as an example of choosing “pundits over experts”. Recently, Oz announced he intends to run for the U.S. Senate as a Republican.
In April 2020, Oz also spurred controversy because he said that children should be sent back into schools despite the fact that the novel coronavirus pandemic had only just begun and there were no vaccines or therapeutics yet available. “I tell you, schools are a very appetizing opportunity,” he said, claiming that resuming classes “may only cost us 2 to 3 percent in terms of total mortality,” according to his “reading” of medical journals. The mistake was so substantial that Oz later provided a kind of half-apology, saying that he “misspoke.”
“There is a battle raging for humanity”, claims Dr Carrie Madej, a US osteopathic doctor (in the US, osteopaths are [almost] conventional physicians). She thinks she has discovered how Big Tech collaborates with Big Pharma introduced new technologies in the coming vaccines, that will alter our DNA and turn us into hybrids. This, she submits, will end humanity as we know it, and start the process of transhumanism: HUMAN 2.0 They use vaccines to inject nanotechnology into our bodies and connect us to the Cloud and artificial intelligence. This will enable corrupt governments and tech giants to control us, without us being aware of it.
Dr. Carrie Madej is from Dearborn, Michigan, and received her medical degree from Kansas City University of Medical Biosciences in 2001. She then completed her traditional internship at The Medical Center in Columbus, Georgia, and internal medicine residency at Mercer University in Macon Georgia. Dr. Madej served as a private clinician and medical director of clinics in Georgia until 2015. Dr. Madej also served as an attending physician for the Pennsylvania College of Osteopathic Medicine. She has served as a public speaker and was featured in the documentary, “The Marketing of Madness” about the overuse of prescription psychotropic medicines. Dr. Madej now dedicates her time educating others on vaccines, nanotechnology, and human rights via multiple platforms and speaking engagements.
IN HER NEWEST SCORCHED EARTH DISCUSSION, Dr. Carrie Madej simply Can NOT stay silent about the ABSOLUTE DANGERS of the Covid-19 “vaccines” any longer! In fact, in this SCATHING PRESENTATION, she literally describes the ‘Killer Concoctions’ as ‘THE FRANKENSTEIN CODE” and HAMMERS the ‘Purveyors of the Poison Jab’ as ‘Murdering Psychopath Witch Doctors’ who are HELL BENT on the TOTAL DESTRUCTION & ANNIHILATION of the ENTIRE HUMAN RACE, as we know it today.
The ‘Kung Flu’ (as it’s been referred to by none other than POTUS Trump), is only ‘KILLING PEOPLE who are already suffering from cancer, diabetes, heart disease and a plethora of other autoimmune problems’ – so now WHY IN THE WORLD IS EVERYBODY being told to get the ‘Killer Jab’ when the risk of DIRE & GROTESQUE INJURY FAR OUTWEIGHS the risk of dying from Covid-19 or the fake Delta Variant, or Beta, or Gamma or WHATEVER ELSE THE DEMONIC FAUCI & GATES CONCOCT NEXT?! Get ready for a BEATING unlike you’ve seen in recent days, as Dr. Madej RIPS THE THROATS straight out of these Deep State Demons in this ‘DO NOT MISS’ Epic Video! Grab the popcorn, and get ready for a trip down the Rabbit Hole and a takedown of Satan’s Army!
This was published by the ‘REPUBLIC BROADCASTING NETWORK’ (RBN) who also published articles such as ‘Who are the Jews behind the coronavirus vaccines?‘
Dr. Carrie Madej is certainly no fan of COVID vaccines: Doctor Carrie Madej says she personally examined multiple vials of the vaccines that are being forced into people’s arms, and she was horrified by what she saw. She says she cried harder than she ever has before. Elsewhere she explained in detail:
“First it looked just translucent. And then as time went on, over two hours, colors appeared. I had never seen anything like this. There wasn’t a chemical reaction happening. It was a brilliant blue, and royal purple, yellow, and sometimes green,” she said.
She later shared that when she asked nanotech engineers what the emerging brilliant colors might come from, the engineers said the “only thing they knew that could do that” was a white light, over time, causing a reaction on “a super-conducting material.” In this case, Madej noted, white light came from the microscope itself.
She pointed out that an example of a super-conducting substance would be “an injectable computing system.”
Madej went on, “These fibers were appearing more and more. Some of the fibers had a little cube structure on them, I’m not sure what that was. And also metallic fragments were in there. They were not metallic fragments I’m used to seeing. They were exotic. They were very opaque.”
In time, Madej said, “all the particulates, all these colors started moving to the edge” of the cover slide. “There was self-assembling going on, things were growing. They looked synthetic.”
Madej noticed something else quite strange: “There was one particular object or organism, I’m not sure what to call it, that had tentacles coming from it. It was able to lift itself up off of the glass slide. It appeared to be self-aware, or to be able to grow or move in space.”
She found it disturbing but said she thought, “Maybe that was a fluke in a way, maybe that was just that one vial.”
Some time later, the same lab obtained more vials from a different batch of Moderna shots, as well as a J&J vial. Madej was concerned to see the same things she had observed in the first vial.
“Another one of those tentacle-like structures appeared,” she said. “This was now completely under the cover slip, so there was no movement because it wasn’t on the edge, but I just couldn’t believe I saw another one. Same thing.” Madej also saw the “same colors” appear over time, as well as the fibers.
In the J&J vial, Madej said, there was “definitely a substance that looked like graphene. They all had graphene-like structures in there. Whether or not they were, I don’t have the capability of testing them in order to know at this lab, but that’s what they appeared to be.”
The vial’s contents also had “fatty substances, a sticky glue-like substance that would be considered a hydrogel in those, both of them.”
The J&J vial “also had colors appear.” “Their colors were different, like a fluorescent pastel kind of color. Again, a lot of synthetic structures in there as well.” Madej also noticed many “spherical ring structures” in the J&J contents.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before. They’re not supposed to be in these injections. What are they going to do to somebody? What are they going to do to a child? I started crying when I saw these the second time under a microscope, because it was confirmation of everything I saw the first time,” Madej said.
Madej again appeared on the Stew Peters show on October 20 to discuss her findings from a Pfizer jab vial as well as another J&J vial. “What I’m seeing in all of these manufacturers are synthetic substances, graphene-like, also these nano-carbon tubes,” Madej said.
“In this particular J&J” vial, Madej saw “round spheres, which were not air bubbles.” She continued, “There’s many of these rings, and as time went on they would get thinner and thinner and expand out and then finally extrude out some gelatinous material — I’m not sure what it was, but different kinds of things were inside these spheres. So they’re almost like a delivery structure, that’s what they were doing.”
On one of these rings, Madej saw what “looked like a translucent organism that went around, and back and forth.” Madej first “thought it was another water parasite,” but after continuing to observe its movements, “thought perhaps it was moving in a more robotic way.”
Madej saw the “same kind of synthetic things” in the Pfizer jab, as well as “something that looks similar to teslaphoresis. That’s when these little graphite-like black, metallic particles start to coalesce into strings, like a spider web. They do that through any external force — it could be light, it could be a magnetic force, it could be an impulse, like a frequency. Anyhow, all these little particles would then coalesce and form their own neural network, or their own fibers, or wires.”
After listening to Madej’s findings and seeing the photo and video documentation she provided, Peters commented, “It’s like I’m watching a seriously bad B-movie, a horror thriller.”
Madej believes the tentacled entity she found in the Moderna jabs has a connection with the organism hydra vulgaris. “It is one of the model organisms that the transhumanists like to study and look at. They feel that this is an amazing organism for humanity,” said Madej, in part because “it’s immortal in the lab setting” and “continuously produces its own stem cells.”
“It never stops. You can chop it up into little bits, put it in a petri dish and it forms itself again and again,” she continued. “They’re thinking, wouldn’t this be great if we could put this inside of a human body’s genome, and then if your hand was chopped off by a trauma, you could grow a new hand.”
My friend Joe Schwarcz recently wrote a brilliant article about Dr. Madej. He concluded by asking: Is Dr. Madej a maddeningly malicious malfeasant, or does she just have a few loose marbles? I fear that it might be both.
The complex links between so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and the pandemic have been a regular subject on this blog. Here is more:
This study investigated if people’s response to the official recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with conspiracy beliefs related to COVID-19, a distrust in the sources providing information on COVID-19, and an endorsement of SCAM.
The sample consisted of 1325 Finnish adults who filled out an online survey advertised on Facebook. Structural regression analysis was used to investigate whether:
1) conspiracy beliefs, a distrust in information sources, and endorsement of SCAM predict people’s response to the non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) implemented by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic,
2) conspiracy beliefs, a distrust in information sources, and endorsement of CAM are related to people’s willingness to take a COVID-19 vaccine.
The results indicate that individuals with more conspiracy beliefs and lower trust in information sources were less likely to have a positive response to the NPIs. Individuals with less trust in information sources and more endorsement of SCAM were more unwilling to take a COVID-19 vaccine. Distrust in information sources was the strongest and most consistent predictor in all models. In addition, the analyses revealed that some of the people who respond negatively to the NPIs also have a lower likelihood to take the vaccine. This association was partly related to lower trust in information sources.
The authors concluded that distrusting the establishment to provide accurate information, believing in conspiracy theories, and endorsing treatments and substances that are not part of conventional medicine, are all associated with a more negative response to the official guidelines during COVID-19. How people respond to the guidelines, however, is more strongly and consistently related to the degree of trust they feel in the information sources than to their tendency to hold conspiracy beliefs or endorse CAM. These findings highlight the need for governments and health authorities to create communication strategies that build public trust.
I also believe that these findings highlight the urgent need for improvements in education. In my view, it should start at school and continue into adult life. It should focus on a better understanding of science and – crucially – on the ability to differentiate facts from fiction and conspiracies.
Guest post by Richard Rasker
Last summer, I strolled through my garden, enjoying the abundance of flowers and insects. At the far end, the garden gave way to shrubs and reedy grass and a tiny pond that, contrary to past years, hadn’t dried out completely yet.
And right there, at the water’s edge, is where I stumbled upon IT.
At first I thought the small white object was a twig or something similar, but upon closer inspection it turned out to be a small bone – looking remarkably like a human femur, albeit a bit eroded. So I looked around in the vicinity, to see if I could find any more bones. This was not the case, but what I DID find was even more breathtaking: a slender, 2-inch long gauze-like wing.
Immediately a mind-blowing realization dawned: there are fairies in the back of my garden!
Of course I had to be careful not to get carried away based on this single observation, so I spent the following months painstakingly searching for more corroborating evidence. And what I found was astounding: at least a dozen similar bones and wings, and even a very small tuft of brownish hair. And the bogs and marshes a few miles from my home proved an even richer treasure trove. Of course I also identified remains of numerous dead animals, mostly mice and other small rodents, but the femur-like bones I found were definitely too long for mice.
So I can now safely reveal my findings: fairies do exist after all! This is truly world-shattering!
Now what does this have to do with homeopathy, one may ask? The answer is simple: the gathering of evidence for the viability of homeopathy (and many other alternative modalities) is fully analogous to the way that I found scientific evidence for the existence of fairies:
- People (scientists or homeopaths) believe that they stumbled upon something special.
- They almost immediately consider their finding as either a type of revelation, or as something that lends strong support to their prior belief.
- They then set out to gather more evidence in support of the phenomenon they found, thus affirming their belief.
- And after a lot of painstaking work, the conclusion is reached that the observed phenomenon indeed exists!
Recently, a commenter on this blog tried to bolster the validity of homeopathy by naming a couple of scientists who did exactly this: they started believing in homeopathy, not because of proper clinical trials with homeopathic medicines, but because of revelation-type experiences, or because of hypotheses and/or observations that appeared to explain and support one important prerequisite of homeopathy, the so-called ‘water memory’.
These scientists come up with all sorts of hypothetical mechanisms how this water memory is supposed to work. Usually, quantum physics is invoked – even though real quantum physicists are unanimous in condemning this as nonsense, because quantum physics doesn’t work the way that homeopaths say it does. Nevertheless, these believers in homeopathy come up with ‘explanations’ that involve entanglement, or ‘coherence domains’, or stable nanostructures in water. And there are still lots of other mechanisms dreamed up by believers in homeopathy that aim to explain the all-important water memory.
First of all, most of these hypotheses are completely bonkers, without any real-world evidence to back up the suggestions and claims made – and none of these scientists have so far succeeded in distinguishing an arbitrary homeopathic dilution from plain water, even though some claim that they can find minute differences for a few very specific substances. Just too bad that these results have not been replicated by other scientists, and that they have not been published in any peer-reviewed scientific journal. And even if these results are legitimate, the effect found is absolutely tiny – just like all other homeopathic research with positive results.
But for the sake of the argument, let’s assume that these findings with regard to water memory are real (although no two researchers agree on even the basics of the purported mechanisms). Does this provide enough evidence to make us accept that homeopathy is a viable system of medicine?
No, of course it doesn’t!
Even if water would retain certain ‘nanostructures’ or ‘coherence domains’ or ‘quantum-entangled particles’, this means just that: that an almost undetectable ‘something’ apparently persists in water. It says NOTHING about how this tiny something can have a huge range of highly specific therapeutic effects, necessitating a hugely intricate structure (of which not a trace has ever been found). It says nothing about how this something finds its way from the water to the specific parts of the body to exert those beneficial effects, or about the way that this something interacts with the organism. It does not tell us why this something only ends up in water if it is shaken, or why this something becomes more potent with higher dilutions, or how this something can pass from homeopathic water to sugar pellets while retaining its very special water-based(!) structure – or why, in spite of this all, literally nobody can distinguish a homeopathic dilution from plain water.
Saying that the existence of water memory proves that homeopathy is real is like saying that the existence of those bones and wings I found proves that fairies exist. It is a totally unwarranted inference, and an excellent example of, in the words of Dr. Harriet Hall, Tooth Fairy science: these people spend lots of time, effort and money doing very serious research into all sorts of mechanisms and effects to explain how homeopathy works, but totally neglect to answer the primary question first: does homeopathy work at all? And even worse: these people think that the tiniest glimmer of an effect supporting their hypothesis immediately proves all of homeopathy right. Which is not so much jumping to conclusions, but making leaps of astronomical proportions that would have made even Neil Armstrong jealous. This is not how science works.
For homeopathy, I think that the primary question is answered pretty definitively: even after 227 years, homeopaths have not succeeded in coming up with even ONE ‘remedy’ that is efficacious beyond a shadow of a doubt. NOT ONE.
And to add insult to injury, nothing in science even remotely supports the very core tenets of homeopathy, the similia principle and the law of infinitesimals. ‘Like’ does NOT ‘cure like’, and higher dilutions most certainly were never found to become more potent medicines – quite the contrary, as is observed on a daily basis literally everywhere.
Most other ancient and traditional forms of medicine have come up with at least some treatments or herbs that turned out to have scientifically proven efficacy and have become part of modern medicine – but not homeopathy. Homeopathy DOES NOT WORK, PERIOD.
(Although, to be fair, homeopathy has given us one important insight with regard to medicine: that for many ailments, simply doing nothing is often the best choice. Because most conditions resolve naturally, without medical intervention.)
On a friendlier note: I do not think that those people who study water memory mechanisms and other similarly elusive effects are useless as scientists. Their painstaking research into things like nanostructures in water may one day produce interesting and useful new scientific insights. But it would benefit them greatly if they would distance themselves from homeopathy and its associated pseudoscience, because that is truly a dead-end street, bringing them nothing but scorn and derision.
And oh, about those bones and wings that I said I found? Those were of course likely from frogs and dragonflies, respectively. Or maybe I was the victim of a prank, or maybe I simply made up the whole story. Believe what you will, but you probably agree with me that almost any explanation one can think of is more likely than the fairy scenario. And this again is analogous to homeopathy: almost any explanation one can think of is more plausible than the explanation that mere shaking and diluting magically transforms water into a highly specific medicine.
What on earth is ‘reincarnation therapy’?
Here is a website that explains it quite well:
The concept of reincarnation is that our souls can experience many lifetimes directly thru centuries, perhaps even thousands of years. Life gives more meaning when you have a deeper understanding of the bigger picture. Earlier life regression has been recognized as a legal form of spiritual healing. No matter what religion you follow or not, you get the feeling that you are more than a physical body. You meet the essence of your soul, connected to a greater universal energy, perhaps for the first time in your life. For those who experience this, they get inner peace…
Reincarnation therapy is a technique that has been and has been used successfully for many years, and is a comprehensive therapy for body, mind and soul based on cause and effect (karma). Reincarnation can help people cure emotional trauma or an injury that you have transferred from a past life or in this life. The technique has not only been used by monks and theologians for many years, but has been more embraced by today’s psychologists, psychiatrists and science. If reincarnation is not a true phenomenon, but just an indefinite theory, how is it that the technique is so successful in healing?
The concept of reincarnation has been present in almost any culture since ancient times. Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and all believed in the “transfer of souls” from one body to another after death. Although reincarnation is not part of official Christianity, many Christians believe in it or at least accept the opportunity. No matter what we know about this awareness, there is still so much we do not know. The most important thing we can say about previous reincarnation therapy is that it is a method that provides deep and permanent healing in a short time. You do not have to believe in reincarnation to receive healing from this amazing technique.
Reincarnation therapy can change your life! It will help you find your potential, create more compassion and love, gain access to wisdom, peace and guidance for you and others. It can reveal the purpose of life and the reason for incarnation, strengthen the clarity of the spiritual nature of the spirit and help you overcome fear of death. After several regression sessions, many clients report after the regression, about a greater sense of inner peace and love when they understand their choice of living conditions and what they need to learn.
Another website offers more concrete explanations:
Everyone can do reincarnation therapy, but it is especially important for people who experience recurring experiences in current life. Such as, for example, health problems or recurring relationship problems, fears, phobias, family problems, mental disorders, etc. Through the therapy, the problems can suddenly disappear by gaining insight into the cause. It is also interesting for people who are just curious what they have been in the past life. A person can experience the most special experiences. You may remember people or places where you have never been before in current life. There are cases that people suddenly spoke a language they could never speak before. The main purpose for experiencing of Reincarnation Therapy is to confirm for yourself and to know that there is always life even after death. This will change your way of thinking and give you more insight about life.
… Reincarnation therapy takes +/- 3 hours. You wil get into a trance, through which you feel, see, smell, taste everything, etc. We do not work with Hypnosis. Hypnosis is not good for the subconscious mind and many people don’t remember anything after that either. We want you to really experience everything and to experience this as a development.
What conditions does it treat or cure? Yet another website provides the answer to this question:
- all kinds of phobias;
- relationship problems;
- chronic pain;
- panic attacks;
The ‘etcetera’ presumably means that reincarnation therapy is a panacea. That sounds most encouraging! There is just one tiny little problem: there is not a jot of evidence. Yet, I am sure that reincarnation therapy can change your life: in case you are gullible enough to believe all the BS, pay through your nose for an endless series of sessions and thus end up poor.
There are many fans of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) who think that vitamin C is the answer to COVID (and many other ailments). Here, for instance, is a press release from Damien Downing (we already encountered him in my last post):
Vitamin C and COVID-19 Coronavirus
by Damien Downing, MBBS, MRSB and Gert Schuitemaker, PhD
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, Feb 28, 2020
There is only one existing treatment for the new coronavirus: vitamin C.
Vitamin C supports your immune system. Vitamin C helps to kill the virus and reduces the symptoms of infection. It’s not a COVID “cure,” but nothing is. It might just save your life, though, and will definitely reduce the severity of the infection.
If someone tells you it’s not proven, consider two things:
- Nothing is proven to work against COVID-19, because it is a new virus.
- Vitamin C has worked against every single virus including influenzas, pneumonia, and even poliomyelitis.
What to do
If you do nothing else, start taking vitamin C right away; at least 3 grams a day, spread right across the day. That’s a 1,000 milligram capsule every 8 hours, or a level teaspoon of powder dissolved in a pint or so of water, drank all through the day.
If you’re smart and motivated, do all the other things recommended in our previous release Vitamin C Protects Against Coronavirus (http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v16n04.shtml)
When and if you catch a bug that might be COVID-19, simply increase your vitamin C intake: a rounded teaspoon (that’s 4 to 5 grams) in water (which helps to keep you hydrated) every 3 or 4 hours. And keep on taking it.
Do you consult a doctor? Do you self-isolate? Yes and yes. Of course you do; that’s your duty to others.
Vitamin C and the other measures are what you do for yourself…
Damien Downing’s press release did not age all that well, I fear. The evidence to support his claims is not just flimsy, it is negative. Let me show you the most recent (October 2021) systematic review of the subject:
Background and aims: Vitamin C has been used as an anti-oxidant in various diseases including viral illnesses like coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Methods: Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCT) investigating the role of vitamin C supplementation in COVID-19 was carried out.
Results: Total 6 RCTs including n = 572 patients were included. Vitamin C treatment didn’t reduce mortality (RR 0.73, 95% CI 0.42 to 1.27; I2 = 0%; P = 0.27), ICU length of stay [SMD 0.29, 95% CI -0.05 to 0.63; I2 = 0%; P = 0.09), hospital length of stay (SMD -0.23, 95% CI -1.04 to 0.58; I2 = 92%; P = 0.57) and need for invasive mechanical ventilation (Risk Ratio 0.93, 95% CI 0.61 to 1.44; I2 = 0%; P = 0.76). Further sub-group analysis based on severity of illness (severe vs. non-severe), route of administration (IV vs. oral) and dose (high vs. low) failed to show any observable benefits.
Conclusion: No significant benefit noted with vitamin C administration in COVID-19. Well-designed RCTs with standardized control group needed on this aspect.
What does that tell us?
I think it suggests three things:
- Damien Downing might be suffering from proctophasia,
- we would be ill-advised to follow the advice of such pseudo-experts,
- vitamin C is not the solution to COVID-19 infections.
Thanks to Richard Rasker, a regular commentator on this blog, I learnt a new word – a word that I intend to use regularly from now on:
You won’t find the term in the dictionary, and even the most decorated specialist might not (yet?) be familiar with it. Proktophasia afflicts predominantly the most ardent evangelists amongst the proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), COVID-deniers, and anti-vaxxers. And this is, of course, the reason why the affliction surfaces regularly on this blog, and why Richard was able to recognize it and give it its proper terminology.
The symptoms of proctophasia are easily remembered, once we know that this medical term is derived from ‘speaking out of one’s arse’, a less than polite term for talking utter rubbish. Accordingly, proctophasia shows itself in the following manner:
- talking rubbish,
- talking rubbish,
- talking rubbish,
- talking rubbish,
- talking rubbish,
- talking rubbish,
- talking rubbish,
- talking rubbish,
- talking rubbish even after being corrected,
- repeating one’s own stupid arguments ad nauseam,
- repeating one’s own stupid arguments ad nauseam,
- repeating one’s own stupid arguments ad nauseam,
- repeating one’s own stupid arguments ad nauseam,
- repeating one’s own stupid arguments ad nauseam,
- being offended when, eventually, someone arrives at the correct diagnosis of ‘speaking out of one’s arse’,
- being nevertheless undeterred and repeating one’s own stupid arguments ad nauseam.
As such, the diagnosis is not all that difficult to make. The crucial question, however, is this:
can proctophasia be treated successfully?
It does seem unlikely that any form of SCAM is effective in the management of proctophasia. Formal trials have, as far as I know, not been conducted. Yet, we can assume from the fact that the proctophasia victims who made themselves known in the comments sections of this blog are on multiple SCAM treatments, and their condition does not seem to improve noticeably. On the contrary, one could even speculate that SCAM is the cause of the disease (but, of course, this hypothesis would need to be tested before we should accept it as fact).
Until there is a cure, what can be done?
I am afraid not much. In the past, I have had to ban some particularly seriously afflicted individuals. No doubt, I will have to take such drastic measures again in the future. But I always do that with a heavy heart.
Because one feature of the typical proctophasia victim has not yet been mentioned. These people can be hilariously funny – more so than any stand-up comedian. And that is the reason why I will continue to be as patient with them as I possibly can. In other words, proctophasia significantly increases the entertainment value of this blog.
In a recently published study, the willingness to be vaccinated of parents of underage children and persons without underage children was examined. The study was based on a random sample (telephone survey, n = 2014, survey between 12.11.2020 and 10.12.2020).
The results revealed that parents consistently show a lower propensity to vaccinate with a COVID-19 vaccine than respondents without minor children (54.1% vs. 71.1%). Fathers showed a more pronounced own willingness to vaccinate than mothers. Furthermore, men were more willing than women to have their own child vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine.
The overall sample also showed that a rejection of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) was associated with a significantly higher willingness to be vaccinated. There was also a significant correlation between the attitude towards homeopathy and one’s own willingness to be vaccinated. If homeopathy was supported, the willingness to vaccinate was lower. This correlation between the attitude towards homeopathy and willingness to vaccinate was also evident in the sub-sample of parents. Among the parents, it was again the women who significantly more often had a positive attitude towards homeopathy than men, who more often do not think anything of it.
This new evidence ties in neatly with many of my previous posts on the subject of SCAM and vaccination, for instance:
- More information on homeopaths’ and anthroposophic doctors’ attitude towards vaccinations
- The anti-vaccination movement is financed by the dietary supplement industry
- The UK Society of Homeopaths, a hub of anti-vaccination activists?
- HOMEOPATHY = “the complete alternative to vaccination” ?!?!
- Are anthroposophy-enthusiasts for or against vaccinations?
- Far too many chiropractors believe that vaccinations do not have a positive effect on public health
- Andrew Wakefield, Donald Trump, SCAM, and the anti-vaccination cult
- Naturopaths’ counselling against vaccinations could be criminally negligent
- HOMEOPATHS AGAINST VACCINATION: “The decision to vaccinate and how you implement that decision is yours and yours alone”
- Use of alternative medicine is associated with low vaccination rates
- Integrative medicine physicians tend to harbour anti-vaccination views
- Vaccination: chiropractors “espouse views which aren’t evidence based”
- Faith-healing as an alternative to vaccination?
- Learning about homeopathy the hard way: the story of Aaron Rodgers
- Patients consulting chiropractors, homeopaths, or naturopaths are less likely to agree to the flu jab
- Parents’ Willingness to Vaccinate with a COVID-19 Vaccine: strongly influenced by homeopathy
- “The uncensored truth” about COVID-19 vaccines” … as told by some chiro loons
- Beliefs and behaviors of US chiropractors
- Many naturopaths, homeopaths, and chiropractors are a risk to public health
- Homeopaths (and other SCAM practitioners) are peddling dangerous myths
- Misinformation and fraudulent claims about boosting immunity during the pandemic
Collectively, this evidence tells us that:
- the effect has been shown in many different ways,
- it can therefore be assumed to be real,
- it is not confined to COVID vaccinations,
- it is not confined to one particular branch of SCAM,
- it even affects MDs (who surely should know better) dabbling in SCAM,
- it has a long history,
- it is prevalent in many, if not most countries,
- it does real harm.
So, the next time someone tells you that SCAM and SCAM practitioners have a positive influence on public health, tell them to think again.