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

pseudo-science

This study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of Persian barley water in controlling the clinical outcomes of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. It was designed as a single-blind, add-on therapy, randomized controlled clinical trial and conducted in Shiraz, Iran, from January to March 2021. One hundred hospitalized COVID-19 patients with moderate disease severity were randomly allocated to receive routine treatment (per local protocols) with or without 250 ml of Persian barley water (PBW) daily for two weeks. Clinical outcomes and blood tests were recorded before and after the study period. Multivariable modeling was applied using Stata software for data analysis.

The length of hospital stay (LHS) was 4.5 days shorter in the intervention group than the control group regardless of history of cigarette smoking (95% confidence interval: -7.22, -1.79 days). Also, body temperature, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), C-reactive protein (CRP), and creatinine significantly dropped in the intervention group compared to the control group. No adverse events related to PBW occurred.

The authors from the Department of Traditional Medicine, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, Iran, concluded that this clinical trial demonstrated the efficacy of PBW in minimizing the LHS, fever, and levels of ESR, CRP, and creatinine among hospitalized COVID-19 patients with moderate disease severity. More robust trials can help find safe and effective herbal formulations as treatments for COVID-19.

I must admit, I did not know about PBW. The authors explain that PBW is manufactured from Hordeum vulgare via a specific procedure. According to recent studies, barley is rich in constituents such as selenium, tocotrienols, phytic acid, catechin, lutein, vitamin E, and vitamin C; these compounds are responsible for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Barley grains also have immune-stimulating effects, antioxidant properties, protective effects on the liver and digestive systems, anti-cancer effects, and act to reduce uric acid levels.

But even if these effects would constitute a plausible mechanism for explaining the observed effects (which I do not think they do), the study itself is more than flimsy.

I do not understand why researchers investigating an important issue do not make sure that their study is as rigorous as possible.

  • Why not use an adequately large sample size?
  • Why not employ a placebo?
  • Why not double-blind?
  • Why not report the most important outcome, i.e. mortality?

As it stands, nobody will take this study seriously. Perhaps this is a good thing – but perhaps PBW does have positive effects (I know it’s a long shot) and, in this case, a poor-quality study would only prevent an effective therapy come to light.

Osteopathic tradition in the cranial field (OCF) postulates that the primary respiratory mechanism (PRM) relies on the anatomical links between the occiput and sacrum. Few studies investigated this relationship with inconsistent results. No studies investigated the occiput-sacrum connection from a neurophysiological perspective.

This study aims to determine whether the sacral technique (ST), compared to the compression of the fourth ventricle (CV4) technique, can affect brain alpha-band power (AABP) as an indicator of a neurophysiological connection between the occiput and sacrum.

Healthy students, 22-30 years old for men and 20-30 years old for women, were enrolled in the study and randomized into eight intervention groups. Each group received a combination of active techniques (CV4 or ST) and the corresponding sham techniques (sham compression of the fourth ventricle [sCV4] or sham sacral technique [sST] ), organized in two experimental sessions divided by a 4 h washout period. AABP was continuously recorded by electroencephalogram (EEG) of the occipital area in the first 10 min of resting state, during each intervention (active technique time) and after 10 min (post-active technique time), for a total of approximately 50 min per session. Analysis was carried out utilizing a repeated-measure ANOVA within the linear general model framework, consisting of a within-subject factor of time and a within-subject factor of treatment (CV4/ST).

Forty healthy volunteers (mean age ± SD, 23.73±1.43 years; range, 21-26 years; 16 male and 24 female) were enrolled in the study and completed the study protocol. ANOVA revealed a time × treatment interaction effect statistically significant (F=791.4; p<0.001). A particularly high increase in mean AABP magnitude was recorded during the 10 min post-CV4, compared to both the CV4 and post-sCV4 application (p<0.001). During all the times analyzed for ST and sST application, no statistically significant differences were registered with respect to the resting state.

The authors concluded that the ST does not produce immediate changes on occipital AABP brain activity. CV4, as previous evidence supported, generates immediate effects, suggesting that a different biological basis for OCF therapy’s connection between the head and sacrum should be explored.

Why on earth should a different biological mechanism be explored? Why not conclude that OCF and its assumptions are pure nonsense?

The answer to these questions is not difficult to find: the authors are from the ‘Istituto Superiore di Osteopatia, Milan, Italy’! One can understand that, at this institution, people are unlikely to agree with my conclusion that OCF is based on absurd concepts and does not merit further research.

One should never assume that one has seen everything so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) has to offer. New interventions pop up all the time. The ingenuity of the SCAM entrepreneur is limitless. Here is a particularly audacious innovation:

Aura sprays deliver healing gemstone energies to your body, emotions, memory, and mind via your aura.

They give you:

  • Instant relief from negative, harmful, or unwanted energies.
  • Support that you cannot get from herbs and medicines.
  • Deep nourishment to help you overcome weakness and depletion.

And you can choose from an entire range:

7-Color-Ray Diamond Spray $34.95 – $89.95

Energy Clearing Spray $24.95 – $59.95

Electromagnetic Radiation EMR Clearing $24.95 – $59.95

Sparkler Diamond Spray $34.95

I was particularly fascinated by the EMR spray and found further relevant information about it:

Electromagnetic radiation (EMR) floods our environment and is potentially harmful. GEMFormulas’ EMR Clearing spray clears this energetic toxin from the body and teaches it to become immune. This is essential if we are to thrive in a modern world.

Use this spray to help clear your body and aura of harmful electromagnetic radiation frequencies, which can weaken tissue, inhibit cellular function, and interfere with normal energy flows in the body.

**Harmful electromagnetic radiation is emitted by computers, cell phones, motors, microwave ovens, and other electrical appliances.**

Use When You Are Feeling:

  • Weakened in the vicinity of electromagnetic fields.
  • Dermatological symptoms such as redness, tingling, and burning sensations.
  • Symptoms typical of EHS (Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity) such as fatigue, tiredness, concentration difficulties, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, and digestive disturbances.
  • A range of non-specific, medically unexplained symptoms.

And When You Want to:

  • Become more resilient to the effects of potentially harmful EMR.
  • Build immunity to EMR, heal from damage caused by EMR, and protect yourself from further EMR damage.
  • Clear harmful EMR residues from your body and aura.
  • Maximize your health potential.

Ideal For People Who:

  • Work with computers all day long.
  • Live near sources of high electromagnetic radiation.
  • Suspect they have Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS).
  • Plan to become pregnant.
  • Are trying to heal from another affliction.

Additional Benefits: Clear Therapeutic Gemstones and Crystals

You can also use the spray to clear electromagnetic radiation that therapeutic gemstone necklaces naturally accumulate during normal wear in areas of high electromagnetic fields, when stored too close to computers or other electronic devices, and when worn while you are holding a cell phone.

I am tempted!

Not that I plan to become pregnant but I am trying to heal from another affliction: gullibility.

________________________

Seriously: how can anyone fall for such nonsense???

But obviously, some people do and pay good money to ruthless con artists (if you look on the Internet, there are dozens of firms offering such quackery).

Even after 30 years of research, so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) has a sheer inexhaustible ability to amaze me.

The tales of Kate Moss’s excesses are legendary. Sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll have always been an integral part of the supermodel’s life. Stories of wild behavior, random sexual encounters, and copious drug use seemed endless. Now, it seems she is adding a new element to her tumultuous career:

Quackery.

The supermodel is the latest in the long line of VIPs jumping on the quackery bandwagon by marketing her very own brand of over-priced nonsense. She was reported to have worked with Victoria Young, a homeopath and “spiritual guide”, on the products. There’s a Dawn Tea at £20 for 25 tea bags, “inspired by Kate’s English garden” – “With ingredients like hibiscus, rosemary, and nettle leaf, this first step of the Dawn Ritual gently energizes and strengthens the body”. There’s also a Dusk Tea.

There is also a 100ml bottle called Sacred Mist for £120. It is described as “a unique eau de parfum blended with essential oils for the body and surroundings.” There’s a 30ml bottle for £105 called Golden Nectar, which is pro-collagen. CBD oil drops to “holistically support body, mind, and soul”. A 50ml face cream for £95. A 100ml face cleanser for £52.

The website of Moss’ new enterprise claims that “COSMOSS draws on the extraordinary life experience of Kate Moss — someone whose career and image has touched on and influenced so many others and yet has taken her own, rich journey of transformation gradually and privately. COSMOSS is a celebration of every day exactly as it is, with all its imperfections. Each product has been meticulously crafted with wellbeing in mind, using potent, natural substances. Each ritual opens a door to balance, restoration, and love; each fragrance and infusion recentres and completes. COSMOSS is self-care created for life’s modern journeys to make them beautiful, mesmerising and magical.”

In a far cry from her past, Moss explained: “I’ve been meditating, doing yoga, just being much healthier. All the stuff that can make you feel more grounded and balanced.”

Personally, I am glad to hear that Kate is off cocaine and now into other, less harmful ‘natural substances’. Her customers wellbeing might not improve, but I suspect her bank account might.

In a previous post, I explained that anthroposophic education was founded by Steiner in 1919 to serve the children of employees of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. Pupils of Waldorf or Steiner schools, as they are also frequently called, are encouraged to develop independent thinking and creativity, social responsibility, respect, and compassion.

Waldorf schools implicitly infuse spiritual and mystic concepts into their curriculum. Like some other alternative healthcare practitioners – for instance, doctors promoting integrative medicine, chiropractors, homeopaths, and naturopaths – doctors of anthroposophic medicine tend to advise against childhood immunizations. For this and other reasons, Waldorf schools have long attracted criticism.

Now it has been reported that the district government of Münster has withdrawn the school permit of a Waldorf school in Rheine, Germany, because of “serious deficiencies in the teaching operation”. For the 71 children, school operation ends with the start of the fall vacations at the beginning of October, as the district government announced on Tuesday. Already since the end of 2020 there had been numerous complaints. The school board had not succeeded in eliminating the deficiencies, a proper operation is currently and prospectively not guaranteed.

The list of problems described by the district government is long: there were repeated violations in the health protection of children. A spokesman for the district government said that there had been massive and repeated violations of Corona’s protective measures. In addition, there was a risk of accidents in the playground. The school board had also been unable to stop the misconduct of individual teachers, the district government criticized. “In addition, there is an insufficient supply of teachers, school organizational deficits and a massively disturbed school peace,” it said.

In the end, the basis of trust required for continued operation of the school was no longer given, so the school permit had to be revoked for the sake of the children. “This is an absolutely exceptional case,” the spokesman said. It is presumably the first case under the jurisdiction of the Münster district government, he added.

 

 

Israel’s Health Ministry announced the revocation of Dr. Aryeh Avni’s medical license, after he called to violate the ministry’s COVID guidelines during the pandemic and published defamatory articles against the medical community. The Jerusalem District Court rejected Avni’s appeal following the decision to revoke his medical license. Avni, who was a specialist in general surgery, engaged for years in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and had previously been caught forging vaccination certificates. He claimed in court that he operates in the context of freedom of expression and that his objective is to help the public and to rescue patients from the harm caused by medications and vaccines.

About a year and a half ago, the Health Ministry’s disciplinary committee recommended that Avni’s license be suspended for two years, but former Judge Amnon Shtrashnov, who was granted authority by the health minister, rejected the recommendation and ordered the permanent revocation of Avni’s license. In his decision, Shtrashnov called Avni “a charlatan, a clear coronavirus denier and a dangerous trickster, who behaves that way under the aegis of a licensed doctor.” “There must be a distinction between expressing an opinion and incitement, while conducting a smear campaign against medical authorities in order to dissuade the public from acting in accordance with their directive,” District Court Judge Nimrod Flax said in his decision. “A doctor who chooses to conduct a delegitimization campaign of this kind excludes himself, and is behaving in a manner unbefitting a licensed doctor. “And we will say once again – expressing an opinion, absolutely; conducting a campaign of incitement and defamation against his fellow doctors, while attempting to bias public opinion and to prevent the public from acting in accordance with the recommendations of the medical authorities, absolutely not,” added Judge Flax. “In general, criticism of the directives and decisions of the health care system and those who head it is legitimate, but that’s when these things are said in polite language and are based on true facts,” added the judge. “Granting approval to the appellant to continue to possess a medical license, while he continues with his previous practices, and in particular preaches to violate medical directives given by the authorized bodies, cannot accord with the public interest,” added the judge.

__________________________

Dr. Avni has a website where he writes about himself: “During his work in the hospital but also in his private life, Dr. Avni was exposed to the dismal results of conventional cancer treatments, he lost his wife and sister. The difficult events made him think that allopathic medicine is not the only option and he started looking for other solutions. Better, and less dangerous in terms of “do no harm”.
This is how Dr. Avni came in his decades of journey to many methods and treatments that have in common that they treat problems from the root and not only the symptom, they are not harmful, in repairing one disease they do not increase the risk of new disease, they treat the person and do not see only the “disease” And their natural origin.
The more he delved into his research, the more Dr. Avni discovered to his amazement that there were powerful forces trying to silence and obscure vital information about these treatments. In the United States, for example, several dozen doctors died prematurely and for “strange” reasons, these were doctors who opposed vaccines or conventional cancer treatments. In recent years, Dr. Avni has also faced constant persecution by the media and the Ministry of Health, and once his license was suspended. But Dr. Avni did not flinch or fold, this is his life mission and for that we appreciate him and thank him! And we are not the only ones.

____________________________

Personally, I feel that the world is a safer place without anti-vax doctors in clinical practice. Other countries should perhaps follow the example of Israel and be more ready to revoke the licenses of anti-vax charlatans.

According to the authors of this study, research is lacking regarding osteopathic approaches in treating polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), one of the prevailing endocrine abnormalities in reproductive-aged women. Limited movement of pelvic organs can result in functional and structural deficits, which can be resolved by applying visceral manipulation (VM). Already with these two introductory sentences, I have problems. But for the moment, we can leave this aside and have a look at their trial.

The study was aimed at analyzing the effect of VM on dysmenorrhea, irregular, delayed, and/or absent menses, and premenstrual symptoms in PCOS patients.

Thirty Egyptian women with PCOS, with menstruation-related complaints and free from systematic diseases and/or adrenal gland abnormalities, prospectively participated in a single-blinded, randomized controlled trial. They were recruited from the women’s health outpatient clinic in the faculty of physical therapy at Cairo University, with an age of 20-34 years, and a body mass index (BMI) ≥25, <30 kg/m2. Patients were randomly allocated into two equal groups (15 patients); the control group received a low-calorie diet for 3 months, and the study group received the same hypocaloric diet plus VM to the pelvic organs and their related structures, according to assessment findings, for eight sessions over 3 months. Evaluations for body weight, BMI, and menstrual problems were done by weight-height scale, and menstruation-domain of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Health-Related Quality of Life Questionnaire (PCOSQ), respectively, at baseline and after 3 months of treatments.

A total of 30 patients were included, with baseline mean age, weight, BMI, and menstruation domain score of 27.5 ± 2.2 years, 77.7 ± 4.3 kg, 28.6 ± 0.7 kg/m2, and 3.4 ± 1.0, respectively, for the control group, and 26.2 ± 4.7 years, 74.6 ± 3.5 kg, 28.2 ± 1.1 kg/m2, and 2.9 ± 1.0, respectively, for the study group. Of the 15 patients in the study group, uterine adhesions were found in 14 patients (93.3%), followed by restricted uterine mobility in 13 patients (86.7%), restricted ovarian/broad ligament mobility (9, 60%), and restricted motility (6, 40%). At baseline, there was no significant difference (p>0.05) in any of the demographics (age, height), or dependent variables (weight, BMI, menstruation domain score) among both groups. Post-study, there was a statistically significant reduction (p=0.000) in weight, and BMI mean values for the diet group (71.2 ± 4.2 kg, and 26.4 ± 0.8 kg/m2, respectively) and the diet + VM group (69.2 ± 3.7 kg; 26.1 ± 0.9 kg/m2, respectively). For the improvement in the menstrual complaints, a significant increase (p<0.05) in the menstruation domain mean score was shown in the diet group (3.9 ± 1.0), and the diet + VM group (4.6 ± 0.5). On comparing both groups post-study, there was a statistically significant improvement (p=0.024) in the severity of menstruation-related problems in favor of the diet + VM group.

The authors concluded that VM yielded greater improvement in menstrual pain, irregularities, and premenstrual symptoms in PCOS patients when added to caloric restriction than utilizing the low-calorie diet alone in treating that condition.

VM involves the manual manipulation by a therapist of internal organs, blood vessels and nerves (the viscera) mostly from outside the body, but sometimes, the therapist also puts his/her fingers into the patient’s vagina. It was developed by the osteopath Jean-Piere Barral. He stated that through his clinical work with thousands of patients, he created this modality based on organ-specific fascial mobilization. And through work in a dissection lab, he was able to experiment with visceral manipulation techniques and see the internal effects of the manipulations. According to its proponents, visceral manipulation is based on the specific placement of soft manual forces looking to encourage the normal mobility, tone, and motion of the viscera and their connective tissues. The idea is that these gentle manipulations may potentially improve the functioning of individual organs, the systems the organs function within, and the structural integrity of the entire body.

I don’t see any reason to believe the concepts of VM are plausible. Thus I find the hypothesis of this trial extremely far-fetched. The results are equally unconvincing. As we have often discussed, the ‘A+B vs B’ design cannot prove a causal relationship between the intervention and the outcome.

The most likely explanation for the findings is that the patients receiving VM experienced or merely reported improvements because the extra attention of mildly invasive treatments produced a powerful placebo effect. To put it bluntly: this is a poor, arguably unethical study where over-enthusiastic researchers reach a conclusion that is not supported by the data.

An article in THE TIMES seems worth mentioning. Here are some excerpts:

… Maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) is the subject of an inquiry, prompted by dozens of baby deaths. More than 450 families have now come forward to take part in the review, led by the expert midwife Donna Ockenden. The trust now faces further scrutiny over its use of aromatherapy, after experts branded guidelines at the trust “shocking” and not backed by evidence. Several bereaved families have said they recall aromatherapy being heavily promoted at the trust’s maternity units.

It is being prosecuted over the death of baby Wynter Andrews just 23 minutes after she was born in September 2019. Her mother Sarah Andrews wrote on Twitter that she remembered aromatherapy being seen as “the answer to everything”. Internal guidelines, first highlighted by the maternity commentator Catherine Roy, suggest using essential oils if the placenta does not follow the baby out of the womb quickly enough…  the NUH guidelines say aromatherapy can help expel the placenta, and suggest midwives ask women to inhale oils such as clary sage, jasmine, lavender or basil, while applying others as an abdominal compress. They also describe the oils as “extremely effective for the prevention of and, in some cases, the treatment of infection”. The guidelines also suggest essential oils to help women suffering from cystitis, or as a compress on a caesarean section wound. Nice guidelines for those situations do not recommend aromatherapy…

The NUH adds frankincense “may calm hysteria” and is “recommended in situations of maternal panic”. Roy said: “It is shocking that dangerous advice seemed to have been approved by a team of healthcare professionals at NUH. There is a high tolerance for pseudoscience in NHS maternity care … and it needs to stop. Women deserve high quality care, not dangerous quackery.” …

________________________________

The journalist who wrote the article also asked me for a comment, and I emailed her this quote: “Aromatherapy is little more than a bit of pampering; no doubt it is enjoyable but it is not an effective therapy for anything. To use it in medical emergencies seems irresponsible to say the least.” The Times evidently decided not to include my thoughts.

Having now read the article, I checked again and failed to find good evidence for aromatherapy for any of the mentioned conditions. However, I did find an article and an announcement both of which are quite worrying, in my view:

Aromatherapy is often misunderstood and consequently somewhat marginalized. Because of a basic misinterpretation, the integration of aromatherapy into UK hospitals is not moving forward as quickly as it might. Aromatherapy in UK is primarily aimed at enhancing patient care or improving patient satisfaction, and it is frequently mixed with massage. Little focus is given to the real clinical potential, except for a few pockets such as the Micap/South Manchester University initiative which led to a Phase 1 clinical trial into the effects of aromatherapy on infection carried out in the Burns Unit of Wythenshawe Hospital. This article discusses the expansion of aromatherapy within the US and follows 10 years of developing protocols and policies that led to pilot studies on radiation burns, chemo-induced nausea, slow-healing wounds, Alzheimers and end-of-life agitation. The article poses two questions: should nursing take aromatherapy more seriously and do nurses really need 60 hours of massage to use aromatherapy as part of nursing practice?

My own views on aromatherapy are expressed in our now not entirely up-to-date review:

Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oil from herbs, flowers, and other plants. The aim of this overview was to provide an overview of systematic reviews evaluating the effectiveness of aromatherapy. We searched 12 electronic databases and our departmental files without restrictions of time or language. The methodological quality of all systematic reviews was evaluated independently by two authors. Of 201 potentially relevant publications, 10 met our inclusion criteria. Most of the systematic reviews were of poor methodological quality. The clinical subject areas were hypertension, depression, anxiety, pain relief, and dementia. For none of the conditions was the evidence convincing. Several SRs of aromatherapy have recently been published. Due to a number of caveats, the evidence is not sufficiently convincing that aromatherapy is an effective therapy for any condition.

In this context, it might also be worth mentioning that we warned about the frequent usage of quackery in midwifery years ago. Here is our systematic review of 2012 published in a leading midwifery journal:

Background: in recent years, several surveys have suggested that many midwives use some form of complementary/alternative therapy (CAT), often without the knowledge of obstetricians.

Objective: to systematically review all surveys of CAT use by midwives.

Search strategy: six electronic databases were searched using text terms and MeSH for CAT and midwifery.

Selection criteria: surveys were included if they reported quantitative data on the prevalence of CAT use by midwives.

Data collection and analysis: full-text articles of all relevant surveys were obtained. Data were extracted according to pre-defined criteria.

Main results: 19 surveys met the inclusion criteria. Most were recent and from the USA. Prevalence data varied but were usually high, often close to 100%. Much use of CATs does not seem to be supported by strong evidence for efficacy.

Conclusion: most midwives seem to use CATs. As not all CATs are without risks, the issue should be debated openly.

I am tired of saying ‘I TOLD YOU SO!’ but nevertheless find it a pity that our warning remained (yet again) unheeded!

In Austria, even some of the most blatant quackery continues to be supported by the country’s medical association. This has been notorious for a very long time, and many rational doctors have opposed this nonsense. Now my friends and colleagues have courageously sent an open letter to the President of the Austrian Medical Association. In order to support their efforts, I have taken the liberty of translating it:

Dr. Johannes Steinhart
President of the Austrian Medical Association
Weihburggasse 10-12
1010 Vienna

 

Dear President Steinhart,

 

In 2014 we founded the “Initiative for Scientific Medicine” with the aim of counteracting the support of pseudo-medicine by medical associations and the Ministry of Health.

We (www.initiative-wissenschaftliche-medizin.at) have been demanding for years that the Austrian Medical Association distance itself from irrational, predominantly esoteric pseudo-medicine and refrain from awarding diplomas in them. We also made these demands on behalf of the supporters of the initiative (currently 1142 supporters, of which 495 are female doctors and 230 natural scientists) during a discussion with the former president Wechselberger in 2015 (unfortunately unsuccessful at the time).

We would like to draw your attention to a resolution of the German Medical Congress 2022 on homeopathy and a court ruling in the first instance in Germany on the subject of bioresonance, which show that our neighbours have obviously begun to treat pseudomedicine for what it is, namely sham medicine.

The 126th German Medical Congress 2022 in Bremen has, among other things, passed a long overdue resolution. The additional title “homeopathy” was deleted from the (model) further training regulations. Prior to this decision, 12 of 17 state medical associations had already taken this decision themselves.

In May 2022 in Reutlingen, two managing directors of a company producing and selling bioresonance devices were sentenced to 2 and 3 years in prison and a fine of 2.5 million euros, and the former sales director to 90 days’ imprisonment for commercial fraud and violation of the Therapeutic Products Advertising Act. The verdict is not yet legally binding. Unfortunately, many Austrian doctors also practice this pseudo-medicine method.

The fact that many colleagues offer esoteric, pseudo-medical “therapies” without proven benefits to their patients and can refer to diplomas and accredited further training courses of the Medical Association/Academy of Physicians is difficult for us to understand, especially in view of the fact that the majority of the accredited further training courses are of high scientific quality. A medical association that argues that such pseudo-medical practices “should better remain in the hands of doctors (as “healers”)” contradicts the principles of evidence-based medicine to which the medical association always refers. The corona pandemic has shown us all the damage potential of science denial.

We believe that the time has also come for the Austrian Medical Association to come clean. We call on the Austrian Medical Association to unreservedly declare its support for scientific medicine, to clearly distance itself from pseudo-medicine, to suspend the awarding of diplomas in pseudo-medicine methods that are far removed from science, and to end the accreditation of pseudo-medicine training courses by the Medical Academy.

We are publishing this open letter on our website and will also publish your reply if you so wish.

 

With collegial greetings

Dr. Theodor Much, Specialist in Dermatology and Venereology, Baden near Vienna
DDr. Viktor Weisshäupl, retired specialist in anaesthesiology and intensive care medicine, Vienna

Despite considerable doubts about its effectiveness, osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) continues to be used for a range of pediatric conditions. Here is just one example of many osteopaths advertising their services:

I qualified as an Osteopath in 2009 after 4 years of intensive training from the British College of Osteopathic medicine, where I received a distinction for my efforts. After having two children I decided to do a 2-year Postgraduate training in Pediatric Osteopathy from the Osteopathic Centre for Children in London. Whilst at the centre I was lucky enough to meet a wide variety of children from premature babies in a Neonate Hospital ward to children with developmental issues and disabilities, children on the Autistic spectrum, to kids doing exams or experiencing high levels of stress. We also saw lots of children with normal coughs, colds, lumps and bumps.

And the ‘Institute of Osteopathy states this:

Parents visit osteopaths for a range of reasons to support their child’s health. Children, like adults, can be affected by general joint and muscle issues, which is one of the reasons people visit an osteopath. Parents will also take their children to visit an osteopath for a variety of other health reasons that may benefit from osteopathic care.

As osteopathic care is based on the individual needs of the patient, it will vary depending on your child’s age and the diagnosis. Osteopaths generally use a wide range of gentle hands-on techniques that focus on releasing tension, improving mobility and optimising function. This is often used together with exercise and helpful advice. Some osteopaths have been trained in very gentle techniques which are particularly suitable to assess and treat very young children, including new-borns. You do not need to consult your GP before you visit an osteopath, although you may wish to do so.

So, how good or bad is osteopathy for kids? Our systematic review wanted to find out. Specifically, the aim of this paper is to update our previous systematic review (SR) initially published in 2013 by critically evaluating the evidence for or against this treatment.

Eleven databases were searched (January 2012 to November 2021). Only randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of OMT in pediatric patients compared with any type of controls were considered. The Cochrane risk-of-bias tool was used. In addition, the quality of the evidence was rated using Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) criteria, as recommended by the Cochrane Collaboration.

Thirteen trials met the eligibility criteria, of which four could be subjected to a meta-analysis. The findings show that, in preterm infants, OMT has little or no effect on reducing the length of hospital stay (standardized mean difference (SMD) -0.03; 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.44 to 0.39; very low certainty of the evidence) when compared with usual care alone. Only one study (8.3%) was judged to have a low risk of bias and showed no effects of OMT on improving exclusive breastfeeding at one month. The methodological quality of RCTs published since 2013 has improved. However, adverse effects remain poorly reported.

We concluded that the quality of the primary trials of OMT has improved during recent years. However, the quality of the totality of the evidence remains low or very low. Therefore, the effectiveness of OMT for selected pediatric populations remains unproven.

These days, it is not often that I am the co-author of a systematic review. So, allow me to discuss one of my own papers for a change by making a few very brief points:

  • Considering how many osteopaths treat children, the fact that only 13 trials exist is shameful. To me, it suggests that the osteopathic profession has little interest in research.
  • The finding that adverse effects are poorly reported is even more shameful, in my view. It suggests that the few osteopaths who do some research don’t mind violating research ethics.
  • The fact that overall our review fails to yield good evidence that osteopathy is effective for any pediatric condition is the most shameful finding of them all. It means that osteopaths are either not informed about the evidence for their own approach, or that they are informed but don’t give a hoot and treat kids regardless. In both cases, they behave unethically.
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