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

quackery

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This recently published survey aimed to investigate the use of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) among long-term cancer survivors and its links with healthy behaviour. Data was used from the VICAN survey, conducted in 2015-2016 on a representative sample of French cancer survivors 5 years after diagnosis.

Among the 4174 participants, 21.4% reported using SCAM at the time of the survey, including 8.4% who reported uses not associated with cancer. The most frequently cited reasons for using SCAM were:

  • to improve their physical well-being (83.0%),
  • to strengthen their body (71.2%),
  • to improve their emotional well-being (65.2%),
  • to relieve the side effects of treatment (50.7%).

The SCAM users who reported using SCAM to cure cancer or prevent relapses (8.5% of the participants) also used SCAM for other reasons. They had more often experienced cancer progression, feared a recurrence, and had a poorer quality of life because of sequelae, pain, and fatigue. They also consulted their general practitioners more frequently and had changed their lifestyle by adopting more healthy practices.

The authors concluded that the use of SCAM is not an alternative but a complementary means of coping with impaired health. Further research is now required to determine whether the use of SCAM reflects a lifestyle change or whether it assists survivors rather to make behavioural changes.

The 2012 data from the same survey had previously reported that, among the participants, 16.4% claimed to have used SCAM, and 45.3% of this group had not used SCAM before cancer diagnosis (new SCAM users). Commonly, SCAMs used were:

  • homeopathy (64.0%),
  • acupuncture (22.1%),
  • osteopathy (15.1%),
  • herbal medicine (8.1%),
  • diets (7.3%),
  • energy therapies (5.8%).

SCAM use was found to be significantly associated with younger age, female gender and a higher education level. Previous SCAM use was significantly associated with having a managerial occupation and an expected 5-year survival rate ≥80% at diagnosis; recent SCAM use was associated with cancer progression since diagnosis, impaired quality of life and higher pain reports.

In nearly half of the SCAM users, cancer diagnosis was one of the main factors which incited patients to use SCAM. Opting for SCAM was a pragmatic response to needs which conventional medicine failed to meet during the course of the disease.

These surveys mostly confirm what has been shown over and over again in other countries. What I find remarkable with these results, however, is the increase in SCAM use over time and the extraordinary high use of homeopathy by French cancer patients (more recently, the reimbursement of homeopathy in France has changed, of course). As homeopathy has no effects beyond placebo, this suggests that SCAM use by French cancer patients is far from being driven by evidence.

So, what then does determine it?

My best answer I can give to this question is this: relentless promotion through pharmacies, advertisements and journalists. These have all been very powerful in France in relation to homeopathy (hardly surprising, as the world’s largest homeopathic producer, Boiron, is based in France).

This leads me to the conclusion that SCAM is far more commercially driven than its enthusiasts would ever admit. They think of the pharmaceutical industry as the evil exploiter of the sick. It is now time to realise that the SCAM industry is, to a large extent, part of the pharmaceutical industry and often behaves just as badly or even worse: because what could be more unethical that selling placebos to desperate and vulnerable cancer patients?

Breast cancer and its treatments lead to a decrease in patients’ quality of life (QOL). This systematic review aimed to assess the effectiveness of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) on the QOL of women with breast cancer.

A total of 28 clinical trials were included in the systematic review, 18 of which were randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Participants included women with breast cancer who were undergoing the first three phases of breast cancer or post-cancer rehabilitation. One study tested a dietary supplement, and the other 27 tested a variety of mind-body techniques (the authors counted the following modalities in this category: acupuncture, hyperthermia, movement therapy (qigong), laser therapy, orthomolecular therapy, osteopathy, phototherapy, healing touch, homeopathy, lymphatic drainage, magnet field therapy, manual therapy, neural therapy, Shiatsu). Twenty-seven studies showed improved QOL.

The authors concluded that the findings may indicate the potential benefits of SCAMs, especially mind-body techniques on QOL in breast cancer patients. Further RCTs or long-term follow-up studies are recommended. Moreover, the use of similar QOL assessment tools allows for more meta-analysis and generalizability of results, especially for the development of clinical guidelines.

This is a somewhat odd paper:

  • it is poorly written,
  • it lumps together SCAMs that do not belong in the same category,
  • it only considered studies published in English,
  • it included studies regardless of study design, even those without any control groups.

Regardless of these consideration, it stands to reason that patients’ QoL can be improved by SCAM. Only a fool would deny that a bit of extra care, kindness, attention and time is good for patients. The relevant questions, however, are quite different:

  1. Is this effect due to the extra attention and care or is it due to specific effects of SCAM?
  2. Which SCAM is best at achieving an improvement of QoL?
  3. Are the truly effective SCAMs better than conventional interventions aimed at improving QoL?

These are by no means academic questions but issues that need to be addressed to improve cancer care, and tackling them is in the best interest of suffering patients. Sadly, none of them can be answered by conducting poor quality systematic reviews of the evidence. Even more sadly, few of the proponents of integrated medicine want to face the music and answer these questions. They seem to prefer to stand in the way of progress, to ignore medical ethics, to blindly and naively integrate any old nonsense from the realm of SCAM (anything from homeopathy to Reiki) into routine care without probing further and without wanting to know the facts.

It is almost as though they are afraid of the truth.

When I discuss published articles on this blog, I usually focus on recent papers. Not so today! Today I write about a small study we published 17 years ago. It was conducted in Canada by researchers whom I merely assisted in designing the protocol and interpreting the findings.

They trained 8 helpers to pretend being customers of health food stores. They entered individually into assigned stores; the helpers had been informed to browse in the store until approached by an employee. At this time they would declare that their mother has breast cancer. They disclosed information on their mother’s condition, use of chemotherapy (Tamoxifen) and physician visits, only if asked. The helpers would then ask what the employee recommend for this condition. They followed a structured, memorized, pretested questionnaire that asked about product usage, dosage, cost, employee education and product safety or potential for drug interactions.

The helpers recorded which products were recommended by the health food store employees, along with the recommended dose and price per product as well as price per month. Additionally, they inquired about where the employee had obtained information on the recommended products. They also noted whether the employees referred them on to SCAM practitioners or recommended that they consult a physician. Full notes on the encounters were written immediately after leaving the store.

The findings were impressive. Of the 34 stores that met our inclusion criteria, 27 recommended SCAMs; a total of 33 different products were recommended. Here are some further findings:

  • Essiac was recommended most frequently.
  • The mean cost of the recommended products per month was $58.09 (CAD) (minimum $5.28, median $32.99, maximum $600).
  • Twenty-three employees (68%) did not ask whether the patient took prescription medications.
  • Fifteen (44%) employees recommended visiting a healthcare professional; these included: naturopaths (9), physicians (5) and nutritionists (1).
  • Health food store employees relied on a variety of sources of information. Twelve employees (35%) said they had received their information from books, 5 (15%) from a supplier, 3 (9%) had formal education in SCAM, 2 (6%) had in-store training, and 12 (35%) did not disclose their sources of information.

Since our paper has been published, several other investigations have addressed similar issues. Here are a few excerpts:

But why do I mention all this today?

The answer is that firstly, I think it is important to warn consumers of the often dangerous advice they might receive in HFSs. Secondly, I feel it would worthwhile to do further research, check whether the situation has changed and repeat a similar study today. Ideally, a new investigation should be conducted in different locations comparing several countries. If you have the possibility to plan and conduct such an experiment, please drop me a line.

Retraction Watch has alerted us to a “Paper urging use of homeopathy for COVID-19 appears in peer-reviewed public health journal”. The paper in question is readily available on the Internet. Here is its abstract:

Today, humanity is living through the third serious coronavirus outbreak in less than 20 years, following SARS in 2002–2003 and MERS in 2012. While the final cost on human lives and world economy remains unpredictable, the timely identification of a suitable treatment and the development of an effective vaccine remain a significant challenge and will still require time.

The aim of this study is to show that the global collective effort to control the coronavirus pandemic (Covid 19) should also consider alternative therapeutic methods, and national health systems should quickly endorse the validity of proven homeopathic treatments in this war against coronavirus disease.
Subject and methods With the help of mathematics, we will show that the fundamental therapeutic law on which homeopathy is founded can be proved.
Results The mathematical proof of the law of similarity justifies perfectly the use of ultra – high diluted succussed solution products as major tools in the daily practices of homeopathy.
Conclusion It is now time to end prejudice and adopt in this fight against Covid-19 alternative therapeutic techniques and practices that historically have proven effective in corresponding situations.

And the full conclusions from the body of the paper read as follows:

Today, it is imperative that ever-safe medicinal products such as homeopathic ultra – high diluted succussed solutions are tested in this pandemic. Epidemiological research has to be carried out to include homeopathic treatment and compare it to established treatments. Patients should be assigned randomly in two different groups of at least 200–400 individuals, and receive respectively established and homeopathic treatment. The evaluation of the results from both groups could reveal which group has a superior outcome in survival, general health conditions, etc., and to what extent.

If there were a competition for the craziest paper published on so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) during 2020, this one would, I am sure, win by some margin! The authors seem to have little idea of the nature of evidence in healthcare or medicine; and they use mathematics like a drunken man uses a lamp-post: not for enlightenment, but for support.

So, who are the authors of this showcase of pseudoscience?

They are D. Kalliantas, M. Kallianta, Ch. S. Karagianni from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, School of Chemical Engineering, NTUA, GR15780, Athens, Greece; the National Technical University of Athens, 9 Heroon Polytechniou Str. Zografos Campus, 15780 Athens, Greece; and the School of Dentistry, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece.

The first author has previously published weird stuff including a self-published book: Kalliantas D (2008) The Chaos theory of disease. Kallianta A Publications, Eleusis, GreeceOn Medline, I also found this paper by two of the three authors:

Trituration is a mechanical process (a form of comminution) for reducing the particle size of a substance. In this manuscript, six different Raw Solid Materials (RSM) which are used in Homeopathy after successive grindings are studied before they are turned into homeopathic solutions. The impact of trituration, with the presence of α‑lactose monohydrate (milk sugar) seems to be quite great and interesting because of the variety of grain size which largely differentiate the properties of the materials. The grain sizes obtained triturations by hand according to C. Herring’s suggestion leads, finally, measurement scale dimensions. The obtained results can be useful information for all the pharmacy industries, as well as for preparing any kind of powder.

Sadly, this renders my suspicion unlikely that the new article is a hoax in which some pranksters were trying to show that any odd nonsense can pass the peer-review of a scientific journal.

And which journal would publish a paper that looks like a hoax but is none? It is the Journal of Public Health: From Theory to Practice (Springer). On the website, the journal tells us that:

The Journal of Public Health: From Theory to Practice is an interdisciplinary publication for the discussion and debate of international public health issues, with a focus on European affairs. It describes the social and individual factors determining the basic conditions of public health, analyzing causal interrelations, and offering a scientifically sound rationale for personal, social and political measures of intervention. Coverage includes contributions from epidemiology, health economics, environmental health, management, social sciences, ethics, and law.

  • An interdisciplinary publication for the discussion and debate of international public health issues
  • Includes contributions from epidemiology, health economics, environmental health, management, social sciences, ethics, and law
  • Offers a scientifically sound rationale for personal, social and political measures of intervention
  • 94% of authors who answered a survey reported that they would definitely publish or probably publish in the journal again.

_______________________________

The twice mentioned term SCIENTIFICALLY SOUND does not quite ring true in the present instance, does it?

Acupressure is the stimulation of specific points, called acupoints, on the body surface by pressure for therapeutic purposes. The required pressure can be applied manually of by a range of devices. Acupressure is based on the same tradition and assumptions as acupuncture. Like acupuncture, it is often promoted as a panacea, a ‘cure-all’.

Several systematic reviews of the clinical trials of acupressure have been published. An overview published in 2010 included 9 such papers and concluded that the effectiveness of this treatment has not been conclusively demonstrated for any condition.

But since 2010, more trials have become available.

Do they change the overall picture?

The objective of this study was to test the efficacy of acupressure on patient-reported postoperative recovery. The researchers conducted a single centre, three-group, blind, randomised controlled, pragmatic trial assessing acupressure therapy on the PC6, LI4 and HT7 acupoints. Postoperative patients expected to stay in hospital at least 2 days after surgery were included and randomised to three groups:

  1. In the acupressure group, pressure was applied for 6 min (2 min per acupoint), three times a day after surgery for a maximum of 2 postoperative days during the hospital stay.
  2. In the sham group, extremely light touch was applied to the acupoints.
  3. The third group did not receive any such intervention.

All patients also received the normal postoperative treatments.

The primary outcome was the change in the quality of recovery (QoR), using the QoR-15 questionnaire, between postoperative days 1 and 3. Key secondary outcomes included patients’ satisfaction, postoperative nausea and vomiting, pain score and opioid (morphine equivalent) consumption. Assessors for the primary and secondary endpoints were blind to the group allocation.

A total of 163 patients were randomised (acupressure n=55, sham n=53, no intervention n=55). The mean (SD) postoperative change in QoR-15 did not differ statistically (P = 0.27) between the acupressure, sham and no intervention groups: 15.2 (17.8), 14.2 (21.9), 9.2 (21.7), respectively. Patient satisfaction (on a 0 to 10 scale) was statistically different (P = 0.01) among these three groups: 9.1 (1.5), 8.4 (1.6) and 8.2 (2.2), respectively. Changes in pain score and morphine equivalent consumption were not significantly different between the groups.

The authors concluded that two days of postoperative acupressure therapy (up to six treatments) did not significantly improve patient QoR, postoperative nausea and vomiting, pain score or opioid consumption. Acupressure, however, was associated with improved patient satisfaction.

This study is a good example to show why it is so difficult (or even impossible) to use a clinical trial for demonstrating the ineffectiveness of a therapy for any given condition. The above trial fails to show that acupressure had a positive effect on the primary outcome measure. Acupressure fans will, however, claim that:

  • there was a positive effect on patient satisfaction,
  • the treatment was too intense/long,
  • the treatment was not intense/long enough,
  • the wrong points were used,
  • the sample size was too small,
  • the patients were too ill,
  • the patients were not ill enough,
  • etc., etc.

In the end, such discussions often turn out to be little more than a game of pigeon chess. Perhaps it is best to ask before planning such a trial:

IS THE ASSUMPTION THAT THE TREATMENT WORKS FOR THIS CONDITION PLAUSIBLE?

If the answer is no, why do the study in the first place?

I have long cautioned that chiropractic overuse of X-rays is a safety problem. Is this still an issue? A recent paper was aimed at finding out.

The objective of this review was to determine the diagnostic and therapeutic utility of routine or repeat radiographs (in the absence of red flags) of the cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine for the functional or structural evaluation of the spine. Investigate whether functional or structural findings on repeat radiographs are valid markers of clinically meaningful outcomes. The research objectives required that the researchers determine the validity, diagnostic accuracy and reliability of radiographs for the structural and functional evaluation of the spine.

The investigators searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, and Index to Chiropractic Literature from inception to November 25, 2019. They used rapid review methodology recommended by the World Health Organization. Eligible studies (cross-sectional, case-control, cohort, randomized controlled trials, diagnostic and reliability) were critically appraised. Studies of acceptable quality were included in our synthesis.

Twenty-three papers were critically appraised. No relevant studies assessed the clinical utility of routine or repeat radiographs (in the absence of red flags) of the cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine for the functional or structural evaluation of the spine. No studies investigated whether functional or structural findings on repeat radiographs are valid markers of clinically meaningful outcomes. Nine low risk of bias studies investigated the validity (n = 2) and reliability (n = 8) of routine or repeat radiographs. These studies provided no evidence of clinical utility.

The authors’ conclusions are clear: We found no evidence that the use of routine or repeat radiographs to assess the function or structure of the spine, in the absence of red flags, improves clinical outcomes and benefits patients. Given the inherent risks of ionizing radiation, we recommend that chiropractors do not use radiographs for the routine and repeat evaluation of the structure and function of the spine.

In the paper, the authors provided further valuable information and background:

In the United States in 2010, the rate of spine radiographs within 5 days of presenting to a chiropractor was 204 per 1000 new patients. An analysis of national trends in the United States suggests that the rate of spinal radiography by chiropractors and podiatrists increased by 14.4% between 2003 and 2015. This increase occurred despite the publication of several evidence-based clinical practice guidelines and clinical prediction rules to assist chiropractors in determining the indication for spine radiographs to assist with diagnosing a pathology. Overall, guidelines suggest that radiographs are indicated when signs and symptoms of potentially serious underlying pathology (red flags) are identified through the clinical history and physical examination. However, on its own, an isolated “red flag” may have a high false positive rate for the diagnosis of underlying spinal pathology, such as cancer. For example, the presence of a solitary “red flag” such as age over 50 years may not be sufficient to warrant taking spine radiographs. Therefore, clinicians are encouraged to combine sound clinical judgement and the assessment of red flags when ordering radiographs.

In the absence of “red flags”, the use of spinal radiographs is not recommended. Nevertheless, factions of chiropractors, including the International Chiropractic Association promote the use of routine or repeat radiographs to assess the structure and function of the spine. This practice which dates back to 1910 was initiated when no evidence was available to guide the judicious use of spine radiographs. Historically, these groups of chiropractors have argued that radiographs are helpful to measure postural abnormalities, identify vertebral misalignment or subluxation and guide treatment with spinal manipulative therapy. The belief that radiographs are useful to detect and correct spine structure and function provides the foundation for many chiropractic technique systems that are still in use today. To our knowledge, approximately 23 chiropractic techniques use spine radiography (including full spine radiography) to guide the clinical management of patients. These include the Gonstead, Chiropractic BioPhysics®, Toggle-Recoil, and National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA) techniques. Proponents of these techniques claim that the use of routine and repeat radiographs is supported by scientific evidence and have published a guideline to assist clinicians with the biomechanical assessment of spinal subluxation in chiropractic clinical practice using radiography. However, these claims have not yet been evaluated for their clinical utility, the benefit a patient gains from a test or treatment. This was a particular concern for the College of Chiropractors of British Columbia (CCBC) which regulates the practice of chiropractic in the province of British Columbia, Canada. The mission of the CCBC is to protect the public by regulating British Columbia’s doctors of chiropractic to ensure safe, qualified and ethical delivery of care.

The references from these two paragraphs can be found in the original paper. One reference the authors did not include was my article of 1998 which, at the time, received plenty of angry responses from chiropractors. Here is its conclusion: DATA SUGGEST AN OVERUSE OF RADIOGRAPHY BY THE CHIROPRACTIC PROFESSION. THIS CONSTITUTES A SAFETY PROBLEM THAT DESERVES TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AND REQUIRES FURTHER RESEARCH.

Twenty-two years later, do I get the impression that the chiropractic profession might not be the fastest in getting its act together?

New German Medicine?

German New Medicine?

What on earth is that?

German New Medicine (GNM) is the creation of Ryke Geerd Hamer (1935-2017), a German doctor. The name is reminiscent of the ‘Neue Deutsche Heilkunde’ created by the Nazis during the Third Reich. Hamer received his medical licence in 1963 but was later struck off because of malpractice. He then continued his practice as a ‘Heilpraktiker’. According to proponents, GNM Therapy is a spoken therapy based on the findings and research of the Germanic New Medicine of Dr.Hamer. On the understanding that every disease is triggered by an isolating and shocking event, GNM Therapy assists in finding the DHS (shocking moment) in our lives that preceded the dis-ease and in turn allowing our bodies to complete its natural healing cycle back to full health. Hamer believed to have discovered the ‘5 laws of nature’:

  • The Iron Rule of Cancer
  • The two-phased development of disease
  • Ontogenetic system of tumours and cancer equivalent diseases
  • Ontogenetic system of microbes
  • Natures biological meaning of a disease

Hamer also postulated that:

  • All diseases are caused by psychological conflicts.
  • Conventional medicine is a conspiracy of Jews to decimate the non-Jewish population.
  • Microbes do not cause diseases.
  • AIDS is just an allergy.
  • Cancer is the result of a mental shock.

None of Hamer’s ‘discoveries’ and assumptions are plausible or based on facts, and none of his therapeutic approaches have been shown to be effective.

 These days, I do not easily get surprised by what I read about so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), but this article entitled ‘Homoeopathy And New German Medicine: Two German Siblings‘ baffled me greatly. Here are a few short excerpts:

… German New Medicine (GNM) like Homoeopathy is one of the gentle healing methods. As siblings, they have some common features as well as their own unique features. So, let’s explore a unique relationship between these two siblings.

1) Holistic aspect:
Both therapeutic methods are believed in holistic concept of body. The disease condition in Homoeopathy and conflict in GNM are very similar in expression as they are reflecting on mental as well as physical level also. In Homoeopathy, Mind, Body and Soul are one of the important trios to understand the Homoeopathic philosophy. While in GNM, Psyche, Brain, Body are important aspect in learning the GNM. Let’s see these trio in their founder’s language,

• Homoeopathy:
Dr. Hahnemann in his oragnon of medicine, 6th edition mentioned about a unity of materialistic body and vital force. Last lines of aphorism 15 are as follows, “…although in thought our mind separates these two unities into distinct conceptions for the sake of easy comprehension.

• German New Medicine:
Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer, founder of GNM said that, “The differentiation between psyche, brain and the body is purely academic. In reality, they are one.”

2) Disease origin concept:

• Homoeopathy:
In Homoeopathy, disease originates from the dynamic disturbances and followed by functional and pathological changes.

• German New Medicine:
In GNM, morbid condition starts from conflict in the psyche level and later it reflects on body. The common feature is the disturbance is at the all levels of man.

3) Cause of disease:

• Homoeopathy:
In Homoeopathy, among the web of causations, psyche (mind) is also considers as a cause of disease.

• German New Medicine:
So, in GNM, psyche is playing important role in cause of disease. When Conflict starts, its dynamic effect perceived first at mind level.

4) Individuality:

• Homoeopathy:
In Homoeopathy, diathesis is a predisposition for disease condition. i.e. According to the diathesis every individual suffers with their own individual morbid dispositions. Rheumatic diathesis, gouty diathesis, etc. are the examples of diathesis.

• German New Medicine:
In GNM, every individual suffers from the disease condition after the receiving conflict. It is different and depending upon the type of conflict they are receiving. E.g. lung cancer- death fright conflict, cervical cancer –female sexual conflict…

Conclusion:
Some similarities and with some own characteristics, these two healing methods are developing at a good length in medical science. The main aim of these both methods is – “to serve the suffering humanity in gentle way”…

_____________________

Could it be that the author forgot the most striking similarities between GNM and homeopathy? How about these points:

  • There is nothing truly gentle about either methods.
  • Both are based on bizarre fantasies, far removed from reality.
  • Both pretend to be a panacea.
  • Both lack proof of efficacy.
  • Both have the potential to kill patients (mostly through neglect).
  • Both mislead consumers.
  • Both are deeply anti-scientific.
  • Both dissuade patients from using evidence-based healthcare.
  • Both are in conflict with medical ethics.
  • Both have cult-like features.
  • Both are far from being recognised by proper healthcare.
  • Both have been repeatedly in conflict with the law.
  • Both were invented by deludes fanatics.

On his website, Phillip Hughes – D. Hom (Med), M.A.R.H, describes himself as follows:

In the early 1990’s my life was turned upside-down by a prolapsed disk in my back, putting me in traction in a hospital for 6 weeks! The doctor’s prognosis was poor, leaving me with little hope of full mobility, and no choice but to seek treatment elsewhere.

I decided on Homeopathy, and after treatment I experienced real change in my condition within a month, and was completely well within 3 months. I was so inspired by this I decided to study Homeopathy myself – and in 1994 I enrolled at the Hahnemann College of Homeopathy in London, qualifying in 1998.

After qualifying I set up my first clinic in Waterloo, Liverpool. I also became a senior lecturer at the Hahnemann College of Homeopathy, and founder of the Liverpool branch of the Hahnemann College.

I then moved my clinic to College Road Crosby, when I took up the role of secretary of Homeopathic Medical Association (since resigned). It was during this time that my wife Rosa found a lump in her breast, motivating us again to seek safer and alternative treatments, this time using Thermography. We now run Thermography and Homeopathic clinics side by side.

I had never heard of Mr Hughes until yesterday, when it was reported that he had treated a Sean Walsh, a young musician, for Hodgkin lymphoma that had initially been controlled with chemotherapy, but had later returned. Here is an excerpt from the sad story:

Sean was having scans at a clinic – Medical Thermal Imaging – run by a couple called Philip and Rosa Hughes. Philip Hughes, a homeopath, had previously told Sean’s parents he’d successfully treated Rosa for breast cancer. Dawn [Sean’s girlfriend] went along to Sean’s first appointment. “Phil was just talking all about how damaging chemotherapy is, you know, on the human body… saying, ‘I’ve had lots of people come to my clinic, but by the time I get them, they’re shot with all this chemotherapy, so I can’t help them … And then he was talking all about how you can change your diet, which can reverse cancer. He’d said that Rosa had developed breast cancer. She’d had a lump in her breast, and she decided not to do hospital treatment, and she was going to, you know, reverse the cancer herself. So obviously Sean’s listening to this thinking, ‘Well, if one person’s done it, and then I’m hearing other little stories off them, I can do this’. Sean’s scans did carry a disclaimer, stating that thermography does not see or diagnose cancer and recommending further clinical investigation. But the scan results seemed reassuring – and Sean was convinced his cancer had gone. ‘Medical Thermal Imaging’ describe their scans as “100% safe and radiation-free”.

To find out more about the service the Hughes were offering, a BBC reporter went to the clinic where Sean had his scans, posing as a patient who’d found a lump. They were seen by Rosa Hughes, who had provided scans for Sean. Rosa told our reporter that when she went to the breast clinic to have her lump investigated, she should have an ultrasound rather than a mammogram. This is a transcript of what she said: “Not a mammogram, because you’re going to get radiated, and it’s going to squash… and the amount of women that have had their tumours, the tumour burst, that spreads cancer.”

[The BBC] asked cancer specialist Prof Andrew Wardley, of Manchester’s Christie Hospital, to review the medical claims Rosa Hughes made to our reporter. “That’s preposterous. You don’t burst tumours, they are solid. You do squash the breast down to do a mammogram, it is unpleasant but it’s a short-term thing. You do not spread cancer by doing a mammogram, that’s a complete fallacy.” Rosa and Philip Hughes say they “utterly reject” the allegation that they gave Mr Walsh inappropriate advice. They added they had “consistently made clear” that thermography can only be used alongside other tests, such as MRIs or mammograms.

At first Sean believed he had cured his own cancer. But tragically Sean was wrong. Gradually his health declined, until he was rushed to hospital in Liverpool where medical staff found he had multiple tumours in his stomach and chest. He did eventually receive chemotherapy but it was too late.

Sean died in January 2019.

On Philip Hughes’ website, he advertises his services with the help of several testimonials from happy customers. Here is one of them:

In November 2000, I had an aggressive Sarcoma Tumour removed along with my left lung. Shortly after surgery I was referred to Weston Park Hospital, Sheffield for ‘follow up’ treatments where I was offered both chemotherapy and radiotherapy. At around the same time, I first visited Waterloo Homeopathic Clinic on a friends recommendation. After this initial introduction to Homeopathy I began ti educate myself about my condition and possible treatments. Consequently I considered chemotherapy to be a crude option and decided to refuse it. However, the frightening thought of this aggressive tumour returning encourages me to go ahead with a six week course of radiotherapy as a precaution alongside Homeopathic treatment. Accordingly this holistic approach resulted in my immune system being boosted by Homeopathy and my body prepared for this medical treatment. Leading up to the radiotherapy and during the six weeks of treatments, I took a rang of Homeopathic remedies. Radium Brom, in my opinion, was undoubtedly the input that enabled me to go through an intense course of treatment daily and continue my healthy recovery. I didn’t miss a days work and finished a half marathon only three weeks after completing the radiotherapy. I have since remained in good health and all checks been clear.

I have said it often, but it seems I have to say it again: the homeopathic remedy might be harmless, but the homeopath isn’t!

 

 

 

PS

The BBC documentary provides many more details about Sean and another of Mr Hughes’ patients. It also shows some rare footage from the inside of the Gerson clinic in Mexico where Sean went for a while. Very sad but well worth watching!!!

There has been plenty of research into the factors that determine the usage of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). Yet, so far, not a single truly powerful predictor has been identified. The aim of this study was therefore to identify the most important predictors of the use and approval of CAM. The researchers performed a canonical correlation analysis on all 3480 records from the 2012 German General Social Survey (ALLBUS) with the lifetime use and opinion of SCAM as the dependent variables.

Approval of paranormal practices such as fortune-telling, dowsing or spiritualism explained 32% of the variance in the dependent canonical variate “approval of SCAM”, while sociodemographic variables explained only 2%. Experience with paranormal practices explained 17% of the variance in the dependent canonical variate “experience with SCAM”, and sociodemographic variables explained 10% of the variance. Traditional religiosity, attitudes towards science and post-materialist values showed no relevant correlations with the dependent canonical variates.

The authors concluded that paranormal beliefs and related measures are the most important known predictors of the use and approval of SCAM. Experience with paranormal practices not only indicates paranormal beliefs but also explains experience with SCAM that cannot be explained by approval of SCAM. Female gender and higher socioeconomic status predict experience with SCAM without predicting approval of SCAM, but their influence should not be overstated.

Let’s not worry for the moment about the fact that most of the methods employed here to quantify the variables in question were not adequately validated. Let’s instead just assume that the reported findings are reliable and real. In this case, we must ask what do these correlations mean?

The authors seem to think that their results are quite extraordinary and require elaborate explanations. I find the findings utterly unsurprising and think they are almost self-explanatory: SCAM use/approval and the belief in the paranormal are linked because, to a very large degree, SCAM is part of the paranormal. The two are associated via a common denominator: lack of rationality and critical thinking.

George Lakhovsky, a Russian-born scientist, believed to have found out that every cell of the human body has its own frequency. Healthy cells emit a frequency radiation, he claimed, and whenever a part of the body gets damaged, inflamed or ill, the resonance of those cells become less intense. When pathogens, bacteria, microbes take over, they disrupt the healthy cells with their harmful frequency, Lakhovsky thought.

Based on these notions, Lakhovsky constructed a device capable of generating a field of frequencies in a very broad spectrum. He argued that, if one would place a sick person or an affected body part in this frequency spectrum, those diseased cells would recognize their own frequency, tune in and would start resonating in their own, healthy frequency again. Thus the illness would disappear, Lakhovsky thought.

He felt it should be possible to halt and even cure degenerative diseases like cancer in this way. After a long time of experimenting unsuccessfully, he called Nicola Tesla for help. Tesla had the blueprints for the oscillator machine ready for use. Their multi-wave oscillator was said to activate healing processes and cured most cases of cancer, leukaemia, osteoporosis etc.

An important part of Lakhovsky’s work took place in 1920-1930. In France, Italy, England and Germany multiple of Lakhovsky’s machines were operating. But then they slowly started disappearing again. Many people said the reason for this was that the quick results provided by the machines made the hospitals unnecessary and no profits could be made by them.

The Second World War put an end to much of Lakhovsky’s work. While visiting the US, Lakhovsky was struck by a car and died under mysterious circumstances aged 72.

________________________________________

Is this intriguing story the script of a bizarre film?

No, it is a true – well, partly true – story which I have taken from this article by a therapist who, like many others, uses Lakhovsky’s oscillator for treating patients (and sells potions, some of which cost well over Euro 1 000!). Another article by a practitioner offering this treatment claims that the oscillator is effective for the following indications:

  • vitalising cells,
  • activation of the body’s own healing powers,
  • anti-ageing,
  • wellness,
  • improving general well-being,
  • pain reduction,
  • detox,
  • rejuvenation of skin,
  • improvement of visual aspect of the skin.

The article further assures us that the treatment is totally free of side-effects and can be used as an adjunctive therapy for almost any disease.

Yet another website advertises the therapy as follows: Have you lost a loved one to cancer? Georges Lakhovsky had a 98% success rate in treating fatal cancers over an 11-year period. Today we celebrate a 50% five-year survival rate.

And this is what Wikipedia tells us about the Lakhovsky oscillator (depicted in the photo above, together with its inventor):  The main circuit basically consists of concentric rings forming electrical dipole antennas having capacitive gaps opposing each other by 180° (called Lakhovsky antennas). The circuit is fed with high voltage, high frequency, impulses from a generator, usually a Tesla coil. If set up correctly, the unit is supposed to create a broad band frequency spectrum of low amplitude, consisting of much more substantially lower and higher frequencies, from 1 Hz to 300 GHz, than those of the exciting generator, usually several 100 kHz to a few MHz from a Tesla transformer or several kilohertz from an induction coil. But the power of this broad band noise spectrum is very low. In order to create more harmonics and sub-harmonics, an additional spark gap on the secondary side has been found in some devices, being mounted directly on the antenna, or being mounted in parallel to the secondary coil…

In an attempt to find out whether the machine works, I have searched for published, peer-reviewed clinical evidence on the Lakhovsky oscillator. I was unable to find any. If any of my readers are aware of any evidence, please let me know.

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