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

TCM

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Due to polypharmacy combined with the rising popularity of so-called alternative medicines (SCAM), oncology patients are at particular risk of drug-drug interactions (DDI) or herb-drug interactions (HDI). Caution is therefore indicated.

The aims of this study were to assess DDI and HDI in outpatients taking oral anticancer drugs.

All prescribed and non-prescribed medications, including SCAM, were prospectively collected by hospital pharmacists during a structured interview with the patient. DDI and HDI were analyzed using four interaction software programs: Thériaque®, Drugs.com®, Hédrine, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) database. All detected interactions were characterized by severity, risk, and action mechanism. The need for pharmaceutical intervention to modify drug use was determined on a case-by-case basis.

294 patients were included, with a mean age of 67 years. The median number of chronic drugs per patient was 8 [1-29] and 55% of patients used at least one SCAM. At least 0ne interaction was found for 267 patients (90.8%): 263 (89.4%) with DDI, 68 (23.1%) with HDI, and 64 (21.7%) with both DDI and HDI. Only 13% of the DDI were found in Thériaque® and Drugs.com® databases, and 125 (2.5%) were reported with a similar level of risk on both databases. 104 HDI were identified with only 9.5% of the interactions found in both databases. 103 pharmaceutical interventions were performed, involving 61 patients (20.7%).

The authors concluded that potentially clinically relevant drug interactions were frequently identified in this study, showing that several databases and structured screening are required to detect more interactions and optimize medication safety.

This figure of potential HDIs is high – much higher than in most previous studies. A possible explanation could be that the study was carried out in France where the use of herbal remedies is considerable. As some HDIs can cause serious problems for patients, my advice is to think twice about using herbal remedies while taking prescription drugs. I think this advice is sound regardless of whether someone is suffering from cancer or any other condition.

Guest post by Ken McLeod

Believe it or not, there are practitioners of a health system with little or no evidence of efficacy and safety who are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency. That is, so-called Traditional Chinese Medicine, whose practitioners are registered alongside evidence-based practitioners such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists.

Governments who framed the relevant legislation evidently hoped that registration would enable the public to have confidence that they would be treated with evidence-based medicine. Such confidence is misplaced, as has been shown in The Skeptic and elsewhere many times.

Here’s another example of the failure of the health practitioner registration system.

Jamie Lloyd Allan is registered with AHPRA with the Chinese Medical Registration Number CMR0002096457, with no endorsements. He practices at his clinic in eastern Sydney. He advertises at his website meridianremedies.com.au.

And some of his claims are deeply worrying. Allan claims that he uses “Chinese Herbal medicine & Acupuncture in conjunction with testing and removal of accumulated toxins and heavy metals, developing comprehensive individualised herbal antimicrobial and detoxification protocols.”

He claims that “toxins and heavy metals … enter our bodies, disrupt normal healthy cell behaviour, impair our immune system, often contribute and sometimes cause many different types of illnesses and health conditions.”

His claims are designed to generate unfounded worries in people, offering a smorgasbord of claims how he can help people learn [the words and spelling are his]:

• how mercury from common amalgam fillings can be passed from mother to child to grandchild and why preconception detoxification is important;

• how to assess a dentist to know your [sic] getting the best and safest care during amalgam removal;

• about mercury/autism connection, heavy metal accumulation and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Dementia;

• more about mercury, aluminium, cadmium and lead toxicity;

• how heavy metal accumulation acts as an antenna for electromagnetic radiation from devices such as wifi, cell phone, cordless phones, thus focusing the frequencies on the areas where the metals are stored, causing changes in the proteins and even DNA;

• the science behind electromagnetic radiation and how it affects human cells;

• Glyphosate toxicity, and how many of us have it and how it affects our health, and lots more.

Allan goes into the alleged toxicity of mercury amalgam fillings further at his blog. I should not have to say it, but his claims are baseless and have been debunked many times. The US Food and Drug Administration has said that existing evidence shows that dental amalgam is not harmful to the general population (tinyurl.com/589mbrr6). And as Scientific American said “Mercury and Autism: Enough Already! The science shows that they have nothing to do with each other and never have.” (tinyurl.com/mwwdxxak)

Allan also writes extensively on “EMF Sensitivity Wi-Fi and Cell Phone radiation – Heavy Metals and EMF Sensitivity and Autism” – he claims “Autism rates double every 5 years and the only thing that parallels that in our environment is the increase of man made Electro magnetic Radiation and fields largely in the high frequencies from cell phone Wi-Fi, smart meters and other Electro magnetic devices.’ This is unconscionable; scaring potential clients with this, while conveniently forgetting that correlation does not mean causation.

Allan also offers the following techniques as a “Detox for autism”:

• Sauna or heat therapy (far infrared is best) Cold shower straight after to close pores and wash of toxins

• Clay plasters, Clay on scars, then shower

• Ionic Foot Cleanses, Detox baths, Takara foot Pads, or raw white potato strapped on soles of feet

• Fibre + Enemas or colonics, slippery elm, keep bowls [sic] moving

• Liver gall bladder flush with lemon oil

• Exercise, dry skin brush

• Chi Machine for lymph drainage and movement to parasympathetic dominance

• Olive or other healthy oils for swish and spit

• Genetic, vitamin, mineral testing to guide your diet and supplements

• Western and Chinese Herbs to detox bowls [sic], liver, kidney, lymph

• Homeopathic drops & plenty of water orally

• Laser Energetic detox

• Ozonized bath, Epson salt bath

• Enema for detox reactions in kids

• Stronger detox agents DMPS, DMSA, EDTA can be used in case of high-level toxicity. For children, the use of the above mention techniques over DMPS, DMSA and EDTA is preferred first.

“Raw white potato strapped on soles of feet”!! Come on! This is lunacy. And enemas for children? And what qualifications does Allan hold to diagnose and administer these dangerous pharmaceuticals?

Luckily, Allan offers the perfect scanner to diagnose what’s wrong with you, the Oligoscan.

As described, “This a [sic] spectrographic-based test. Every element on the periodic table has its own unique absorption spectra, meaning that different elements absorb certain wavelengths of light, and reflect others. The spectra of lead will be different from that of mercury, or calcium, or any other element. The Oligoscan shines a laser on different points on the hand, and based off of [sic] which wavelengths of light are absorbed or reflected back, the levels of different metals and minerals in the cells of your hand can be determined. This is similar to how astronomers can analyze the wavelengths of light emitted by distant stars to determine their chemical make-up.

“The Oligoscan has the advantage of testing the levels of metals that are actually in your cells, not what you are able to excrete. It tests the heavy metal load of the tissues. This is important because heavy metals have a affinity [sic] for tissues and are often store [sic] there and not in the blood. It can also measure aluminium, which most other tests will miss. Oligoscan results tend to correlate with other accurate tests.”

A search of the TGA’s register of therapeutic goods did not find the Oligoscan listed.

Clearly, Allan is engaged in a process of scaring potential clients with misinformation, then offering diagnostic and treatment processes that are deceptive, ineffective and dangerous, and not listed with the TGA; for all of which he is not qualified.

COMPLAINT PROCESS

A complaint was sent to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission describing the above issues. (In NSW and Queensland, complaints concerning health care practitioners, registered and unregistered, are lodged with the relevant State authorities, the HCCC and OHO respectively.) We added that “This should not be treated as merely a case of misleading advertising; Allan is clearly endangering the public, so I recommend a thorough audit of his practice, and when my allegations are found to be proven, suitable disciplinary action taken and entered on the AHPRA register.”

The HCCC responded saying “Following consultation with the Chinese Medicine Council of New South Wales, it was decided to refer this matter to the Australian Health Practitioner

Regulation Agency (AHPRA) as AHPRA is the designated agency to manage concerns about advertising. We did not identify any other issues that would require further action by the Commission.” (We approached the Chinese Medicine Council of NSW – their response is quoted in the sidebar.)

The HCCC continued: “The Commission obtained a written response from Mr Allan. In his response to the Commission, Mr Allan stated that he had no record of providing any care and treatment to you.

“Mr Allan acknowledged that his website may have created a misunderstanding about what actual treatments are offered at his clinic, and what was on his website for educational purposes only.

“Mr Allan noted that he has never owned an Oligoscan or used it at his clinic, he has therefore removed that information from his website.

“Mr Allan confirmed that he does not offer the techniques under the heading ‘detox for autism’ at his clinic, the information was for educational purposes only, and he has now removed this information from his website.

“Further, Mr Allan has confirmed that he has removed the information on his website about Glyphosate Toxicity, Toxicity of Mercury Amalgam fillings, Nutrition for Autism, and all avenues of receiving mercury toxicity.

“Mr Allan also stated that he has since edited the information on EMF Sensitivity Wi-Fi and Cell Phone radiation – Heavy Metals and EMF Sensitivity Autism, as well as editing the information contained on the home and about pages of his website.

“Mr Allan stated that he has left the resources section with all the raw studies, and some information contained in other sections, as he feels that they are of use for anybody wanting to learn more about this specialised area.”

So, in spite of the detailed evidence and a call for a thorough audit of his practice, this was treated as merely a case of misleading advertising. This is standard operating procedure; the regulatory authorities cannot get over the divide between advertising and clinical practice. This has been shown in the hundreds of complaints sent to regulators; misleading advertising of dangerous practices and misinformation is simply treated as an advertising issue. The regulators cannot accept that if a practitioner advertises a therapy then they are more than likely using those therapies and, when those therapies have been found to be ineffective, they are engaging in practice in their clinics that deserves more than the dismissive response we received.

The public deserve much better than that.

Note: All of the quotes above were from Allan’s website until he removed them. The relevant pages have, nonetheless, can be accessed via the WayBack Machine, and can be supplied if required.

The Chinese Medicine Council’s position

The Chinese Medical Council were referred to the issues in the main article and were asked the following questions:

• Is the advice and those therapies [offered by Allan] of any concern to the Council?

• Should the complaint to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission have led to an audit of his practice and when the allegations are proven, should there have been disciplinary action?

A spokesperson for the Chinese Medicine Council of NSW replied: “The Chinese Medicine Council of NSW (the Council) works in collaboration with the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) to receive and manage complaints about registered practitioners in

NSW. Our paramount legal obligation is to protect the public. We deal with practitioners whose conduct, performance or health may represent a risk to the public or is not in the public interest.

“We do this by assessing complaints, promoting compliance with professional standards and delivering programs to ensure practitioners provide safe care to the public and their patients. We do not have the legal power to discipline a NSW practitioner or to deregister them.

“By law, the Council cannot provide information about an individual practitioner. Only information that is publicly available can be disclosed, such as information recorded on the national register of practitioners which is maintained by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), or publication of the outcomes of NCAT [New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal] proceedings.

“Changes to a registered health practitioner’s registration status, such as the imposition of conditions or suspension, are published on the AHPRA online public register.

“The Council will not be making any further public comments at this time.

So, the Chinese Medicine Council have taken no action to protect the public and made no real comment. At least they have promised “Only information that is publicly available can be disclosed”, a statement of breathless inanity.

*‘first published in the Australian Skeptic magazine of June 2022.

Guest post by Derk P. Kooi

Political lobbying is not only restricted to major companies, even quackery lobbies extensively in Dutch politics as well as at a European and global level. The EUROpean Complementary and Alternative Medicine Stakeholder Group (EUROCAM) has been active in Europe for some time. EUROCAM recently attracted attention with a statement on antibiotic resistance during the European Antibiotics Awareness Day.[1] EUROCAM claims that Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) could enhance the immune system and could therefore contribute to the fight against antibiotic resistance. An early study conducted by the anthroposophist Erik Baars was referenced, inter alia. However, this medical claim turns out to be pure nonsense.

EUROCAM regularly publishes so-called ‘position papers’ on the contribution CAM could provide to the European health care system. EUROCAM is currently cautious with its medical claims, and rightly so, as it has seriously overstepped the mark in the past. For example, claims about the efficacy of CAM for infections referred to research by Erik Baars, doctor, anthroposophical healthcare lector at the University of Applied Sciences Leiden and researcher at the Louis Bolk Institute. Baars is an associate of the society due to his misleading statements in his publications on the usefulness of CAM, more specifically of the anthroposophical variant.

Where does this fairly unknown club actually come from, what does it do and how seriously should we take it? Well, EUROCAM is an umbrella organisation for various alternative therapists and their patients. We are talking about Ayurveda, homeopathy, osteopathy, anthroposophy, herbal medicine, traditional (Chinese) medicine, Reiki and acupuncture. The Dutch Registry of Complementary Care Professionals (RBCZ) is also affiliated with EUROCAM. Classical homeopath Annemieke Boelsma is the contact person of the RBCZ at EUROCAM.

It is unclear precisely when EUROCAM was created, the LinkedIn page says 2009. The figurehead of the club is “secretary general” Ton Nicolaï. This homeopathic doctor is also well known to Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij, (www.kwakzalverij.nl) the Dutch Society against Quackery. The treasurer of EUROCAM is business administrator Wim Menkveld. Menkveld is on the Advisory Board of the Hortus Botanicus of Leiden. He is also active on the board of the European Patients’ Federation of Homeopathy. EUROCAM thus seems to have originated mainly from Dutch homeopathic circles.

Furthermore, TV producer Miranda Eilert-Ruchtie from Hilversum sits on the EUROCAM board. According to the EUROCAM website, she acts as their “operations manager” and communications advisor. The German Heilprakterin Sonja Maric, an anthropologist and “specialist in Tibetan medicine”, also acts as a communications consultant.

The European Transparency Register shows that in 2020 the total budget of the organisation was 40,498 euros; no more recent data is available. In the year 2018, 5,000 euros were reserved as an honorarium for Mr Nicolaï, for the 0.5 FTE that he works for the organisation. Miranda Eilert-Ruchtie works a number of hours a week for EUROCAM, as a freelancer. Sonja Maric does this on a voluntary basis.

EUROCAM is a member of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), the European Union Health Policy Platform. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises the organisation as a non-state actor, which means that both the EU and the WHO consider EUROCAM to be a serious legal entity. In the past, EUROCAM has intervened in public EU consultations in the fields of aging, pharmaceutical strategy, cancer, and digital data and services.

EUROCAM provides the secretariat of the MEP Interest Group on Integrative Medicine and Health, a group of five European parliamentarians who have set themselves the goal of promoting integrative medicine at the European level. Co-chairs are Finish Sirpa Pietikäinen, a European parliamentarian for the Christian Democrats, and French Michèle Rivasi, a European parliamentarian for the Greens. The other members are Luxembourg’s Tilly Metz, the Italian Eleonara Evi, and the Danish Margrete Auken. It is noteworthy that they are European parliamentarians for the Greens. They are all members of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). Eleonara Evi was part of the illustrious Five Star Movement until 2020, known for its anti-vaccination stance. The Member of European Parliament (MEP) Interest Group organises annual events with speakers who are the same people who perform at EUROCAM symposia. These include the aforementioned anthroposophist Erik Baars. Baars worked closely with EUROCAM boss Ton Nicolaï in a European research project on CAM alternatives to antibiotics. More about his bad science later.

The texts EUROCAM produces nowadays (on its website) are carefully written, and the medical claims are carefully formulated. The texts are larded with synonyms for “possible”, known in linguistics as hedging. For example “Several CAM methods have shown high potential to reduce cancer pain”.[2] Generic health claims are also often used to suggest medical benefits, for example in the context of COVID-19, ‘In building and maintaining resistance to infectious illness, CAM modalities as a part of Integrative Medicine & Health can play an important role because they mobilise and stimulate people’s self-regulating capacity, thus increasing their resilience, their immune system.’.[3]

Furthermore, claims are put in the mouths of others, which can be read, for example, in quoting patient expectations: ‘While improving quality of life is the major rationale for CAM use, there is a definite undercurrent of expectation, particularly among the younger patients, that some therapies might have an anticancer effect (prolongation of remission periods) and slow/stagnate tumour growth (prolongation of survival periods), boost the immune system, making it easier to overcome the disease.’.[4]

The educated reader will immediately see through these strategies, but the question is whether the lobbied politicians targeted by EUROCAM understand these subtleties. EUROCAM has not always been so cautious, by the way. In an undated (presumably 2013) interview with the Dutch Association for Classical Homeopathy, “secretary general” Ton Nicolaï made a number of remarkable statements. For example, he claimed at the time that research shows “that for a number of herbal medicines there is a reasonable amount of evidence that scientifically confirms their effectiveness in respiratory infection treatments”. [5] Nicolaï bases his assertion on recent research by Erik Baars conducted as part of a European research programme that aimed to find CAM alternatives to antibiotics.

The report of this project, which ended in 2018, can be found on the EUROCAM website.[6] The authors of this report are, not surprisingly, Erik Baars and Ton Nicolaï. The report contains practically no hard science. Sub-studies focus on, for example, the frequency of antibiotic prescribing among alternative-working GPs and on the best practice of CAM believers. A so-called systematic review of systematic reviews offers good starting points to evaluate Mr Nicolaï’s claim: ‘A systematic review of systematic reviews demonstrates that there are specific, evidence-supported, promising CAM treatments for acute, uncomplicated RTIs [uncomplicated respiratory tract infections, ed.] and that they are safe.’

Here, a medical claim is made, which is weakened by the use of the hedge term “promising”. The conclusion can be summarised with “There would be ‘promising’ CAM treatments for respiratory infections, and they would be safe”. However, surprisingly, the project report does not refer to this “systematic review of systematic reviews”, nor to any of the other concrete results of the project!

Due to the lack of references, we cannot but conclude that the claim is based on a 2019 article by Erik Baars. One of the co-authors is Ton Nicolaï.[7] The article was published in the journal Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (EBCAM), which has a shady reputation. Even one of the founders of EBCAM states that the peer-review system is a farce, and therefore the majority of the articles published in it are useless nonsense.[8] In this article, besides a large amount of vagueness about the “worldview differences” between CAM and medicine, systematic reviews are discussed about the effectiveness and safety of CAM treatments. From this systematic review of systematic reviews, it is concluded that there are promising CAM treatments for respiratory, urinary tract and skin infections and that there is even evidence that some CAM treatments are effective for respiratory infections, but what is this based on?

The reviews that were looked at were split into Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews. Among the Cochrane reviews, there is one that would demonstrate the efficacy of CAM. It is a review on the use of immunostimulants for the prevention of respiratory tract infections in children.[9] Of the 35 studies that were analysed, six involve small molecules, such as isoprinosine, levamisole and pidotimod. In other words, regular medicine, if it turns out to work, but describing it as being experimental would be more appropriate. Baars’ article states that the review also contains herbal medicine. This is somewhat exaggerated: only one of the 35 studies deals with herbs. Of the remaining 28 studies, 25 cover bacterial extracts and three thymus extracts. Again: Baars does not make clear what this has to do with the CAM that EUROCAM represents.

In summary, EUROCAM is a small European lobbying organisation with perhaps some influence at both European and WHO level. One keeps coming across the same names. The organisation is currently using woolly, disguising language to mask medical claims and to fend off criticism. In the past, this was different when EUROCAM, by means of Ton Nicolaï among others, made very reprehensible statements about the role of CAM in (respiratory tract) infections. For the time being, this little club does not seem to pose much of a threat, but European politicians should, of course, ignore this hobby club.

 

References

1. ‘Improving patient resilience to reduce the need to rely on anti-infection treatment: the role of Integrative Medicine’. EUROCAM. https://cam-europe.eu/statement-on-amr-2021/ (visited on 28 December 2021) 2. EUROCAM. https://cam-europe.eu/contribution-of-cam-for-a-better-health/cam-in-the-context-of-cancer/ (visited on 3 October 2021) 3. EUROCAM. https://cam-europe.eu/contribution-of-cam-for-a-better-health/cam-in-the-context-of-cancer/ (visited on 3 October 2021) 4. EUROCAM. https://cam-europe.eu/contribution-of-cam-for-a-better-health/cam-in-the-context-of-cancer/ (visited on 3 October 2021)

5. Miranda Ruchtie. In gesprek met Ton Nicolaï, CAM integreren in de Europese gezondheidszorg. [In discussion with Ton Nicolaï, integrating CAM into the European health care system]. Nederlandse Vereniging van Klassiek Homeopaten. [Dutch Association of Classical Homeopaths] https://www.nvkh.nl/nieuwsbrieven-nvkh/interview-met-ton-nicolai (visited on 3 October 2021)

6. Erik Baars, et al. Reducing the need for antibiotics, the contribution of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. EUROCAM, 2018. https://cam-europe.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/CAM-AMR-EUROCAM-Post-Conference-Paper-2018.pdf (visited on 3 October 2021)

7. Erik W. Baars et al. The Contribution of Complementary and Alternative Medicine to Reduce Antibiotic Use: A Narrative Review of Health Concepts, Prevention, and Treatment Strategies. Evid. Based Complement. Alternat. Med., 2019:5365608. DOI: 10.1155/2019/5365608

8. Edzard Ernst. “EBCAM: an alt med journal that puzzles me a great deal”, URL: http://edzardernst.com/2016/05/ebcam-an-alt-med-journal-that-puzzles-me-a-great-deal/ (visited on 8 January 2022)

9. B. E. Del-Rio-Navarro, F. J. Espinosa-Rosales, V. Flenady, and J. J. Sienra-Monge, “Cochrane Review: Immunostimulants for preventing respiratory tract infection in children,” Evidence-Based Child Health: A Cochrane Review Journal, 2012, 7 (2), 629–717.

Acupuncture is often promoted as a therapeutic option for obesity and weight control. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of electroacupuncture (EA) on body weight, body mass index (BMI), skin fold thickness, waist circumference and skin temperature of the abdominal region in non-obese women with excessive abdominal subcutaneous fat.

A total of 50 women with excessive abdominal subcutaneous fat (and average BMI of 22) were randomly assigned to one of two groups:

  1. an EA group (n = 25) receiving 10 EA sessions (insertion of needles connected to an electrical stimulator at a frequency of 40 Hz for 40 min),
  2. a control group (n = 25) that received no treatment.

Outcome measures evaluated included waist circumference, supra-iliac and abdominal skinfolds, body composition and superficial skin temperature (measured by cutaneous thermography) before and after treatment.

Compared with the untreated group, women in the EA group exhibited decreased supra-iliac and abdominal skin folds (p < 0.001), waist circumference (p < 0.001), percentage body fat (p = 0.001) and percentage abdominal fat (p < 0.001). In addition, the EA group showed an elevated skin temperature at the site of the treatment. However, EA did not significantly impact body weight (p = 0.01) or BMI (p = 0.2).

The authors concluded that EA promoted a reduction in abdominal waist circumference, supra-iliac and abdominal skin folds, and percentage body and abdominal fat in women of normal BMI with excessive abdominal subcutaneous fat, as well as an increase in the superficial skin temperature of the abdominal region.

If we did not know that acupuncture researchers were all honest investigators testing hypotheses the best they can, we could almost assume that some are trying to fool us. The set-up of this study is ideally suited to introduce a proper placebo treatment. All one has to do is to not switch on the electrical stimulator in the control group. Why did the researchers not do that? Surely not because they wanted to increase the chances of generating a positive result; that would have been dishonest!!!

So, as it stands, what does the study tell us? I think it shows that, compared to patients who receive no treatment, patients who do receive the ritual of EA are better motivated to adhere to calorie restrictions and dietary advice. Thus, I suggest to re-phrase the conclusions of this trial as follows:

The extra attention of the EA treatment motivated obese patients to eat less which caused a reduction in abdominal waist circumference, supra-iliac and abdominal skin folds, and percentage body and abdominal fat in women of normal BMI with excessive abdominal subcutaneous fat.

This meta-analysis was conducted by researchers affiliated to the Evangelical Clinics Essen-Mitte, Department of Internal and Integrative Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. (one of its authors is an early member of my ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE HALL OF FAME). The paper assessed the safety of acupuncture in oncological patients.

The PubMed, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Scopus databases were searched from their inception to August 7, 2020. Randomized controlled trials in oncological patients comparing invasive acupuncture with sham acupuncture, treatment as usual (TAU), or any other active control were eligible. Two reviewers independently extracted data on study characteristics and adverse events (AEs). Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool.

Of 4590 screened articles, 65 were included in the analyses. The authors observed that acupuncture was not associated with an increased risk of intervention-related AEs, nonserious AEs, serious AEs, or dropout because of AEs compared with sham acupuncture and active control. Compared with TAU, acupuncture was not associated with an increased risk of intervention-related AEs, serious AEs, or dropout because of AEs but was associated with an increased risk for nonserious AEs (odds ratio, 3.94; 95% confidence interval, 1.16-13.35; P = .03). However, the increased risk of nonserious AEs compared with TAU was not robust against selection bias. The meta-analyses may have been biased because of the insufficient reporting of AEs in the original randomized controlled trials.

The authors concluded that the current review indicates that acupuncture is as safe as sham acupuncture and active controls in oncological patients. The authors recommend researchers heed the CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) safety and harm extension for reporting to capture the side effects and better investigate the risk profile of acupuncture in oncology.

You might think this article is not too bad. So, why do I feel that this paper is so bad?

One reason is that the authors included evidence up to August 2020. Since then, there must have been hundreds of further papers on acupuncture. The article was therefore out of date before it was published.

But that is by no means my main reason. We know from numerous investigations that acupuncture studies often fail to report AEs (and thus violate publication ethics). This means that this new analysis is merely an amplification of the under-reporting. It is, in other words, a means of perpetuating a wrong message.

Yes, you might say, but the authors acknowledge this; they even state in the abstract that “The meta-analyses may have been biased because of the insufficient reporting of AEs in the original randomized controlled trials.” True, but this fact does not erase the mistake, it merely concedes it. At the very minimum, the authors should have phrased their conclusion differently, e.g.: the current review confirms that AEs of acupuncture are under-reported in RCTs. Therefore, a meta-analysis of RCTs is unable to verify whether acupuncture is safe. From other types of research, we know that it can cause serious AEs.

An even better solution would have been to abandon or modify the research project when they first came across the mountain of evidence showing that RCTs often fail to mention AEs.

As it stands, the conclusion that acupuncture is as safe as sham acupuncture is simply not true. Since the article probably looks sound to naive readers, I feel that is a particularly good candidate for the WORST PAPER OF 2022 COMPETITION.

 

PS

For those who are interested, here are 4 of my own peer-reviewed articles on the safety of acupuncture (much more can, of course, be found on this blog):

  1. Patient safety incidents from acupuncture treatments: a review of reports to the National Patient Safety Agency – PubMed (nih.gov)
  2. Acupuncture–a critical analysis – PubMed (nih.gov)
  3. Prospective studies of the safety of acupuncture: a systematic review – PubMed (nih.gov)
  4. The risks of acupuncture – PubMed (nih.gov)

Acupuncture for animals has a long history in China. In the West, it was introduced in the 1970s when acupuncture became popular for humans. A recent article sums up our current knowledge on the subject. Here is an excerpt:

Acupuncture is used mainly for functional problems such as those involving noninfectious inflammation, paralysis, or pain. For small animals, acupuncture has been used for treating arthritis, hip dysplasia, lick granuloma, feline asthma, diarrhea, and certain reproductive problems. For larger animals, acupuncture has been used for treating downer cow syndrome, facial nerve paralysis, allergic dermatitis, respiratory problems, nonsurgical colic, and certain reproductive disorders.Acupuncture has also been used on competitive animals. There are veterinarians who use acupuncture along with herbs to treat muscle injuries in dogs and cats. Veterinarians charge around $85 for each acupuncture session.[8]Veterinary acupuncture has also recently been used on more exotic animals, such as chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)[9] and an alligator with scoliosis,[10] though this is still quite rare.

In 2001, a review found insufficient evidence to support equine acupuncture. The review found uniformly negative results in the highest quality studies.[11] In 2006, a systematic review of veterinary acupuncture found “no compelling evidence to recommend or reject acupuncture for any condition in domestic animals”, citing trials with, on average, low methodological quality or trials that are in need of independent replication.[1] In 2009, a review on canine arthritis found “weak or no evidence in support of” various treatments, including acupuncture.[12]

To put it in a nutshell: acupuncture for animals is not evidence-based.

How can I be so sure?

Because ref 1 in the text above refers to our paper. Here is its abstract:

Acupuncture is a popular complementary treatment option in human medicine. Increasingly, owners also seek acupuncture for their animals. The aim of the systematic review reported here was to summarize and assess the clinical evidence for or against the effectiveness of acupuncture in veterinary medicine. Systematic searches were conducted on Medline, Embase, Amed, Cinahl, Japana Centra Revuo Medicina and Chikusan Bunken Kensaku. Hand-searches included conference proceedings, bibliographies, and contact with experts and veterinary acupuncture associations. There were no restrictions regarding the language of publication. All controlled clinical trials testing acupuncture in any condition of domestic animals were included. Studies using laboratory animals were excluded. Titles and abstracts of identified articles were read, and hard copies were obtained. Inclusion and exclusion of studies, data extraction, and validation were performed independently by two reviewers. Methodologic quality was evaluated by means of the Jadad score. Fourteen randomized controlled trials and 17 nonrandomized controlled trials met our criteria and were, therefore, included. The methodologic quality of these trials was variable but, on average, was low. For cutaneous pain and diarrhea, encouraging evidence exists that warrants further investigation in rigorous trials. Single studies reported some positive intergroup differences for spinal cord injury, Cushing’s syndrome, lung function, hepatitis, and rumen acidosis. These trials require independent replication. On the basis of the findings of this systematic review, there is no compelling evidence to recommend or reject acupuncture for any condition in domestic animals. Some encouraging data do exist that warrant further investigation in independent rigorous trials.

This evidence is in sharp contrast to the misinformation published by the ‘IVAS’ (International Veterinary Acupuncture Society). Under the heading “For Which Conditions is Acupuncture Indicated?“, they propagate the following myth:

Acupuncture is indicated for functional problems such as those that involve paralysis, noninfectious inflammation (such as allergies), and pain. For small animals, the following are some of the general conditions which may be treated with acupuncture:

  • Musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis, intervertebral disk disease, or traumatic nerve injury
  • Respiratory problems, such as feline asthma
  • Skin problems such as lick granulomas and allergic dermatitis
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea
  • Selected reproductive problems

For large animals, acupuncture is again commonly used for functional problems. Some of the general conditions where it might be applied are the following:

  • Musculoskeletal problems such as sore backs or downer cow syndrome
  • Neurological problems such as facial paralysis
  • Skin problems such as allergic dermatitis
  • Respiratory problems such as heaves and “bleeders”
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as nonsurgical colic
  • Selected reproductive problems

In addition, regular acupuncture treatment can treat minor sports injuries as they occur and help to keep muscles and tendons resistant to injury. World-class professional and amateur athletes often use acupuncture as a routine part of their training. If your animals are involved in any athletic endeavor, such as racing, jumping, or showing, acupuncture can help them keep in top physical condition.

And what is the conclusion?

Perhaps this?

Never trust the promotional rubbish produced by SCAM organizations.

The Lancet is a top medical journal, no doubt. But even such journals can make mistakes, even big ones, as the Wakefield story illustrates. But sometimes, the mistakes are seemingly minor and so well hidden that the casual reader is unlikely to find them. Such mistakes can nevertheless be equally pernicious, as they might propagate untruths or misunderstandings that have far-reaching consequences.

A recent Lancet paper might be an example of this phenomenon. It is entitled “Management of common clinical problems experienced by survivors of cancer“, unquestionably an important subject. Its abstract reads as follows:

_______________________

Improvements in early detection and treatment have led to a growing prevalence of survivors of cancer worldwide.
Models of care fail to address adequately the breadth of physical, psychosocial, and supportive care needs of those who survive cancer. In this Series paper, we summarise the evidence around the management of common clinical problems experienced by survivors of adult cancers and how to cover these issues in a consultation. Reviewing the patient’s history of cancer and treatments highlights potential long-term or late effects to consider, and recommended surveillance for recurrence. Physical consequences of specific treatments to identify include cardiac dysfunction, metabolic syndrome, lymphoedema, peripheral neuropathy, and osteoporosis. Immunotherapies can cause specific immune-related effects most commonly in the gastrointestinal tract, endocrine system, skin, and liver. Pain should be screened for and requires assessment of potential causes and non-pharmacological and pharmacological approaches to management. Common psychosocial issues, for which there are effective psychological therapies, include fear of recurrence, fatigue, altered sleep and cognition, and effects on sex and intimacy, finances, and employment. Review of lifestyle factors including smoking, obesity, and alcohol is necessary to reduce the risk of recurrence and second cancers. Exercise can improve quality of life and might improve cancer survival; it can also contribute to the management of fatigue, pain, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, and cognitive impairment. Using a supportive care screening tool, such as the Distress Thermometer, can identify specific areas of concern and help prioritise areas to cover in a consultation.

_____________________________

You can see nothing wrong? Me neither! We need to dig deeper into the paper to find what concerns me.

In the actual article, the authors state that “there is good evidence of benefit for … acupuncture …”[1]; the same message was conveyed in one of the tables. In support of these categorical statements, the authors quote the current Cochrane review entitled “Acupuncture for cancer pain in adults”. Its abstract reads as follows:

Background: Forty per cent of individuals with early or intermediate stage cancer and 90% with advanced cancer have moderate to severe pain and up to 70% of patients with cancer pain do not receive adequate pain relief. It has been claimed that acupuncture has a role in management of cancer pain and guidelines exist for treatment of cancer pain with acupuncture. This is an updated version of a Cochrane Review published in Issue 1, 2011, on acupuncture for cancer pain in adults.

Objectives: To evaluate efficacy of acupuncture for relief of cancer-related pain in adults.

Search methods: For this update CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, AMED, and SPORTDiscus were searched up to July 2015 including non-English language papers.

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated any type of invasive acupuncture for pain directly related to cancer in adults aged 18 years or over.

Data collection and analysis: We planned to pool data to provide an overall measure of effect and to calculate the number needed to treat to benefit, but this was not possible due to heterogeneity. Two review authors (CP, OT) independently extracted data adding it to data extraction sheets. Data sheets were compared and discussed with a third review author (MJ) who acted as arbiter. Data analysis was conducted by CP, OT and MJ.

Main results: We included five RCTs (285 participants). Three studies were included in the original review and two more in the update. The authors of the included studies reported benefits of acupuncture in managing pancreatic cancer pain; no difference between real and sham electroacupuncture for pain associated with ovarian cancer; benefits of acupuncture over conventional medication for late stage unspecified cancer; benefits for auricular (ear) acupuncture over placebo for chronic neuropathic pain related to cancer; and no differences between conventional analgesia and acupuncture within the first 10 days of treatment for stomach carcinoma. All studies had a high risk of bias from inadequate sample size and a low risk of bias associated with random sequence generation. Only three studies had low risk of bias associated with incomplete outcome data, while two studies had low risk of bias associated with allocation concealment and one study had low risk of bias associated with inadequate blinding. The heterogeneity of methodologies, cancer populations and techniques used in the included studies precluded pooling of data and therefore meta-analysis was not carried out. A subgroup analysis on acupuncture for cancer-induced bone pain was not conducted because none of the studies made any reference to bone pain. Studies either reported that there were no adverse events as a result of treatment, or did not report adverse events at all.

Authors’ conclusions: There is insufficient evidence to judge whether acupuncture is effective in treating cancer pain in adults.

This conclusion is undoubtedly in stark contrast to the categorical statement of the Lancet authors: “there is good evidence of benefit for … acupuncture …

What should be done to prevent people from getting misled in this way?

  1. The Lancet should correct the error. It might be tempting to do this by simply exchanging the term ‘good’ with ‘some’. However, this would still be misleading, as there is some evidence for almost any type of bogus therapy.
  2. Authors, reviewers, and editors should do their job properly and check the original sources of their quotes.

 

PS

In case someone argued that the Cochrane review is just one of many, here is the conclusion of an overview of 15 systematic reviews on the subject: The … findings emphasized that acupuncture and related therapies alone did not have clinically significant effects at cancer-related pain reduction as compared with analgesic administration alone.

 

A press release informs us that the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Government of India recently signed an agreement to establish the ‘WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine’. This global knowledge centre for traditional medicine, supported by an investment of USD 250 million from the Government of India, aims to harness the potential of traditional medicine from across the world through modern science and technology to improve the health of people and the planet.

“For many millions of people around the world, traditional medicine is the first port of call to treat many diseases,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Ensuring all people have access to safe and effective treatment is an essential part of WHO’s mission, and this new center will help to harness the power of science to strengthen the evidence base for traditional medicine. I’m grateful to the Government of India for its support, and we look forward to making it a success.”

The term traditional medicine describes the total sum of the knowledge, skills and practices indigenous and different cultures have used over time to maintain health and prevent, diagnose and treat physical and mental illness. Its reach encompasses ancient practices such as acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine and herbal mixtures as well as modern medicines.

“It is heartening to learn about the signing of the Host Country Agreement for the establishment of Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM). The agreement between Ministry of Ayush and World Health Organization (WHO) to establish the WHO-GCTM at Jamnagar, Gujarat, is a commendable initiative,” said Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. “Through various initiatives, our government has been tireless in its endeavour to make preventive and curative healthcare, affordable and accessible to all. May the global centre at Jamnagar help in providing the best healthcare solutions to the world.”

The new WHO centre will concentrate on building a solid evidence base for policies and standards on traditional medicine practices and products and help countries integrate it as appropriate into their health systems and regulate its quality and safety for optimal and sustainable impact.

The new centre focuses on four main strategic areas: evidence and learning; data and analytics; sustainability and equity; and innovation and technology to optimize the contribution of traditional medicine to global health and sustainable development.

The onsite launch of the new WHO global centre for traditional medicine in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India will take place on April 21, 2022.

__________________________

Of course, one must wait and see who will direct the unit and what work the new centre produces. But I cannot help feeling a little anxious. The press release is full of hot air and platitudes and the track record of the Indian Ministry of Ayush is quite frankly abominable. Here are a few of my previous posts that, I think, justify this statement:

 

WATCH THIS SPACE!

Ginseng plants belong to the genus Panax and include:

  • Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng),
  • Panax notoginseng (South China ginseng),
  • and Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng).

They are said to have a range of therapeutic activities, some of which could render ginseng a potential therapy for viral or post-viral infections. Ginseng has therefore been used to treat fatigue in various patient groups and conditions. But does it work for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also often called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)? This condition is a complex, little-understood, and often disabling chronic illness for which no curative or definitive therapy has yet been identified.

This systematic review aimed to assess the current state of evidence regarding ginseng for CFS. Multiple databases were searched from inception to October 2020. All data was extracted independently and in duplicates. Outcomes of interest included the effectiveness and safety of ginseng in patients with CFS.

A total of two studies enrolling 68 patients were deemed eligible: one randomized clinical trial and one prospective observational study. The certainty of evidence in the effectiveness outcome was low and moderate in both studies, while the safety evidence was very low as reported from one study.

The authors concluded that the study findings highlight a potential benefit of ginseng therapy in the treatment of CFS. However, we are not able to draw firm conclusions due to limited clinical studies. The paucity of data warrants limited confidence. There is a need for future rigorous studies to provide further evidence.

To get a feeling of how good or bad the evidence truly is, we must of course look at the primary studies.

The prospective observational study turns out to be a mere survey of patients using all sorts of treatments. It included 155 subjects who provided information on fatigue and treatments at baseline and follow-up. Of these subjects, 87% were female and 79% were middle-aged. The median duration of fatigue was 6.7 years. The percentage of users who found a treatment helpful was greatest for coenzyme Q10 (69% of 13 subjects), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) (65% of 17 subjects), and ginseng (56% of 18 subjects). Treatments at 6 months that predicted subsequent fatigue improvement were vitamins (p = .08), vigorous exercise (p = .09), and yoga (p = .002). Magnesium (p = .002) and support groups (p = .06) were strongly associated with fatigue worsening from 6 months to 2 years. Yoga appeared to be most effective for subjects who did not have unclear thinking associated with fatigue.

The second study investigated the effect of Korean Red Ginseng (KRG) on chronic fatigue (CF) by various measurements and objective indicators. Participants were randomized to KRG or placebo group (1:1 ratio) and visited the hospital every 2 weeks while taking 3 g KRG or placebo for 6 weeks and followed up 4 weeks after the treatment. The fatigue visual analog score (VAS) declined significantly in each group, but there were no significant differences between the groups. The 2 groups also had no significant differences in the secondary outcome measurements and there were no adverse events. Sub-group analysis indicated that patients with initial fatigue VAS below 80 mm and older than 50 years had significantly greater reductions in the fatigue VAS if they used KRG rather than placebo. The authors concluded that KRG did not show absolute anti-fatigue effect but provided the objective evidence of fatigue-related measurement and the therapeutic potential for middle-aged individuals with moderate fatigue.

I am at a loss in comprehending how the authors of the above-named review could speak of evidence for potential benefit. The evidence from the ‘observational study’ is largely irrelevant for deciding on the effectiveness of ginseng, and the second, more rigorous study fails to show that ginseng has an effect.

So, is ginseng a promising treatment for ME?

I doubt it.

On 27 January 2022, I conducted a very simple Medline search using the search term ‘Chinese Herbal Medicine, Review, 2022’. Its results were remarkable; here are the 30 reviews I found:

  1. Zhu, S. J., Wang, R. T., Yu, Z. Y., Zheng, R. X., Liang, C. H., Zheng, Y. Y., Fang, M., Han, M., & Liu, J. P. (2022). Chinese herbal medicine for myasthenia gravis: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Integrative medicine research11(2), 100806.
  2. Lu, J., Li, W., Gao, T., Wang, S., Fu, C., & Wang, S. (2022). The association study of chemical compositions and their pharmacological effects of Cyperi Rhizoma (Xiangfu), a potential traditional Chinese medicine for treating depression. Journal of ethnopharmacology287, 114962.
  3. Su, F., Sun, Y., Zhu, W., Bai, C., Zhang, W., Luo, Y., Yang, B., Kuang, H., & Wang, Q. (2022). A comprehensive review of research progress on the genus Arisaema: Botany, uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology, toxicity and pharmacokinetics. Journal of ethnopharmacology285, 114798.
  4. Nanjala, C., Ren, J., Mutie, F. M., Waswa, E. N., Mutinda, E. S., Odago, W. O., Mutungi, M. M., & Hu, G. W. (2022). Ethnobotany, phytochemistry, pharmacology, and conservation of the genus Calanthe R. Br. (Orchidaceae). Journal of ethnopharmacology285, 114822.
  5. Li, M., Jiang, H., Hao, Y., Du, K., Du, H., Ma, C., Tu, H., & He, Y. (2022). A systematic review on botany, processing, application, phytochemistry and pharmacological action of Radix Rehmnniae. Journal of ethnopharmacology285, 114820.
  6. Mutinda, E. S., Mkala, E. M., Nanjala, C., Waswa, E. N., Odago, W. O., Kimutai, F., Tian, J., Gichua, M. K., Gituru, R. W., & Hu, G. W. (2022). Traditional medicinal uses, pharmacology, phytochemistry, and distribution of the Genus Fagaropsis (Rutaceae). Journal of ethnopharmacology284, 114781.
  7. Xu, Y., Liu, J., Zeng, Y., Jin, S., Liu, W., Li, Z., Qin, X., & Bai, Y. (2022). Traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology, toxicity and quality control of medicinal genus Aralia: A review. Journal of ethnopharmacology284, 114671.
  8. Peng, Y., Chen, Z., Li, Y., Lu, Q., Li, H., Han, Y., Sun, D., & Li, X. (2022). Combined therapy of Xiaoer Feire Kechuan oral liquid and azithromycin for mycoplasma Pneumoniae pneumonia in children: A systematic review & meta-analysis. Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology96, 153899.
  9. Xu, W., Li, B., Xu, M., Yang, T., & Hao, X. (2022). Traditional Chinese medicine for precancerous lesions of gastric cancer: A review. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie146, 112542.
  10. Wang, Y., Greenhalgh, T., Wardle, J., & Oxford TCM Rapid Review Team (2022). Chinese herbal medicine (“3 medicines and 3 formulations”) for COVID-19: rapid systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of evaluation in clinical practice28(1), 13–32.
  11. Chen, X., Lei, Z., Cao, J., Zhang, W., Wu, R., Cao, F., Guo, Q., & Wang, J. (2022). Traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology and current uses of underutilized Xanthoceras sorbifolium bunge: A review. Journal of ethnopharmacology283, 114747.
  12. Liu, X., Li, Y., Bai, N., Yu, C., Xiao, Y., Li, C., & Liu, Z. (2022). Updated evidence of Dengzhan Shengmai capsule against ischemic stroke: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of ethnopharmacology283, 114675.
  13. Chen, J., Zhu, Z., Gao, T., Chen, Y., Yang, Q., Fu, C., Zhu, Y., Wang, F., & Liao, W. (2022). Isatidis Radix and Isatidis Folium: A systematic review on ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry and pharmacology. Journal of ethnopharmacology283, 114648.
  14. Tian, J., Shasha, Q., Han, J., Meng, J., & Liang, A. (2022). A review of the ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of Fructus Gardeniae (Zhi-zi). Journal of ethnopharmacology, 114984. Advance online publication.
  15. Wong, A. R., Yang, A., Li, M., Hung, A., Gill, H., & Lenon, G. B. (2022). The Effects and Safety of Chinese Herbal Medicine on Blood Lipid Profiles in Placebo-Controlled Weight-Loss Trials: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM2022, 1368576.
  16. Lu, C., Ke, L., Li, J., Wu, S., Feng, L., Wang, Y., Mentis, A., Xu, P., Zhao, X., & Yang, K. (2022). Chinese Medicine as an Adjunctive Treatment for Gastric Cancer: Methodological Investigation of meta-Analyses and Evidence Map. Frontiers in pharmacology12, 797753.
  17. Niu, L., Xiao, L., Zhang, X., Liu, X., Liu, X., Huang, X., & Zhang, M. (2022). Comparative Efficacy of Chinese Herbal Injections for Treating Severe Pneumonia: A Systematic Review and Bayesian Network Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Frontiers in pharmacology12, 743486.
  18. Zhang, L., Huang, J., Zhang, D., Lei, X., Ma, Y., Cao, Y., & Chang, J. (2022). Targeting Reactive Oxygen Species in Atherosclerosis via Chinese Herbal Medicines. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity2022, 1852330.
  19. Zhou, X., Guo, Y., Yang, K., Liu, P., & Wang, J. (2022). The signaling pathways of traditional Chinese medicine in promoting diabetic wound healing. Journal of ethnopharmacology282, 114662.
  20. Yang, M., Shen, C., Zhu, S. J., Zhang, Y., Jiang, H. L., Bao, Y. D., Yang, G. Y., & Liu, J. P. (2022). Chinese patent medicine Aidi injection for cancer care: An overview of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Journal of ethnopharmacology282, 114656.
  21. Liu, H., & Wang, C. (2022). The genus Asarum: A review on phytochemistry, ethnopharmacology, toxicology and pharmacokinetics. Journal of ethnopharmacology282, 114642.
  22. Lin, Z., Zheng, J., Chen, M., Chen, J., & Lin, J. (2022). The Efficacy and Safety of Chinese Herbal Medicine in the Treatment of Knee Osteoarthritis: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 56 Randomized Controlled Trials. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity2022, 6887988.
  23. Yu, R., Zhang, S., Zhao, D., & Yuan, Z. (2022). A systematic review of outcomes in COVID-19 patients treated with western medicine in combination with traditional Chinese medicine versus western medicine alone. Expert reviews in molecular medicine24, e5.
  24. Mo, X., Guo, D., Jiang, Y., Chen, P., & Huang, L. (2022). Isolation, structures and bioactivities of the polysaccharides from Radix Hedysari: A review. International journal of biological macromolecules199, 212–222.
  25. Yang, L., Chen, X., Li, C., Xu, P., Mao, W., Liang, X., Zuo, Q., Ma, W., Guo, X., & Bao, K. (2022). Real-World Effects of Chinese Herbal Medicine for Idiopathic Membranous Nephropathy (REACH-MN): Protocol of a Registry-Based Cohort Study. Frontiers in pharmacology12, 760482.
  26. Zhang, R., Zhang, Q., Zhu, S., Liu, B., Liu, F., & Xu, Y. (2022). Mulberry leaf (Morus alba L.): A review of its potential influences in mechanisms of action on metabolic diseases. Pharmacological research175, 106029.
  27. Yuan, J. Y., Tong, Z. Y., Dong, Y. C., Zhao, J. Y., & Shang, Y. (2022). Research progress on icariin, a traditional Chinese medicine extract, in the treatment of asthma. Allergologia et immunopathologia50(1), 9–16.
  28. Zeng, B., Wei, A., Zhou, Q., Yuan, M., Lei, K., Liu, Y., Song, J., Guo, L., & Ye, Q. (2022). Andrographolide: A review of its pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, toxicity and clinical trials and pharmaceutical researches. Phytotherapy research : PTR36(1), 336–364.
  29. Zhang, L., Xie, Q., & Li, X. (2022). Esculetin: A review of its pharmacology and pharmacokinetics. Phytotherapy research : PTR36(1), 279–298.
  30. Wang, D. C., Yu, M., Xie, W. X., Huang, L. Y., Wei, J., & Lei, Y. H. (2022). Meta-analysis on the effect of combining Lianhua Qingwen with Western medicine to treat coronavirus disease 2019. Journal of integrative medicine20(1), 26–33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joim.2021.10.005

The amount of reviews alone is remarkable, I think: more than one review per day! Apart from their multitude, the reviews are noteworthy for other reasons as well.

  • Their vast majority arrived at positive or at least encouraging conclusions.
  • Most of the primary studies are from China (and we have often discussed how unreliable these trials are).
  • Many of the primary studies are not accessible.
  • Those that are accessible tend to be of lamentable quality.

I fear that all this is truly dangerous. The medical literature is being swamped with reviews of Chinese herbal medicine and other TCM modalities. Collectively they give the impression that these treatments are supported by sound evidence. Yet, the exact opposite is the case.

The process that is happening in front of our very eyes is akin to that of money laundering. Unreliable and often fraudulent data is being white-washed and presented to us as evidence.

The result:

WE ARE BEING SYSTEMATICALLY MISLED!

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