World Health Organisation (WHO) is meant to implore us to ignore hearsay and folklore, and to follow the scientific evidence. So why is it now suddenly promoting the likes of herbal medicine, homeopathy and acupuncture? In a series of tweets this week, the WHO has launched a campaign to extol the virtues of what it calls ‘traditional medicine’. ‘Traditional medicine has been at the frontiers of medicine and science, laying the foundation of conventional medical texts’, it asserts. It goes on to claim that ‘around 40 per cent of approved pharmaceutical products in use today derive from natural substances’ … it then poses the question: ‘which of these have you used: “acupuncture, Ayurveda, herbal medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, osteopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, unani medicine?”’
… That some folk medicines might sometimes appear to work – in spite of apparently having no active ingredients – is itself explained by scientific inquiry: there is a proven ‘placebo effect’ that causes people to report an improvement in their symptoms as a result of taking something that they think will make them better.
The WHO should be having nothing to do with promoting any medicine which has not been proven without rigorous trials. So why is it suddenly pushing all kinds of dubious cures? It is hard not to see the latest campaign as part of the fashionable campaign to ‘decolonise’ medicine – which means refusing to see western science as superior to belief systems that have derived from elsewhere in the world. The WHO published a podcast on this subject in May, in which a Canadian medical historian, for example, denounced the concept of ‘tropical’ medicine as a construct by colonial powers to try to promote the false idea that the Third World presented a danger to Europe. …
… the WHO has achieved a massive amount by unashamedly exporting rigorous scientific inquiry to parts of the world which it had yet to reach. It wasn’t folk medicine that eradicated smallpox; it was western medicine, and the WHO should not be apologising for that. Promoting quackery seems an odd – and potentially disastrous – direction for the organisation to take.
Personally, I concur fully – except for the notion that the WHO started its SCAM-promotion only recently. The truth is that it has done so since many years, and since many years we have on this blog discussed this bizarre trend. In my view, it is a relfection not of the science but of the politics that inflence the WHO to a very large extend in the realm of SCAM.
I was asked by NATURE to provide a comment on the WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit: Towards health and well-being for all which is about to take place in India:
The First WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit will take place on 17 and 18 August 2023 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India. It will be held alongside the G20 health ministerial meeting, to mobilize political commitment and evidence-based action on traditional medicine, which is a first port of call for millions of people worldwide to address their health and well-being needs.
The Global Summit will be co-hosted by WHO and the Government of India, which holds the presidency of the G20 in 2023. It will be a platform for all stakeholders, including traditional medicine workers, users and communities, national policymakers, international organizations, academics, private sector and civil society organizations, to share best practices and game-changing evidence, data and innovation on the contribution of traditional medicine to health and sustainable development.
For centuries, traditional and complementary medicine has been an integral resource for health in households and communities. It has been at the frontiers of medicine and science laying the foundation for conventional medical texts. Around 40% of pharmaceutical products today have a natural product basis, and landmark drugs derive from traditional medicine, including aspirin, artemisinin, and childhood cancer treatments. New research, including on genomics and artificial intelligence are entering the field, and there are growing industries for herbal medicines, natural products, health, wellness and related travel. Currently, 170 Member States reported to WHO on the use of traditional medicine and have requested evidence and data to inform policies, standards and regulation for its safe, cost-effective and equitable use.
In response to this increased global interest and demand, WHO, with the support of the Government of India, established in March 2022 the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine as a knowledge hub with a mission to catalyse ancient wisdom and modern science for the health and well-being of people and the planet. The WHO Traditional Medicine Centre scales up WHO’s existing capacity in traditional medicine and supplements the core WHO functions of governance, norms and country support carried out across the six regional Offices and Headquarters.
The Centre focuses on partnership, evidence, data, biodiversity and innovation to optimize the contribution of traditional medicine to global health, universal health coverage, and sustainable development, and is also guided by respect for local heritages, resources and rights.
A cross-regional expert panel will advise on the Summit’s theme, format, topics and issues to address. All updates will be posted here and on the forthcoming webpages for the First WHO Traditional Medicine Global Summit.
In case you are interested, the programme can be seen here.
And my comment? I am afraid, it was not very encouraging. I doubt that Nature will publish it in full. So, allow me to show you my unabridged comment:
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. 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”. 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.’.
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.’.
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”.  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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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:
- Mucormycosis (black fungus): is the Indian AYUSH ministry trying to decimate the population?
- The ‘AYUSH COVID-19 Helpline’: have they gone bonkers?
- Individualized Homeopathic Medicines for Cutaneous Warts – the dishonesty of homeopaths continues
- Ever wondered what a homeopathic egg on the face looks like?
- An RCT on the efficacy of ayurvedic treatment on asymptomatic COVID-19 patients
- Has homeopathy caused the dramatic decline of COVID-19 cases in India?
- Eight new products aimed at mitigating COVID-19. But do they really work?
- Siddha doctors have joined those claiming to have found a cure for COVID-19
- COVID-19: homeopathy gone berserk in Mumbai
- Brazil and India collaborate in the promotion of quackery
- Hard to believe: dangerous GOVERNMENTAL advice regarding SCAM for the corona virus pandemic
WATCH THIS SPACE!
Please take a moment to read this short letter by the ‘LIGA MEDICORUM HOMOEOPATHICA INTERNATIONALIS’:
As you know, the World Health Organization (WHO) is predicting that civilization faces a crisis of antibiotic-resistant diseases that may soon result in as many as 10 million deaths per year while pushing as many as 24 million people into extreme poverty.
We, the undersigned, are duly licensed healthcare professionals practicing homeopathy, with the authority to diagnose and treat disease, who have reviewed the extensive research literature demonstrating the clear therapeutic value of homeopathy. Each of us has had extensive clinical experience successfully treating hundreds of thousands of patients suffering from infectious diseases worldwide.
Homeopathy works, does not cause further antibiotic resistance, is generally devoid of side effects, is inexpensive, and is good for health of the planet.
We are calling upon the WHO to encourage the international medical community to immediately begin training in homeopathy as an adjunctive therapeutic measure to avoid this catastrophic loss of life and would like a meeting with you or your representative to discuss the grave challenge of antibiotic resistance at your earliest convenience.
Thank you for considering this urgent appeal.
I stated above that this is a letter. In fact, it is more – it is a petition directed to the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to immediately begin training physicians in homeopathy as an adjunctive therapeutic measure to combat the looming crisis of antibiotic-resistant diseases.
The Liga Medicorum Homoeopathica Internationalis (LMHI) represents homeopathic physicians in more than 70 countries all over the world. The purposes of the association are the development and securing of homeopathy worldwide and the creation of a link among licensed homeopaths with medical diplomas and societies and persons who are interested in homeopathy. The LMHI is exclusively devoted to non-profit activities serving philanthropic benefits.
The LMHI might ring a bell for regular readers of this blog. A few years ago, I reported that its president advocates curing cancers with homeopathy. And in 2014, I reported that a journey to Liberia of leading homeopaths was co-organized by the LMHI; its purpose was to cure Ebola patients of their disease with homeopathy.
I find all of this seriously worrying – not because I fear that the WHO will now start training physicians across the globe in homeopathy. It is worrying, I feel, because it shows how hopelessly deluded homeopaths are. The fact that clinicians so far detached from reality treat ill and vulnerable patients frightens me.
Protection against electromagnetic fields has been a topic before (see here and here). In so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) entrepreneurs have been quick to sell all sorts of ‘protective’ gadgets to the often all too gullible public. The devices are based on two main assumptions:
- EMF causes ill health.
- The device prevents this from happening.
Neither of them is correct, and the harm done by the claim is substantial. It can be measured in £ or $, because these gadgets are, of course, not cheap. Now a new type of harm is in the spotlight.
It has been reported that the Dutch authority for nuclear safety and radiation protection (ANVS) found several of these devices claimed to protect against 5G networks gave off harmful ionising radiation. It urged people not to use the products, which could cause harm in the long term.
The World Health Organization assures us that 5G mobile networks are safe, and not fundamentally different from existing 3G and 4G signals. They emit non-ionizing radio waves that do not damage DNA. But the marketers of these devices claim otherwise and many consumers believe them. This explains why there have been attacks on transmitters by people who believe 5G is harmful. The Guardian reported that, last year, 15 EU member states called on the European Commission to address a spate of conspiracy theories that had led to arson attacks against telecommunications masts.
The products identified included:
- “Energy Armor” sleeping mask,
- “Energy Armor” bracelet,
- “Energy Armor” necklace,
- Magnetix Wellness, a device for children.
Despite clear evidence that EMF protection is an expensive scam, Kim Jobst, Visiting Professor of Healthcare and Integrated Medicine Oxford Brooks University UK and former editor of the notorious JACM, stated the following about such a gadget: “Emerging evidence from early clinical, cellular and molecular studies of the effects of QLink on cardiovascular, immune and central nervous systems is startling.”
In May 2020, the UK’s Trading Standards sought to halt sales of a £339 USB stick that claimed to offer “protection” from 5G. “Anti-radiation stickers” have also been sold on Amazon. On this blog, we have discussed EMF devices that cost well over £4000.
A second look at old research suggested that the recommended dose for vitamin C is far too low. Here is the abstract of the recently published paper:
A double-blind controlled trial initiated in 1944 has led to the common narrative that a 10-mg daily vitamin C intake is adequate to prevent and treat impaired wound healing, and by inference, other collagen-related diseases such as heart disease or stroke. The WHO relies on this narrative to set the recommended nutrient intake for vitamin C. This narrative, however, is based on what is known as the eyeball method of data assessment. The 1944 trial published individual participant data on scar strength providing an opportunity to statistically probe the validity of the 10-mg narrative, something which has not yet been done. The findings show that a vitamin C intake that averages to 10 mg/d over a mean follow-up of 11.5 mo was associated with a 42% weakened scar strength when compared with 80 mg vitamin C intake/d (P < 0.001). The observed dose-response curve between scar strength and vitamin C intake suggests that the daily vitamin C intake needed to prevent collagen-related pathologies is in the range recommended by the National Academy of Medicine and the European Food Safety Authority (75 to 110 mg/d), not the WHO recommendation (45 mg/d). The findings also show that a vitamin C intake that averages to 65 mg/d over a mean follow-up of 6.5 mo failed to restore the normal wound-healing capacity of vitamin C-depleted tissues; such tissues had a 49% weaker scar strength when compared with nondepleted tissues (P < 0.05). Thus, average daily vitamin C intakes ∼50% higher than the WHO recommends may fail to treat existing collagen-related pathologies. It is concluded that the prior lack of statistical analyses of a landmark trial may have led to a misleading narrative on the vitamin C needs for the prevention and treatment of collagen-related pathologies.
The lead author of the recent re-analysis, Professor Philippe Hujoel from the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, said: “The vitamin C experiment is a shocking study. They depleted people’s vitamin C levels long-term and created life-threatening emergencies. It would never fly now. The findings of the re-analyses of the Sorby data suggest that the WHO’s recommendation is too low to prevent weak scar strength. Robust parametric analyses of the trial data reveal that an average daily vitamin C intake of 95mg is required to prevent weak scar strength for 97.5 percent of the population. Such a vitamin C intake is more than double the daily 45mg vitamin C intake recommended by the WHO but is consistent with the writing panels for the National Academy of Medicine and (other) countries.”
The original research of 1944 was headed by the British-German biologist and Nobel-prize winner Sir Hans Adolf Krebs. At the time, researchers conducted an experiment that controlled and monitored vitamin C consumption of just 20 volunteers. They were each given varying amounts of vitamin C, which helps the body to produce collagen – and given wounds to observe how quickly their scar tissue healed. The research aimed to ascertain how much vitamin C navy members living off rations is required in order to prevent them from developing scurvy, rather than how much is needed to boost health overall.
Prof Hujoel concluded that: “The failure to reevaluate the data of a landmark trial with novel statistical methods as they became available may have led to a misleading narrative on the vitamin C needs for the prevention and treatment of collagen-related pathologies.”
On Twitter, the hype had begun even before its text was available. Priti Gandhi, for instance, tweeted:
Yet another feather in India’s cap!! 1st evidence-based, CoPP-WHO GMP certified medicine for Covid-19 released today. Congratulations to @yogrishiramdev ji, @Ach_Balkrishna ji & the team of scientists at Patanjali Research Institute. Your efforts have been successful!! #Ayurveda
So, what is it all about? This study included 100 patients and was designed to evaluate the impact of traditional Indian Ayurvedic treatment on asymptomatic patients with COVID-19 infection. It is a placebo-controlled randomized double-blind pilot clinical trial that was conducted at the Department of Medicine in the National Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Jaipur, India.
- 1 g of Giloy Ghanvati (Tinospora cordifolia)
- 2 g of Swasari Ras (traditional herbo-mineral formulation)
- 0.5 g of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
- 0.5 g of Tulsi Ghanvati (Ocimum sanctum)
The treatment was given orally to the patients in the treatment group twice per day for 7 days. Medicines were given in the form of tablets and each tablet weighed 500 mg. While Swasari Ras was administered in powdered form, 30 min before breakfasts and dinners, rest were scheduled for 30 min post-meals. Patients in the treatment group also received 4 drops of Anu taila (traditional nasal drop) in each nostril every day 1 h before breakfast. Patients in the placebo group received identical-looking tablets and drops, post-randomization, and double-blinded assortments. The RT-qPCR test was used for the detection of viral load in the nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swab samples of study participants during the study. Chemiluminescent immunometric assay was used to quantify serum levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), and high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) on day 1 and day 7 of the study. Patient testing negative for SARS-CoV-2 in the RT-PCR analysis was the primary outcome of this study.
By day three, 71.1 % and 50.0 % of patients recovered in the treatment and placebo groups, respectively. The treatment group witnessed 100 % recovery by day 7, while it was 60.0 % in the placebo group. Average fold changes in serum levels of hs-CRP, IL-6, and TNF-α in the treatment group were respectively, 12.4, 2.5 and 20 times lesser than those in the placebo group at day 7. There was a 40 % absolute reduction in the risk of delayed recovery from infection in the treatment group.
The authors concluded that Ayurvedic treatment can expedite virological clearance, help in faster recovery and concomitantly reduce the risk of viral dissemination. Reduced inflammation markers suggested less severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the treatment group. Moreover, there was no adverse effect observed to be associated with this treatment.
I have the following concerns or questions about this trial:
- Why do the authors call it a pilot study? A pilot study is merely for testing the feasibility of a trial design and is not meant to yield definitive efficacy results.
- The authors state that the patients were asymptomatic yet in the discussion they claim they were asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.
- Some of the effect sizes reported here are extraordinary and seem almost too good to be true.
- The claim of no adverse effect is implausible; even placebos would cause perceived adverse effects in a percentage of patients.
- If the study is solid and withstands the scrutiny of the raw data, it is of huge relevance for public health. So, why did the authors publish it in PHYTOMEDICINE, a relatively minor and little-known journal?
An article in The Economic Times’ reported this:
Patanjali Ayurved released what it called the first “evidence-based” medicine for Covid-19 on Friday. It claimed it has been “recognised by the WHO (World Health Organization) as an ayurvedic medicine for corona”.
Patanjali promoter, yoga guru Baba Ramdev, released a scientific research paper in this regard at the launch, presided over by Union health minister Harsh Vardhan and transport minister Nitin Gadkari.
The Ayurveda products maker said it has received a certification from the Ayush ministry. “Coronil has received the Certificate of Pharmaceutical Product (CoPP) from the Ayush section of Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) as per the WHO certification scheme,” it said in a statement.
Under the CoPP, Coronil can be exported to 158 countries, the company said, adding that based on the presented data, the ministry has recognised Coronil as medicine for “supporting measure in Covid-19”.
Am I the only one who fears that something is not entirely kosher about the study? (This is an honest question, and I would be pleased to receive answers from my readers)
Today, HRH the Prince of Wales has his 72th birthday. As every year, I send him my best wishes by dedicating an entire post to a brief, updated summary of his achievements in the area of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM).
EARLY INFLUENCE OF LAURENCE VAN DER POST
Aged 18, Charles went on a journey of ‘spiritual discovery’ into the Kalahari desert. His guide was Laurens van der Post (later discovered to be a fraud and compulsive fantasist and to have fathered a child with a 14-year old girl entrusted to him during a sea voyage). Van der Post wanted to awake Charles’ mind and attune it to the ideas of Carl Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’, and it is this belief in vitalism that provides the crucial link to SCAM: virtually every form of SCAM is based on the assumption that some sort of vital force exists. Charles was impressed with van der Post that he made him the godfather of Prince William. After Post’s death, he established an annual lecture in his honour (the lecture series was quickly discontinued after van der Post was discovered to be a fraud).
CHIROPRACTIC and OSTEOPATHY
Throughout the 1980s, Charles lobbied for the statutory regulation of chiropractors and osteopaths in the UK. In 1993, this finally became reality. To this day, these two SCAM professions are the only ones regulated by statute in the UK.
THE BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
In 1982, Prince Charles was elected as President of the British Medical Association (BMA) and promptly challenged the medical orthodoxy by advocating SCAM. In a speech at his inaugural dinner as President, the Prince lectured the medics: ‘Through the centuries healing has been practised by folk healers who are guided by traditional wisdom which sees illness as a disorder of the whole person, involving not only the patient’s body, but his mind, his self-image, his dependence on the physical and social environment, as well as his relation to the cosmos.’ The BMA-officials ordered a full report on alternative medicine which promptly condemned this area as implausible nonsense.
Six years later, a second report, entitled ‘Complementary Medicine – New Approaches to Good Practice’, heralded U-turn stating that: “the demand for non-conventional therapies had become so pressing that organised medicine in Britain could no longer ignore its contribution“. At the same time, however, the BMA set in motion a further chapter in the history of SCAM by insisting that it was “unacceptable” to allow the unrestricted practice of non-conventional therapies, irrespective of training or experience.
THE FOUNDATION OF INTEGRATED HEALTH
In 1993, Charles founded his lobby group which, after being re-named several times, ended up being called the ‘Foundation for Integrated Health’ (FIH). It was closed down in 2010 amidst allegations of money laundering and fraud. Its chief executive, George Gray, was later convicted and went to jail.
In 2001, Charles worked on plans to help build a model hospital of integrated medicine. It was to train doctors to combine conventional medicine and SCAMs, such as homeopathy, Ayurvedic medicine and acupuncture, and was to have around 100 beds. The prince’s intervention marked the culmination of years of campaigning by him for the NHS to assign a greater role to SCAM.
In 2001, Charles published an editorial in the BMJ promoting his ideas around integrative medicine. Its title: THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. Ever since, Charles has been internationally recognised as one of the world’s most vociferous champions of integrated medicine.
In 2004, Charles publicly supported the Gerson diet as a treatment for cancer. Prof Baum, an eminent oncologists, was invited to respond in an open letter to the British Medical Journal: ” …Over the past 20 years I have treated thousands of patients with cancer and lost some dear friends and relatives to this dreaded disease…The power of my authority comes with knowledge built on 40 years of study and 25 years of active involvement in cancer research. Your power and authority rest on an accident of birth. I don’t begrudge you that authority but I do beg you to exercise your power with extreme caution when advising patients with life-threatening diseases to embrace unproven therapies.”
THE SMALLWOOD REPORT
In 2005, the ‘Smallwood-Report’ was published; it had been commissioned by Charles and paid for by Dame Shirley Porter to inform health ministers. It stated that up to 480 million pounds could be saved, if one in 10 family doctors offered homeopathy as an “alternative” to standard drugs for asthma. Savings of up to 3.5 billion pounds could be achieved by offering spinal manipulation rather than drugs to people with back pain. Because I had commented on this report, Prince Charles’ first private secretary asked my vice chancellor to investigate the alleged indiscretion; even though I was found to be not guilty of any wrong-doing, all local support at Exeter stopped which eventually led to my early retirement.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION
In a 2006 speech, Prince Charles told the World Health Organisation in Geneva that SCAM should have a more prominent place in health care and urged every country to come up with a plan to integrate conventional and alternative medicine into the mainstream. Anticipating Prince Charles’s sermon in Geneva, 13 of Britain’s most eminent physicians and scientists wrote an “Open Letter” which expressed concern over “ways in which unproven or disproved treatments are being encouraged for general use in Britain’s National Health Service.” The signatories argued that “it would be highly irresponsible to embrace any medicine as though it were a matter of principle.”
TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE (TCM)
In 2007, the People’s Republic of China recorded the visit of Fu Ying, its ambassador in London at the time, to Clarence House, and announced that the Charles had praised TCM. “He hoped that it could be included in the modern medical system . . . and was willing to make a contribution to it.”
In 2009, the Prince held talks with the health Secretary to persuade him to introduce safeguards amid a crackdown by the EU that could prevent anyone who is not a registered health practitioner from selling remedies.
In the same year, Charles urged the government to protect SCAM because “we fear that we will see a black market in herbal products”, as Dr Michael Dixon, medical director of the FIH and Charles’ advisor in SCAM, put it.
UK HEALTH POLITICS
In 2009, the health secretary wrote to the Prince suggesting a meeting on the possibility of a study on integrating SCAM in England’s NHS. The Prince had written to Burnham’s predecessor, Alan Johnson, demanding greater access to SCAM in the NHS alongside conventional medicine. Charles stated that “despite waves of invective over the years from parts of the medical and scientific establishment” he continued to lobby “because I cannot bear people suffering unnecessarily when a complementary approach could make a real difference”.
In June 2014, BBC NEWS published the following text about a BBC4 broadcast entitled ‘THE ROYAL ACTIVIST’ aired on the same day: Prince Charles has been a well-known supporter of complementary medicine. According to a… former Labour cabinet minister, Peter Hain, it was a topic they shared an interest in. He had been constantly frustrated at his inability to persuade any health ministers anywhere that that was a good idea, and so he, as he once described it to me, found me unique from this point of view, in being somebody that actually agreed with him on this, and might want to deliver it. Mr Hain added: “When I was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 2005-7, he was delighted when I told him that since I was running the place I could more or less do what I wanted to do. I was able to introduce a trial for complementary medicine on the NHS, and it had spectacularly good results, that people’s well-being and health was vastly improved. And when he learnt about this he was really enthusiastic and tried to persuade the Welsh government to do the same thing and the government in Whitehall to do the same thing for England, but not successfully,” added Mr Hain.
In October 2015, the Guardian obtained the infamous “black spider memos” which revealed that Charles had repeatedly lobbied politicians in favour of SCAM.
THE COLLEGE OF MEDICINE
In 2009, it was announced that the ‘College of Integrated Medicine’ (the successor of the FIH) was to have a second base in India. In 2011, Charles forged a link between ‘The College of Medicine’ and an Indian holistic health centre. The collaboration was reported to include clinical training to European and Western doctors in Ayurveda and homoeopathy and traditional forms of medicine to integrate them in their practice. The foundation stone for the extended campus of the Royal College known as the International Institution for Holistic and Integrated Medicine was laid by Dr Michael Dixon in collaboration with the Royal College of Medicine.
In 2020, Charles became the patron of the College of Medicine which, by then, had re-christened itself ‘College of Medicine and Integrated Health’. The College chair, Michael Dixon, was quoted stating: ‘This is a great honour and will support us as an organisation committed to taking medicine beyond drugs and procedures. This generous royal endorsement will enable us to be ever more ambitious in our mission to achieve a more compassionate and sustainable health service.”
DUTCHY ORIGINALS DETOX TINCTURE
In 2011, after the launch of Charles’ range of herbal tinctures, I had the audacity to publicly criticise Charles for selling the Duchy Herbals detox tincture which I named ‘Dodgy Originals Detox Tincture’.
In 2016, speaking at a global leaders summit on antimicrobial resistance, Prince Charles warned that Britain faced a “potentially disastrous scenario” because of the “overuse and abuse” of antibiotics. The Prince explained that he had switched to organic farming on his estates because of the growing threat from antibiotic resistance and now treats his cattle with homeopathic remedies rather than conventional medication. As some of you may be aware, this issue has been a long-standing and acute concern to me,” he told delegates from 20 countries “I have enormous sympathy for those engaged in the vital task of ensuring that, as the world population continues to increase unsustainably and travel becomes easier, antibiotics retain their availability to overcome disease… It must be incredibly frustrating to witness the fact that antibiotics have too often simply acted as a substitute for basic hygiene, or as it would seem, a way of placating a patient who has a viral infection or who actually needs little more than patience to allow a minor bacterial infection to resolve itself.”
In 2017, Charles declared that he will open a centre for SCAM in the recently purchased Dumfries House in Scotland. Currently, the College of Medicine and Integrated Health is offering two-day Foundation Courses at this iconic location. Gabriel Chiu, a US celebrity cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon, and his wife Christine, joined the Prince of Wales as he opened the integrated health and wellbeing centre on the Dumfries House Estate in East Ayrshire in 2019. As he unveiled a plaque, Prince Charles said: “I’m so glad that all of you have been able to get here today, particularly because I could not be more proud to see the opening of this new integrated health centre at Dumfries House. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for the last 35 years. I’m also so proud of all the team at Dumfries House who built it, an all in-house team.”
Generations of royals have favoured homeopathy, and allegedly it is because of this influence that homeopathy became part of the NHS in 1948. Homeopathy has also been at the core of Charles’ obsession with SCAM from its beginning. In 2017, ‘Country News’ published an article about our heir to the throne stating that Prince of Wales has revealed he uses homeopathic treatments for animals on his organic farm at Highgrove to help reduce reliance on antibiotics, the article stated. He said his methods of farming tried wherever possible to ‘‘go with the grain of nature’’ to avoid dependency on antibiotics, pesticides and other forms of chemical intervention.
In the same year, it was revealed that UK farmers were being taught how to treat their livestock with homeopathy “by kind permission of His Royal Highness, The Prince Of Wales”
In 2019, the Faculty of Homeopathy announced that His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales had accepted to become Patron of the Faculty of Homeopathy. Dr Gary Smyth, President of the Faculty of Homeopathy commented, “As the Faculty celebrates its 175th anniversary this year, it is an enormous honour for us to receive the Patronage of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and I am delighted to announce this news today.” Charles’ move amazed observers who saw it as a deliberate protest against the discontinuation of reimbursement of homeopathy by the NHS.
In 2020, Charles fell ill with the corona-virus and happily made a swift recovery. It was widely reported that his recovery was due to homeopathy, a notion denied by Clarence House.
Happy Birthday Charles
I recently came across a short article from 2009 in the BMJ reporting that: “The World Health Organization has said that homoeopathy should not be used to treat several serious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria...”
At the time most people (including myself) were rather pleased that the WHO took what was considered a clear stance, I remember. Reading the short paragraph again today, I must say I am underwhelmed. In fact, if I analyse it carefully, I have to admit that the statement is nonsense.
This would be inconsequential or trivial, were it not for the hundreds of similar statements warning people that HOMEOPATHY SHOULD NOT BE USED FOR SERIOUS CONDITIONS.
Have I confused you?
No, I am not claiming the homeopathy SHOULD be used for serious conditions! I am saying that the statement is misleading and can easily be misunderstood. Some people might interpret it as meaning that, alright homeopathy must not be used for serious diseases, but can be used for all other conditions. Come to think of it, the WHO has often been seen promoting so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), and therefore I cannot be sure that this is not the message they wanted to send out.
Highly diluted homeopathic remedies contain nothing; they are therefore biologically implausible. Crucially, the best evidence fails to show that they work beyond a placebo effect. Therefore, employing it for a serious condition might hasten the patient’s death. But using it for a less serious condition is surely not much better.
Imagine someone takes it for asthma, or psoriasis, or coronary heart disease, or rheumatoid arthritis, or flu, or food poisoning, or the common cold, etc, etc. If he uses it as a sole treatment, he will suffer needlessly. If he uses it as a complementary treatment (Hahnemann did expressly forbid such combinations), he might not be affected negatively except for the time and money invested. But his health would not benefit, and therefore the WHO (or anyone else for that matter) should not imply that this is fine.
It follows that the warning HOMEOPATHY SHOULD NOT BE USED FOR SERIOUS CONDITIONS is nonsense. The only sound advice is this:
HOMEOPATHY SHOULD NOT BE USED FOR ANY CONDITIONS.