The British doctor and outspoken anti-vaxer Aseem Malhotra has featured several times on this blog, e.g.:
- UK Cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra receives a well-deserved award
- Dr Aseem Malhotra and Dr Steven James: candour and complacency
Now, there has been a potentially important new development in his story. The Good Law Project recently announced the following:
During the pandemic, we depended on doctors telling us how we could protect ourselves and our loved ones. We trusted their advice would be based on the most reliable and up-to-date research.
But when the British cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra went on television, or posted to his hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, he repeatedly claimed the vaccine was ineffective and posed a greater threat than Covid, causing “horrific unprecedented harms including sudden cardiac death” – suggestions refuted by medical experts and branded false by factcheckers.
The General Medical Council is responsible for regulating doctors in the UK and investigating those whose conduct falls short of the required standards. Despite the clear risk to public health of vaccine misinformation, it has so far refused to launch an investigation into Malhotra’s public pronouncements, originally saying that they “don’t consider that the comments or posts made by the doctor call his fitness to practice into question…” and subsequently upholding that decision after a number of doctors challenged it.
Good Law Project is supporting a doctor who is taking the regulator to the High Court over their failure to investigate whether Malhotra has breached standards. The judicial review has now been given permission to proceed by the High Court, which held that it raises an “issue of general public importance” as to how the GMC exercises its functions.
According to the claimant, Dr Matt Kneale, medical professionals “should not be using their professional status to promote harmful misinformation”.
“When doctors repeatedly say things that are incorrect, misleading and put people’s health at risk – for example by encouraging them to refuse a vaccine – the GMC must hold them to account,” Kneale said.
For the Good Law Project Executive Director, Jo Maugham, the regulator’s failure to investigate doctors spreading misinformation forms part of a wider pattern.
“What we have learned from both the pandemic inquiry and the calamitous economic consequences of Brexit,” Maugham explained, “is quite how serious are the consequences of deciding, as Michael Gove did, that we have ‘had enough of experts’.”
The council may prefer to avoid becoming embroiled in a controversy over free speech, he continued, but “its primary obligation is to protect the public – and it’s really hard to see how its stance delivers on that objective.”
Dr Malhotra is far from the only proponent of vaccine misinformation in the UK. Open Democracy revealed that anti-lockdown MPs, including Tufton Street’s Steve Baker, took large donations from a secretive group called The Recovery Alliance, which has been linked with a fake grassroots organisation that campaigned against the vaccine.
We’re working to stop misinformation from going unchallenged, and to make sure that regulators like the General Medical Council hold dangerous doctors who make unfounded claims accountable.
By helping to fund this case, you’ll be fighting for trust in the medical profession and to make sure public safety is doctors’ first priority. Any support you can give will help us make positive change.
The ‘Good Law Project’?
Who are they?
Good Law Project is a not for profit campaign organisation that uses the law for a better world. We know that the law, in the right hands, can be a fair and decent force for good. It is a practical tool for positive change and can make amazing things happen. We are proud to be primarily funded by members of the public, which keeps us fiercely independent. We want to inspire hope in difficult times by showing that you can make a difference, with the backing of good law. Our mission is to use the law to hold power to account, protect the environment, and ensure no one is left behind. You can learn more about our organisation and achievements in 2022-23 in our annual report.
You might even decide to support this splendid organization!
I hope you do.
It has just been reported that the Düsseldorf Regional Court has dismissed several lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers for alleged coronavirus vaccine damage as unfounded.
Three women and one man had filed a lawsuit against manufacturers of mRNA vaccines. They claimed to have suffered significant impairment and damage to their health as a result of the coronavirus vaccines. They claimed to have suffered from states of exhaustion, concentration disorders, damage to the immune system, respiratory and lung problems, autoimmune reactions and symptoms of myocarditis. The plaintiffs demanded compensation for pain and suffering of up to 250,000 euros and damages.
The court rejected the claims. The requirements for a claim under the German Medicinal Products Act were not met, the court stated. The plaintiffs had not sufficiently proven a “negative risk-benefit balance” of the vaccine. On the contrary, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had determined a positive balance for the vaccine during the authorisation process.
Furthermore, the plaintiffs had not provided sufficient evidence that the manufacturer had provided incorrect information regarding the vaccine, the court continued. On the contrary, it follows from the official authorisation by the EMA that the manufacturer’s statements “are not objectionable in terms of content”. The judgements are not yet legally binding.
I have little doubt that antivazers will now claim that the court is in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry. To give you a flavour of their mindset, here are examples of recent tweets (Xs) that I picked up on the subject (my translations):
- You stupid arseholes and stupid rabble-rousers, and who is liable for the coronavirus vaccination damage and for the German arms factories in Ukraine?
- More and more vaccines, no long-term studies…not with me!
I make decisions about my body and you can see from the coronavirus vaccine damage that I have done everything right. Even if our government wants us to believe that there are none and pays the lawyers for Biontech.
- Corona vaccination damage, disinformation, corona vaccination no protection, disinformation, that’s how it works with the anti-democrats.
- The Corona vaccine damage is also still being covered up. This political cesspit also stinks and needs to be emptied as quickly as possible.
- When the force-financed government TV reports on “vaccine damage”, more and more of the people’s traitors must be getting sick to their stomachs.
- For the “fact checkers”, facts are opinions – often even contradicting government statistics, e.g. in the case of coronavirus vaccinations – that are considered correct by the establishment. Necessary open discussions are not wanted by them.
There is growing evidence that substituting animal-based with plant-based foods is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD), type 2 diabetes (T2D), and all-cause mortality. The aim of this review was to summarize and evaluate the evidence for the substitution of any animal-based foods with plant-based foods on cardiometabolic health and all-cause mortality in a systematic review and meta-analysis.
The researchers systematically searched MEDLINE, Embase, and Web of Science to March 2023 for prospective studies investigating the substitution of animal-based with plant-based foods on CVD, T2D, and all-cause mortality. They calculated summary hazard ratios (SHRs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) using random-effects meta-analyses. We assessed the certainty of evidence (CoE) using the GRADE approach.
In total, 37 publications based on 24 cohorts were included. The results are impressive:
- There was moderate CoE for a lower risk of CVD when substituting processed meat with nuts [SHR (95% CI): 0.73 (0.59, 0.91), n = 8 cohorts], legumes [0.77 (0.68, 0.87), n = 8], and whole grains [0.64 (0.54, 0.75), n = 7], as well as eggs with nuts [0.83 (0.78, 0.89), n = 8] and butter with olive oil [0.96 (0.95, 0.98), n = 3].
- There was moderate CoE for an inverse association with T2D incidence when substituting red meat with whole grains/cereals [0.90 (0.84, 0.96), n = 6] and red meat or processed meat with nuts [0.92 (0.90, 0.94), n = 6 or 0.78 (0.69, 0.88), n = 6], as well as for replacing poultry with whole grains [0.87 (0.83, 0.90), n = 2] and eggs with nuts or whole grains [0.82 (0.79, 0.86), n = 2 or 0.79 (0.76, 0.83), n = 2].
- Replacing red meat for nuts [0.93 (0.91, 0.95), n = 9] and whole grains [0.96 (0.95, 0.98), n = 3], processed meat with nuts [0.79 (0.71, 0.88), n = 9] and legumes [0.91 (0.85, 0.98), n = 9], dairy with nuts [0.94 (0.91, 0.97), n = 3], and eggs with nuts [0.85 (0.82, 0.89), n = 8] and legumes [0.90 (0.89, 0.91), n = 7] was associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality.
The authors concluded that their findings indicate that a shift from animal-based (e.g., red and processed meat, eggs, dairy, poultry, butter) to plant-based (e.g., nuts, legumes, whole grains, olive oil) foods is beneficially associated with cardiometabolic health and all-cause mortality.
I am not a vegetarian or vegan but have been interested in vegetarian diets for some time.
- In a 1997 review, I concluded that eating less meat is good advice; however, strict forms of vegetarianism are not entirely free of risks.
- And in 1986, we showed that, in vegetarians, blood and plasma viscosities were lower than in meat eaters. Stricter avoidance of animal products was associated with even lower values for these indices. These observations are in agreement with the fact that other low-cardiovascular-risk groups show better than average blood fluidity. They are consistent with the hypothesis that in vitro measurements of blood rheology may provide signs of early atherosclerotic changes in vivo.
The mechanisms by which a vegetarian diet bring about the health benefits are still not entirely clear and require more research. Likewise, we need more evidence on the question wether it is necessary to avoid all animal-based foods to generate the benefits. My reading of the evidence is that a reduction of such foods might suffice. Yet, the optimal balance is unclear as yet.
Congratulations to Joseph Prahlow, MD, who is the winner of the Excellence in Homeopathy Award! Here are the conclusions of his winning essay. Special thanks to Hermeet Singh and Boiron for their prize donation.
Despite the many obstacles and challenges which face homeopathy in the 21st century, the homeopathic community should be emboldened and encouraged by the fact that there are also many opportunities for the advancement of homeopathy as an alternative choice in health care.
Proclaim the Truth: Homeopathy Actually Works
Notwithstanding the challenges involved (especially for a student) in arriving at the correct simillimum for a case, let alone the appropriate follow-up and case management, the truth of the matter is that homeopathy does, in fact, work! Those of us who have been the beneficiaries of homeopathic care, or who have seen the benefits in others, know with no doubt whatsoever that homeopathy represents a truly amazing form of alternative medicine that is able to successfully treat patients having a wide range of health concerns, including some very ill individuals. And it’s not just based on “experience” or “perception,” although such evidence should not be discounted. Numerous studies show the effectiveness of homeopathy.6-9 The fact that homeopathy actually works represents one of the biggest and most important opportunities for homeopathy. The corresponding challenge relates to “getting the word out” into the general community as well as the medical community. Instead of homeopathy being the “last resort,” it should increasingly become the “first choice” amongst patients. Only by “spreading the word” of its success can this become a reality.
What intrigued me here was the evidence that an award-winning homeopath believes might justify the claim that
“Numerous studies show the effectiveness of homeopathy”
6. Mathie RT, Lloyd SM, Legg LA, et al. Randomised placebo-controlled trials of individualized homeopathic treatment: systematic review and meta-analysis. Syst Rev. 2014 Dec 6;3:142. doi: 10.1186/2046-4053-3-142.
As we have discussed previously that meta-analysis is phoney and created a false-positive result by omitting at least two negative studies.
7. Taylor JA, Jacobs J. Homeopathic ear drops as an adjunct in reducing antibiotic usage in children with otitis media. Glob Pediatr Health 2014 Nov 21;1:2333794X14559395. doi: 10.1177/2333794X14559395.
This study had the notorious A+B versus B design and thus was unable to test for specific effects of homeopathy. Moreover, the lead author, Dr Jennifer Jacobs, was a paid consultant to Standard Homeopathic Company.
8. Sorrentino L, Piraneo S, Riggio E, et al. Is there a role for homeopathy in breast cancer surgery? A first randomized clinical trial on treatment with Arnica montana to reduce post-operative seroma and bleeding in patients undergoing total mastectomy. J Intercult Ethnopharmacol 2017 Jan 3;6(1):1-8. doi: 10.5455/jice.20161229055245.
This study showed no significant result in the intention to treat analysis. The positive conclusion seems to be based on data dredging only.
9. Frass M, Lechleitner P, Grundling C, et al. Homeopathic treatment as an add-on therapy may improve quality of life and prolong survival in patients with non-small cell lung cancer: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, three-arm, multic0-e1955enter study. Oncologist 2020 Dec 25(12):e1930-e1955. doi: 10.1002/onco.13548.
Perhaps the award winning author should chance the crucial sentence into something like:
Numerous studies have shown how homeopaths try to mislead the public?
In any case, please do not let this stop you from reading the full paper by the award-winning author. I promise you that it will create much hilarity.
What does homeopathy offer our modern ailing world?
According to Healthcare.gov, a primary care provider in the US is “a physician (MD or DO), nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist or physician assistant, as allowed under state law, who provides, coordinates or helps a patient access a range of healthcare services.” A growing movement exists to expand who can act as a primary care privider (PCP). Chiropractors have been a part of this expansion, but is that wise? This is the question recently asked by Katie Suleta of THE AMERICAN COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND HEALTH In it, she explains that:
- chiropractors would like to act as PCPs,
- chiropractors are not trained in pharmacology,
- chiropractors receive some training in supplements,
- chiropractors wish to avoid pumping the body full of “synthetic” hormones and substances.
Subsequently, she adresses the chiropractic profession’s stance on vaccines.
First, look at similar professional organizations to establish a reasonable expectation. The American Medical Association has firmly taken a stance on vaccines and provides resources for physicians to help communicate with patients. There is no question about where they stand on the topic, whether it be vaccines in general or COVID-19 vaccines specifically. Ditto the American Osteopathic Association and American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. There is a contingent of vaccine-hesitant MDs and DOs. There is also an anti-vax contingent of MDs and DOs. The vaccine hesitant can be considered misguided and cautious, while anti-vaxxers often have more misinformation and an underlying political agenda. The two groups pose a threat but are, thankfully, the minority. They’re also clearly acting against the recommendations of their professional organizations.
Let’s now turn to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). Unlike the American Medical Association or American Osteopathic Association, they seem to take no stance on vaccines. None. Zip. Zilch. As of this writing, if you go to the ACA website and search for “vaccines,” zero results are returned. Venturing over to the ACA-CDID, there is a category under their “News and Articles” section for ‘Vaccines.’ This seems promising! However, when you click on it, it returns one article on influenza vaccines from Fox News from 2017. It’s not an original article. It’s not a perspective piece. No recommendations are to be found—nothing even on the COVID-19 vaccines. Basically, there is effectively nothing on ACA-CDID’s website either. We’re oh for two.
The last one we’ll try is DABCI University. No, it’s not a professional organization, but it does train DCs. The words ‘university’ and ‘internist’ are involved, so they must talk about vaccines…right? Wrong again. While there is a lot of content available only to paying members and students, the sections of their website that are publicly available are noticeably short on vaccine information. There is a section dedicated to articles, currently including five whole articles, and not a single one talked about vaccines. One report addresses the pharmacokinetics of coffee enemas, but none talks about one of the most fundamental tools PCPs have to help prevent illness.
Why It’s Important
Chiropractic was defined by DD. Palmer, its founder, as “a science of healing without drugs.” It relies on spinal manipulation. In traditional chiropractic, there is no room for medications at all. A rift has developed within the profession, and some chiropractors, those seeking that internal medicine certification, “try to avoid pumping the body with synthetic hormones and other prescriptions.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, several prominent chiropractors publicly pushed anti-vaccine views. To highlight just a few prominent examples: Vax Con ’21, Mile Hi Chiro, and Ben Tapper. Vax Con ’21 was organized and orchestrated by the Chiropractic Society of Wisconsin. It featured Judy Mikovits, of Plandemic fame, as a speaker and touted her book with a forward written by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. It offered continuing education units (CEUs) to DCs to attend this anti-vaccine conference that peddled misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and other prevention measures. Healthcare providers are often required to complete a certain number of continuing education units to maintain licensure, ensuring that they stay current and sharp as healthcare evolves or, in this case, devolves.
This conference was not unique in this either. Mile Hi Chiro was just held in Denver in September of this year, had several questionable speakers (including RFK and Ben Tapper of Disinformation Dozen fame), and offered continuing education. If professional conferences offer continuing education units for attendees and push vaccine misinformation, that should concern everyone. Especially if the profession in question wants to act as PCPs.
Despite training in a system that believes “the body has an innate intelligence, and the power to heal itself if it is functioning properly, and that chiropractic care can help it do that,” without medications, but frequently with supplements, roughly 58% of Oregon’s chiropractors were vaccinated against COVID-19. That said, their training and inclination, along with the silence of their professional organizations and the chiropractic conferences featuring anti-vaccine sentiment, make them a profession that, at the very least, doesn’t consider vaccinations or medications viable health alternatives. We’re now talking about an entire profession that wants to be PCPs.
Irrespective of your belief about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccination, the germ theory of disease remains unchallenged. Anyone unwilling to work to treat and prevent infectious diseases within their community with the most effective means at our disposal should not be allowed to dispense medical advice. Chiropractors lack the basic training that a PCP should have. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I want healthcare accessible for everyone. But, if you’re looking for a PCP, consider going to an MD, DO, NP, or PA – they come fully equipped for your primary care needs.
Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I have discussed the thorny issue of chiros and vaccinations many times before, e.g.:
- Chiropractic and Public Health
- The International Chiropractors Association’s Statement on Vaccination
- The General Chiropractic Council’s ‘Registrant Survey 2020’ has just been published
- Far too many chiropractors believe that vaccinations do not have a positive effect on public health
- Vaccination: chiropractors “espouse views which aren’t evidence based”
- Patients consulting chiropractors, homeopaths, or naturopaths are less likely to agree to the flu jab
- “The uncensored truth” about COVID-19 vaccines” … as told by some chiro loons
- Beliefs and behaviors of US chiropractors
- Media attention forces (some) chiropractors to get their act together
- Ever wondered why so many chiropractors are profoundly anti-vax?
I agree with Katie Suleta that the issue is important and thank her for raising it. I also agree with her conclusion that, if you’re looking for a PCP, consider going to an MD, DO, NP, or PA – they come fully equipped for your primary care needs.
Do not consult chiropractors.
“Acute Fulminant Hepatic Failure in 23-Year-Old Female Taking Homeopathic Remedy” is not a title we see often on a scientific paper. Naturally, it attrackted my interest. In the paper, a US team presented a case of a 23-year-old otherwise healthy woman with body mass index 32.3 and a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome who presented with acute liver failure (ALF) ultimately requiring orthotopic liver transplantation. The patient was originally from India where she reported taking homeopathic medications for various indications for several years without known toxicity. She had no history of alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use. At the time of her presentation, she was living and working in the US and reported she was unable to refill her homeopathic product with the primary ingredient of eggshells from India. She was off of all medications and supplements with the exception of Berberis vulgaris for approximately 1 month before obtaining a similarly named homeopathic product with the primary ingredient of eggshells from Amazon. She reported originally taking 4 pills/d for 10 days, and then increased to 10 pills/d for 10 days as she was unsure of the appropriate dose.
She subsequently developed orange discoloration of her urine and nausea, reportedly without any preceding muscle-related effects or symptoms, and she discontinued all of her medications/supplements. Approximately 2 weeks later, she presented to the emergency department for nausea and malaise, where a blood test revealed abnormal liver enzymes. Mononucleosis screen and hepatitis panel were negative. She had no evidence of hepatic encephalopathy at that time. Ultrasound of the abdomen was notable for hypoechoic liver parenchyma only.
She was discharged home with gastroenterology telehealth follow-up. She was seen 1 week later and reported worsening nausea, vomiting, anorexia, jaundice, and fatigue. She presented to a local emergency department where she received intravenous vitamin K and underwent further laboratory evaluation. She was transferred to another hospital for higher level of care and admitted with acute liver injury. There she received intravenous N-acetylcysteine per institutional protocol, ursodiol, albumin, vitamin K, and fresh frozen plasma transfusions given for coagulopathy. Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography was performed and demonstrated no evidence of biliary obstruction or chronic liver disease (no ascites, contour nodularity, mass, or lymphadenopathy), though liver size noted to be small (11.5 cm in span). At 21 to 28 days after the onset of symptoms, her lab results were still highly abnormal and her mental status deteriorated. She was intubated for airway protection given severe encephalopathy, “cooling protocols” were initiated, and she was transferred again to a higher level of care at a center for emergent liver transplant evaluation. She was evaluated and listed as status 1A for acute liver failure. Her clinical status continued to decline and her labs continued to worsen.
An appropriate organ became available 28 hours after listing. At the time of her surgery, her explanted liver was noted to have massive parenchymal loss with hemorrhage, and pathology confirmed near complete collapse of the organ’s framework with only small foci of steatotic hepatocytes remaining. After her initial operation, her hospital course was complicated by coagulopathy, hypotension, leukocytosis, kidney failure requiring temporary dialysis, and multiple operations for completion of biliary anastomoses and delayed complex abdominal wall closure with mesh given large donor size. She was discharged from the hospital 2 weeks after transplant and her outpatient course continues to go well over 1 year after liver transplantation.
The product in this case has not been previously reported to be toxic. Its primary ingredient is calcium from “toasted eggshells,” which is also not generally known to cause liver failure or disease. However, the authors point out that it is not uncommon for supplements such as this one to contain other potentially toxic agents that are not specifically listed on the bottles’ label. For example, toxic metals including lead, mercury, and arsenic have reportedly been discovered in many (almost 20%) naturopathic medicines manufactured in India, particularly those sold by US websites. As such, the authors hypothesize that this patient’s ALF was likely caused by a contaminant (also consumed in higher quantities than intended) in her homeopathic product with the primary ingredient of eggshells.
The authors of this paper repeatedly state that the product was a homeopathic remedy; however, on other occasions they claim that it was a herbal supplement. In their Figure 1, they name the product as ‘OVA TOSTA’; on Amazon USA, I did indeed find a remedy by that name. Sadly, I was unable to obtain any information about its exact ingredients or composition.
Regardless whether the product was herbal or homeopathic, this case report is a poignant reminder that, in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) many dangerous remedies are offered for sale. Therefore, it is advisible to be cautious and insist on sound information about the quality, safety, and efficacy before trying any such therapy.
The concept that the outcomes of spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) – the hallmark intervention of chiropractors which they use on practically every patient – are optimized when the treatment is aimed at a clinically relevant joint is commonly assumed and central to teaching and clinical use of chiropractic. But is the assumption true?
This systematic review investigated whether clinical effects are superior when this is the case compared to SMT applied elsewhere. Eligible study designs were randomized controlled trials that investigated the effect of SMT applied to candidate versus non-candidate sites for spinal pain.
The authors obtained studies from four different databases. Risk of bias was assessed using an adjusted Cochrane risk of bias tool, adding four items for study quality. Between-group differences were extracted for any reported outcome or, when not reported, calculated from the within-group changes. Outcomes were compared for SMT applied at a ‘relevant’ site to SMT applied elsewhere. The authors prioritized methodologically robust studies when interpreting results.
Ten studies were included. They reported 33 between-group differences; five compared treatments within the same spinal region and five at different spinal regions.
None of the nine studies with low or moderate risk of bias reported statistically significant between-group differences for any outcome. The tenth study reported a small effect on pain (1.2/10, 95%CI – 1.9 to – 0.5) but had a high risk of bias. None of the nine articles of low or moderate risk of bias and acceptable quality reported that “clinically-relevant” SMT has a superior outcome on any outcome compared to “not clinically-relevant” SMT. This finding contrasts with ideas held in educational programs and clinical practice that emphasize the importance of joint-specific application of SMT.
The authors concluded that the current evidence does not support that SMT applied at a supposedly “clinically relevant” candidate site is superior to SMT applied at a supposedly “not clinically relevant” site for individuals with spinal pain.
I came across this study when I searched for the published work of Prof Stephen Perle, a chiropractor and professor at the School of Chiropractic, College of Health Sciences, University of Bridgeport, US, who recently started trolling me on this blog. Against my expectation, I find his study interesting and worthwhile.
His data quite clearly show that the effects of SMT are non-specific and mainly due to a placebo response. That in itself is not hugely remarkable and has been suspected to some time, e.g.:
- Chiropractic manipulation for migraine is a placebo therapy
- Chiropractic treatments are placebos
- Chiropractic spinal manipulation = placebo!
- Manual therapy (mainly chiropractic and osteopathy) does not have clinically relevant effects on back pain compared with sham treatment
- Manual therapies for back pain: not better than a placebo
- Is spinal manipulation a placebo therapy?
What is remarkable, however, is the fact that Perle and his co-authors offer all sorts of other explanation for their findings without even seriously considering what is stareing in their faces:
SPINAL MANIPULATIONS ARE PLACEBOS
CHIROPRACTIC IS A PLACEBO THERAPY
This might be almost acceptable, if chiropractic would not also be burdened with significant risks (as we have discussed ad nauseam on this blog) – another fact of which chiros like Perle are in denial.
What does all that mean for patients?
The practical implication is fairly straight forward: the risk/benefit balance of chiropractic is negative. And this surely means the only responsible advice to patients is this:
NEVER CONSULT A CHIRO!
Bioenergy therapies are among the popular so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) treatments. They are used for many diseases, including cancer. Many studies deal with the advantages and disadvantages of bioenergy therapies as an addition to established treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation in the treatment of cancer. However, a systematic overview of this evidence is thus far lacking. For this reason, the available evidence was reviewed and critically examined in this paper.
A systematic search was conducted searching five electronic databases (Embase, Cochrane, PsychInfo, CINAHL and Medline) to find randomized clinical trials concerning the use, effectiveness and potential harm of bioenergy therapies including Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch and Polarity Therapy on cancer patients.
From all 2477 search results, 21 publications with 1375 patients were included in this systematic review. The patients treated with bioenergy therapies were mainly diagnosed with breast cancer. The main outcomes measured were anxiety, depression, mood, fatigue, quality of life (QoL), comfort, well-being, neurotoxicity, pain, and nausea. The studies were predominantly of moderate quality and for the most part found no effect. In terms of QoL, pain and nausea, there were improved short-term effects of the interventions, but no long-term differences were detectable. The risk of side effects from bioenergy therapies appears to be relatively small. Most studies only had a passive control group. Accordingly, in contrast to the active bioenergy therapies groups, attention effects may strongly affect the results. In the comparisons with an active control group, for example a sham group, no effects were detectable.
The authors concluded that, considering the methodical limitations of the included studies, studies with high study quality could not find any difference between bioenergy therapies and active (placebo, massage, RRT, yoga, meditation, relaxation training, companionship, friendly visit) and passive control groups (usual care, resting, education). Only studies with a low study quality were able to show significant effects.
This conclusion will not surprise anyone who is capable of rational thinking. Energy healing methods are implausible; further research into this area is a pure wast of money and arguably unethical.
On the occasion of a talk that I recently gave in Italy, I was interviewed by VANITY FAIR ITALY. I gave it in English and it was published in Italian. As I don’t expect many readers to be fluent in Italian and since it was a good interview, in my view, I thought I give you here the English original:
1.How can we exactly define «alternative medicine»?
There is much confusion and a plethora of definitions, none of which is fully satisfactory. In fact, the term “alternative medicine” itself is nonsensical: if a therapy works, it belongs to evidence-based medicine; and if it doesn’t work, it cannot possibly be an alternative. I therefore have long been calling it “so-called alternative medicine” (SCAM). The definition I use for SCAM with lay audiences is simple: SCAM is an umbrella term for a diverse range of therapeutic and diagnostic methods that have little in common, other than being excluded from mainstream medicine.
2.Who uses it and why?
Predominantly women! Statistics say about 30-70% of the general population use SCAM. And with patient populations, the percentage can be close to 100%. They use it because they are told over and over again that SCAM is natural and thus safe, as well as effective for all sorts of conditions.
3.Focusing on terminology, is there a difference between «complementary» and «alternative» medicine?
Theoretically, there is a big difference between «complementary» and «alternative» medicine. The former is supposed to be used as an add-on to, while the latter is a replacement of mainstream medicine. In practice, this dividing line is very blurred; most SCAMs are used in both ways, depending on the actual situation and circumstance.
4.Are users different from non-users?
Yes, there has been much research on this and my reading of it is that SCAM users tend to be less intelligent, more religious, more superstitious, less trusting in science, and more prone to conspiracy theories, for instance.
5.Which forms of alternative medicine are the most popular?
There are certain national differences, but in most European countries herbal medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic, osteopathy, homeopathy, aromatherapy, and reflexology are amongst the most popular SCAMs.
6.Does it work?
With such a wide range – someone once counted over 400 modalities and my last book evaluated 202 of them (Alternative Medicine: A Critical Assessment of 202 Modalities (Copernicus Books): Amazon.co.uk: Ernst, Edzard: 9783031107092: Books) – it is impossible to answer with yes or no. In addition we need to consider the conditions that are being treated. Acupuncture, for example, is touted as a panacea, but might just work for pain. If you take all this into account, I estimate that less than 3% of the therapeutic claims that are being made for SCAM are supported by sound evidence.
Is it safe?
Again, impossible to say. Some treatments are outright dangerous; for instance, chiropractic neck manipulations can injure an artery and the patient suffers a stroke of which she can even die. Other treatments are assumed to be entirely harmless; for example homeopathy. But even that is untrue: if a cancer patient relies exclusively on homeopathy for a cure, she might easily hasten her death. Sadly, such things happen not even rarely.
Do its benefits outweigh its risks?
That depends very much on the treatment, the disease, and the precise situation. Generally speaking, there are very few SCAMs that fulfill this condition.
You said that these were the research questions that occupied all your life in Exeter. Did you find the answers?
We published more on SCAM than any other research group, and we found mostly disappointing answers. But still, I am proud of having found at least some of the most pressing answers. Even negative answers can make an important contribution to our knowledge.
7.What is the problem with the placebo effect?
All therapies can prompt a placebo effect. Thus an ineffective treatment can easily appear to be effective through generating a placebo effect. This is why we need to rely on properly conducted, if possible placebo-controlled trials, if we want to know what works and what not.
8.Is it true that some alternative medicines can cause significant harm?
9.What about herbal remedies? What do studies show about them?
Many of our modern drugs originate from plants, Therefore, it is not surprising that we find herbal remedies that are effective. But careful! This also means that plants can kill you – think of hemlock, for instance. In addition herbal medicine can interact powerfully with synthetic drugs. So, it is wise to be cautious and get responsible advice.
10.Which alternative therapies are overrated and why?
In my view, almost all SCAMs are over-rated. If you go on the Internet, you find ~5 000 000 websites on SCAM. 99% of them try to sell you something and are unreliable or even dangerous. We need to be aware of the fact that SCAM has grown into a huge business and many entrepreneurs are out to get your money based on bogus claims.
11.On the contrary, which therapies could be seen as an integration in routine care?
The best evidence can be found in the realm of herbal medicine, for instance St John’s Wort. Some mind-body interventions can be helpful; also a few massage techniques might be worth a try. Not a lot, I’m afraid.
12.Would you tell us what happened in 2005 with Prince Charles?
He complained about my actions via his private secretary to my University. A 13 month investigation followed. At the end, I was found not guilty but my funding, my team, my infrastructure had been dismantled. So, in effect, Charles managed to close down what was the only research group that looked critically and systematically into SCAM. A sad story – not so much for me but for progress and science, I think.
3.Why is alternative medicine still a controversial subject?
Mainly because the gap between the claims and the evidence is so very wide – and getting wider all the time.
14.Would you suggest the «right way» to approach it?
I often recommend this: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! I might add that, if you want reliable advice, don’t listen to those who profit from giving it.
Traditionally, strokes were considered a condition primarily affecting older adults. But in recent years, doctors have noticed a disturbing trend: the rise of stroke cases among younger adults, a demographic that was once considered low-risk. New data reveals an increase in the number of young adults facing an unexpected battle with strokes. Experts point to poor lifestyle choices as the main risk factor. Smoking, unhealthy diets, lack of exercise, and increased stress have played a role because they lead to problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity.
But one risk factor most people don’t consider has to do with chiropractic adjustments. US doctors say forceful and rapid neck rotations during these procedures can potentially cause damage to the vertebral arteries supplying blood to the brain stem. “We see five, if it’s a bad year, up to eight or 10 a year per hospital, and some of them can be quite devastating because the brain stem and the cerebellum are in an enclosed compartment and that only so much room,” said Dr. Melissa McDonald, with McKay Dee Hospital.
Stroke symptoms in young adults are similar to those seen in older adults: weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg; sudden change in speech, difficulty walking or keeping your balance; and sudden severe headaches and change in vision. Any of these symptoms require immediate medical attention, but doctors say younger adults tend to wait longer than older adults to go to the ER.
Dr. McDonald says younger adults face an increased risk of complications from brain swelling following a stroke due to the relatively larger size of their brains within the skull compared to older individuals.
Readers of this blog can hardly be surprised by this news. I have often enough reported on the fact that chiropractic adjustments can cause a stroke, e.g.:
- Another case of stroke due to chiropractic
- One chiropractic treatment followed by two strokes
- Cervical artery dissection and stroke related to chiropractic manipulation
- An unusual case report of a stroke caused by chiropractic neck manipulation
- New data on the risk of stroke due to chiropractic spinal manipulation
- Chiropractic neck manipulation can cause stroke
And what is the solution?
I’m glad you asked; it is simple! In the words of one neurologists:
DON’T LET THE BUGGARS TOUCH YOUR NECK!