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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

What Doctors Don't Tell You - A call to action — This Week in Pseudoscience

The Pinnacle of Pseudoscience

What Doctors Don't Tell You (WDDTY) is a magazine that's published monthly and is available on the shelves of some supermarkets in the UK, USA and parts of Europe. With an estimated readership of 40,000, the 80-plus pages are glossy, well produced and, most importantly, filled with page after page of misrepresented scientific studies, alternative health modalities and outright nonsense...

Please read the full post - here What Doctors Don't Tell You - A call to action — This Week in Pseudoscience - and find out what you can, with minimal effort and bugger-all expense, do to help.

There really are lives at stake.

Monday, 29 September 2014

More Misrepresentations of Climate Science in Legal Briefs Criticizing Michael Mann - The Equation

The latest round of legal briefs have been filed in climate scientist Michael Mann’s lawsuit against the National Review (NRO) and Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Although these documents rehash a lot of arguments about the science I’ve examined previously, some claims jumped out at me.

How do we define fraud?

NRO makes a distinction between calling Dr. Mann’s work “fraudulent” and alleging that he had, for instance, embezzled funds or fabricated raw data...

Read the full story: More Misrepresentations of Climate Science in Legal Briefs Criticizing Michael Mann - The Equation

The homeopathic emergency kit: it must be good, it’s recommended by pharmacists | Edzard Ernst


As a pharmacy professional, you must:
  1. Make patients your first concern
  2. Use your professional judgement in the interests of patients and the public
  3. Show respect for others
  4. Encourage patients and the public to participate in decisions about their care
  5. Develop your professional knowledge and competence
  6. Be honest and trustworthy
  7. Take responsibility for your working practices.
Even though these 7 main principles were laid down by the UK General Pharmaceutical Council, they are pretty much universal and apply to pharmacists the world over. [...]

Read on: The homeopathic emergency kit: it must be good, it’s recommended by pharmacists

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Want to legitimise your bogus therapy? Here is how | Edzard Ernst

Many proponents of alternative medicine seem somewhat suspicious of research; they have obviously understood that it might not produce the positive result they had hoped for; after all, good research tests hypotheses and does not necessarily confirm beliefs. At the same time, they are often tempted to conduct research: this is perceived as being good for the image and, provided the findings are positive, also good for business.

Therefore they seem to be tirelessly looking for a study design that cannot ‘fail’, i.e. one that avoids the risk of negative results but looks respectable enough to be accepted by ‘the establishment’. For these enthusiasts, I have good news: here is the study design that cannot fail.

Read the full post here: Want to legitimise your bogus therapy? Here is how

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Beware: chiropractic pseudo-research now in top journals | Edzard Ernest

On this blog, I have often pointed out how dismally poor most of the trials of alternative therapies frequently are, particularly those in the realm of chiropractic. A brand-new study seems to prove my point.

The aim of this trial was:
to determine whether spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) plus home exercise and advice (HEA) compared with HEA alone reduces leg pain in the short and long term in adults with sub-acute and chronic back-related leg-pain (BRLP).

Patients aged 21 years or older with BRLP for least 4 weeks were randomised to receive 12 weeks of SMT plus HEA or HEA alone. Eleven chiropractors with a minimum of 5 years of practice experience delivered SMT in the SMT plus HEA group. The primary outcome was subjective BRLP at 12 and 52 weeks. Secondary outcomes were self-reported low back pain, disability, global improvement, satisfaction, medication use, and general health status at 12 and 52 weeks...

Read more here: Beware: chiropractic pseudo-research now in top journals

Why is HIV/AIDS so deadly?


FYI… This is the fifth of ten posts that have nothing to do with vaccines.

Once in a while, a new loon is pointed out to me, and I read their insanity. This is the story of such an occasion: Why is HIV/AIDS so deadly? According to the World Health Organization, AIDS kills about 1.6 million people per year. We know what causes AIDS. We know that HIV infection can be prevented through safe sex, no sex, proper screening of the blood supply, administering drugs to HIV-positive people to lower their virus counts. We have very good screening tests to administer to people and make sure they get the care that they need. And we can explain all this to millions at a time through the use of all sorts of media.

So what gives? […]

Read more at: Why is HIV/AIDS so deadly? by Reuben

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

When a chiropractor teaches us about homeopathy, we are in for comedy gold | Edzard Ernst

A recent article by Frank King (DC, ND) caught my eye. In it, he praises homeopathy in glowing terms. First I was not sure whether he is pulling my leg; then I decided he was entirely serious. Am I mistaken?

Here is the crucial passage for you to decide:
Even though the founder of homeopathy lived more than 200 years ago, he wrote about genetics. Samuel Hahnemann, MD, not only emphasized the importance of natural healing methods, he also recognized the influence of genetics in some types of illnesses...

Read more chirodrivel in: When a chiropractor teaches us about homeopathy, we are in for comedy gold

When anger is disguised as activism

FYI: This is the fourth blog post that is not related to vaccines… Or is it?

It’s a tricky balance to listen to testimonies and be skeptical about them. On the one hand, you want to believe everything you’re hearing. You want to give the person the benefit of the doubt and take them at their word. On the other hand, if you are a reasonable person in a position of authority and you need to recommend or take action based on the information you’re being given, then you have do use your best judgment and separate the wheat from the chaff.

The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee recently held a meeting and public speakers were invited. The oral public comments are really something interesting to read. Yet something we need to keep in mind is that these are not the comments of unbiased people. Rather, they are the public comments of people who feel that they have been wronged or that they are currently being wronged by life, the government, members of the committee, etc. Keep that in mind should you want to read them....

Read more at: When anger is disguised as activism by Reuben

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

“Dr” Alan Hunter and the bogus food allergy cure

There is a blustering, narcissistic fuckwit currently trying to impress or intimidate (nobody is quite sure which) the team over at WWDDTYDTY. His legal name is apparently Alan Hunter, although he has been observed clumsily sockpuppeting under the sobriquet of “Dave Warren”. Alan Hunter describes himself as an award-winning author. He is not to be confused with the much-loved author of the George Gently books, who died in 2005. This Alan Hunter committed the following piece of WTFometer-worthy pseudoscientific egowank, from the Allergy International webshite:
THE BOOK THE HEALTH WORLD HAS BEEN WAITING ON ! The SOLUTION to the world-wide phenomenon of food/chemical allergy (or intolerance) has been found! In Curing Food Allergies and Common Illnesses, award-winning food intolerance writer and researcher Alan Hunter has reached the end of a 30 year search for the actual solution to the disorder. Food “allergy” or intolerance experts, writes Dr. Hunter, are simply

 Continue reading

The post “Dr” Alan Hunter and the bogus food allergy cure by Anarchic Teapot first appeared on Plague of Mice .

Paying the Piper | Majikthyse

That guardian of all that’s self-righteous about quackery, the magazine and website What Doctors Don’t Tell You, has its ire well stoked this week. The editors reveal that the famous Clinical Trials Service Unit (CTSU) at Oxford University is funded by the pharmaceutical industry. This apparently is the result of tireless investigation by`nutritionist and wholefood campaigner’ ZoĆ« Harcombe. Not you will note a dietician, but a nutritionist, a title that almost anyone seems qualified to hold these days. I can boil an egg, so I’m a nutritionist. “You got an ology?” But enough of flippancy.

I feel duty bound to explain that Ms Harcombe is a writer who mainly sells books on obesity. Her dedication to the truth might be judged by her false claim to the Daily Mail in 2011 that she was studying for a PhD, as reported by my good friend Ben Goldacre. But we all make mistakes. In Ms Harcombe’s case, a further mistake was not realising what the CTSU actually is...

Read the fully story here: Paying the Piper | Majikthyse

Can dietary supplements save health care cost? | Edzard Ernst

Many experts are critical about the current craze for dietary supplements. Now a publication suggests that it is something that can save millions.

This article examines evidence suggesting that the use of selected dietary supplements can reduce overall disease treatment-related hospital utilization costs associated with coronary heart disease (CHD) in the United States among those at a high risk of experiencing a costly, disease-related event...

Read on: Can dietary supplements save health care cost?

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Alan Hunter saga

Over the past few days, WWDTYDTY received several increasingly bizarre emails from a person who sometimes signs as "Alan Hunter", sometimes as "Dave Warren" . This is the story so far. It may run and run...

The post that started it all: Alan Hunter’s allergy cure

WWDDTYDTY accused of being scientists!
Alan Hunter writes to WWDDTYDTY

An outraged Major General clutches the traditional journalist-rebutting horsewhip convulsively:
Alan Hunter girds his loins for legal battle

Alan Hunter hides hehind a false name while accusing others of cowardice:
Alan Hunter: the plot thickens

More chest-thumping and a glimpse into Hunter's noble spirit via a letter to a national paper:
Alan Hunter and the Ongoing Legal Bluster

The posturing continues, we are treated to details of Hunter's professional - erm - credentials and a legal threat:
Alan Hunter resorts to CAPITAL LETTERS! Will The Ed falter?

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Don’t try to reason with the unreasonable

FYI: This is the third of ten posts not related to vaccines.

I have a friend who is an amateur photographer. You may have seen some of this stuff over on his blog. We all went out to dinner the other night, and he brought his camera with him. His camera is not small. It’s a rather bulky DSLR camera, and he had a rather bulky lens on it. We walked down the street to where we were having dinner, and he took pictures of buildings and people along the way. No one really seemed to care. Our nation’s capital is a big city and most of us carry around a camera in our phones anyway.

It’s not the same way in England, apparently...

Read more at: Don’t try to reason with the unreasonable by Reuben

Friday, 19 September 2014

Kinesiology tape, another theatrical placebo? | Edzard Ernst

Kinesiology tape is all the rage. Its proponents claim that it increases cutaneous stimulation, which facilitates motor unit firing, and consequently improves functional performance. But is this just clever marketing, wishful thinking or is it true? To find out, we need reliable data.

The current trial results are sparse, confusing and contradictory. A recent systematic review indicated that:
kinesiology tape may have limited potential to reduce pain in individuals with musculoskeletal injury; however, depending on the conditions, the reduction in pain may not be clinically meaningful. Kinesiology tape application did not reduce specific pain measures related to musculoskeletal injury above and beyond other modalities compared in the context of included articles...

Read the rest here: Kinesiology tape, another theatrical placebo?

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Ten reasons to love homeopathy | Edzard Ernst

The UK ‘Society of Homeopaths’ just proudly made this announcement:
From today, patients will be able to choose a homeopath belonging to a register vetted and approved by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA). The Society of Homeopaths’ voluntary register has been accredited under a new scheme set up by the Department of Health and administered by an independent body, accountable to Parliament.”
No, it is not April fools day, but it is clearly time to rejoice and to start believing in homeopathy. Not an easy task, you might say; perhaps this new and equally amazing article outlining 10 reasons to love homeopathy will make it a little more feasible (as it is pure comedy gold, I have only shortened it very slightly)... 

Read on: Ten reasons to love homeopathy

Monday, 15 September 2014

How reliable are chiropractic diagnostic tests? | Edzard Ernst

Chiropractors, like other alternative practitioners, use their own unique diagnostic tools for identifying the health problems of their patients. One such test is the Kemp’s test, a manual test used by most chiropractors to diagnose problems with lumbar facet joints. The chiropractor rotates the torso of the patient, while her pelvis is fixed; if manual if manual counter-rotative resistance on one side of the pelvis by the chiropractor causes lumbar pain for the patient, it is interpreted as a sign of lumbar facet joint dysfunction which, in turn would be treated with spinal manipulation.
[…]

Read on: How reliable are chiropractic diagnostic tests?

Homeopaths discover new element: Bromium

I am much indebted to raving homeoloons Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine for tweeting, this 7th day of September 2014, a link to the following mind-bogglingly stupid and dangerous WTFuckery. It’s an extract from Keynotes and characteristics with comparisons of some of the leading remedies of the materia medica, brainshat out by one Henry Clay Allen in 1899 and still reverently treated as Gospel by the homeopaths of today. It’s a terrifying insight into the way their minds have been twisted to function.
REMEDY OF THE DAY: BROMIUM (The Element)
Yes, bromium. Chalk up a couple of points on the WTFometer. The chemists among you will be raising a quizzical eyebrow, or possibly both eyebrows and a blunt instrument...

Read on if you dare: Homeopaths discover new element: Bromium at Plague of Mice

Sunday, 14 September 2014

HIV leads to AIDS, plain and simple

FYI: This is the second of ten posts that will not be related with vaccines.

Back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, there was a lot of scientific confusion as to what the relationship was between Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and a newly discovered retrovirus first known as HTLV-III and then renamed to HIV. Thirty-plus years and millions of dollars later, we have come to understand that HIV infection, if left untreated, progresses on to AIDS. We came to understand this because we observed people with HIV and people without it. Then we went one more step further and observed people infected with HIV who were treated and those who were not treated. We did these observations in real-world situations and also in controlled situations. We also did these observations in animal models....

Read more at: HIV leads to AIDS, plain and simple by Reuben

All the CDC’s men (or: McTaggart jumps on a bandwagon just after the wheels have fallen off) @ Guy Chapman's Blahg

The Blessed McTaggart has been appearing in pantomime, and now she’s joined the “debate” about the CDC whistleblower nontroversy, the teapot tempest whipped up by antivaxers who found that the CDC – gasp! – failed to publish a statistical artifact.
At the point just before it all began to unravel, White House chief counsel John Dean, warning his boss about the difficulty of keeping the lid on all these clandestine activities, famously referred to them as a ‘cancer on the presidency’.
One of the striking differences between real conspiracies and the fake ones beloved of cranks, is that real conspiracies leak like sieves. The Watergate conspiracy was blown wide open, the idea of the CDC’s “conspiracy” relies on the idea that data which have been provided to any qualified researcher on request, and which have been published in peer-reviewed journals, are somehow being suppressed.

Read the rest here: All the CDC’s men (or: McTaggart jumps on a bandwagon just after the wheels have fallen off) @ Guy Chapman's Blahg

Saturday, 13 September 2014

No, seriously, walk away from “the jail of autism”

A few weeks ago, I told you about some parents who should walk away from their autistic (or other special needs) children and give them over to people who will look after those children’s needs. They should walk away because they have been led to believe that autism is worse than death. They see people in “online newspapers” gnashing their teeth that they have been dealt a “bad hand” in life and have children with special needs. Those same people are quick to blame anything and everything for their current position in life, and then they pretty much walk away from responsibility and become advocates for some pretty sketchy causes.

Today I heard a story about a woman who is right now waiting to be sentenced for first-degree child abuse. What did she do? This:...
Read more at: No, seriously, walk away from “the jail of autism” by Reuben

Friday, 12 September 2014

A Statistician Evaluates DeStefano 2004 and Hooker 2014 - I Speak of Dreams

Here are the summaries of the statistician's findings on the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two papers, which evaluated the same dataset. A summary is here.
My Verdict on the DeStefano Study

The criticism that the study discarded data from African American subjects just doesn’t hold water. No data was discarded. For the subjects who were linked to birth certificates, the researchers performed additional analyses. In this light, I see a careful observational study that assessed the role of potential confounders.

The biggest weakness that I see for this study is that the researchers could not compare subjects who were vaccinated for MMR to those who were not vaccinated at all. The authors wrote that they “lacked an unvaccinated comparison group.” The truth is that the vast majority of kids are vaccinated. Consequently, this study compared the distribution of vaccination ages for case and control children to see if the timing impacted the risk of autism. It didn’t.

My Verdict on the Hooker Study...

Read the full post by Liz Ditz at: A Statistician Evaluates DeStefano 2004 and Hooker 2014 - I Speak of Dreams

Vaccine Injury Stories: the Sacred Cows of the Internet? Voices For Vaccines

When I first started looking into vaccines, I had no idea that an anti-vaccine movement even existed. I came across claims that the vaccines were toxic and dangerous; the diseases, it was claimed, were not. I have some background in science, so I was able to dismiss those claims as inaccurate, but I couldn’t help but be drawn in by tragic, angry and deeply personal stories from parents who claimed their children were harmed by vaccines.

I dared not question them, but I still couldn’t understand…

If vaccine injuries were occurring on a scale like this, why wasn’t anybody doing anything about it? And why wasn’t the media reporting on them? 

I wanted to know more about these vaccine injury stories but worried it would be insensitive to probe or question their accuracy. I could hurt their feelings or worse, insult their child’s memory. After all, while I know what it feels like when my child is very sick, I can only imagine what it might feel like to lose a child...

Read the rest here: Vaccine Injury Stories: the Sacred Cows of the Internet? Voices For Vaccines

The statistical argument against alternative medicine: why it “cannot be considered evidence-based”

Most of the underlying assumptions of alternative medicine (AM) lack plausibility. Whenever this is the case, so the argument put forward by an international team of researchers in a recent paper, there are difficulties involved in obtaining a valid statistical significance in clinical studies.

Using a mostly statistical approach, they argue that, since the prior probability of a research hypothesis is directly related to its scientific plausibility, the commonly used frequentist statistics, which do not account for this probability, are unsuitable for studies exploring matters in various degree disconnected from science. Any statistical significance obtained in this field should be considered with great caution and may be better applied to more plausible hypotheses (like placebo effect) than the specific efficacy of the intervention.

The researchers conclude that...

Read the rest here: The statistical argument against alternative medicine: why it “cannot be considered evidence-based” by Edzard Ernst

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Comment on cult commenting

What, do we have here a full-blown devotee of the cult of homeopathy receptive to question, challenge, criticism and correction of publicly-made statements? Nah, don’t be silly...


[Read more... ]

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Bach Flower Remedies: this might be the most bizarre study I have seen for a long time | Edzard Ernst

Bach Flower Remedies are the brain child of Dr Edward Bach who, as an ex-homeopath, invented his very own highly diluted remedies. Like homeopathic medicines, they are devoid of active molecules and are claimed to work via some non-defined ‘energy’. Consequently, the evidence for these treatments is squarely negative: my systematic review analysed the data of all 7 RCTs of human patients or volunteers that were available in 2010. All but one were placebo-controlled. All placebo-controlled trials failed to demonstrate efficacy. I concluded that the most reliable clinical trials do not show any differences between flower remedies and placebos.

But now, a new investigation has become available. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of Bach flower Rescue Remedy on the control of risk factors for cardiovascular disease in rats...

Read on: Bach Flower Remedies: this might be the most bizarre study I have seen for a long time

Monday, 8 September 2014

How ineffective treatments retain a good reputation | Edzard Ernst

Medical treatments with no direct effect, such as homeopathy, are surprisingly popular. But how does a good reputation of such treatments spread and persist? Researchers from the Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution in Stockholm believe that they have identified the mechanism.

They argue that most medical treatments result in a range of outcomes: some people improve while others deteriorate. If the people who improve are more inclined to tell others about their experiences than the people who deteriorate, ineffective or even harmful treatments would maintain a good reputation.

They conducted a fascinating study to test the hypothesis that positive outcomes are overrepresented in online medical product reviews, examined if this reputational distortion is large enough to bias people’s decisions, and explored the implications of this bias for the cultural evolution of medical treatments.

Read the rest of this important study here: How ineffective treatments retain a good reputation

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Big, fat, overfed trolls

I’ve come to the conclusion that anti-vaccine advocates are not in it for the children. They’re not in it to prevent any harm or avoid any damage to anyone. They’re in it for self-aggrandizement. The more I think about how they act and react to anything having to do with vaccines, the more I am convinced that they just want attention.

Let’s look at the latest “scandal” being pushed by the anti-vaccine groups. They claim that a scientist at CDC has come clean about purported hiding of data and institutional racism. When you point out that the data have always been there and that the analysis by BS Hooker was rife with poor epidemiological and biostatistical methodology, they call you a “pharma whore” and block your comments on their site. Ah, but they allow comments from anyone else that praises their misinformation. They love to be called “mavericks” who oppose the status quo...

Read more at: Big, fat, overfed trolls by Reuben

Friday, 5 September 2014

The biggest danger of alternative medicine | Edzard Ernst

It has been estimated that 40 – 70% of all cancer patients use some form of alternative medicine; may do so in the hope this might cure their condition. A recent article by Turkish – yet again - highlights how dangerous such behaviour can turn out to be.

The authors report the cases of two middle-aged women suffering from malignant breast masses. The patients experienced serious complications in response to self-prescribed use of alternative medicine practices to treat their condition in lieu of evidence-based medical treatments...

Read the rest here: The biggest danger of alternative medicine

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Slowing down doesn’t mean giving up

Can you smell it? It’s the smell of fear and contempt from new students on a new academic year. It is delicious, and nothing gives me more pleasure than to impart my knowledge to unsuspecting “kids” that come along wanting to learn about this dark art called “epidemiology.” I’ll be a little busy with that for the next few months. I might not be able to post as often as I have, but I will post. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that. It’s just a little bit of a slowdown.

While I get the next post ready over the coming week, I’d like to ask you all a questions. I’d like you to take a gander at The Kid’s blog and tell me if you can find...

Read more at: Slowing down doesn’t mean giving up by Reuben

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Homeopathy as the treatment of choice for ‘heart sink’ patients? | Edzard Ernst

Recently, I was invited to give a lecture about homeopathy for a large gathering of general practitioners (GPs). In the coffee break after my talk, I found myself chatting to a very friendly GP who explained: “I entirely agree with you that homeopathic remedies are pure placebos, but I nevertheless prescribe them regularly.” “Why would anyone do that?” I asked him. His answer was as frank as it was revealing. […]

Read on: Homeopathy as the treatment of choice for ‘heart sink’ patients?

Monday, 1 September 2014

A hitherto unknown risk of herbal medicine usage

Cardiovascular (and most other types of) patients frequently use herbal remedies in addition to their prescribed medicines. Can this behaviour create problems? Many experts think so.

The aim of a new study was to investigate the effect of herbal medicine use on medication adherence of cardiology patients. All patients admitted to the outpatient cardiology clinics, who had been prescribed at least one cardiovascular drug before, were asked to complete a questionnaire. Participants were asked if they have used any herbals during the past 12 months with an expectation of beneficial effect on health. Medication adherence was measured by using the Morisky Scale. High adherence was defined as a Morisky score lower than 2 and a score of 2 or more was seen as low adherence...

Read more at: A hitherto unknown risk of herbal medicine usage by Edzard Ernst

Falling trust in homeopathy

There’s an un-written rule — or at least there should be — that anything said in support of homeopathy cited by a homeopath or supporter should be taken with a large pinch of natrium muriaticum.

That’s not to say homeopaths will always be wrong or there won’t be some grain of truth in what they say, of course, but it will always bear a bit of investigation. There will frequently be more to it than meets the eye.

Read more at: Falling trust in homeopathy by Zeno