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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Homeopathy is implausible – but some research into this subject is positively barmy | Edzard Ernst

In my last post, I claimed that researchers of alternative medicine tend to be less than rigorous. I did not link this statement to any evidence at all. Perhaps I should have at least provided an example!? As it happens, I just came across a brand new paper which nicely demonstrates what I meant.

According to its authors, this non-interventional study was performed to generate data on safety and treatment effects of a complex homeopathic drug. They treated 1050 outpatients suffering from common cold with a commercially available homeopathic remedy for 8 days. The study was conducted in 64 German outpatient practices of medical doctors trained in CAM. Tolerability, compliance and the treatment effects were assessed by the physicians and by patient diaries. Adverse events were collected and assessed with specific attention to homeopathic aggravation and proving symptoms. Each adverse effect was additionally evaluated by an advisory board of experts […]

Read on: Homeopathy is implausible – but some research into this subject is positively barmy

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

A sound study of the Alexander Technique as a treatment for neck pain. | Edzard Ernst

On this blog, we have discussed the Alexander Technique before; it is an educational method promoted for all sorts of conditions, including neck pain. The very first website I found when googling it stated the following: “Back and neck pain can be caused by poor posture.  Alexander Technique lessons help you to understand how to improve your posture throughout your daily activities.  Many people, even those with herniated disc or pinched nerve, experience relief after one lesson, often permanent relief after five or ten lessons.”

Sounds too good to be true? Is there any good evidence? […]

Read on: A sound study of the Alexander Technique as a treatment for neck pain.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Adverse effects of yoga | Edzard Ernst

Yoga is a popular form of alternative medicine. Evidence for its effectiveness is scarce and generally far from convincing. But at least it is safe! At least this is what yoga enthusiasts would claim. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true; adverse events have also been reported with some regularity. Their frequency is, however, not known.

A new study was aimed at filling this […]

Read on: Adverse effects of yoga

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Newborns do feel pain (quick, tell the doctor) | WWDDTYDTY

This is an article which appears to conflate several disjoint issues into a single article. I say conflate: they have been forced together with a crowbar.

The issues are:
  1. There are some who claim infants do not feel pain. Most of this seems to come from those who promote non-medical infant circumcision.
  2. There are good reasons not to use general anaesthesia on neonates, some of which are discussed below.
  3. Premature babies may require surgery, and the risks of anaesthesia are much higher in these infants because their brains are at an earlier stage of development.
  4. WDDTY is vehemently opposed to the use of “painful procedures” on infants. By “painful procedures” they mean, of course, vaccinations.
The result is a diatribe that is unusually unhinged even for WDDTY.

Read on: Continue reading Newborns do feel pain (quick, tell the doctor)

Thursday, 23 April 2015

A Twitter on homeopathy

Batty enough as homeopathy is, one might, if feeling in particularly fair mood, grant that some are on the more ‘sensible’ end of the battiness spectrum, restraining their discussion of what they claim homeopathy can effectively treat, and (occasionally) condemning those who claim it’s efficacious application to serious, life-threatening disease. That’s not to give any credence to any claims made by the homeopath who quacks less noisily – this may merely be part of a ruse aimed at acquiring some kind of regulatory ‘respectability.’...

[Read more...]


One of my last posts prompted a comment informing us that Dr Dixon has just put himself forward as a candidate for the presidency of ‘THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF GENERAL PRACTITIONERS’ (RCGP) of the UK. This must be big news in the small world of alternative medicine and deserves further discussion.

Dr Dixon works in Cullompton Devon, where, according to […]


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

National Secular Society - Allowing children to languish in illegal religious 'schools' is the bigotry of low expectations

NSS campaigns manager Stephen Evans warns that growing numbers of unregulated religious 'schools' are badly letting children down, and argues that the rights of children to education should be prioritised. 

This week it was revealed that officials at the Department for Education (DfE) are investigating up to fifty unregulated schools set up by Islamists, including several established by a former teacher at the centre of the so-called Trojan Horse scandal...

Read on: National Secular Society - Allowing children to languish in illegal religious 'schools' is the bigotry of low expectations

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Lyme disease (imagined and real): an easy target for charlatans | Edzard Ernst

Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by Borrelia infection transmitted by ticks. The most common early sign is an expanding area of redness beginning at the site of a bite about a week after a tick-bite. Fever, tiredness and headaches often follow. Later stages are characterised by more severe and remarkably variable illness.

Patients with medically unexplained or vague symptoms are sometimes told that they suffer from Lyme disease. These patients are commonly targeted by providers of alternative therapies who promise hope by claiming that their particular brand of quackery is effective for this chronic condition. […]

Read on: Lyme disease (imagined and real): an easy target for charlatans

Monday, 20 April 2015

Encyclopedia of American Loons: #1345: Toni Bark

Toni Bark was once trained as an MD, but currently she practices Classic Homeopathy (which, in case you need a reminder, is premised on the falsity of all of modern science and has also been demonstrated beyond reasonable and unreasonable doubt not to have any beneficial health effects). Anything science-based she has left behind long, long ago. Bark does, however, run something called the Center for Disease Prevention and Reversal (uh huh), and through her web site she peddles a variety of crap including Essential Living Foods...

More lunacy here: Encyclopedia of American Loons: #1345: Toni Bark

AINSWORTH HOMEOPATHIC PHARMACY: defamation or libel? | Edzard Ernst

Today I would like to share with you an interesting little exchange that I had a few days ago on TWITTER. Someone who I perhaps should but did not know sent me the following tweet apparently ‘out of the blue':

“…remember that asthma trial whose results you faked?”

It was clear that the study he referred to was our trial published in THORAX 12 years ago. I found this allegation so absurd that I re-tweeted his tweet, and a third party responded to him by asking: “any evidence for this?” […]

Read on: AINSWORTH HOMEOPATHIC PHARMACY: defamation or libel?

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Healing Fractures With Homeopathy

A brief, but intense, dose of near-terminal delusion emanating from a part of the Universe calling itself Homeopathy Houston is on the menu for today. This delightful little place is owned by one Karl Robinson, who happens to be a qualified MD (admittedly from woo-ridden private college Drexel) and doesn’t hesitate to wave it around, presumably with the intention of bamboozling the marks into thinking that what he provides is some form of genuine medical treatment. It’s still fucking useless homeopathy. Here’s the start of Robinson’s crisp summing up of how homeopaths sell their magic-disguised-as-medicine...

 Read on: Healing Fractures With Homeopathy

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Depleted Cranium : How The Anti-Vaccine Movement Is Funded

Of all the modern anti-science movements out there, few are more dangerous or harmful than the anti-vaccine movement. Yes, it has killed people. It will continue to kill people. It has also resulted in huge amounts of money and resources being devoted to combating public health problems that should have (and in some cases were) eliminated years ago.

One thing that is very noteworthy about the movement is just how well funded it seems to be. Obviously some of the funding comes from the fact that it often is a business and money is invested directly to make a return. Many of the dishonest doctors who have spoken out against vaccines do so to make money directly. In such cases, it is a self-funded enterprise, promoted like any other venture and funded by the sales of books, lecture tickets and various “detoxification” products and the like...

Read on: Depleted Cranium: How The Anti-Vaccine Movement Is Funded

Friday, 17 April 2015

Autism is linked to gut problems (so sorry, Andy Wakefield) | WWDDTYDTY

Of all the persecuted Brave Maverick Doctors in WDDTY’s pantheon, none is more Brave or indeed more Maverick than Saint Andrew of Wakefraud.

 Put simply, WDDTY desperately wants Wakefield to have been right, and will miss no opportunity to rewrite history in the service of this delusion.
As much as the medical community likes to discredit Andrew Wakefield for his theory about the MMR link to autism, research keeps supporting his central argument: autism is somehow related to the gut...
Read on: Autism is linked to gut problems (so sorry, Andy Wakefield) | WWDDTYDTY

Dr Dixon’s safe herbal medicine | Edzard Ernst

One of the UK’s most ardent promoters of outright unproven and disproven therapies must be Dr Michael Dixon. He has repeatedly and deservedly received a mention on this blog. Steven Novella even called him once a ‘pyromaniac in a field of (integrative) straw men’. This is because Steven felt that Dixon uses phony arguments to promote dodgy therapies. If you find this hard to believe (after all Dixon is a GP who heads important organisations such as the NHS Alliance and the College of Medicine), just look at him dabbling in spiritual healing. Unusual, to say the least, I’d say. If you want to learn more about the strange Dr Dixon, you should read my memoir where he makes several remarkable appearances.

I always delight when I stumble over something that one of my former co-workers (yes, Dixon and I did collaborate for many years) has said to the press...

Read on: Dr Dixon’s safe herbal medicine

Thursday, 16 April 2015

86 per cent of children with measles had been vaccinated | WWDDTYDTY

If there’s one thing guaranteed to fuel the build-up of spittle on the WDDTY editors’ computer screens, it’s positive coverage of vaccines. WDDTY is, to quote Ben Goldacre, “viciously, viciously anti-vaccine” – and this is one of the things which elevates their tawdry health fraud advertorial to the status of public health menace.
The MMR vaccine is back in the news. Australian parents will lose their welfare benefits if they don’t vaccinate their children, while up to 86 per cent of children who caught measles during the ‘Disneyland outbreak’ in California last December were vaccinated, a new study has revealed...
Read on: 86 per cent of children with measles had been vaccinated | WWDDTYDTY

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

In case you were wondering how evil the anti-vaccine cult can get

I know that you probably won’t be surprised to hear how evil the anti-vaccine zealots can get over the topic of vaccination. But, just in case you think that theirs is a religion of peace, let’s take a look at what is happening in California right now.

State Senator Richard Pan, a pediatrician, has proposed legislation that does away with the personal belief exemption from vaccination requirements for school. That’s all the bill does. If an anti-vaccine parent wants their precious little snowflakes to go to school with the rest of society, then they need to due their civic duty and protect the most vulnerable from vaccine-preventable diseases. Hey, everyone does this for them, so it’s time that they do it for others […]

Read more at: In case you were wondering how evil the anti-vaccine cult can get by Reuben

What should medical students learn about alternative medicine? | Edzard Ernst

Many experts have argued that the growing popularity of alternative medicine (AM) mandates their implementation into formal undergraduate medical education. Most medical students seem to feel a need to learn about AM. Yet little is known about the student-specific need for AM education. The objective of this paper was address this issue, specifically the authors wanted to assess the self-reported need for AM education among Australian medical students.

Thirty second-year to final-year medical students participated in semi-structured interviews. A constructivist grounded theory methodological approach was used to generate, construct and analyse the data...

Read on: What should medical students learn about alternative medicine?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The reproducibility of Science. A meeting report.

There is a widespread belief that science is going through a crisis of reproducibility. A meeting was held to discuss the problem. It was organised by Academy of Medical Sciences, the Wellcome Trust, MRC and BBSRC, and It was chaired by Dorothy Bishop (of whose blog I’m a huge fan). It’s good to see that scientific establishment is beginning to take notice. Up to now it’s been bloggers who’ve been making the running. I hadn’t intended to write a whole post about it, but some sufficiently interesting points arose that I’ll have a go.

The first point to make is that, as far as I know, the “crisis” is limited to, or at least concentrated in, quite restricted areas of science. In particular, it doesn’t apply to the harder end of sciences. Nobody in physics, maths or chemistry talks about a crisis of reproducibility. I’ve heard very little about irreproducibility in electrophysiology (unless you include EEG work)...

Read on: The reproducibility of Science. A meeting report.

Time to Speak Out in Support of Strong School Vaccine Policies | Shot of Prevention

Last week California legislators were asked to cast a very important vote on a very critical matter – school vaccine exemptions.

California Senate Bill 277 would remove the Personal Belief Exemption (PBE) option from the school and child care enrollment requirements and require schools to publicly provide information about their immunization rates. Last week the first hearing of the bill passed the Senate Health Committee in a 6-2 vote. The bill now faces an Education Committee hearing on April 15th at 9am before potentially moving to a Senate floor vote...

Read on: Time to Speak Out in Support of Strong School Vaccine Policies | Shot of Prevention

Monday, 13 April 2015

Homeopathy on the NHS: the first legal challenge | Edzard Ernst

The task of UK Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) is to ensure NHS funds are spent as effectively and responsibly as possible. This is particularly important in the current financial climate, as NHS budgets are under enormous pressure. For that reason, The Good Thinking Society (GTS, a pro-science charity) invited Liverpool CCG to reconsider whether the money (~ £ 30,000 pa) they spend on homeopathy represents good service to the public. Recently the CCG agreed to make a fresh decision on this contentious issue.

The GTS would prefer to see limited NHS resources spent on evidence-based medicine rather than on continued funding of homeopathy which, as readers of this blog will know, has repeatedly failed to demonstrate that it is doing more good than harm. It is encouraging to see Liverpool CCG take a first step in the right direction by agreeing to properly consider the best evidence and expertise on this issue...

Read on: Homeopathy on the NHS: the first legal challenge

Saturday, 11 April 2015

German kids are raised on homeopathy | Edzard Ernst

As I grew up in Germany, it was considered entirely normal that I was given homeopathic remedies when ill. I often wondered whether, with the advent of EBM, this has changed. A recent paper provides an answer to this question.

In this nationwide German survey, data were collected from 3013 children on their utilization of medicinal products, including homeopathic and other alternative remedies.

In all, 26% of the reported 2489 drugs were from the realm of alternative medicine. The 4-week prevalence for homeopathy was 7.5%. Of the drugs identified as alternative, 53.7% were homeopathic remedies, and 30.8% were herbal drugs. Factors associated with higher medicinal use of alternative remedies were...

Read on: German kids are raised on homeopathy

Thursday, 9 April 2015

The death of Stefan Grimm was “needless”. And Imperial has done nothing to prevent it happening again

The last email of Stefan Grimm, and its follow-up post, has been read over 195,000 times now.

After Grimm’s death, Imperial announced that it would investigate itself The report is now available.

Performance Management: Review of policies, procedures and support available to staff

Following the tragic death of a member of the College’s staff community, Professor Stefan Grimm, the Provost invited the Senior Consul, Professor Richard Thompson, and the Director of Human Resources, Mrs Louise Lindsay, to consider the relevant College policies, procedures and the support available to all staff during performance review.

The report is even worse than I expected. It can be paraphrased as saying ‘our bullying was not done sufficiently formally -we need more forms and box-ticking’.

At the heart of the problem is Imperial’s Personal Review and Development Plan (PRDP). Here is an extract...

Read more at: DC's Improbable Science by David Colquhoun

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A new study seems to show that homeopathy works | Edzard Ernst

The use of homeopathy to treat depression in peri- and postmenopausal women seems widespread, but there is a lack of clinical trials testing its efficacy. The aim of this new study was therefore to assess efficacy and safety of individualized homeopathic treatment versus placebo and fluoxetine versus placebo in peri- and postmenopausal women with moderate to severe depression.

A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, double-dummy, superiority, three-arm trial with a 6 week follow-up study was conducted...

Read on: A new study seems to show that homeopathy works

Harpocrates Speaks: Beware the Humpty Dumptys

Language is a very powerful thing. We use it to convey our thoughts and desires. The words we use have meaning. It may be literal, where what we say is exactly what we mean. Or the subtext may carry a meaning beyond, or even at odds with, the specific words that we choose. No matter which language we speak, there are certain assumptions we all have regarding the words that we use. Primary among those assumptions, and what allows language to work as a means of communication, is that we all agree on the actual meanings of words. When we do not agree on the basic meanings of words, then we can no longer communicate...

Read on: Harpocrates Speaks: Beware the Humpty Dumptys

The University of Warwick brings itself into disrepute -four times. Watch your tone of voice.

The University of Warwick seems determined to wrest the title of worst employer from Imperial College London and Queen Mary College London. In little over a year, Warwick has had four lots of disastrous publicity, all self-inflicted.

 First came the affair of Thomas Docherty...

Read more at: The University of Warwick brings itself into disrepute -four times. Watch your tone of voice by David Colquhoun

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Calling out more misleading information

What is it about conspiracy of circumstance that may engender vulnerability to the perceived charisma of charlatans? That might increase susceptibility to assimilation of the bogus teachings of some self-proclaimed health guru? I don’t know (exactly). Though I do know that such querying is likely to be met with offence, and responded to with logical fallacies and familiar quackery apologetics: ‘Each to their own’; ‘Keep an open mind’; ‘If well meant and there’s no harm in it, then what’s the problem?’, and so on… blah, blah, blah… But when the cult-brainwashed make public statements in disregard of modern clinical science, promoting their beliefs to the gullible and marketing related products to the duped, I’m afraid such lazy tropes do not hold water.

[Read more... ]

Monday, 6 April 2015

Proof of prayer | WWDDTYDTY

Lynne McTaggart runs the “healing intention experiment”, an exercise in wishful thinking designed to show that “wishing makes it so”.

The problem with this, of course, is that it is the same as intercessory prayer, and that has been tested and found not to work.

No wonder WDDTY were delighted when a meta-analysis by “scientists at Northampton university” (funded, it must be said, by the Confederation of Healing Organisations, an umbrella body for wishful thinkers) found a small but significant – or, to use WDDTY’s phrase, “pretty solid” proof – positive effect...

Read on: Proof of prayer | WWDDTYDTY

Distant healing: two new systematic reviews and meta-analyses | Edzard Ernst

Distant healing is one of the most bizarre yet popular forms of alternative medicine. Healers claim they can transmit ‘healing energy’ towards patients to enable them to heal themselves. There have been many trials testing the effectiveness of the method, and the general consensus amongst critical thinkers is that all variations of ‘energy healing’ rely entirely on a placebo response. A recent and widely publicised paper seems to challenge this view...

Read on: Distant healing: two new systematic reviews and meta-analyses

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Rife with confusion, falsehood and dangerous nonsense | WWDDTYDTY

WDDTY have excelled themselves again. The latest form of abject quackery to be given a boost by them is the Rife machine,  a quack device from the Golden Age of Science Fiction which makes sense only in the context of the time. WDDTY describe this as “space age”. Space cadet might be closer to the mark.

The Rife Machine is indeed straight out of Dan Dare or a book by L. Ron Hubbard. WDDTY’s story is written by Cate Montana, last seen pimping piss therapy. This is worse. I know that’s hard to believe...

Read on: Rife with confusion, falsehood and dangerous nonsense | WWDDTYDTY

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Regulation: it’s only good when we like the outcome | WWDDTYDTY

April 2015’s issue of WDDTY opens with an editorial worthy of David Icke.

The editorial sets the scene with a laudatory description of the “grass-roots campaign” that led to the US Dietary Health and Supplements Education Act (DHSEA) – in reality an astroturfing job coordinated by industry figures such as Gerald Kessler, CEO of supplement maker Nature Plus, in support of a bill sponsored by Orrin Hatch and Tom Harkin. Hatch is deeply vested in the supplement industry and Harkin was the sponsor of what was originally called the Office of Alternative Medicine, which became NCCAM and then, following the Orwellian trend of branding the mixing of bullshit with science as “integrative”, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health...

Read on: Regulation: it’s only good when we like the outcome | WWDDTYDTY

Alternative medicine, the baby and the bath water | Edzard Ernst

Twenty years ago, I published a short article in the British Journal of Rheumatology. Its title was ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE, THE BABY AND THE BATH WATER. Reading it again today – especially in the light of the recent debate (with over 700 comments) on acupuncture – indicates to me that very little has since changed in the discussions about alternative medicine (AM). Does that mean we are going around in circles? Here is the (slightly abbreviated) article from 1995 for you to judge for yourself...

Read on: Alternative medicine, the baby and the bath water

Friday, 3 April 2015

Homeopathy: a new climax of irresponsibility | Edzard Ernst

In the realm of homeopathy there is no shortage of irresponsible claims. I am therefore used to a lot – but this new proclamation takes the biscuit, particularly as it currently is being disseminated in various forms worldwide. It is so outrageously unethical that I decided to reproduce it here [in a slightly shortened version]:

“Homeopathy has given rise to a new hope to patients suffering from dreaded HIV, tuberculosis and the deadly blood disease Hemophilia. In a pioneering two-year long study, city-based homeopath Dr Rajesh Shah has developed a new medicine for AIDS patients, sourced from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) itself...

Read on: Homeopathy: a new climax of irresponsibility

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The ‘Paleo diet’ | Edzard Ernst

The Paleo diet is based on the evolutionary discordance hypothesis, according to which departures from the nutrition and activity patterns of our hunter-gatherer ancestors have contributed greatly and in specifically definable ways to the endemic chronic diseases of modern civilization. The assumption is that during the Paleolithic era — a period lasting around 2.5 million years that ended about 10,000 years ago with the advent of agriculture and domestication of animals — humans evolved nutritional needs specific to the foods available at that time, and that the nutritional needs of modern humans remain best adapted to the diet of their Paleolithic ancestors. Today’s humans are said to be not well adapted...

Read on: The ‘Paleo diet’