Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Monday, February 28, 2005


From Ross Sargent's excellent website - The View from Number 80 :

Quackbusters? - it is not everyday that you find out you are part of a huge conspiracy, one which profits from the sale of overpriced, ineffective and often dangerous pharmaceuticals and also supresses information about other highly effective and revolutionary unconventional therapies. It is deeply shocking to discover that you can be unwittingly enrolled in underhand tactics and lies in order to improve the bottom line of an international drugs conglomerate. How did this happen? To be honest, there was a clue way back in 2003, but at the time it did not seem significant - now I know differently. On December 12th of that year 80 received a Subscribe email for The View from Number 80. A subscription confirmation was sent off as usual and the reply came back "There has been a mistake. would you please UNsubscribe me? Sorry for the confusion and thank you..." 80 does not quibble with those who unsubscribe - if the unsubscriber wants to tell you why, that is fine, if not they are left in peace, so a confirmation message was sent, reading "No problem - you are unsubscribed." This time, somewhat unusually, there was an answer to the unsubscribe email, which read "How are you affiliated with quackbusters?" This question at the time meant little, beyond being a reference to a Daffy Duck movie (and a poor one at that) and was not deemed worthy of an answer. No more was heard from that particular correspondent. But the niggling question remained, who or what was Quackbusters? A little digging revealed that it is the name the looney wing of the alt. med. community give to what they see as a vast conspiracy to peddle dangerous and ineffective drugs in order to boost the profits of large pharmaceutical companies, or "big pharma" as the jargon has it. This conspiracy is responsible for the suppression of "natural" treatments as well as the persecution of those who have discovered breakthrough therapies for, say, cancer. ( the name Hulda Clark springs to mind as an archetypal example of the latter - also see Cancer Parasite.) These conspiracy nuts do not just complain about the suppression of various wonder treatments, but also take action against those they perceive to be the conspirators - sometimes in very unpleasant ways, alleging all kinds of misconduct and repeating smears against health campaigners across many alternative medicine websites. Here is but one example defaming Terry Polevoy, a Canadian doctor and campaigner against health fraud and quackery (see Unarticle for more on Polevoy and dirty tricks). These cowardly liars are keen to appear as the underdogs, when in fact many of them make a very good living from selling useless or dangerous treatments to the ill-informed, the gullible and the desperate. The terminally or chronically ill generally make for easier targets. One apparently self-appointed guardian of public health is Tim Bolen (actually Patrick Timothy Bolen) who styles himself Consumer Advocate (note the capital letters, often a sign of delusions of grandeur. It is noteworthy that for many who have been "helped" by Bolen's advocacy in fact found it to more like a kiss of death. Here is an overview of his activities.) Bolen produces a newsletter described on his Quackpotwatch website as "Millions of Health Freedom Fighters - Newsletter" is about the conspiracy, by a group calling itself the "quackbusters," to suppress leading-edge health care in North America. No studies have ever been done to determine the level of suffering, and death, inflicted on Americans because of the activities of these conspirators...yet."

The main target of his bile is the excellent Quackwatch website which is a "Guide to Quackery, Health Fraud, and Intelligent Decisions". Set up by Dr Stephen Barrett, it is an extremely well-researched information resource that is fair and accurate. This is apparently enough to drive the likes of Bolen into frenzied attacks that, in 80's view, verge on the unbalanced. Should you think I exaggerate just take the time to read The Last Days of the Quackbusters ( ) - and don't laugh, this guy seems to believe every last word and is obviously a very angry and bitter person. As an antidote to this misplaced hysteria read this item on Bolen from Stephen Barrett, which illustrates the huge gulf between the truth and Bolen's delusions. So how come 80 was asked about his Quackbuster's affiliation? There would seem to be a couple of possible reasons. One is membership of the Healthfraud discussion list, a forum for professional health practitioners and anyone concerned about the false claims made for various sCAM* treatments and the lack of regulation thereof. The other is perhaps the number of links on 80's site to the aforementioned Quackwatch and Paul's excellent Quackfiles - plus 80's membership of the Anti-Quackery web ring. But one thing 80 is not, and that is a member of any conspiracy (not even a willing dupe) - this "conspiracy" would appear to exist only in whatever Bolen, and those like him, keep between their ears. A final, and obvious point, is that the activities and products of large pharmaceutical companies should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny just as much as so-called complementary and alternative medicine. (For more on Bolen (if you can stomach it) and his manic crusade against the "Quackbusters" read this page from Quackfiles.) Rather than have Bolen hog all the limelight, here is a hysterical conspiracy rant from a chiropractor* called Duffy - "This site is dedicated to the propagation of useful knowledge pertaining to health and welfare from the naturalist's viewpoint and was created to counterattack an assault on my profession by agents of the AMA who MISrepresent themselves as “QUACKBUSTERS” acting “in the public interest". Dr Duffy is obviously not a man to cross - his bio makes him sound a bit of a superman - but then it is safe to assume that he wrote it himself. "Prior to entering chiropractic, Dr. Duffy distinguished himself educationally during a twenty-one year air force career (age 17-38), by attending eight major universities while simultaneously participating in the research, development, and flight testing of the B52 and B58 nuclear bombers." For a list of his contributions to the advance of medical science look here - and stop sniggering. As a complete contrast you can read about the work of "quack catcher" Dr. Robert Baratz, president of the National Council Against Health Fraud, in combating nonsense masquerading as medicine, and surprise, surprise, who pops up once more like the proverbial floater in the swimming pool? Bolen.This bothers Baratz little, "What have I got to lose? Many of these people prey on the desperate, the uninformed. Besides losing your dignity to some degree, you're out a lot of money and you stand to lose your health." (Thanks to Paul for these last two gems.......)

The quack catcher

The Salem News
Online Edition
Monday, February 28, 2005

The quack catcher

By Julie Kirkwood
Staff writer

Dr. Robert Baratz decided to skip a shopping trip with his wife and mother-in-law on a visit to Chicago.

To fill the free time, he attended a lecture by Hal Huggins, a dentist promoting the idea that mercury poisoning from dental fillings was causing multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and acne.

Though skeptical, Baratz intended to sit in the audience and listen quietly.

But when Huggins put up a slide of a white blood cell called a neutrophil and mislabeled it a lymphocyte, Baratz pointed out the error.

Baratz did, after all, have a doctorate in anatomy and cell biology and was a professor at Boston University School of Medicine.

Later in the lecture, Huggins showed images of a patient whose acne had been cured by having his dental fillings removed. Baratz again objected, pointing out that the patient did not actually have acne but rather a classic skin allergy that is not caused by metal toxicity.

"He sort of stumbled across something and jumped to the wrong conclusion," Baratz said.

Thus began Baratz's mission to publicly debunk fraudulent medical claims. After the lecture he began to get calls, give speeches and testify in court, first on dental fillings and then on a wider range of topics.

Two decades later, Baratz is president of the National Council Against Health Fraud, which he runs out of an office on Foster Street in Peabody.

"He's probably the most educated health professional in the world, and he's brilliant," said Dr. Stephen Barrett, who founded the council in the early 1980s, not long after Baratz spoke up at the lecture.

Baratz, who lives in Newton, is a dentist and a medical doctor, as well as a scientist with a doctorate. He spends the majority of his time at South Shore Health Center in Braintree treating patients and gathering evidence in fraud cases.

One of his most recent missions was an unsuccessful attempt to convince a Cincinnati newspaper not to give a Lifetime Hero Award to Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich maneuver.

Heimlich took credit for the choking-rescue technique when it was actually invented by a colleague, Baratz said. And Heimlich's more recent research was shut down by the Food and Drug Administration because he tried to treat Lyme disease, cancer and HIV patients by deliberately infecting them with malaria.

Baratz's other recent cases have involved victims of chelation therapy, a technique of treating autism and other diseases with intravenous infusions of a fluid alleged to soak up supposed heavy metal contamination.

Baratz is an outspoken critic of chelation therapy, which he said has been shown in several studies to have no effect.

He also is critical of homeopathy, herbal remedies, acupuncture, reflexology and chiropractic.

These techniques, even the ones that appear to be harmless, are more than a waste of money, he said.

"Misdirecting people from proper care is also a harm," Baratz said.

Richard Craven of Pelham, N.H., knows this firsthand.

His wife, Lucille, sought treatment for breast cancer from a chiropractor instead of having the surgery and chemotherapy her oncologist recommended.

She didn't tell her husband about her diagnosis until she had been trying alternative therapies for two years.

As part of those alternative therapies, she was given an imported substance called 714X to inject into her body and spent thousands of dollars on a device with two headlights on wands.

By the time her husband found out she had cancer, it had metastasized.

She died four months later, a few days before her 55th birthday. She felt betrayed, Craven said, because she found out her chiropractor's other patients were getting chemotherapy in addition to his treatments while he had discouraged her from trying it.

"Losing Lucille was an emotional disaster from which I am slowly recovering," Craven said.

"It's still hardly believable because we didn't get to fight her disease together. I and her family still discuss how a bright, energetic, educated person made such a lapse in judgment."

The chiropractor is still practicing, Craven said, and he can't sue because his wife willingly sought the treatments.

To the extent the National Council Against Health Fraud protects patients from shunning life-saving care and holds hoax practitioners accountable, David Sollars, clinical director and acupuncturist at FirstHealth of Andover, said he agrees with its mission.

"I think the reason they exist, to take a look at these and protect the consumer, makes sense," he said.

But to paint all alternative therapies as fraudulent is just as erroneous as assuming they all work, Sollars said.

"What the public needs to know is you can't lump integrated medicine into one pile," he said.

Still, while therapies at Sollars' practice are subjected to clinical study and patients are encouraged to see physicians, there are also plenty of frauds — among alternative practitioners and licensed MD's alike — to keep Baratz on his mission.

Not surprisingly, Baratz and his colleagues on the council have some fierce enemies.

One self-proclaimed consumer advocate, Tim Bolen, has created a Web site debunking the debunkers. Baratz believes Bolen is hired by an alternative practitioner to defame them.

Bolen alleges Baratz's credentials are phony and the organization has a failing membership. He also lobs professional and personal attacks at Barrett, the vice president of the health fraud group and founder of Barrett has sued Bolen for liable.

Baratz said he tries not to let it bother him.

"What have I got to lose?" he asked. "Many of these people prey on the desperate, the uninformed. Besides losing your dignity to some degree, you're out a lot of money and you stand to lose your health."

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The third Skeptics' Circle is coming soon!

Hello fellow skeptic,

Radagast will be hosting the next Skeptics' Circle this coming Thursday, March 3, 2005, and would appreciate receiving submissions of skeptical articles to the coming edition.

Here is the official call for submissions:

You can also submit your articles to his e-mail address (

Here is the Skeptics' Circle archive page:

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Lawsuit targets U.S. chiropractor group

From the AP Biz Wire

Friday, February 25, 2005 · Last updated 4:59 p.m. PT

Lawsuit targets U.S. chiropractor group


DES MOINES, Iowa -- A woman and her 17-year-old son are suing an Iowa chiropractor and the professional group to which he belongs, claiming it trains its members to unethically put profits over patients.

Heidi Brown and her son, Trevor Rhiner, are asking a state judge to grant class-action status to the lawsuit, which names Waukee, Iowa, chiropractor Paul Kerkhoff and a New York-based organization called The Masters Circle, as well as its top executives.

The lawsuit claims The Masters Circle - through newsletters, seminars and coaches - trains member chiropractors in high-pressure sales tactics, persuading patients to get unnecessary treatments to boost profits.

According to the lawsuit, filed this week in Dallas County, Brown and her son "wrongly assumed ... their chiropractor would strive to put the patient's best interest ahead of the doctor's personal interest."

The Masters Circle describes itself on its Web site as a professional program aimed at chiropractors serious about achieving success. The organization offers products and services to members who pay as much as $650 per month.

Its owners include Larry Markson, Bob Hoffman and Dennis Perman, all of whom were named as defendants in the Iowa lawsuit. The Web site claims Markson has counseled more than 10,000 chiropractors worldwide in the last 23 years.

A spokeswoman for the organization, founded 26 years ago, said she was unaware of the lawsuit.

"We have nothing to say on the subject," she said.

The attempt to achieve class-action status emerged from a 2003 lawsuit filed by Brown and her son accusing Kerkhoff of fraud, malpractice and negligent misrepresentation.

After her son complained of back pain and numbness in his leg, Brown made an appointment at Kerkhoff's office, based on a referral. After a series of tests and X-rays, Kerkhoff diagnosed Rhiner with scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, said he was likely to develop severe arthritis in his early 20s and should refrain from playing sports to avoid risk of serious injury.

During the visit, Brown said Kerkhoff and his staff tried to sell a year's worth of treatments, offered discounts if paid in cash up front and said the care was necessary, given the serious nature of the case.

Brown said her son underwent several treatments and began to feel better, but she became frustrated with Kerkhoff when he put Rhiner in traction during one of the visits, a therapy Brown said she opposed.

Skeptical of the Kerkhoff's diagnosis, Brown took her son to an orthopedic surgeon, who disputed Kerkhoff's claims and declared Rhiner healthy. Moreover, Brown was advised by the surgeon that traction for a growing teenager was unhealthy.

"I was outraged as a mom that he (Kerkhoff) would have put my son through a year's worth of unnecessary treatments, but, being a mom, how did I know at the time?" Brown told The Associated Press on Friday.

It was during the pretrial phase of the lawsuit that Brown and her attorney, Kim Baer, learned about The Masters Circle.

In depositions, Kerkhoff said he used techniques from The Masters Circle to "target, leverage and close" the sale of services to Brown and followed Masters Circle guidelines in requiring full back X-rays for all patients.

The lawsuit claims such techniques are nothing more than a way to boost profits and are a breach of the doctor/patient relationship.

It cites Masters Circle literature encouraging chiropractors to sign up patients for a minimum of 12 visits and to refrain from re-evaluating health problems until after the 12th visit.

"We certainly are not suing all chiropractors, because there are good ones out there ..." said Baer, an attorney in Des Moines. "We're only after those who are members of The Masters Circle."

Baer said she expects the judge to consider the class-action status later this spring.


On the Net: Masters Circle:

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Josh Groban sings the National Anthem

Just a diversion from quackbusting....;-) Hear Josh sing "The Star Spangled Banner" (b) below:

Here's another talented singer.

Josh's website
It is best viewed with a screen resolution of 1064 x 768

There are several things you can do on this page:

(a) Click on "music" and then "play a song" (up to the right) and listen to several songs. Be patient. It may take time to download the songs.

Songs I especially like:

"You're Still You"
"To Where You Are"

(b) Click "watch" and see videos, especially the bottom one (National Anthem).

He sings "The Star Spangled Banner" in an exceptionally beautiful arrangement. It gives me goose bumps! Maybe that's because I'm an expatriate American, who still considers the USA to be the greatest nation on earth, not in spite of its imperfections, but because of the American way of striving to correct those imperfections. Without America, the world would not know freedom, democracy, equal rights, human rights, etc.

Other good links:

Rising Star

A Star in the Making
Who Is Josh Groban?
By Bob Brown

April 12 — With just a few hour's notice, Josh Groban, an unknown singer still in his teens, suddenly found himself on stage in a duet with Celine Dion — but he didn't think he could sing in the right key.

"I thought to myself, 'Maybe one day I'll have a big break, but I don't want it to be like this,'" Groban remembers. "I didn't want to go in there unprepared."

But he had to. Dion was due to sing with Andrea Bocelli that night at the 1999 Grammy Awards, and Bocelli couldn't make the rehearsal. Groban was his stand-in, and, Dion says, he did better than all right. "This young man comes on stage almost going backward he was so scared," remembers Dion. "He took the microphone, and when he started to sing, he couldn't be any more powerful than that. … This kid was incredible!"

His career started to take off. A guest-starring role on Ally McBeal won him national attention last year and then, two months ago, he had a major international appearance at the closing ceremonies of the Salt Lake City Olympics, singing with Charlotte Church before a worldwide audience estimated at 1.6 billion people.

(There's more.....)

On the Brink of Stardom
Transcript: Singing Sensation Josh Groban

Google search: Josh Groban

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Why I Left Chiropractic

A good response from a former chiro student, who saw the light in time and got out. I'll give it a title for him:

Why I Left Chiropractic

Dear *****,

I left Palmer this last November, and I have absolutely no intentions to ever attend another Chiropractic college. I found the profession to be wholely without any measurable merit regarding clinical science, therapy, and yes even philosophy.

My decision is not based on this website, or even on chirobase, but simply a severe dissatisfaction with chiropractic as a whole.

Here is a following list of my primary problems with Palmer's educational problems, and indeed all chiropractic programs

1) There is no subluxation complex as stated in both chiropractic philosophy and so called clinical practice.

2) Chiropractic has no identifiable scope of practice outside of a limited physical medicine practice, that is woefully inadequate to treat enough patient problems that justifies a doctorate dedicated to its practice.

3) Even though the general sciences may have some merit, they are not linked in kind with chiropractic's clinical protocol. ie we learn anatomy, physiology, and pathology, however we are not trained to deal with problems related to these sciences.

4) Chiropractic assumes everyone should be under consistant chiropractic care, even though their primary lesion isn't real, or at least has never been proven. This very problem ignores the complexity of the human system, and prevents any real "doctor" to evolve out of a chiropractic education.

5) The admissions criteria for entry are entirely to lax for a health professions standards. When I attended Palmer in Davenport there was rampant cheating, disrespect for instructors who were trying to teach legitimate subjects, not to mention the majority of students seemed to think that all pathology and microbiology was a joke because it didn't make them better adjusters.

6) There was a severe problem with students arguing pseudo-science specialties as if each one was legitamate. For example, Upper cervical specific vs. applied kinesiology vs. full spine practice vs extremity adjusting vs. whatever some person without science skills and a powerful imagination could potentially throw at you.

7) A disproportinately high concentration of clinical quacks training students with unproven, disproven, or outright ridiculous clinical diagnostics, and treatment modalities. I speak specifically of X-ray diagnosis of chiropractic subluxations, insturmentation, motion palpation, and SOT techniques.

8) A constant and consistant effort from the philosophy faculty trying to indoctrinate a suspicion of other health care professions, especially MD's and blaming them for the dire straights of people's health.

9) Again a constant and consistant use of anecdotal evidence as proof of chiropractic, instead of using proper diagnostic tests to eliminate variables in patient diagnosis.

10) A general anathema to real problems in patient healthcare.

11) A political agenda to support quack sciences and to suppress legitmate health professions

12) The publication of "studies" supporting quackery, but failing to meet minimum scientific standards or known pathological conditions. For instance there was a study in the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Complex studying upper cervical manipulation on MS patients. Their conclusion stated a remission period was evident in some patients, however the study failed to differentiate between the normal relapse/remittance of MS pathology.

13) The failure of chiropractic to convert to a legitamate profession by supporting licensing and education credentials to become the "dentists" of physical medicine, a needed specialty in most states.

That is all for now, hope this answers your question.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Charles gets seal of approval on unorthodox treatments

.....and Charles is to be the next King of England? May God save us!! (in contrast to "God save the King").

Charles gets seal of approval on unorthodox treatments

Complementary health guide gains state aid

James Meikle, health correspondent
Tuesday February 15, 2005
The Guardian

As Prince Charles heads for a second marriage in April, fresh evidence emerged yesterday that he is sealing a closer union with the medical and scientific establishment.

The Prince of Wales's Foundation for Integrated Health, which he founded partly to establish a place for alternative and complementary therapies in the NHS, issued its first guide for patients on how to seek such treatments from the state service, private practitioners or charities.

Nearly six million people, one in 10 of the population, opt for complementary care each year, and a host of celebrities from Madonna to Cherie Booth are interested in an approach that may have once been called "way out".

The 50-page booklet, part-funded by the government, gives advice on how to find therapists, check whether they are regulated, how much they might charge and how to get information on their qualifications. The government recently gave the foundation £900,000 to help improve regulation of standards in this area.

Only half of GP surgeries refer patients for complementary therapies, and less than a quarter offer at least one therapy at their own surgeries.

The royal thinktank, at arms-length from the NHS bureaucracy and the brainchild of a notoriously independent and outspoken enthusiast, advocates health treatments that often appear to patients more personal and less institutionalised than those offered by conventional medicine, even though there may often be lack of "scientific proof" for their efficacy. Now the government is encouraging broader use under the politically attractive banner of more choice for the consumer, while at the same time softening the old image of a state bureaucracy with no interest in alternatives to conventional medical wisdom.

The new guide stresses the need for patients to tell both their GP and therapist what other medication they are on and to check for insurance.
This advice is backed up by signposting a plethora of websites, but giving no verdict on the efficacy of popular treatments, from acupuncture and aromatherapy to shiatsu and yoga. The Guardian invited Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School at Exeter and Plymouth universities, to remedy that gap. "The documented benefits of chiropractic do not seem to outweigh its potential risks," he said. With acupuncture, "for some conditions the benefits ... outweigh its risks". At the moment only chiropractors and osteopaths have to be regulated by law. The government is soon to insist on self-policing, with powers to strike off practitioners, for those involved with herbal medicines and acupuncture.

Michael Fox, chief executive of the foundation, conceded the guide was not an analysis of the evidence base for complementary approaches, but hoped it was "easy-to-read and useful. There are six million people using complementary healthcare at the moment. Yes, we would want to understand more about what works and doesn't work, but if we are already receiving healthcare from a complementary practioner we want to see the care we receive properly regulated.

"It is much more acceptable these days to actually go to a complementary practitioner, but each of us has a different view of what therapy we might want and use," said Mr Fox, who has used seven complementary approaches himself.

"My daughter has asthma and she has used puffer inhalers but tried to help manage her breathing through yoga. Increasingly people want to manage things themselves, not always leaning on something else." He had been "pleasantly reassured" by the interest in complementary medicine from the royal colleges, pillars of the medical establishment, and NHS organisations.

Prince Charles has argued for a new approach "in terms of the conventional/complementary." Michael Dixon, a GP from Cullompton, Devon, and chairman of the NHS Alliance, an umbrella group of individual healthcare workers and NHS organisations in primary care, agreed. "Last year, there was one trial suggesting aromatherapy only worked if the patient thought it worked. The conventional scientists would say therefore it doesn't work but that is the wrong conclusion. The conclusion is a complementary therapy works for those who believe in it."

His surgery offers a range of complementary therapies, including herbal remedies, and traditional Indian techniques of ayurvedic massage and healing. He argues these are safer than conventional treatments, "not addictive and work for quite a few". Also, he suggests, they are often more cost-effective. On Monday, Prince Charles embarks on another stage in his increasingly close relationship with the medical establishment when he is the main speaker at conference on the "healing environment" in which doctors, architects, urban planners and social care experts will discuss how they can combine to improve public health.

Fighting Pseudo-Science with Science Fiction

Fighting Pseudo-Science with Science Fiction (from

By Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H.
Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2005
ARTICLES Publication Date: February 17, 2005

This article was posted on February 17, 2005 on the site

Can a work of fiction combat bad science and hyperbole about risk more effectively than academic discourse? Could a novel capture the public imagination, causing a paradigm shift in views about contentious environmental risks?


The proof is Michael Crichton's latest blockbuster, State of Fear. In this techno-thriller, Harvard-trained physician Dr. Crichton confronts the threat of pseudo-science. By pseudo-science, Crichton means the selective use of data to support ideologically-driven positions held by activists who promote themselves as champions of the public interest. Sadly, these self-same activists employ ad hominem attacks against anyone who dares to disagree with them -- essentially cutting off open political and scientific inquiry.

Crichton treads on very sensitive territory. While State of Fear focuses Crichton's skepticism of global warming and its purported causes, the stinging critique comes more generally in what the author calls "the politicization of science," a critique that is applicable to a wide range of contemporary health and environmental issues.

Indeed, just prior to the release of his book in December 2004, Dr. Crichton penned a cover story in Parade Magazine in which he argued that we are being pummeled with baseless health scares -- including saccharin, "endocrine disrupters," deodorants, cell phones, and more. (Again, he is also known for his comparison of the environmental movement with a religion.)

State of Fear is an entertaining, fast-paced, gripping novel. Crichton has an undeniable talent for creating scenarios that seem to offer no hope for the book's heroes, including heart-stopping glimpses of characters caught under ice, or left to the mercy of killer lightning. And that is precisely why so many people will have fun reading this book and get the message at the same time. As the story unfolds with a one-person truth squad confronting a manipulative environmental group, a penetrating theme emerges: many of those purporting to do good end up doing irreparable harm. How? By distorting science in order to achieve political ends.

By spinning a delicious novel around a serious message, Crichton will invite millions of readers to reassess both the motivations and the activities of the world's leading environmental and consumer advocacy groups who now claim to be "saving us" from postulated risks of global warming, pesticides, modern food technology, and environmental chemicals.

Dr. Crichton communicates his concerns about the politicization of science both in the author's notes and in the novel itself. Consider these examples:

The Precautionary Principle

This dogmatic principle argues that if there is even an imagined health or ecological issue associated with some form of technology, then, that technology should be discarded -- no matter what benefits are lost, or what harms will have to be confronted without the technology.

But Crichton notes: "The precautionary principle properly applied forbids the precautionary principle. It is self-contradictory. The precautionary principle therefore cannot be spoken in terms that are too harsh." He adds: "The current near-hysterical preoccupation with safety is at best a waste of resources and a crimp on the human spirit, and at worse, an invitation to totalitarianism."

Certainty Is Dangerous

Some have claimed that environmental groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, are committed to the view that all environmental and health woes can be traced directly to the door of "industry." However, research has demonstrated that development leads to reductions in pollution. Moreover, as Crichton points out, sound public policy does not come from organizations espousing dogmatic and close-minded political agendas -- unmoved by the existing scientific facts when those facts are at variance with the organization's political goals.

Crichton says: "I have more respect for people who change their views after acquiring new information than for those who cling to views they held for thirty years. The world changes. Ideologues and zealots don't." Most environmental groups have an economic interest in being certain. However, says Crichton, "I am certain that there is too much certainty in the world."

Ad Hominem

Central to the success and survival of self-appointed consumer advocates and protectors of the environment is their technique of ad hominem attacks against those who dare to challenge their claims.

When Crichton's fictional hero Dr. Kenner informs an environmentalist lawyer that there are many studies that do not support the theory of global warming, the attorney retorts with a knee-jerk response: "these studies are probably financed by the coal industry."

Kenner goes on to quiz the lawyer about who pays his salary (environmental advocates who are clients of the law firm) and asks, "are you a paid flunky for the environmental movement...a mouthpiece for machine with a multi-billion dollar industry in its own right?"

The attorney is appalled and furious, but Dr. Kenner continues: "Now you know how legitimate scientists feel when their integrity is impugned by slimy characterizations such as the one you just made."

Killing with Kindness?

DDT has been vilified more than any other chemical in history as a public health and environmental nightmare. Despite the protests of scientists around the world, DDT was banned in 1972 with catastrophic consequences for the developing world.

Crichton's Dr. Kenner sums this matter of risk/benefit up succinctly, noting that DDT was the best defense against malaria-causing mosquitoes: "altogether, the ban has caused more than 50 million needless deaths...[B]anning DDT killed more people than Hitler...and the environmental movement pushed hard for it."

In the novel, Kenner encounters dogmatists but also gives reasons for hope, since some of the people with whom he matches wits change their minds as the evidence accumulates. Dr. Crichton's novel may have a similar effect in the real world, too, which would be an environmental earthquake for purveyors of gloom and doom. The author is a hero for re-opening the dialogue when, for years, only the most intrepid scientists would dare to protest the politicization of science in environmental policy.

Elizabeth Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H., is president of the American Council on Science and Health, which publishes ACSH is also releasing the book America's War on "Carcinogens": Reassessing The Use of Animal Tests to Predict Human Cancer Risk.

Patient Perspectives: Tijuana Cancer Clinics in the Post-NAFTA Era.

Integr Cancer Ther. 2005 Mar;4(1):65-86

Patient Perspectives: Tijuana Cancer Clinics in the Post-NAFTA Era.

Moss RW.

Cancer Communications, Inc, PO Box 1076, Lemont, PA 16851..

This article contains observations and historical considerations on cancer and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in the Tijuana, Mexico, area. There are approximately 2 dozen such clinics in Tijuana, some of which have been treating international cancer patients since 1963. Among the first clinics to be established were the Bio-Medical Center (Hoxsey therapy), Oasis of Hope (a Laetrile-oriented clinic), and a series of clinics affiliated with the Gerson diet therapy. These original clinics were established mainly by American citizens in response to increased regulation of nonstandard therapies in the United States, particularly after passage of the Kefauver-Harris Amendments to the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act in 1962. In the 1970s, the Tijuana clinics proliferated with the upsurge of interest in Laetrile (amygdalin). By 1978, 70,000 US cancer patients had taken Laetrile for cancer treatment, and many of those had gone to Tijuana to receive it. The popularity of the Tijuana clinics peaked in the mid-1980s. Although many new clinics opened after then, a dozen have folded in the past 10 years alone. The turning point for the clinics came with passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which facilitated greater cooperation among the antifraud authorities of Canada, the United States, and Mexico. In 1994, the tripartite members of NAFTA formed the Mexico-United States-Canada Health Fraud Work Group, or MUCH, whose brief is to strengthen the 3 countries' ability to prevent cross-border health fraud. Under the auspices of MUCH and its members, regulatory crackdowns began in earnest early in 2001. The clinics were also badly affected by the general downturn in travel after 9/11. If these trends continue, many Tijuana clinics are unlikely to survive. Some suggestions are made for how the Tijuana clinics could be reorganized and reformed to minimize the likelihood of governmental actions and to maximize public support. Such reforms center on 5 main areas: (1) research, (2) physical plant, (3) finances, (4) ethics, and (5) education.

PMID: 15695477 [PubMed - in process]

Deadly quacks: Neurologists have long protested the practice of 'highest neck manipulation,'

Deadly quacks
Neurologists have long protested the practice of 'highest neck manipulation,' which in some cases has resulted in lethal strokes

J. William Kinsinger

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ontario's decision to remove chiropractic care from its roster of publicly-funded health care services has been painted in the press as a purely budgetary choice. In fact, the government's decision was justified on both medical and ethical grounds. For the good of Canadians' health, one can only hope that other provinces follow suit.

Chiropractors are not "doctors," they do not train in any hospital and their medical teachings have been rejected by many universities. Chiropractic treatment is based on the philosophical -- not scientific -- idea that spinal manipulation can treat just about any illness, including asthma, hypertension in adults, autism in children and ear infections in babies.

The Ontario Chiropractic Association has marketed this idea well, instructing parents to bring newborn babies to chiropractors "as soon after birth as possible," and issuing alarming statements saying that "our children deserve to be treated naturally, not with dangerous chemical drugs and unproven surgeries."

Such specious rhetoric has proven effective. Over the past 10 years, more than $100-million has been billed by Ontario chiropractors to treat infants and children, using spinal manipulation, for everything from newborn colic to bed-wetting. It has even been presented as an alternative to immunization.

Thankfully, the medical community has moved to debunk such claims. In 1994 and again in 1998, the Chiefs of Pediatrics of Canadian Hospitals rightly stated that spinal manipulation of infants and children is "ineffective and useless." Accordingly, they called on provincial governments to stop paying for the treatment.

Neurologists, meanwhile, have long protested the chiropractic practice of "highest neck manipulation," used frequently on people who have no neck pain whatsoever. Although coroner's inquests have found that highest neck manipulation can cause lethal strokes, chiropractors have persisted, claiming that strokes and death occur only rarely.

In fact, such outcomes are not rare, and case reports detailing strokes have been published in numerous respectable medical journals over the past 60 years. Two further reports appeared in 2004 alone. One can only wonder why Ontario waited so long to cut payment for such procedures.

Ontario chiropractors have also been marketing "maintenance care" as a means to sell their services, and have billed for hundreds of millions of dollars by performing spinal manipulation on people who are perfectly well. Wisely, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the United States recently delisted all such claims.

Ontario's decision to delist chiropractic services ought to be permanent. And Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, which still cover the cost of chiropractic treatment, should follow its lead.

Unfortunately, some opposition politicians are making an issue of Ontario's decision. The province's Conservative leader, John Tory, wrote in the Post last December that a "visit to a chiropractor costs less than one to a family doctor or an orthopedic surgeon." This is a narrow view: Whether a service is cheap or not matters little if the benefit is dubious and the attendant risks considerable.

Chiropractors misleadingly market themselves as mainstream health care professionals, offer help to those who do not need it and endanger patients by promising results they have neither the training nor the ability to deliver. Ontario has not only saved money by delisting chiropractic services -- it has saved lives as well.

J. William Kinsinger is an American physician, and a member of a professional group monitoring government support for alternative medicine.

© National Post 2005

Friday, February 18, 2005

Fifth World Skeptics Congress

Here are some excellent quotes from the end of the following article:

In the Land of Galileo, Fifth World Skeptics Congress Solves Mysteries, Champions Scientific Outlook (Skeptical Inquirer January/February 2005)

The conference concluded with a lively session of critical examinations of evidence about alternative medicine. A few excerpts:

Edzard Ernst (Professor of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, U.K.) On herbal remedies: “We have convincing positive data for nine herbal remedies (especially St. John’s Wort, for mild to moderate depression), but not thousands [as frequently claimed].”

On acupuncture: “There is limited evidence that acupuncture is better than no treatment at all. There is inconclusive evidence that acupuncture is better than a placebo.”

On spiritual healing: “The majority of rigorous trials show no effect beyond placebo.”

Ernst’s conclusion: “High quality research is scarce. Bias is rife. For some CAM [Complementary and Alternative Medicine] treatments the risk/benefit ratio is positive. But for most, we don’t know.”

Barry Beyerstein (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia): “The curriculum of the Dominion Herbal College in Vancouver—the leading college of herbalism in North America—exhibits every characteristic of pseudoscience in [CSICOP Fellow and McGill University philosophy professor] Mario Bunge’s list” (Bunge, “What Is Pseudoscience?” Skeptical Inquirer, Fall 1984).

Riccardo Lucio (University of Florence): “Homeopathy is useful. . . . It is useful to the industry, to the sellers, and to the homeopaths. But it is highly questionable if it is of use to patients.”

Wallace Sampson (professor of medicine, Stanford, and editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine) gave a blunt assessment of what he calls “the political takeover in the U.S.” by alternative medicine.

“Never in the history of medicine has there been anything like this before,” he said. “It is an organized invasion of pseudoscience into the scientific edifice of medicine. It is pervasive, surreptitious, and purposeful. It is not a conspiracy; it is simply the way people act in groups.”

How do they do it? By using the “language of distortion” (alternative medicine instead of quackery or pseudoscience) and by demeaning science (postmodernism and relativism), he said. Proponents’ invention of language is calculated to produce a positive response. He said they have become astute in what he called “info-ganda,” the combination of information and propaganda. They have been effective in manipulating opinion in nonprofit foundations, the news media, books, and even the medical press, which “has a bias against publishing negative articles.” They have found abundant sources of funding both from government (especially in the U.S., through the support of key congressional leaders) and from spiritual/ religious organizations. He sees the problem getting worse, not better.

Silvio Garattini, professor of pharmacology and director of the Mario Negri Institute in Milan, summed up the session. “I wonder if by using gentler terms like alternative medicine and complementary medicine, we are disserving science,” he said. “‘Quackery’ and ‘fakery’” is what we are talking about. “We must use what has proved to be effective.”

And he spoke of the frustrating illogic of homeopathy. Its remedies are “all the same and contain nothing. How can you test that?” The burden of proof is on the homeopathic community to provide proof that its remedies are efficacious, he said. “But they are not willing.”

In his concluding remarks, Paul Kurtz called the conference “inspiring.” He lamented the escape from reason in the health fields, among others. “Not believing in things without evidence is still a radical thesis,” he said. “We are still attempting to hold the torch of scientific reason and inquiry.” He said there are still many “committed to the Enlightenment” but the “danger that we will move away from the scientific outlook is very real. . . . We have a set of ideals. These ideals are very important, and we need to keep the torch of reason lit.”

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Skeptics' Circle: Second Edition

On Feb. 17, 2005, the second edition of the Skeptics' Circle was hosted by Orac, who did a great job of describing a jovial meeting of scientists and skeptics in a tavern. Take a look at the great articles submitted by the many participants. What a great group of bloggers!

My own contribution was this article:
Chiropractic: The Exception Does Not Justify the Rule

Here is the link for the first edition of the Skeptics' Circle, which was hosted by St. Nate.

Finally, here is the archive site, with the schedule and host list for future Skeptics' Circles.

Make sure to remember the next meeting of the Skeptics' Circle, to be held on March 3. It will be hosted by Radagast, and I'm sure it will be an exciting meeting, with plenty of the best examples of skeptical blogging.

Florida DC becomes State Senate majority leader

This is the team that attempted to con the political system into forcing a school of chiroquackery onto FSU:

Florida DC becomes State Senate majority leader

Dynamic Chiropractic, Jan 27, 2003

Dr. Dennis Jones (R-Seminole) has been named the majority leader of the Florida Senate. The 61-- year-old Jones, who graduated from Lincoln College of Chiropractic in 1963, was chosen majority leader by Senate President Jim King to help develop policy and promote the Republican Party's agenda. Dr. Jones is believed to be the first doctor of chiropractic to hold this high a position in the Florida political system.

'Throughout the years, Dennis has become my best friend and strongest political ally,' King said. 'I have the utmost confidence in his political leadership, his ability to get things done, and his unwavering loyalty.'

Before winning a Senate seat in 2002, Dr. Jones served in the Florida House of Representatives for more than two decades, and received many awards from a variety of professional organizations. Among his accolades, he received the D.I. Rainey Legislative Award from the Florida Chiropractic Association three times, and was named the Florida Chiropractic Society 'Legislator of the Year' in 1996. In addition to his duties as a legislator, he maintains a practice in St. Petersburg with his son, Rod.

Copyright Dynamic Chiropractic Jan 27, 2003
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.

National Insurance Fraud Seminar focuses on chiropractic

This article by a chiropractor is an unsurprising and typical example of how chiropractic and chiropractors ignore the elephant in their own living room. To everyone else, it's a "so what else is new" experience, when one reads about the attitudes of the insurance industry people. Of course they are skeptical about chiropractic. What else can one expect when the profession fails to police itself, and even teaches attitudes and practices that all others in the healthcare field consider unscientific and unethical?

National Insurance Fraud Seminar focuses on chiropractic

Dynamic Chiropractic, Nov 17, 2003 by Osborne, Daniel J

In mid-September 2003, I attended the International Association of Special Investigative Units (IASIU) 18th Annual Seminar on Insurance Fraud in Orlando, Fla.1 The event, purportedly planned to provide the best education available on insurance fraud, covered more than 30 topics taught by professionals from public and private sectors. The seminar opened with an announcement by the IASIU president that the seminar's focus would not be on property-related claims issues, as was the case in the previous 17 gatherings, but on health care fraud. This refocus was brought on by a paradigm shift within the insurance industry that the biggest loss as the result of fraud is not from property (arson, theft, etc.) claims, but from fraudulent health care claims.

In actuality, the seminar focused little on the overall problem of health care fraud in liability claims, but focused clearly on the activities of chiropractors, with a primary emphasis on multidisciplinary practices and mobile electrodiagnostic testing labs. After the seminar, one could have left with the belief that health care fraud and chiropractic were synonymous, as the speakers continually attacked chiropractors, with no care taken to remind their audience that not all chiropractors engage in fraudulent activity! It was quite apparent that the speakers had an US (insurers) against THEM (chiropractors) attitude. Clearly, the chiropractic profession was not presented as a viable part of the solution in combating fraud and a member of the health care fraud fighting team, but as the target of it!

In one presentation, after the speaker failed to mention the chiropractic examining board's role as a source for investigators to report suspected chiropractic fraud, I informed him of this oversight and requested he inform his audience. My request went unanswered.

In another presentation, a speaker from Washington State did mention the chiropractic board as a potential source for combating fraud involving chiropractors, but added that it did not do any good until now, "because we have beat them up." It was ironic to listen to the silence and comments of these speakers in a hotel located just across the street from where the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB) had held its annual conference just months earlier. The FCLB meeting included discussions on health care fraud/abuse trends and efforts to combat the fraud!

The truly amazing aspect of the entire seminar was the unqualified and inaccurate information presented by the speakers, including the following:

* An attorney provided the definition of a "worthless" diagnostic test.

* No billing code is available for Current Perception Threshold test.

* CPT defines proper billing for technical components of services/procedures rendered.

* HCPCS codes are for hospitals, and chiropractors can't use them.

* Chiropractors can't perform 99205 level exams under any circumstance.

* All mobile diagnostic tests do not give good raw data.

* Improper coding to report a CPT code and indicate service provided for all diagnoses reported.

* Consultation codes can only be used if referred from another discipline.

* ACA rules preclude a chiropractor from doing a CMT and E&M service on the same day.

* The use of any CPT code ending in 99 is a red flag for fraud.

* If a chiropractor uses a CPT code ending in 99, he/she must send a letter to the insurance company explaining why, out of all the available codes, that code was used. A letter must also be sent to the AMA explaining that the code was used.

My purpose in attending this seminar, attended by more than 1,000 SIU representatives of insurance companies throughout the U.S., was to learn of new fraud trends in health care, methods to identify the fraudulent activity, and current efforts to combat the fraud. I wanted to educate myself so I could better consult current and future clients. However, after attending the seminar, I found no substantive information to meet my goals, and left with surprise that the property and casualty insurance industry did not appear, based on the presentations, to be any more sophisticated in investigating health care fraud then it was some seven years ago, when I left its investigative ranks.

The attitude of the presenters at this conference, and the vast majority of the attendees, clearly demonstrated the insurance bias toward chiropractic. How should the profession deal with these misperceptions? I urge chiropractic leaders to attend these programs and build relationships with association officers and presenters. When your presence and active participation in an organization is known, attitudes change. This battle is winnable only if we are actively involved on the battlefield!

Copyright Dynamic Chiropractic Nov 17, 2003
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved.

(Emphasis added - PL)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Alternative therapies: an expert's view

Alternative therapies: an expert's view

Tuesday February 15, 2005
The Guardian

What is it?
Manual therapy frequently involving spinal mobilisation for musculoskeletal problems, such as back pain

Ernst's verdict
Does it work?
The most authoritative review is inconclusive as to the benefit for back pain compared with other treatments available for this condition

Is it safe?
Less adverse effects than chiropractic due to a gentler technique.

The benefit of osteopathy is not well-documented. Its risks seem to be less than those for chiropractic

Massage therapy
What is it?
Manipulation of the soft tissues on the body surface using pressure and traction

Ernst's verdict
Does it work?
Massage is effective for conditions such as constipation, back pain, anxiety, depression and stress

Is it safe?
Although not entirely devoid of risks, serious adverse effects are very rare

For a range of conditions the benefits of massage outweigh its risk

What is it?
A practice from India including muscular stretching, breathing exercises and meditation

Ernst's verdict
Does it work?
There is good evidence to show that yoga enhances general health and reduces cardiovascular risks

Is it safe?
When practised prudently, there is little evidence of risk

Regular yoga exercises can do more good than harm for general health, eg for cardiovascular health

Herbal medicine
What is it?
The use of plants or parts of plants or extracts thereof for medicinal purposes

Ernst's verdict
Does it work?
Yes. Many studies show that certain herbal medicines are effective in treating certain conditions (eg St John's wort for depression). Whether the UK traditional herbalists' approach of prescribing individualised herbal mixtures to patients is effective is far less certain

Is it safe?
Some herbal medicines are toxic or they interact with synthetic drugs. Many, however, seem to be quite safe

For some herbal remedies the benefit clearly outweighs its risks. For many others, the evidence is insufficient. Whether the benefits of treatments by UK traditional herbalists outweigh the risks is not certain

What is it?
Manual therapy frequently involving spinal manipulation (often using extreme movements of the spinal joints) for musculoskeletal problems, such as back pain

Ernst's verdict
Does it work?
The most authoritative review of the evidence concludes that "there is no evidence that spinal manipulative therapy is superior to other standard treatments for patients with acute or chronic low back pain"

Is it safe?
Serious adverse events, such as stroke (sometimes fatal) are regularly reported. Chiropractors insist that they are rare but the evidence to support this claim is not conclusive

The documented benefits of chiropractic do not seem to outweigh its potential risks

What is it?
Use of essential oils from plants for medicinal purposes, usually with application through gentle massage

Ernst's verdict
Does it work?
Studies show relaxing effects which are probably short-lived but can be helpful in supportive care for seriously ill patients, such as cancer sufferers

Is it safe?
Some people may develop allergies against essential oils but otherwise there are few risks

Likely to be useful in palliative medicine and supportive care

What is it?
Homeopaths use highly diluted remedies according to the "like cures like" principle - ie they would use a remedy which causes headaches in order to cure a headache

Ernst's verdict
Does it work?
The evidence is very conflicting. One summary concluded that the effects of homeopathy are not totally due to placebo. But many subsequent reviews of the trial data were far less optimistic

Is it safe?
Being very dilute, homeopathic remedies have few side-effects but homeopaths expect an aggravation of patients' symptoms in about 20% of all cases

The benefits of homeopathy are by no means undisputed. There are, however, few serious risks

What is it?
Manual therapy of applying pressure to specific areas, usually on the sole of the foot, in order to influence the function of distant organs

Ernst's verdict
Does it work?
Even though several encouraging studies, on balance, the totality of the data does not strongly support the effectiveness of reflexology

Is it safe?
No serious adverse effects conceivable from treatment with reflexology

Apart from a short-lived relaxing effect, the benefits of reflexology are not well-documented. However, the treatment seems to be safe

What is it?
Part of traditional Chinese medicine involving insertion of needles in acupuncture points on the skin. Originally aimed at balancing "life forces" but science offers neurophysiological theories for its mode of action

Ernst's verdict
Does it work?
Not as a cure-all, but for some conditions there is evidence that it works (eg nausea, knee osteoarthritis)

Is it safe?
Serious adverse events on record but rare. Minor problems occur in 7-11% of all patients

For some, benefits outweigh the risks

What is it?
The induction of a trance-like state for therapeutic purposes

Ernst's verdict
Does it work?
Hypnotherapy is effective for conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, pain and hypertension

Is it safe?
Recovering repressed memories can cause problems and so can the "false memory syndrome"

Hypnotherapy is effective for a range of conditions but not always entirely free of risks

Nutritional therapy
What is it?
A very broad spectrum of treating medical conditions through modification of diet

Ernst's verdict
Does it work?
Some diets clearly work and are standard conventional therapies. Whether "alternative" diets (eg Gerson diet for cancer) are effective is doubtful

Is it safe?
Extreme diets lead to malnutrition, which can be serious, even fatal

No good evidence that "alternative" diets do more good than harm

What is it?
A type of acupressure used in Japan where acupuncture points are stimulated by external pressure, usually applied manually by the therapist

Ernst's verdict
Does it work?
There are very few studies and therefore its effectiveness is not proven

Is it safe?
Few serious adverse effects are on record

There is no evidence for benefit and thus the risk-benefit balance is not positive

· Edzard Ernst is professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School at the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth

Subject: You all are out of your minds

Here's a really far out letter to one of my quackbuster allies:

I have read many of your smear tactic bullshit, you have no way to prove any of your lies. How totally outrageous to say that herbs are somehow bad. You are a fool, whomever writes your bullshit smearing headlines should go out and try some of the things you are smearing first to see that they all really do work. I have used and still use many herbal products that are totally amazing, true healing. Your bullshit about herbs counteract the pharmaceutical drugs a person takes is ridiculous. You all must be highly paid by the crooks that run these drug companies. Prescription drugs kill, you FOOLS. To say different is lunacy, you may reach the lay person with your evil messages but the educated will never listen to this nonsense. There is no prescription drug that addresses the root cause of an ailment, they only mask symptoms, now if I am lying or speaking falsely,,,, prove it FOOLS. There is no herb or other natural supplement that will kill you if taken in large amounts, however if you take any prescription drug in any dosage above what is recommended you are dead, now tell me I am wrong, you FOOLS. It makes me sick to see you bash Chiropractors the way you do, when the reality is you and all of your worthless staff writing this shit probably go to one regularly. But you will say anything for money right. I really wish I could debate any of you FOOLS sometime. Why do not you put the real story of how many people are cured every year of cancer, lupus, MS, AIDS, heart disease, kidney disease, acid reflux, and the hundreds of other ailments that your bullshit bosses, (pharmaceutical companies, food manufacturers ect.) are causing. You can not write of these naturopathic success stories now can you, bosses will get mad. I have personally seen cancer go into remission through naturopathic herbal remedies, so tell me am I lying?????????????
I do not figure to hear back from anyone there, but I will keep hoping each day to hear what your response might be to what I have said.
The truth will set you free


My comment:

Now after reading that, who's the crazy one? !!

It's responses like this (we get them all the time) that make it clear who needs help, but this guy may possibly be beyond being helped. A psychiatrist would be more relevant than any of his herbs. It's really rare to get well-reasoned, rational, and polite responses from promoters of so-called "alternative" medicine. The whole field seems to attract the less than rational types.

It also turns out that this disturbed person used a fake email address, so any response fell on deaf ears. A few responses still deserve airing, so I have provided them below, with the permission of the authors.


Peter Moran, MD, provided this excellent off-the-cuff response:

> I do not figure to hear back from anyone there, but I will keep
> hoping each day to hear what your response might be to what
> I have said.
> The truth will set you free
> Peter

Peter, the divide that you think exists between drugs and herbs is utter fantasy.

Many commonly used drugs are derived from herbs, even many dangerous chemotherapeutic drugs and potent antibiotics, such the taxanes and the mycins, respectively.

Numerous other herbs are lethal poisons in the right dosage, including others used in medicine, such as curare and digitalis.

The numerous poisons of plants are clearly designed to make browsing animals sick, not to help mankind with his ailments, although some do so incidentally.

Moreover, the more herbs are scrutinised, now that they are in wider usage, the more they look like drugs, displaying many previously unrecognised side effects. Look at the side effects shown for St John's Wort and Echinacea. Some, such as Aristolochia, have had to be banned because of serious toxicity. Just about any chemical that alters body biochemistry, and that is not merely reversing a deficiency is liable to have side effects, regardless of whether it comes from a laboratory or plant.

Some herbs that have not yet been incorporated into modern medicine will surely find a useful place there. Some do look as though they may be safer than drugs with comparable effects, but that is being demonstrated by proper clinical study, not rants likes yours, based upon ---- what? What is it that leads you to believe so many things that are palpably wrong?

I am something of an expert on the "alternative" treatment of cancer and can tell you that no herb has been shown to have a reproducible cure rate. Credible testimonials for them are extremely rare in proportion to their usage. Try to chase up cured patients, as I have with some of the promoters of alternative cancer cures and you will find it is all hype.

The most credible herbals for cancer are those with estrogenic effects. They can be predicted to have some effect upon hormonally sensitive cancers, but wide experience with such agents shows they are rarely if ever curative.

Peter Moran


Dr. James Laidler also had some comments in response to specific parts of the rant:

> I have read many of your smear tactic bullshit, you have no
> way to prove any of your lies. How totally outrageous to say
> that herbs are somehow bad.

Some herbs are just fine - I especially enjoy oregano, basil, sage and rosemary. The problem is when people try to make money by selling "herbs" as medicine. That's the "bad" part.

> You are a fool, whomever writes your bullshit smearing
> headlines should go out and try some of the things you are
> smearing first to see that they all really do work. I have
> used and still use many herbal products that are totally
> amazing, true healing. Your bullshit about herbs counteract
> the pharmaceutical drugs a person takes is ridiculous.

Actually, there have been a number of very good studies that show just that. Many of the "herbal" medications that have been studied have serious adverse effects when combined with other medications. This should not come as a surprise - if the "herbs" are having a real effect, they are likely to combine badly with medications that have other or similar effects. If, on the other hand, the "herbal" medications are not doing anything, then you would expect that none of them would combine badly with other medications

> You all must be highly paid by the crooks that run these drug
> companies.

If so, they must be sending the check to the wrong address. I'll have to get in touch with them and see if I'm owed some money.

> Prescription drugs kill, you FOOLS. To say different is lunacy,
> you may reach the lay person with your evil messages but
> the educated will never listen to this nonsense.

Yes, prescription drugs kill - especially if taken improperly or in combination with certain herbal medications. So do non-prescription drugs and herbal drugs. Socrates was killed by an herb - hemlock. Ignorance kills, as well.

> There is no prescription drug that addresses the root cause
> of an ailment, they only mask symptoms, now if I am lying or
> speaking falsely,,,, prove it FOOLS. There is no herb or other
> natural supplement that will kill you if taken in large
> amounts, however if you take any prescription drug in any
> dosage above what is recommended you are dead, now tell
> me I am wrong, you FOOLS.

You are wrong. If you stop by the library and look in the "botany" section, you can find an amazing number of herbs and other plant substances that can and do kill people every year. Also, anything, even pure, distilled water, can be lethal if taken in large enough amounts, or in the wrong way. Try breathing your next glass of water instead of drinking it, if you disagree.

> It makes me sick to see you bash Chiropractors the way you
> do, when the reality is you and all of your worthless staff
> writing this shit probably go to one regularly. But you will
> say anything for money right.

There you go about the money, again! Was I supposed to fill out a form or something? How do I arrange to get all this money that's supposed to be coming to me?

> I really wish I could debate any of you FOOLS sometime.

Feel free to engage me in a debate. Do you think you can argue without using insults, or should we just get down to the mud-wrestling from the get-go?

> Why do not you put the real story of how many people are
> cured every year of cancer, lupus, MS, AIDS, heart disease,
> kidney disease, acid reflux, and the hundreds of other
> ailments that your bullshit bosses, (pharmaceutical
> companies, food manufacturers ect.) are causing. You can
> not write of these naturopathic success stories now can you,
> bosses will get mad.

Again, if these people are supposed to be my boss, why aren't they be paying me?

> I have personally seen cancer go into remission through
> naturopathic herbal remedies, so tell me am I lying?????????????

I really can't say that you're lying, since it is possible that you are unaware that you are mistaken. However, it is painfully clear that you are mistaken about a good number of things. I'll leave it to you to decide if you are lying or just wrong.

> I do not figure to hear back from anyone there, but I will
> keep hoping each day to hear what your response might be
> to what I have said.

Your wish is granted!

> The truth will set you free

If you can see it and grasp it.

> Peter


Jim Laidler
Portland, Oregon USA

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

BioMed Central | Independent Journals

BioMed Central Independent Journals

Launched journals

The following Independent, Open Access journals have already been launched:

AIDS Research and Therapy
Editor-in-Chief: Kailash C. Gupta

Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials
Editor-in-Chief: Hakan Leblebicioglu
[Editor profile: Hakan Leblebicioglu]

Annals of General Psychiatry
Editor-in-Chief: George St. Kaprinis

Australia and New Zealand Health Policy
Editor-in-Chief: Stephen Duckett

BioMagnetic Research and Technology
Editors-in-Chief: Ivo Safarik; Mirka Safarikova
[Editor profile: Mirka Safarikova] [Editor profile: Ivo Safarik]

BioMedical Engineering OnLine
Editor-in-Chief: Alvin Wald
[Editor profile: Alvin Wald]

Biomedical Digital Libraries
Editor-in-Chief: Charles J Greenberg

Cancer Cell International
Editor-in-Chief: Denys Wheatley

Cardiovascular Diabetology
Editors-in-Chief: Enrique Z. Fisman; Alexander Tenenbaum
[Editor profile: Enrique Z. Fisman] [Editor profile: Alexander Tenenbaum]

Cardiovascular Ultrasound
Editor-in-Chief: Eugenio Picano
[Editor profile: Eugenio Picano]

Cell & Chromosome
Editor-in-Chief: Baldev K Vig
[Editor profile: Baldev K Vig]

Cell Communication and Signaling
Editor-in-Chief: Bernard Perbal

Cerebrospinal Fluid Research
Editor-in-Chief: Hazel C Jones

Clinical and Molecular Allergy
Editors-in-Chief: David S Chi; Guha Krishnaswamy

Comparative Hepatology
Editor-in-Chief: Eduardo Rocha

Cost Effectiveness and Resource Allocation
Editor-in-Chief: David B Evans

Current Controlled Trials in Cardiovascular Medicine
Editors-in-Chief: Curt Furberg; Bertram Pitt

Editors-in-Chief: Barbara Atkinson; Vinod Shidham

Dynamic Medicine
Editor-in-Chief: Takafumi Hamaoka
[Editor profile: Takafumi Hamaoka]

Emerging Themes in Epidemiology
Editor-in-Chief: Peter G. Smith

Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Editors-in-Chief: Philippe Grandjean; David Ozonoff

Epidemiologic Perspectives & Innovations
Editors-in-Chief: Corinne Aragaki; Carl V. Phillips

Filaria Journal
Editor-in-Chief: David H Molyneux

Frontiers in Zoology
Editors-in-Chief: Jürgen Heinze; Diethard Tautz

Genetic Vaccines and Therapy
Editor-in-Chief: Shyam S Mohapatra

Harm Reduction Journal
Editor-in-Chief: Ernest Drucker

Health Research Policy and Systems
Editor-in-Chief: Tikki Pang

Health and Quality of Life Outcomes
Editor-in-Chief: Marcello Tamburini

Human Resources for Health
Editor-in-Chief: Orvill Adams

Immunity & Ageing
Editor-in-Chief: Calogero Caruso

International Journal for Equity in Health
Editors-in-Chief: John DiLiberti; Barbara Starfield

International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity
Editors-in-Chief: Simone A French; Tony Worsley

International Journal of Health Geographics
Editors-in-Chief: Richard E Hoskins; Maged N Kamel Boulos
[Editor profile: Maged N Kamel Boulos]

International Seminars in Surgical Oncology
Editors-in-Chief: Mohamad Hussein; Gurpreet Singh-Ranger

Journal of Autoimmune Diseases
Editor-in-Chief: David D’Cruz

Journal of Carcinogenesis
Editor-in-Chief: Gopala Kovvali

Journal of Circadian Rhythms
Editor-in-Chief: Roberto Refinetti
[Editor profile: Roberto Refinetti]

Journal of Experimental & Clinical Assisted Reproduction
Editors-in-Chief: Gianpiero D. Palermo; Eric Scott Sills

Journal of Immune Based Therapies and Vaccines
Editor-in-Chief: Ronald B Moss

Journal of Inflammation
Editors-in-Chief: Neville Punchard; Cliff J Whelan

Journal of Nanobiotechnology
Editor-in-Chief: Mikhail Soloviev

Journal of Negative Results in BioMedicine
Editor-in-Chief: Bjorn R Olsen

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Editor-in-Chief: Paolo Bonato

Journal of Neuroinflammation
Editors-in-Chief: Sue T Griffin; Robert E Mrak

Journal of Translational Medicine
Editor-in-Chief: Francesco Marincola
[Editor profile: Francesco Marincola]

Kinetoplastid Biology and Disease
Editors-in-Chief: Alberto Dávila; Kevin M. Tyler

Lipids in Health and Disease
Editor-in-Chief: Undurti N Das
[Editor profile: Undurti N Das]

Malaria Journal
Editor-in-Chief: Marcel Hommel

Medical Immunology
Editor-in-Chief: Kendall A Smith

Microbial Cell Factories
Editor-in-Chief: Antonio Villaverde

Molecular Cancer
Editor-in-Chief: Paul J. Chiao

Molecular Pain
Editors-in-Chief: Jianguo Gu; Min Zhuo

Nuclear Receptor
Editor-in-Chief: Colin Palmer

Nutrition & Metabolism
Editors-in-Chief: Richard D. Feinman; M. Mahmood Hussain

Nutrition Journal
Editor-in-Chief: Nehme Gebrayel

Particle and Fibre Toxicology
Editor-in-Chief: Ken Donaldson

Population Health Metrics
Editors-in-Chief: Colin Mathers; Christopher JL Murray

Proteome Science
Editor-in-Chief: Martin Latterich

Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology
Editor-in-Chief: Antonin Bukovsky
[Editor profile: Antonin Bukovsky]

Reproductive Health
Editor-in-Chief: Regina Kulier

Respiratory Research
Editors-in-Chief: Jan Lötvall; Reynold A Panettieri

Editor-in-Chief: Kuan-Teh Jeang

Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling
Editors-in-Chief: Pier Paolo Delsanto; Hans-Peter Meinzer; Denys Wheatley

Thrombosis Journal
Editor-in-Chief: Raul Altman
[Editor profile: Raul Altman]

Virology Journal
Editor-in-Chief: Robert F. Garry

World Journal of Surgical Oncology
Editor-in-Chief: Manoj Pandey

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Skeptics' Circle - Announcement

Announcement to fellow bloggers:

As earlier explained in the entry about web carnivals, plans have been in the works for more events.

The first edition of Skeptics' Circle was very well-received, and the next Skeptics' Circle will be held on Feb. 17 at Respectful Insolence, where you can read the details.

Please submit an interesting and relevant entry you might have on your blog.

Here is where you will find the submission information and e-mail address to which submissions should be sent. - (here)

The submission deadline is the evening of February 16.

Write this important date in your calendar - Feb. 17. See you there!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

More evidence of the good that vaccines do

Respectful Insolence (a.k.a. "Orac Knows"): More evidence of the good that vaccines do

Another good article on vaccinations.

MMR vaccine and autism

Universal Acid: MMR vaccine and autism

Good article about the non-link between MMR vaccine and autism.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Herbals, alternative therapies here to stay

Herbals, alternative therapies here to stay

03/02/2005 - More than a third of cancer patients in Europe use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), most often to increase their body’s ability to fight the disease, reveals the first Europe-wide study of alternative medicine use.

Herbal medicines were by far the most commonly used CAM therapy, the first choice in nine out of 14 countries surveyed by an international research team.
Vitamins and minerals were also among the five most frequently used therapies, according to the responses from nearly 1,000 patients.

The survey is important as it is one of the first attempts to examine use of CAM therapies across Europe. The bulk of the literature on CAM use by cancer patients comes from the US.

Writing in today’s issue of the Annals of Oncology (doi:10.1093/annonc/mdi110), the authors said CAM use was found to be considerably lower than surveys reporting results from US samples, where it is often well above 40 per cent.

But their results show that it is used to a sufficient extent – nearly three quarters of cancer patients in Italy use some form of CAM – to warrant an increase in funding for research and better integration into mainstream healthcare services.

"Irrespective of what health professionals believe about CAM and how dismissive they might be, our findings show that patients are using, and will continue to use CAM,” write lead author Dr Alex Molassiotis and colleagues.

“So, this will probably necessitate rethinking the provision of medical and healthcare education, broadening our understanding of the concept of medicine and working towards integrating into mainstream healthcare services those CAM therapies for which there is evidence of effectiveness," they claim.

The survey was based on patient questionnaires issued by members of the European Oncology Nursing Society in clinics in 14 countries. It uses the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine definition of CAM, which includes Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, spiritual interventions like meditation and prayer, biological therapies like supplements, body-based methods such as massage and energy therapies like Reiki.

The results show that CAM users tend to be female (more than 60 per cent), younger and more highly educated and that pancreatic, liver, bone and brain cancer patients (ie patients with poor prognosis) use CAM significantly more often than other patients.

In most countries around a third used CAM, with only Italy, the Czech Republic and Switzerland showing high levels of use and Greece showing very low levels (under 15 per cent).

Herbal medicines, by far the most commonly used therapy, escalated in use from 5.3 per cent before cancer diagnosis to more than tripling after diagnosis.

Most of the herbs used were specific to each country. For example Turkish patients were most likely to use nettle leaves or tea, while Scots most often reported the use of green tea. In Switzerland patients opted for mistletoe while Serbians and Spanish reported use of aloe vera. Israeli and English patients selected multivitamins.

Homeopathy was also a popular choice across the region – the most commonly used therapy in Belgium – as well as medicinal teas.

Most patients said they used CAM because they wanted to increase their body's ability to fight the disease (50 per cent), improve physical well-being (40 per cent), or emotional well-being (35 per cent).

However, there were some differences in the reasons for using CAM and the actual benefits experienced. For example, although the primary reason for choosing CAM was to boost the ability to fight cancer only 22 per cent found it of benefit.

But overall, patients tended to be satisfied - the mean satisfaction rating was 5.27 on a scale of 0-7, and the mean perceived effectiveness rating was 5.04.

Dr Molassiotis, a reader in cancer and supportive care at the University of Manchester School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, said the study had limitations arising from a variety of difficulties in conducting Europe-wide research.

"Nevertheless, although CAM use in Europe is lower than in the US, our study indicates that the average mean use in Europe has increased since a review of 29 studies was published in 1998," he said.

He added that research funding for CAM has increased but is still very low – only around 0.31 per cent of all medical research funding in the UK - and needs to be significantly increased.

"We cannot overemphasise the need to increase the evidence base of CAM therapies using methodologies that are appropriate and sensitive."

"It's also important from an economic point of view as CAM is a multibillion Euro business – in fact the second biggest growth industry – and some patients pay large sums out of their own pockets to access it."

He concluded that the EU needs to consider broader policies, common laws and rationalisation of available legislation on CAM.