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.......)