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).

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Red Hot Blogs of the Day

Red Hot Blogs of the Day (Oct. 30, 2005)
Sample entry:
With epidemiologists and virologists counting the months until a pandemic of avian flu strikes, it has become all-too-obvious that one of the most effective measures will be isolating infected and likely-to-be-infected populations. But 'quarantine' scares people to death, unless (perhaps) it can be rebranded - as 'community shielding'.

Confessions of a Quackbuster
About the blogger:
I confess to being a skeptic (I have a naturalistic world view) who is concerned about healthcare consumer protection, and therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic quackery, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Dr. Terry Polevoy
From Dr. Polevoy:
To be the target of lunatics and fanatics is not much fun. As a public figure in the battle against quackery it comes with the territory. But, when these people play down and dirty and use my name as part of a blog, it becomes a matter of defamation and libel. This Blogspot is my attempt to disclose the details of my fight against these people and their organizations.

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Revisions to "Dangers of chiropractic therapy"

I have made some additions and revisions to my very important entry here:

MUST SEE!: Dangers of chiropractic therapy

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Friday, October 28, 2005

Government reverses physiotherapy delisting

Here's a little piece of chiro propaganda from the Ontario Chiropractic Association. It contains this key sentence:

"Now they are learning that the government has chosen to treat them fundamentally differently than patients seen by other health care professionals," Dr. Wright said."

Well, that happens to be quite true, since chiropractic itself is "fundamentally different" than other health care professions. Much of what makes it different is negative: institutionalized quackery, unscientific practices, anti-vaccination, anti-science, bitter opposition to MDs, unfair competition (liebensraum) with other professions, unnecessary "wellness" care of asymptomatic patients, etc.

March 24, 2005

Government reverses physiotherapy delisting

Chiropractic patients, public misled

TORONTO, March 24 /CNW/ - Dr. Dean Wright, President of the Ontario Chiropractic Association, reacted with shock today following the announcement by the Provincial Government of an expansion in funding for physiotherapy services - originally slated for delisting on March 31 - while chiropractic funding has been completely eliminated.

In its May 2004 budget, the government announced that physiotherapy, optometry and chiropractic services would no longer be covered by OHIP for budgetary reasons. Today's announcement means that Government has made special provision for continued funding for routine eye exams for many patients and has increased funding for many physiotherapy patients, while completely eliminating funding for chiropractic patients on December 1, 2004.

"The 1.2 million chiropractic patients in this province were led to believe that they were among a number of patients - physiotherapy and optometry patients included - for whom government could no longer afford to provide funding. Now they are learning that the government has chosen to treat them fundamentally differently than patients seen by other health care professionals," Dr. Wright said.

When patients called on the government last year - through over 600,000 letters and signed petitions - to continue to fund chiropractic services, they were told that budget issues made it impossible and that the same thing was happening to patients treated by other health care professionals. Today's action shows that chiropractic patients and the public have been misled.

"We call on Premier McGuinty to do the right thing and treat chiropractic patients in an equitable manner as with those patients treated by other health care professionals. Access and affordability are crucial issues, for those most in need, especially when they are living on a limited income," said Dr. Wright. "Government should take action - as they have just done for physiotherapy patients - to protect those chiropractic patients. In doing so, government will reduce reliance on other services and reduce total healthcare costs."

Founded in 1929, the Ontario Chiropractic Association represents the professional interests of more than 2,500 Ontario chiropractors. Chiropractic is a regulated health care profession recognized by statute in all Canadian provinces, and is one of the largest primary contact health care professions in Canada. Over 1.2 million patients in Ontario rely on chiropractic care every year to allow them to function - to deal with problems such as acute low-back pain, neck pain and headaches. Chiropractors provide diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders related to the spine, nervous system, and joints.

For further information: or to interview Dr. Wright, contact: Janet Blanchard-Conn, Manager, Communications, Ontario Chiropractic Association, Office (905) 629-8211 ext. 33, 1-877-327-2273, Cell (416) 886-7379

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Google Found to Be Testing Classified Ads

Google Found to Be Testing Classified Ads

Published: October 26, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 25 - An online classified service being tested by Google set off intense speculation on Tuesday after a Web site for the service was accidentally made public and discovered by a computer programmer on Monday.

The service, which was named Google Base and was for a time accessible at, described itself as "Google's database into which you can add all types of content."

"We'll host your content and make it searchable online for free."

The new service could automatically funnel listings on all kinds of subjects and display them as part of the company's sponsored ad links on the right side of pages displaying search results from Google queries.

Word of the new service, which would potentially compete with newspapers as well as with online classified services like those on eBay and Craigslist, drove eBay's stock down about 5 percent at points during the day.

The Google Base page was discovered on Monday by Tony Ruscoe, a British programmer, who said he had created an automatic program to search for subdomains accessible at the Web site. The company, based in Mountain View, Calif., took down the test site and replaced the page with a "403" forbidden-access response.

Google released a statement on Tuesday suggesting that the purpose of the test site was to make it simpler for Google customers to post content on Google.

"We are testing new ways for content owners to easily send their content to Google," the company said in a statement. "Like our Web crawl and the recently released Google Sitemaps program, we are working to provide content owners an easy way to give us access to their content. We're continually exploring new opportunities to expand our offerings, but we don't have anything to announce at this time."

Google executives, who are having a conference for partners and advertisers, called Google Zeitgeist, would not comment.

EBay, the online auction company, based in San Jose, Calif., is currently a major Google advertiser. The potential for direct competition between the Silicon Valley giants has been a subject of speculation for several years.

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Tuesday, October 25, 2005



For Immediate Release


Vancouver, B.C. – October 19, 2005 – A class-action lawsuit against the Canadian Chiropractic Protection Association (CCPA), a leading insurance provider to 22 chiropractic associations across Canada, may be the only way justice can be obtained for persons who have suffered debilitating injuries following chiropractic treatments, Michael deChamplain, founder of the non-profit advocacy group Families Against Abusive Chiropractic Treatments said today.

CCPA and chiropractic associations are among the most powerful lobby groups for chiropractors in the country and through their legal and political maneuvering thwart the efforts by injured individuals seeking justice,” said Mr. deChamplain. “Their national and provincial associations say they have a public complaints committee but it appears only to be a smokescreen to stall and frustrate people who have suffered a chiropractic injury. Getting the provincial governments responsible for health care in their respective provinces to look into any claims of injuries resulting from chiropractic treatment is also met by indifference which I suspect is due in large part to the pressures exerted on the politicians by the chiropractic lobbying organizations.”

Families Against Chiropractic Abuse (FAACT) is asking victims of chiropractic in Canada who do not have the financial resources or have been devastated financially while seeking legal recourse to contact them as soon as possible to be considered as part of a class-action lawsuit.

FAACT was established over a year ago by Mr. deChamplain to make the public aware of the danger of certain chiropractic treatments, especially neck manipulation, and to seek an impartial public inquiry following injury to his wife after being treated by a North Vancouver chiropractor. Mrs. deChamplain was hospitalized in 2001 and to this day still struggles with partial paralysis and blindness in the right eye as well as continuing emotional and psychological complications.

Those wishing to obtain more information or who want to be considered for inclusion in a class-action lawsuit should contact: Kathryn deChamplain at 250-954-95673 or visit the FAACT website at:

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Kylie denies holistic claim

Kylie denies holistic claim
The Age
October 23, 2005

KYLIE Minogue has urged fellow cancer sufferers to ignore suggestions that she has turned to alternative treatments to fight the disease.

In a statement issued yesterday, the singer's management said she was unhappy with suggestions that she was shunning mainstream medicine.

"Despite the wealth of rumours to the contrary, she is in good spirits and is as healthy as can be expected whilst undergoing her treatment regime in Paris," it read. "She has asked her fans please not to believe stories of dramatic weight loss and desperate searches for alternative therapy. Kylie has made it clear to her representatives that she doesn't want fellow sufferers to be misguided by the false stories regarding her condition and her choice of doctors."

Minogue is undergoing chemotherapy but has refuted reports she consulted a London-based holistic guru, Nish Joshi, who reportedly works with celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Ralph Fiennes.

Friends say she is receiving mainstream hospital treatment and following the advice of accredited cancer specialists. The singer was diagnosed with the early stages of breast cancer this year, and underwent surgery at Melbourne's Cabrini Hospital. She returned to Europe, where she is based with partner Olivier Martinez, for more treatment.

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Kylie Minogue Slams 'Holistic' Press Lies

Kylie Minogue Slams 'Holistic' Press Lies
October 22, 2005, 8:28:21


Singer KYLIE MINOGUE has denied claims she is seeking holistic treatment to help her beat cancer, and reassures fans she is "in good spirits" and "as healthy as can be expected". .

The British press this week (begs17OCT05) claimed Minogue is struggling in her fight with breast cancer, has lost a lot of weight and has consulted a leading expert on alternative medicine in London to help her cope with punishing chemotherapy treatment. .

But the 37-year-old Australian star has released a statement urging fans to ignore stories about her. .

It reads, "Despite the wealth of rumours to the contrary, Kylie is in good spirits and is as healthy as can be expected whilst undergoing her treatment regime in Paris. .

"She has asked her fans please not to believe stories of dramatic weight loss and desperate searches for alternative therapy. .

"Kylie has made it clear to her representatives that she doesn't want fellow sufferers to be misguided by the false stories regarding her condition and her choice of doctors."

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Kylie denies alternative therapy claim

Kylie denies alternative therapy claim

Saturday Oct 22 07:23 AEST

Kylie Minogue is in good spirits and "as healthy as can be expected" considering her treatment for breast cancer, a statement issued on her behalf said.

Released to dispel rumours that the Australian singer had suffered dramatic weight loss and was seeking alternative forms of therapy, it said the 37-year-old did not want reports in British media to deceive fellow sufferers.

"Kylie Minogue's management have today said that despite the wealth of rumours to the contrary, she is in good spirits and is as healthy as can be expected whilst undergoing her treatment regime in Paris," her record label EMI said.

"She has asked her fans please not to believe stories of dramatic weight loss and desperate searches for alternative therapy."

Several newspapers carried stories reporting that the singer had sought the help of Nish Joshi, a London-based doctor and health guru whose client list includes celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Ralph Fiennes, Patsy Kensit and Kate Moss.

"Kylie has made it clear to her representatives that she doesn't want fellow sufferers to be misguided by the false stories regarding her condition and her choice of doctors."

Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer in May and underwent surgery in Australia before moving to Paris for further treatment. Her boyfriend, French actor Olivier Martinez, lives in the city.

©AAP 2005

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Boom and bust: Supplements tough for pro leagues

Posted on Fri, Oct. 14, 2005

Boom and bust: Supplements tough for pro leagues

The Seattle Times

(KRT) - During a lunch break at the Seattle Seahawks training camp in Cheney, Wash., quarterback Matt Hasselbeck points excitedly across the campus at Eastern Washington University.

"You see that smoothie place over there," he's saying. "They'll sometimes throw in a boost, protein or whatever, like you get at Jamba Juice. And here's the thing: I'm afraid to get a boost at Jamba Juice."

Hasselbeck laughs when he says this, because he knows he sounds a little paranoid. But make no mistake: Supplements in sports are not a joking matter.

His fear comes from an incident last season. Hasselbeck and his linemen are sitting around the locker room, laughing about the contents of a drink he bought at Whole Foods Market.

"What's bitter orange?" he asks, reading off the label.

"I don't know," responds guard Chris Gray, the Seahawks' player rep. "But I think it's a banned substance."

Hasselbeck panics. He calls the league and confirms that bitter orange is indeed on the banned-substance list. A drink he purchased at one of the healthiest markets on the planet might cost him four games in suspensions and, just as important, four paychecks.

Turns out there's bitter orange in orange juice. Turns out Hasselbeck would have needed to drink 20 glasses on the day of his test to yield a positive.

What his paranoia shows is that sports are having a hard time wrapping their arms around the issue of over-the-counter supplements, even everyday purchases of protein drinks and multi-vitamins.

Since all sports operate under strict liability, athletes are responsible for everything they put into their bodies. The problem with most over-the-counter supplements is that nobody really knows what's in them.

The industry is only loosely regulated. Which is why Jennifer Devine, an Olympic rower beginning a medical residency at Harvard, compares the process to "watching somebody make sausage. Once you find out what goes into it, you may not want to eat it ever again."

"The supplement industry is the wild, wild West of pharmaceuticals," says Maxwell Mehlman, law and bioethics professor at Case Western Reserve. "It's the cowboy stuff all over again. And that's not to denigrate cowboys."

Cleveland Browns center Jeff Faine is the future of supplements and sports. Before starting his NFL career three years ago, a strength coach set Faine up with a chemist in San Diego.

It was love at first vitamin. Twice a year, the chemist analyzes Faine's blood and urine, looking for deficiencies. Then he makes a mixture of supplements, some sort of vitamin nirvana, specific to Faine's tests. Each pill contains equal parts of the same ingredients, and Faine swallows 22 in the morning, 22 in the afternoon and 21 in the evening, good for 65 a day and more than 23,000 a year.

Since Faine isn't big on eating vegetables, the chemists adds more iron. Since linemen are hard on joints, the chemist adds shark cartilage to increase blood flow. To keep Faine's core temperature up, the chemist adds cinnamon extract. Then fish oils and salmon oils, and on and on, all for a specific purpose.

Faine says the hardest part is grasping the fact he's swallowing 65 pills a day, although three years into the experiment he can ingest 17 of them in a single swallow.

Fraught with frequent illness as a child, Faine says he gets sick maybe once a year now.

"I feel better throughout the day," he says. "I have a lot more energy. I might get some teasing from my teammates, but I stand by it. A lot of NFL linemen die early. A big part of that is the way they live their lives, the way they take care of their bodies. I'm trying not to be a statistic."

The difference, Faine says, between his approach and the over-the-counter variety is that he knows exactly what he's putting in his body. And still, some experts aren't convinced.

"He's depleting his wallet," says Dr. Gary Wadler, noted performance-enhancing drug expert, "and he's running the risk of developing a condition from taking too many vitamins called hyper-vitaminosis."

Supplements aren't new to sports. They're just more popular and easier to obtain.

Baseball players have popped amphetamines - or greenies - for decades, while athletes in all sports have tried everything from coffee to cocaine to supplement their training. Before anabolic steroids were banned in sports, they were even considered a supplement.

Dr. Mark Webber, a chiropractor for the Seattle Thunderbirds who has run drug testing for several international bodybuilding federations, remembers the original slogan for the anabolic steroid dianabol, before Wheaties patented it and made it famous.

"They called it the breakfast of champions," Webber says.

There are athletes and trainers who swear that supplements are necessary, that athletes aren't like normal people and can't reach maximum performance with simply the right amounts of sleep and water.

Devine trained for the Athens Olympics while studying to become a doctor. She even went so far as to sleep in an altitude tent.

"There's just not enough time," she says. "You need drinks that have electrolytes in them. You need to take a vitamin supplement. There's not enough time to eat the right stuff in the right concentrations and recover with sleep and water."

Dr. Marian Neuhouser is a nutritional epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center here in Seattle. Her studies have nothing to do with sports, but they find the same kind of motivation.

People take supplements for the same reasons they buy insurance - they're afraid that their diet isn't good enough, that they might be missing something.

"They want to take a supplement," Neuhouser says, "but they do that without regard to whether or not the supplement works. Some of these people are sold on the idea that these are imaginary magical bullets. There really isn't enough research yet. Are they beneficial? Or are you just flushing money down the toilet?"

Some experts, like Wadler, can hear the flush.

"There's not enough there to enhance performance," he says. "There is enough to give you a positive test, since we use the principle of strict liability. My advice to athletes is there's probably no value whatsoever in the first place. If you want protein, eat fish, eat chicken, eat beef.

"But don't eat powders."

Mariners pitcher Ryan Franklin represents the present of supplements and sports. He's been caught by baseball's testing policy and condemned in the court of public opinion. He says his positive test stems from taking over-the-counter supplements, from the protein shakes he drank or the multi-vitamins he took.

And here's where supplements and sports get tricky. Experts say it's possible Franklin is telling the truth.

The problem is they need to know exactly what he took and what he tested positive for. Franklin handed over his supplements to the commissioner's office and even asked to be tested weekly. But until he hears back from the arbitrators, he says he can't release that information.

"We still haven't received the statement on why Ryan was suspended," says Jay Franklin, his brother and agent. "This is one of the biggest jokes I've ever seen in how it was handled. There are rules we have to follow in what we can and cannot talk about. I can't comment on the testing procedure until we get a written statement."

Jay Franklin can, however, speak from personal experience. He admits to taking steroids to prolong his baseball career in the mid-'90s. Up until 1995, when he failed a physical that prevented him from playing in Taiwan. The red flag? Liver problems Jay Franklin says stemmed from steroid abuse.

At that point, the family sat down for a discussion. The brothers' dad and a sister both work in the medical field, and they talked about the damage performance-enhancing drugs can inflict on a career.

"Ryan was very aware of it," Jay Franklin says. "He knows my liver was messed up because of the abuse of steroids. So why would he go down that same road?"

Devine says doctors like to "pat themselves" on the back for "daring" to ask patients about recreational drug use. She also asks her patients what supplements they take.

"There are a much higher percentage of people taking vitamins or ginger root or whatever than there are people taking crack," she says. "But it's the same principle - you don't really know what's in it. Look, this stuff is not regulated by the FDA. We have no idea what's actually in it."

Adds Faine, "Buying over-the-counter supplements is like playing Russian roulette."

Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994 in an attempt to allow the Food and Drug Administration to establish standards for dietary supplements. The problem is that the FDA never determined what so-called "good manufacturing processes" consist of. So far only ephedra, linked to the death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler, has been banned.

Since supplements are defined as dietary, they aren't subject to the same standards as drugs like aspirin are by the FDA. Devine says there are several levels of regulation. Determining whether the drug is safe. Determining whether it's effective. Determining how effective. Then stages and clinical trials.

"There's no question that there are consistently contaminated dietary supplements," Wadler says. "Because so-called good-manufacturing processes have not been implemented in the supplement industry."

Like what? Neuhouser says colleagues have found supplements contaminated with hormones, lead, minerals, pesticides and glass.

Take calcium, for example, which is involved in bone strength. If a supplement contains calcium, even trace amounts, Neuhouser says companies are allowed to put "maintains bone strength" on the bottle.

She points to two other studies. Like the time she and other colleagues looked at the link between lung cancer and beta-carotene. It was thought that beta-carotene reduced the risk of lung cancer. It actually increased it. She also examined the link between vitamin e helping cure cardiovascular disease, which showed little to no effect.

"There are certain regulations the FDA has about what you can and cannot put on a supplement bottle," Neuhouser says. "But the FDA doesn't have unlimited resources. They can't police tens of thousands of products."

Only if the industry is forced to. If not, Devine says, "It's too expensive. It's prohibitively expensive. Supplement companies have a fair complaint there."

Some supplements don't list all of their ingredients. Some call them by different names. Some don't have the strength - or have more strength - than what's listed on the bottle. Some even contain performance-enhancing substances companies include on purpose, experts say, to make them more attractive to consumers. Like, well, athletes.

Just last week Wadler chaired a symposium in Germany on the issue of supplements and sports. Two years ago, he chaired a similar symposium in Montreal. Sports is trying. But other than the NFL, nothing has been put into practice.

"The FDA has no handle on it," Mehlman says. "God knows what's being sold and what people are using and what it's doing to them and not doing to them. There is the potential for serious side effects and a lot of quackery. There's no good data and no prospect of getting any.

"Let's really end the hypocrisy and stop treating athletes who are really just responding to the pressure of high-level competition as if they are pariahs. If sports is really trying to protect them, there are ways of protecting them that we're not using now."

The bottom line is athletes need to exercise caution. When Hasselbeck's allergies kicked up in Cheney, trainers told him not to take Claritin D because the Sudafed in it could lead to a positive test.

Tennis pro Greg Rusedski probably wishes he had obtained the same advice. He tested positive for the steroid nandrolone, but was exonerated in March 2004 because a panel ruled his positive result came from contaminated supplements given to him by trainers on the ATP tour.

The difference between the NFL and the rest of the sports world is its testing program. Companies must pay for testing of their supplements, and if they are shown to be free of banned substances, the NFL puts its sticker of approval on them. So far, only five - all by EAS - have the sticker. And even that, says Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi, is not a guarantee.

"As a club, we are not in a position to endorse any supplement," he wrote in an e-mail he sent through a staff member. "The only way to know for sure that something is safe is to send it out to a lab and have it tested, and even then, you only know about one container you tested. We're not in a position to do that."

"Obviously, football has better control on this situation than baseball does," Jay Franklin says. "It's your job to educate your employees. They should be like, 'Here's a list of substances you guys can take. Here's what you can use.' It seems to make sense to me."

And to Hasselbeck, paranoia aside.

"You can know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the product you're taking is legal," says Hasselbeck, now a spokesman for EAS. "Besides our program, you can't be sure, and you can't be safe.

"I feel like I need more, but it's just not worth it."


© 2005, The Seattle Times.

Visit The Seattle Times Extra on the World Wide Web at

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Friday, October 21, 2005

Curing Jamie Handley

This tragic story of an autistic boy and his well-meaning but misguided parents is very sad. Fortunately this article contains - among all the blatent nonsense and quackery - some common sense and scientific insight from Dr. James Laidler and Kathleen Seidel. I have provided some links for further study after the article:

Curing Jamie Handley
One Portland family pushes a fix for the autism "epidemic."

The ritual begins the same way, every other morning, in J.B. and Lisa Handley's Southwest Portland home. They roust their 3-year-old son, Jamie, from their bed, take off his pajamas and squeeze 23 drops from a tiny white bottle onto his inner thighs. They rub in the liquid and, triggering a wave of giggles, blow his skin dry.

"It's like a spiritual moment because of the utter magnitude of what we're actually doing," J.B. says. "We're literally altering the course of his life."

Jamie is autistic, and his parents blame the disorder on mercury poisoning. They treat him with a $180-a-bottle tincture of amino acids that binds to mercury and other heavy metals in his body and flushes them out with his urine.

The Handleys have faith that the treatment, called chelation ("key-LAY-shun"), will eventually cure their son, halting his disruptive, repetitive behavior, social disinterest and inability to communicate. They see their morning routine as a small victory in a battle being waged by thousands of parents against a perceived epidemic, and against the medical establishment, which insists that chelation is not a cure and may actually put children at risk.

In less than a year, the Handleys have become leaders in a growing national movement, investing hundreds of thousands of their own dollars to launch a nonprofit called Generation Rescue, print full-page ads in The New York Times and USA Today, and hire a San Francisco PR firm to run a media campaign. The couple, both Stanford graduates, makes a formidable team: Lisa, 38, is a Hering, long a prominent Oregon surname, and J.B., 36, runs an investment-capital firm based in San Francisco.

But in recent months, the Handleys and their movement have come under assault. In August, a 5-year-old autistic boy in Pennsylvania died of cardiac arrest following an intravenous chelation treatment in his doctor's office.

The death prompted renewed warnings from parents and doctors worried about chelation's potential side effects, including liver failure and allergic reaction. But the Handleys have not backed down. J.B. said the death, though tragic, was an opportunity to "to bring this issue to the top of the national health agenda." He blames the government for failing to recognize the virtues of chelation, which is not covered by insurance when used to treat autism.

While conventional medicine holds that autism stems from an abnormality in the brain, alternative theories have long sought an external cause for the devastating disorder. In the 1940s, psychologists denounced "ice box mothers" who left home for work and neglected their children. Today, parents like the Handleys blame mercury and a corrupt medical establishment. Perhaps more than any other historical nostrum-from the shark-cartilage cure for cancer to magnetic therapy for pain-the theories about mercury poisoning and autism convince more parents each day, despite a lack of clear scientific evidence.

The problem, J.B. says, "is that we're painted as blind to reason because we're doing something that the mainstream hasn't put a stamp on. I say that's horseshit."

In 2004, the Handleys were living comfortably with Jamie and his older brother, Sam, in Lafayette, a wealthy community 10 miles east of San Francisco, in a ranch-style home on a hill shaded by groves of eucalyptus and oak trees.

As the spring wore on, their blue-eyed, 18-month old son began to slide backward in development. His newly acquired words-"mamma," "daddy," "night-night"-evaporated into a silence soon filled with frantic screams. He began to obsess over repetitive actions, like running back and forth-for minutes-along the kitchen counter, his eyes averted to the side, or walking on his toes.

While Lisa suggested autism as an explanation, J.B. says he resisted, finding excuses like a recent cold or a new playmate to explain their son's behavior. But during a visit with Lisa's family in Portland, they watched Jamie play alongside a cousin four months his junior. The younger boy seemed far more advanced than their son. "The contrast was so stark it shocked us out of any denial we may have had," J.B. says. "It changed everything."

Like many parents, the Handleys went online before venturing into a doctor's office. They learned that autism fell amid a spectrum of developmental disorders, with symptoms including social dysfunction, speech delay and repetitive behavior. The condition presents a paradox: Normal-looking children lose their ability to speak while growing socially aloof and emotionally vacant-yet they obsess with uncommon concentration on tasks as simple as pacing back and forth and as complex as building a train set. As they read, the Handleys became convinced that Jamie suffered from autism. The disorder promised to rob them of the central joys of parenthood-watching their son mature, form bonds and develop his own personality. "It meant being locked in a dungeon for life," J.B. says.

The Handleys were shocked to read that U.S. autism rates had skyrocketed in recent years, from 1 in 10,000 in the 1980s to as many as 1 in 166 today. Mainstream medicine downplayed the existence of an epidemic and offered parents little hope. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the cause of the disorder was unknown-maybe genetics, maybe an environmental contagion-and a cure was not on the horizon.

In addition to the mainstream descriptions, the Handleys couldn't miss the abundance of online testimonials linking autism to mercury poisoning.

In countless articles, parents and a handful of doctors attested to a direct connection between thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative once common in childhood vaccines, and the onset of autism. With growing anger, the Handleys read parents' accounts of autistic symptoms emerging around the same time their children received vaccines. The websites offered compelling epidemiological evidence: The spike in autism coincided with an increase in the number of childhood vaccines, both beginning in the early 1990s.

Their conclusion seemed obvious. Jamie had gotten a flu shot just weeks before his symptoms began; before that, he had received several other vaccines that may also have contained thimerosal.

In the ether of the Internet, the Handleys had stumbled upon the biomedical movement, an alliance of parents united by local autism foundations and a national organization called Defeat Autism Now! (DAN!). In addition to the vaccine link, the movement draws a causal relationship between autism and disorders in the digestive tract and vitamin deficiencies.

They also offer a cure: a regimen of chelation, special diets, and vitamin and mineral supplements. Often, adherents discourage parents from vaccinating their children.

Even though most medical institutions-from the CDC to the American Academy of Pediatrics-reject the theories and treatments as junk science, the thimerosal argument made sense to the Handleys. They believed that science could explain Jamie's sudden deterioration. J.B. says his distrust of bureaucrats, a skepticism he learned from his father, and his wife's "truth compass" made it easy to believe that the CDC and vaccine manufacturers would hide a deadly secret from parents.

"That was the only thing that made sense to us for what was wrong with Jamie," J.B. says. "It was so simple. We thought, 'We have got to get the mercury out of this child as quickly as we can.'"

When they visited their pediatrician, however, he dismissed their beliefs. "That was the last visit we had with our moronic mainstream pediatrician," J.B. says.

In June 2004, the Handleys found a naturopathic physician in San Francisco named Lynne Mielke. Mielke prescribed a liquid chelation agent and recommended a wheat- and dairy-free diet. She also offered advice on choosing the right supplements, helping the Handleys fill a kitchen cabinet with a $1,000, three-month supply of chemicals and vitamins.

Early this year, the Handleys launched a nonprofit dedicated to compiling information on biomedical theories and helping parents find resources. Their ads in The New York Times and USA Today-costing at least $300,000-stated: "Mercury poisoning and autism. It isn't a coincidence." The Generation Rescue website provides the names of sympathetic parents, or "Rescue Angels," and doctors who will prescribe chelation treatment.

"It's the slickest Web page out there," says Darryn Sikora, a psychologist and head of the Oregon Health & Science University autism clinic who is highly critical of the biomedical movement. "It's so well-written. It's so convincing. Who wouldn't want to do that?"

This summer, nearly a year after their journey began, the Handleys moved to Portland to be closer to Lisa's family. They have treated Jamie with a lotion-based chelating agent for nearly a year-and recently began applying the cream to their own bodies, in anticipation of trying for a third child.

Lisa, a slender blonde with easygoing poise, speaks with heartfelt honesty about her faith in the thimerosal theory. She feels hurt that so many people dismiss her beliefs. "To have to meet all these experts who say that you're crazy, that you're wrong, that you're desperate," she says, "it's really hard."

J.B. is more forceful. He has an intense presence, with loose locks of strawberry-blond hair and a jagged scar on his upper lip from getting cleated in a rugby match. When Lisa begins to talk about the science behind autism, he often interjects, saying, "I'll explain." Although he is open with the press, he is also hostile toward journalists who've taken a critical view of the biomedical movement, especially "two a-holes from The New York Times."

The Handleys say evidence that their cure is working can be seen in Jamie's behavior, although they admit an outsider might not see the difference.

"We've already got our proof," J.B. says. "A year ago, he was on Pluto."

Jamie's moods progress fluidly from joy to concentration to panic. He has full run of his parents' sprawling home, a hypoallergenic realm with wool carpets, insulation made from blue jeans and HEPA filters to clean the air.

One afternoon this summer, Jamie dragged his father by the finger to a mattress in the middle of the basement floor and, holding onto both of his hands, began jumping up and down, lofting higher and higher with each leap. The game was an autistic obsession. The blond boy sprang up again and again, never tiring, his face frozen in an expression of total joy.

Jamie eventually moved from the mattress to his train set, another obsession, and later to the table, where he covered reams of paper with spiraling circles, using his teeth to uncap each pen in the box until all the lids and pens lay on the floor where he cast them aside. All the while, he didn't speak a word.

Three months later, Jamie had learned to point at things he wanted and to wave goodbye. He still screamed shrilly, ran back and forth, and didn't speak in front of a reporter. His parents have augmented the biomedical regimen with other treatments-speech and occupational therapy and applied behavioral analysis, an intensive program that teaches autistic children to mimic "normal" behaviors, like waving goodbye.

While the Handleys still insist chelation is making their son better, they admit they don't have an easy answer for the death this August of 5-year-old Abubakar Tariq Nadama, whose parents had moved to the United States from England in search of a cure for autism.

Jim Laidler, a Portland anesthesiologist with two autistic sons, has a less equivocal opinion about Nadama's death. Although a medical examiner in Pennsylvania was unable to make a direct link between chelation and the death, Laidler says he believes the treatment killed the boy.

"It was terrible," Laidler says. "This is what I've been holding my breath hoping wouldn't happen."

Jim and his wife, Louise, also an anesthesiologist, once agreed with the Handleys about the cause of autism. After their two sons were diagnosed with autism in 1997, the Laidlers found hope in the promises of the biomedical movement.

Their pediatrician recommended the traditional route: speech therapy, early-intervention classes. "That didn't seem very satisfying," Jim says. "You want bells and sirens, you want big intervention." The Laidlers put their boys on a wheat-and dairy-free diet, bought supplements of B vitamins and zinc, and, later, tried chelation. Thinking the treatment was promising but potentially dangerous, Jim eventually wrote guidelines for its safe use.

"We started doing these things, and it was very tantalizing," Jim says. Especially when their sons made improvements. But when one of the boys lost new skills or failed to improve, he says, they were told that setbacks were part of the process.

The Laidlers' doubts began in 2001. On a trip to Disneyland, David grabbed a waffle from the buffet table in their hotel. A wheat waffle. According to their doctors, eating wheat would reverse all the progress they'd made. Jim and Louise watched in horror, thinking, "Oh, my God! What's going to happen?" They waited. "Nothing happened."

Still, the Laidlers continued to use biomedical treatments on their older son, Ben. The regimen was exhausting. "We were spending so much time working on our kids, working ourselves to a frazzle, and we weren't spending enough time with our kids."

Jim went on thinking they should just stick with the program. When he got home one night, his wife asked him how he thought Ben was doing. "About average," he said.

Louise confessed that she'd stopped everything-the chelation, the diet, the supplements-for an entire month. Instead of getting angry, Jim felt foolish. "The light came on," he says. "I felt really stupid."

David, 9, has improved with traditional therapies and now attends regular classes at Capitol Hill Elementary. Ben, 12, still struggles with severe disabilities and participates in a life-skills class at Jackson Middle School.

Over the past three years, Jim Laidler has become nearly as zealous as J.B. Handley arguing against the biomedical movement. Jim often directly challenges J.B. in online forums and websites devoted to debunking bad science.

Laidler says the increase in the incidence of autism corresponds not to the use of thimerosal, but to a widening of the definition for the disorder-effectively allowing thousands of additional cases to be diagnosed. He also cites five international epidemiological studies that show no link between autism and thimerosal. The scientific studies behind the biomedical movement, he says, are rife with errors.

Laidler also points out that the symptoms of autism often change-and improve-as development proceeds. Traditional therapies, including ones used by the Handleys, have been shown to encourage such improvement, making it hard to separate one "cure" out of a jumbled handful of treatments.

Scoffing, J.B. refers to Laidler as "the one guy from the FBI who defected to the KGB."

But Laidler is not alone in criticizing the Handleys.

"I get the impression that Handley has responded to his son's diagnosis as he might respond to any business challenge," says Kathleen Seidel, a Massachusetts parent who runs an autism website. "He thinks: Let's grab this bull by the horns and ride it to victory."

Seidel believes the Handleys are "prematurely announcing to the world that all autism is mercury poisoning and that [a] magic cream can cure it." She thinks their efforts encourage parents to ignore the reality of their children's' condition.

Darryn Sikora of OHSU understands why the biomedical movement has an appeal. "We [doctors] can't say, 'If you do X, Y and Z, your kid's going to get better.'"

Because they can offer hope where science has none, the Handleys seem to be winning the battle for parents' minds.

The biomedical movement has thrived in Oregon, perhaps because of a local openness to alternative medicine. The multimillion-dollar business supporting the biomedical regimen includes an Oregon company, Kirkman Labs, which sells many of the pricey vitamins and supplements used by parents. The DAN! website lists nine Oregon practitioners-including MDs, naturopathic physicians and acupuncturists-willing to prescribe a range of biomedical treatments.

The state board of medical examiners has investigated at least two of the doctors on the list. Because of strict confidentiality rules, it is often unclear why the inquiries were initiated.

The Handleys' own physician, Dr. John Green, was investigated in 2003 when an autistic child went to the emergency room after receiving an IV treatment of supplements in his office. The patient's mother didn't know what drugs her son had received.

In Sepetmeber 2003, Dr. Green was ordered by the medical examiners' board to take corrective action by taking a class on proper methods of sedation and improving the way he informs patients about their treatment. Dr. Green's partner, Alejandro Contreras, listed on the DAN! website as an MD, is a recent immigrant and, Dr. Green says, has yet to receive his green card. According to the state board, Contreras is not licensed to practice medicine in Oregon. Contreras did not return WW's phone call.

Silvia Townsend, a San Diego lawyer, brings her son to visit Dr. Green in Oregon City every three months for intravenous chelation treatment. Townsend sees the investigation as a sign of Green's embattlement. "All of the doctors who try to help detox our children have been scrutinized from time to time," she says. "Dr. Green is a saint."

Townsend is also among hundreds of parents who count the Handleys-especially J.B.-among their heroes. "I have yet to see another parent dedicate themselves so fully to the issue," says Silvia. "It's just amazing."

J.B. and Lisa say they will not stop chelating their son until he gets better. They have no doubt that he will recover, and refuse to consider the possibility that their theory might be wrong.

"You've gotta understand," J.B. says, "if we're wrong...." He shakes his head, stops speaking and starts over. "We feel like we're working in facts."

Originally published 10/12/2005


For further study:

Chelation Watch

Why Chelation Therapy Should Be Avoided

Basic Information
Chelation Therapy: Unproven Claims and Unsound Theories
The Pharmacology of Chelation Therapy
Chelation Therapy and Insurance Fraud
Questions and Answers about Chelation Therapy (American Heart Association)
National Council Against Health Fraud Policy Statement
EDTA Chelation Therapy for Atherosclerosis and Degenerative Diseases: Implausibility and Paradoxical Oxidant Effects
Birmingham Technology Assessment Group Report
Chelation Treatment of Autism Is Bogus

Inappropriate Testing
Hair Analysis
Dubious Mercury Testing
Lead Poisoning: Medical Guidelines for the Exposed Worker

The Mercury Amalgam Issue

Through the Looking Glass: My Involvement with Autism Quackery

Autism Diva

Chelation therapy: Wikipedia

Google search

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Black cohosh no better than placebo against hot flushes, finds new trial

Black cohosh no better than placebo against hot flushes, finds new trial

By Dominique Patton

21/10/2005 - Taking supplements of the herbal black cohosh is unlikely to offer much relief from menopausal hot flushes, conclude the US researchers on a new trial.

Feedback from around 350 postmenopausal women who were randomized to receive either the herbal, conventional treatment, other supplements or a placebo, failed to support the efficacy of black cohosh reported in other trials.

"Given the serious health risks associated with hormone therapy, we were disappointed to discover that a popular herbal alternative appears to be no more effective than the placebo," said Katherine Newton, lead researcher on the new study published in this month's issue of Elsevier journal Maturitas (16:134–46).

"Regrettably, we found that black cohosh has little potential to play an important role in the relief of vasomotor symptoms."

Since major trials revealed the health risks of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)- until then the most popular and proven therapy for menopause symptoms - the use of supplements containing natural products like black cohosh, soy isoflavones and red clover has surged.

Black cohosh preparations have been approved by the German government as non-prescription medications for treatment of menopausal symptoms and are among the most widely-used natural alternatives to hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

But their use is controversial among some healthcare professionals who say there is little evidence to support their efficacy.

In the new trial, funded by the US National Institute on Aging and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers from four institutions in Seattle enrolled followed the women for a year.

They had been randomly assigned to one of five daily regimes: 160mg of black cohosh (supplied by US-based Pure World); a multiple botanical supplement containing 10 different herbs, including black cohosh; the same multibotanical supplement together with counselling to increase dietary soya; hormone therapy (Premarin or Prempro); and placebo.

The participants kept diaries, recording the frequency and intensity of their hot flushes at the start of the trial and at three, six, and 12 months.

At three months the diaries recorded hot flush frequency to be down by 35 per cent with black cohosh, 15 per cent with the multibotanical, 30 per cent with the multibotanical plus dietary counselling, 21 per cent with the placebo, and 88 per cent with hormone therapy. The findings were similar at six and 12 months.

The same pattern was found when the researchers used a menopause symptom score. At three months, the frequency of hot flushes decreased 27 per cent with black cohosh, 14 per cent with the multibotanical, 23 per cent with the multibotanical plus soy, 15 per cent with the placebo, and 76 per cent with hormone therapy. The findings were also similar at six and 12 months.

The authors noted that differences between the herbal regimens and the placebo were not significant but that the difference between the hormone therapy group and the other groups was considered important.

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

The Case of the Fatal Neck Adjustment

News, April 15, 2005

The Case of the Fatal Neck Adjustment

People don't want to know science. It's too technical. It's too difficult for the average person to understand, compared to the easy answers they can find in mysticism.

We often hear these excuses. But a landmark inquest in Canada shows that when science is presented clearly, it can be a powerful, convincing force, as a meeting of skeptics learned last week when it was addressed by lawyers Amani and Neil Oakley.

The Oakleys represented the family of Lana Dale Lewis at an inquest into the Ontario woman's death following a chiropractic neck adjustment. It was an unusual inquest for several reasons. For one thing it lasted a very long time — from 2002 to 2004. It featured epic legal battles, generated a great deal of media coverage, and its conclusions went against the interests of the chiropractic industry.

In short, the family won. The jury in effect determined that the chiropractor's actions led to the death.

The Oakleys were up against three sets of lawyers who represented the chiropractor, the chiropractic college, the chiropractors' association and the chiropractors' insurers — not to mention a seemingly incompetent and hostile coroner's office.

So how did this small, relatively inexperienced law firm manage to defeat the combined resources of the more experienced and better financed forces they faced?

Before becoming lawyers, both Amani and Neil Oakley had obtained science degrees and had worked in the field. This helped them realize, after they started to delve into the inquest's issues, that chiropractic has no solid science to support it. Rather than try to make a case for medical malpractice, as might have been expected, they presented to the jury the fact that there was no "medical" treatment involved here, only practices without scientific backing. During the inquest they drew on their research to discredit the witnesses called to support neck manipulations and they laid out before the jury the evidence that such adjustments were dangerous.

In her three-and-a-half hour closing argument, Amani Oakley chose to focus on the science, with detailed explanations of how the neck adjustment caused tearing in the artery that led to the stroke and why the alternative explanations by the chiropractors lawyers did not hold up rationally or scientifically. You can read the entire statement online at

The jury apparently understood the science and, to the surprise and anger of the chiropractic opposition, was persuaded by it. You can read the jury's recommendations at

For skeptics it's an inspiring story which, as was suggested at the meeting, ought to be made into a movie.A full report on Oakley's presentation to the skeptics will appear in the next Skeptics Canada members' newsletter in June. In the meantime you can read about the case, which attracted international attention, at various websites: just type "lana dale lewis inquest" into a search engine.

Source: Skeptics Canada

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Thursday, October 20, 2005

MMR Vaccine is Safe, International Team Affirms

MMR Vaccine is Safe, International Team Affirms

By Neil Osterweil, Senior Associate Editor, MedPage Today
Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD; Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
October 19, 2005
Also covered by: Newsday

MedPage Today Action Points

* Reassure concerned parents that in the most comprehensive review to date, an international team has found no credible scientific evidence to suggest that the MMR vaccine could cause autism or inflammatory bowel disease.

* Inform parents that in the review, MMR vaccination was associated with benign thrombocytopenic purpura, parotitis, joint and limb complaints, and febrile convulsions within two weeks of vaccination.

* Emphasize to parents the serious risks, including death and disability, that can occur in children who are not vaccinated against mumps, measles and rubella.

ALESSANDRIA, Italy, Oct. 19 - The only serious harm associated with the mumps-measles-rubella (MMR) vaccine is the risk to the health of children who aren't vaccinated, pronounced an international team of investigators today.

"In particular we conclude that all the major unintended events, such as triggering Crohn's disease or autism, were suspected on the basis of unreliable evidence," said Vittorio Demicheli, M.D., of the Servizo Sovrazonale di Epidemiologia here and colleagues in a systematic review from the Cochrane Collaboration.

"Mumps, measles and rubella are serious diseases that can lead to potentially fatal illness, disability and death." Dr. Demicheli and colleagues wrote. "Measles, mumps and rubella are particularly prevalent in developing countries where vaccination programs are inconsistent and the mortality rate from disease is high. In developed countries, however, mumps, measles and rubella are now rare, due to large-scale vaccination programs."

Doubts about the safety of the MMR vaccine spring from a single study of 12 patients published by Andrew J. Wakefield, M.D., and colleagues in The Lancet in 1998. In that study, the authors reported that "onset of behavioral symptoms was associated, by the parents, with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination in eight of the 12 children, with measles infection in one child, and otitis media in another."

The Wakefield paper also found an associated between MMR and gastrointestinal disease. The study was retracted in 2004 by 10 of the original 13 authors.

In the current review, Dr. Demicheli and colleagues conducted a systematic literature review looking for evidence of MMR vaccine effectiveness and adverse events associated with its use. They identified 139 studies, 31 of which were deemed to be of sufficiently high quality to rule out bias or error.

The studies included comparative prospective or retrospective trials testing the effects of MMR compared with placebo, no treatment, or to a combination of measles, mumps and rubella antigens on healthy children up to 15 years old.

The investigators found that the vaccine was associated with a lower rate of upper respiratory tract infections, higher rate of irritability, and similar rate of other adverse effects compared to placebo.

They also found positive associations between MMR and benign thrombocytopenic purpura, parotitis, joint and limb complaints, and febrile convulsions within two weeks of vaccination.

In addition, versions of the vaccine containing the Urabe strain of mumps, but not the more widely used Jeryl Lynn strain, were associated with aseptic meningitis.

In contrast, the reviewers found no credible evidence of an association between MMR vaccination and Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or autism.

Although they were unable to identify MMR effectiveness studies with clear clinical endpoints, the overwhelming evidence of elimination or radical reduction of the targeted diseases via mass immunization campaigns stands as proof that the vaccine works as intended, they wrote.

"The safety record of MMR is possibly best attested by its almost universal use," Dr. Demicheli and colleagues wrote. "Its evaluation cannot be divorced from its effectiveness and the importance of the target diseases. As such, MMR remains an important preventive global intervention."

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Alternative med finds way to medical school curricula

Alternative med finds way to medical school curricula


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Once largely dismissed as a leftover fad from the Age of Aquarius, acupuncture, herbal remedies and other forms of alternative medicine are finding their way into curriculums at traditional medical schools — most recently the University of Pennsylvania.

Doctors at Penn are working with the Tai Sophia Institute, an alternative medicine school in Maryland, on a program to teach medical students about herbal therapies, meditation and other approaches that are increasingly popular with the public but largely exist outside the realm of mainstream medicine.

"We’re not going to turn great surgeons into acupuncturists or herbalists; that’s not the idea,’’ said Robert Duggan, co-founder of Tai Sophia. "The goal is that Penn medical school graduates will be highly able to speak with patients about how to guide these things into their overall care.’’

More than a third of American adults have tried alternative therapies - including yoga, meditation, herbs and the Atkins diet — according to a government survey of 31,000 people, the largest study of its kind in the United States.

Universities, in response to the burgeoning numbers, are increasingly focusing on complementary medicine (used along with conventional treatment) and alternative medicine (used instead of conventional treatment). Some are creating their own programs and others are working with alternative medicine practitioners, said Aviad Haramati, a professor at Georgetown University’s medical school.

"More and more there’s a willingness by conventional schools to recognize the CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) schools as having this expertise,’’ Haramati said. ``And there’s a recognition by the CAM disciplines that linking with conventional academic centers to foster research is a good thing.’’

Georgetown students work with a massage therapy school, for example, and Tufts University students work with an acupuncture school, he said.

"It made perfect sense to us,’’ said Dr. Alfred P. Fishman of Penn’s medical school, co-director of the collaboration. "We thought, why start from scratch? This is a very respected organization with 30 years of hands-on experience.’’

More than 95 of the United Stayes’ 125 medical schools require some kind of complementary and alternative medicine coursework, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The new partnership will offer a master’s degree in complementary and alternative medicine. The degree, offered to the university’s medical and nursing students, will come from the Tai Sophia Institute; the schools will exchange faculty members and students.

"If you had raised this 10 years ago everyone would have sneered at it,’’ Fishman said. "Today, we’re moving away from being completely focused on preventing disease and toward looking at what it takes to (achieve and maintain) wellness. I think patient care will improve enormously.’’


One critic of the trend is Dr. Steven Barrett of Allentown, Pennsylvania, a Columbia University-trained psychologist who runs the Web site Quackwatch.

Alternative medicine programs are finding their way into mainstream institutions not because there’s proof the therapies work, Barrett said, but because skeptical voices are squelched and "administrators see it as a way to jump on the bandwagon and get grant money.’’

Penn and Tai Sophia are also developing post-graduate and continuing education courses on complementary and alternative medicine. One program, for example, will teach doctors about herbal medicines so they can better serve their patients who are already taking them.

In addition, cardiologists at Penn’s Presbyterian Medical Center are working with Tai Sophia to integrate alternative therapies into traditional care for heart patients. The idea is to teach the cardiology staff how to develop personalized therapy plans—including everything from meditation and massage to reflexology and aromatherapy—to decrease patient stress, pain and anxiety.

"We get the benefit of their extraordinary research capabilities and educational facilities. They get the benefit of an institution that understands the world of (unconventional medicine),’’ Duggan said.

Fishman said the research possibilities are exciting as well. For example, new brain imaging technology will allow researchers to physically explore how things like herbs, acupuncture, even prayer, can make people feel better.

"In the days before we could image the brain it was very hard to know about how these things worked, why placebos work in some people,’’ he said. "We can image the brain now and see why they feel better. Nothing is off limits.’’

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

MMR in clear over autism

MMR in clear over autism

Health Reporter

THE triple measles, mumps and rubella jab was yesterday given the all-clear by experts.

Millions of parents feared letting their kids have the MMR injection amid claims it could cause autism and stomach disorder Crohn’s disease.

But researchers working on the The Cochrane Review analysed 31 studies from around the world and said that there was NO evidence to back up the fears.

Doubts about the vaccine emerged in 1998 when research by Dr Andrew Wakefield was published in The Lancet.

It has since been discredited, although many parents are still concerned. Vaccination levels remain lower than hoped.

Research published in The Lancet last year concluded there was no evidence to support a link with autism in children.

Now The Cochrane Library, a collection of medicine databases, has published its own conclusions drawing together all the available information from around the world.

Author Dr Vittorio Demicheli said: “We conclude that all the major unintended events, such as triggering Crohn’s disease or autism, were suspected on the basis of unreliable evidence.”

Recent statistics show the uptake of MMR vaccine among two-year-olds in England was 81 per cent in 2004/05 — up from 80 per cent. That is still below the 95 per cent recommended by the World Health Organisation.

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

The MMR is safe - what other scare stories are nonsense?

The MMR is safe - what other scare stories are nonsense?
By Boris Johnson
(Filed: 20/10/2005)

So when are we getting an apology? That's what I want to know. I realise it is a faint hope, but if there were any decency in journalism the Daily Mail would now be clearing its front page and grovelling to the British public.

If there were an ounce of scruple, the beasts of Derry Street would now be making a pilgrimage to the Department of Health, shuffling forwards on their knees and flagellating themselves with copies of their brutal cellulite-obsessed publication.

If these monsters had any sense of accountability they would man the Tube stations, like sellers of the Big Issue, handing out leaflets explaining their error; and if I have mentioned this subject before, you must forgive me, because it really gets my goat.

Yesterday, all the newspapers carried a fascinating story, a good news story, namely that fears over the MMR vaccine were unfounded. In 1998 there had been a scare that there was a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and the onset of childhood autism.

And in the ensuing panic, whipped up by the tabloid press, millions of anxious parents decided not to give their children the vaccine, with the result that there was a significant uptick in the incidence of those diseases.

Now, thank heavens, it seems that the link is non-existent, that it is safe to give your baby the jab. So all the newspapers reported yesterday; all, that is, except one.

There is not even a paragraph, not a blob, not a brief in the Daily Mail. This is the paper that helped to cause panic in thousands of households that read and trusted and admired its journalism. This is the paper that assiduously fanned the flames of that panic, that decided to turn MMR into one of its campaigns, and now it won't even publish a sentence debunking the story.

Is it because it is too proud to admit that it was wrong, or is it because it doesn't want to let the facts get in the way of a good panic?

I hope that tomorrow the Daily Mail does carry this news, not just for the elucidation of its poor readers, but mainly because this implicit retraction would be good for the paper's soul; and since the Mail is admired across what was once called Fleet Street, it would be good for the media as a whole.

The main reason why the Mail should publish the good news about MMR and autism is that it would help deter them, and others, from ramping up such panics in future.

I don't know how you feel about these stories of bird flu from China, and the question of whether it can be passed from chicken to human being. As far as I can tell the only victims are the poor Thai fighting-cock enthusiasts who have engaged in direct osculation with their birds, in an effort to revive them for the fight.

We have not yet seen a single example of transmission from one human being to another. And so as soon as I saw that chief medical officer on the television, warning that there would be 50,000 casualties in this country, and that it was a question of when, not if, the calamity befell us, I was irresistibly reminded of the great BSE fiasco.

In case you have forgotten, there were scientists at that time who were going on the telly and warning us that it would be necessary to construct new hospices on every street corner, such would be the ubiquity of Variant CJD. They said the dead would run into hundreds of thousands. We're all at risk, they said. The average Brit has eaten 40 infected meals a year.

So we panicked; the media panicked; the Government panicked, and soon half a million cows had been slaughtered and burnt. The taxpayer coughed up more than £5 billion and the British beef industry was more or less wiped out.

How many confirmed cases of vCJD have there been in the last 15 years? There have been 157, and the incidence is tailing off, and we are still not quite sure of the link between bovine spongiform encephalopathy and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

In so far as I harbour any long-term resentment over that episode, it is not so much against the scientists, but against what was then the Labour opposition, who did so much to whip up hysteria against British beef.

The media should realise that there will always be politicians ready to give an alarmist quote, to demand action, to call for a ban; and it should be the job of the media to be cynical, because sometimes politicians find public alarm very convenient.

We were recently told by Baroness Scotland, for instance, that Britain was "facing the gravest threat this nation has ever faced". Tony Blair has informed his countrymen that they face "an existential threat" from terror; and that is, of course, precisely what they want us to think, because they are determined to rush through all sorts of "anti-terror" legislation, such as ID cards and the end of habeas corpus, that greatly expand the power of the state and remove the immemorial liberties of the British people.

That is why it was so wonderful to read the truth on the front of yesterday's Daily Telegraph, that the world is getting safer and safer, and that there are 40 per cent fewer conflicts than in the 1990s, and that terrorism is certainly not the greatest threat to humanity.

Remember, O you titans of the media, that when you ratchet up a panic you are not only doing the work of bossy politicians; you are also making inevitable new laws and new regulations, and with new regulations come thousands of new public sector employees, charged with policing them.

The Mail yesterday had a terrific attack on the failure to contain public sector pensions, and the explosion in the number of state officials. Correct!

But think how often, by joining in panic journalism, the tabloids have boosted the cries for health and safety legislation which is, of course, a prime cause of that public sector expansion.

Let the Mail think of its own role in the problems the economy faces… but, first, a full apology for the MMR scare.

* Boris Johnson is MP for Henley and editor of The Spectator

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Good medicine: Homeopathic board needs a physical - just in case

Good medicine
Homeopathic board needs a physical - just in case

Oct. 17, 2005 12:00 AM

Trust, but verify.

That is fine advice, even when the object of said trust seems pure as the driven snow. Because appearances can be deceiving.

And trustworthy individuals and organizations can, with dismaying frequency, allow standards to erode over time.

Thus, news that the Arizona Board of Homeopathic Medical Examiners has gone 20 years - 20 years! - without facing a formal audit is itself a red flag. What trouble might lurk in an agency so long left unscrutinized?

Plenty, as Republic reporter Robbie Sherwood found in an exhaustive examination of the board, results of which were published Oct. 9.

Since 2000, Sherwood found, the board has licensed four doctors who were convicted of felonies in other states and six others who either lost their licenses or were disciplined outside Arizona.

In one case, the board dismissed a complaint even though the Pima County medical examiner concluded that a Patagonia homeopath's treatment led directly to the death of a patient.

Granted, troubled doctors make up a very small percentage of the 113 practitioners currently licensed by the board. But the aforementioned cases are cause for concern.

So is Arizona's reputation as a safe haven for homeopaths who run into trouble elsewhere. And so is the board's penchant for 4-2 voting splits - the two minority votes usually coming from the public members, who are outgunned by the four industry representatives.

State Sen. Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale, has asked the state Auditor General's Office to haul out the old stethoscope and give the board a thorough, formal examination.

It's an excellent idea. It's also timely, because under the state's "sunset" provisions it must be decided in 2006 whether the board will even stay in existence. Or, if it does, whether reforms are needed.

Trust? Maybe.

Verify? Absolutely. Because good medicine and lives depend on it.


Of course homeopathy isn't "good medicine" at all. It's not even medicine! It's still The Ultimate Fake.


********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Monday, October 17, 2005

‘Dr. Internet’ exasperating to MDs

Posted on Sun, Oct. 16, 2005

‘Dr. Internet’ exasperating to MDs

By Shari Rudavsky

Indianapolis Star

CARMEL – The patient walked into Hamilton County physician Matthew Nelson’s office, announced he had looked up his symptoms online, determined he had Lyme disease and demanded specific antibiotics to treat the malady. Nelson, with years of medical training, could only sigh. He’s all too familiar with patients who go online to self-diagnose.

“In the past, we actually looked at your symptoms and tried to diagnose you,” says Nelson, an internist and pediatrician at Riverview Hospital in Noblesville with a practice in Carmel. “Now I have to de-diagnose the patient and say these are probably the reasons you don’t have this.”

With more people turning to “Dr. Internet,” experts urge caution in consulting the Web for medical or health information. Although many sites offer sound information, just as many sell a product, promote a controversial view of an issue or provide outdated or wrong information.

Still, that doesn’t stop people from looking.

A study published this year found 41 percent of 2,007 people interviewed in a telephone survey – and 56 percent of those who used the Internet – had searched for health or medical information in the past year.

Seventy percent of those surfers asked about a specific problem, according to the study, which appeared in August in the International Journal of Medical Informatics.

Since surviving a heart attack last January and discovering that she had diabetes, Mary Margaret Wisner goes online often to learn about her conditions.

Some days, Wisner, 57, visits Irvington Internet, a cafe her son co-owns, to search for tips on what to eat or alternative products to take, information her doctors have not given her.

Still, she always checks with her doctor or pharmacist.

“I don’t just take it as the gospel truth, but I don’t do that with the doctor, either,” the Indianapolis resident says. “I wouldn’t know anything if it were up to my doctors; 95 percent of what I know as to how to take care of myself, I learned from the Internet.”

Physicians, however, need not worry about the Internet supplanting their expertise, the study found. Of those who looked for health information on the Internet, 55 percent contacted their physician afterward.

“Health-care information online seems to be an adjunct to health care; people are using it as one tool among many,” says Michele Ybarra, an author of the study and president of Internet Solutions for Kids, a non-profit group in Irvine, Calif.

People between the ages of 40 and 60 relied on the Web the most as a health information resource.

Because that age range has the most caregiving responsibilities – for their kids and their parents – it’s not surprising they’re the most likely to look for such information, Ybarra says.

Patients go online to check out a drug’s side effects, to learn more about a condition they already have, to find others who share their disease or to try to diagnose themselves.

So does the Internet make a doctor’s job harder or easier?

“I think it does both,” says Dr. Lisa Richter, a doctor at Speedway Family Physicians, a Westview Hospital clinic. “It definitely gives patients another avenue, but sometimes it makes them too aware of things.”

Laypeople have always been able to go beyond what their doctors have told them in the search for more medical information, checking out books or journals aimed at professionals. The Internet has made the practice that much easier and – with its rash of Web sites – much more complicated.

“It takes a lot more work to wade through the information to sort out the good from bad,” says Dr. Michael Weiner, a scientist with the Indiana University Center for Aging Research and the Regenstrief Institute. “We know most Americans have access to health information. Whether they’re good at sorting it out remains to be seen.”

That’s why some professionals, such as Dr. Matthew Surburg, have taken matters into their own hands. Surburg, a family medicine physician with Hancock Family Practice in Greenfield, hands patients a form letter advising them how best to use the Internet to answer medical questions.

Some sites do a better job of helping the viewer do that than others, notes Dr. Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist in Allentown, Pa., who operates the site He recommends sites that offer filtered information rather than just presenting a study’s results.

“What you ought to try to do is go to sites that fit everything together,” he recommends.

Real-life physicians have another advantage over their cyber versions, Surburg says.

“Even a reliable site still doesn’t take the place of a physician’s input because the Web site can’t examine you and integrate everything into one picture.”

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Ex-Santana Employee Sues Over Firing

October 11, 2005

Ex-Santana Employee Sues Over Firing

* Aide to the musician and his wife says they dismissed him for spiritual shortcomings. He also alleges age and gender discrimination.

By Donna Horowitz, Special to The Times

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. - A former employee of Carlos Santana is suing the Grammy-winning musician and his wife, alleging that the couple fired him because he wasn't spiritual enough.

The unusual legal battle is playing out in Marin County Superior Court, where the Santanas lost the first round to keep the dispute out of the public realm.

Bruce Kuhlman, a former personal assistant to Santana for 16 years, alleges wrongful termination and age, gender and religious discrimination, as well as failure to pay contractual licensing commissions and overtime.

Carlos and Deborah Santana suffered a setback in the case in August when Judge John Sutro turned down their request to send the dispute to arbitration. A status conference, originally scheduled for Monday, was postponed until January.

The Santanas are appealing Sutro's decision.

Kuhlman's lawsuit says Deborah Santana directed him to meet with a "Dr. Dan" to improve "his consciousness or awareness level, which would bring him closer to God and make him a better worker."

Kuhlman, 59, of Mill Valley, alleges that he was fired last year shortly after he missed his third appointment with "Dr. Dan." Although Dr. Dan's last name was omitted from the suit, Kuhlman's attorney, Stephen Duggan, identified him as Dan Schlenger, a Capitola chiropractor who has declined comment.

Kuhlman further alleges that the couple fired him to avoid paying him up to $250,000, his commission on licensing fees last year for the Santanas' Rivers of Colors division of Guts and Grace Records.

Kulhman is seeking more than $100,000 in damages, $175,500 in overtime pay, fees for licensing work from 2002 to 2004 and unspecified punitive damages.

Neither the Santanas nor their attorney responded directly to questions about the lawsuit. The couple issued a statement through a representative denying all allegations.

"Bruce was placed in a position of responsibility but was unable to perform his job at the level required. He was given support and every opportunity to succeed. Bruce was treated fairly and terminated only after it was clear that he could not perform the job he was given," the statement said in part.

The Santanas further contend that "Bruce's attorney has created fantasies to divert attention from Bruce's inadequate job performance, which is why he was fired."

Duggan countered that if Kuhlman "was doing an unsatisfactory job, how do you explain the big jump in income from licensing he was responsible for?"

Kuhlman's share of licensing activities brought him just $13,000 in mid-2002, according to the suit.

The Santanas also posted a note to fans on their website Aug. 22 denying the allegations. "We are grateful and inspired by the many words of encouragement we have received and ask everyone to believe that Truth will prevail. To work towards world peace, we must have peace in our hearts," an excerpt read.

In Kuhlman's initial visit to him, the suit says, Dr. Dan calibrated Kuhlman's "enlightenment/consciousness level" and found it to be "low," but said it could be raised with treatment.

Dr. Dan also gave Kuhlman information on his "neuro-emotional" and "neuro-calibration" techniques, the suit says. The literature explains that the latter technique is intended "to help you become as enlightened as God desires you to become," the suit adds.

At their second session, Dr. Dan directed Kuhlman to place his right hand on his chest and hold out his left arm, the suit says. While Kuhlman repeated several times, "I'm ready, willing and able to communicate verbally with Deborah," Dr. Dan pushed down on Kuhlman's arm, the suit says.

The procedure, known in chiropractic circles as muscle testing, was intended to determine Kuhlman's level of resistance, Duggan said.

Kuhlman missed his third appointment. The next week, in April 2004, he was fired after receiving a letter saying Santana wasn't happy with his management efforts, the suit says.

Schlenger, the chiropractor, said in an e-mail that he could not comment on any particular patient he may have seen. He also declined to respond to questions about his therapies.

Dr. Daniel Monti, director of integrative medicine at Jefferson University Hospital and assistant psychiatry professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, said a peer-reviewed, controlled study in 1999 validated neuro-emotional technique.

Monti, who also leads advanced seminars for the technique's creator, Scott Walker, an Encinitas chiropractor, said the method he teaches has no spiritual component and doesn't assess a person's character.

The Santanas have long been spiritual seekers. Carlos Santana, in a 2000 interview with The Times, credited an angel named Metatron for helping inspire his career comeback. At that year's Grammys, he won eight awards.

In Deborah Santana's newly released memoir, "Space Between the Stars," she writes about a guru the couple once followed, Sri Chinmoy, who she says directed her to open a vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco and get an abortion.

In his suit, Kuhlman also charges that he faced gender discrimination. He said Deborah Santana preferred to work with women and, with her sister, "repeatedly put down men" and held weekly "women only" staff meetings.

Although the Santanas and Kuhlman are at odds, it wasn't always so.

While looking for new accountants and a bookkeeper in 1994, Deborah Santana notes in her book, Kuhlman "became my emotional support, helping me in every decision - he was a deep listener and a great problem-solver."


Fired Santana aide blames guru's 'test'

********************** Subscribe to this blog **********************
Enter your email address below to subscribe to
Confessions of a Quackbuster!

powered by Bloglet

Reciprocal Links: An Invitation