Had dodgy advice from a nutritional therapist? We have!

by , Senior Food Researcher Consumer Rights 16 January 2012
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
67 - 78
avatar

Have you ever visited a nutritional therapist? In this month’s Which? magazine we investigated the profession and found some worrying practices, such as therapists advising against going to your GP.

coffee pound sign_shutterstock_72335530

One therapist advised our researcher, who was posing as a cancer sufferer, against having conventional treatment (a lumpectomy and radiotherapy), saying that she should try for three to six months to rid herself of the cancer through diet (by cutting out sugar).

Nutritional therapy can be big business; therapists charge up to £80 for a consultation and often prescribe expensive supplements on top. So we wanted to investigate whether it was worth the money.

How our investigation worked

We asked five undercover researchers to each visit three therapists. Each researcher was provided with a scenario.

One researcher (in her early 30s) had been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for over a year. Two (in their 50s) had been suffering from severe tiredness for the past three months. And two women (in their 40s) had recently been diagnosed with DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ), the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer.

A panel of experts (a dietitian, a GP and a Professor of Pharmacology) then assessed recordings of the visits and any other information the therapists provided to the researchers, including prescriptions for supplements.

Are nutritional therapists worth the money?

Our expert panel concluded that visiting a nutritional therapist wasn’t worth the money – and in some cases could have actually endangered the health of the researcher. Six of the fifteen consultations were rated as ‘dangerous fails’.

This could have been down to a number of reasons:

  • The advice given by the therapist could have potentially harmed the researcher.
  • Therapists were diagnosing conditions without relevant testing (even though their Code of Practice says they shouldn’t diagnose).
  • Researchers were advised not to visit their GPs about the problem, recommending unproven testing such as hair mineral analysis, and the case above, advising against cancer treatment.

Of the remaining visits, eight were rated as ‘fails’ and only one was graded as a ‘borderline pass’. Our experts were disappointed by the advice given by therapists and concerned at their poor knowledge of the body and how it works.

The experts were also worried by some therapists using non-evidence-based testing to diagnose symptoms. These tests included iridology (studying the patterns, colour and other characteristics of the iris), hair mineral analysis and a researcher being given several liquids to hold in his mouth before being told he had a chromium deficiency.

Are the recommendations right?

Twelve of the therapists prescribed supplements to the researchers, costing up to £70 a month. Researchers were told not to buy them from Boots or other high street chemists as they weren’t ‘pure enough’ and you were effectively ‘flushing your money down the loo’. Instead, they were asked to buy them from the retailers recommended by the therapist.

Of course, there is benefit in following healthy dietary advice, but most of what was provided by the nutritional therapists is freely available on websites such as the NHS site.

Plus, most of the therapists in our investigation recommended quite restrictive diets that excluded several foods (predominantly dairy and wheat) and taking expensive supplements.

If you do have a medical condition that you are concerned about, your first port of call should be your GP. If necessary they can then refer you to a dietitian. We have contacted the British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) with our findings and concerns.

People who have visited nutritional therapists emailed us to say that they found the diets recommended to them difficult to maintain over a long time and eventually gave up.

Have you visited a nutritional therapist? What was your experience like – do any of these findings ring true or did you have a more positive experience?

1951 comments

Add your comments

avatar

chrisb

Stuart,
re’ acupuncture and its effectiveness from just some scientific studies………………………

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/05/30/researchers-prove-acupunctures-effectiveness-pain-therapy/
http://www.vanderbilt.edu/ans/psychology/health_psychology/Acupuncture.htm
http://www.roseglavin.com/conditions/studies.html
http://www.thenewmedicine.org/timeline/acupuncture_study

So please, I would appreciate that you do at least conduct some rudimentary investigations before making any rash comments.

Thank you

 
avatar

Stuart

Scientific papers please, peer reviewed in good quality journals, Prefereably those where they have been replicated by independent researchers.

Acupuncture doesn’t work. It’ll take more than a few poor quality websites claiming it is to change that.

 
avatar

wavechange

Agreed, Stuart, but let’s have peer reviewed reviews that present a balanced view of the subject, making use of all the evidence, be it positive, negative or neutral. The idea of using a balanced approach could be novel to those who cherry pick information to support their argument.

 
avatar

Selina Import

Thank you Chris you have given me lots of exciting information to look into. Also thank you Tony Isaacs

 
avatar

Selina Import

There is one thing I am ashamed of. Until I was 18 I believed what I had been told: that the people of a religion I did not belong to had their belief because they weren’t bright enough to know any better. I gradually came to understand that I belonged to my religion because I wasn’t bright enough to know any better either. My biggest lesson in life I believe to be beyond judgement.

 
avatar

chrisb

Stuart,
you mean these peer-reviewed studies in journals of repute……………………….
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/sep/05/publish-perish-peer-review-science

It isn’t only quack journals that have failures in peer review. In June, the British Journal of General Practice published a paper, “Acupuncture for ‘frequent attenders’ with medically unexplained symptoms: a randomised controlled trial (CACTUS study)”. It has lots of numbers, but the result is very easy to see. All you have to do is look at their Figure.
A figure accompanying an acupuncture research paper A figure accompanying an acupuncture research paper. “Outcome data over 52 weeks (acupuncture group received acupuncture weeks 0–26, control group received acupuncture weeks 26–52)”.

It’s obvious at a glance that acupuncture has at best a tiny and erratic effect on any of the outcomes that were measured. The results are indeed quite interesting because they show that acupuncture doesn’t even have a perceptible placebo effect. But this is not what the authors said. Their conclusion was: “The addition of 12 sessions of five-element acupuncture to usual care resulted in improved health status and wellbeing that was sustained for 12 months.”

Now please Stuart don’t give me the respectable Journal nonsense and peer-reviewed nonsense.

Or this one supported by the BMJ………………………….
http://aim.bmj.com/

Or may be this one………………..
http://www.liebertpub.com/ACU

Peer reviewed literature: 459 articles appear on a PubMed search of “acupuncture + benefit” and 280 articles for a search of “acupuncture + metan-analysis”. For those that don’t know, a meta-analysis analyzes many articles on the same topic to get a more thorough overview of the success or failure of a treatment or disease. To have 280 meta-analyses on acupuncture alone means that there is a vast body of peer-reviewed scientific literature that has been published on acupuncture. A search for “acupuncture” alone results in 17,272 papers in PubMed.

Stuart,
Is that enough peer-reviewed scientific literature for you? or would you like some more?

 
avatar

wavechange

chrisb
Peer review is not a guarantee of quality, but that is common knowledge at least in the scientific community. Research workers are under increasing pressure to publish their work, the reviewers are usually unpaid and the number of papers to be refereed seems to grow by the day. Having said that, it is the best quality control system we have. Perhaps you see why I am so keen for conclusions to be based on the conclusions of all the evidence available.

Now you are trying to discredit the peer review system. In this case you are unlikely to find many people writing to say how well it works, in the same way that the news reports motorway pile-ups rather than telling us about the days when there was no pile-up.

A good scientist will never cite an article without looking at the full paper. This allows the reader to gain an insight into whether the main results and conclusions summarised in the abstract is likely to be valid.

Some put a lot of faith in the number of times a paper is cited in subsequent papers. In popular fields such as medicine and health, a poor paper may clock up more citations than one of much higher quality in a less popular field. I have a review that has over 1500 citations but I don’t see it as my best contribution to the literature.

Sorry to be critical again, but I think you are using PubMed in a rather strange way. You many have identified thousands of papers that mention acupuncture, but what are the authors saying in these papers?

Peer review may have its flaws but compared with some of the websites you have recommended to me, it is wonderful.

 
avatar

Stuart

“Acupuncture for ‘frequent attenders’ with medically unexplained symptoms: a randomised controlled trial (CACTUS study)”.

If you’d read and understood this Chrisb you would have noticed a problem with the experimental design i.e the control is not satisfactory i.e. no placebo. The test group gets intervention immediatley, the control group ater 26 weeks. It would have been better to include a placebo acupuncture using dummy needles during the initial session. The results are hardly starting.

Also the outcomes were measured through a questionairre, so subjective assessments of outcome only. Just ripe for placebo and abosoutely no evidence. Medically unexplained symptoms are basically attenders that may have nothing wrong with them.

“To have 280 meta-analyses on acupuncture alone means that there is a vast body of peer-reviewed scientific literature ”

And what do they say, because that is what is important not how many have been done. Perhaps look at a recent one?

Also if there are so many meta analysis why cherry pick a single study as evidence? (again). I suppose its progress from quoting a pill salesmans website.

 
avatar

Stuart

Just an after thought, how do you design a questionairre to measure outcomes when the patients have ‘unexplained’ symptoms?

 
avatar

chrisb

Stuart
If as you say……………….
“There is clear evidence that not only do some supplements give no benefit, but some are actually harmful to health”

Then I would like you to produce the evidence for that statement in several peer-reviewed Journals of some repute.
You may find evidence of harm for inferior and substandard supplements, just as you would for substandard pharmaceutical drugs, but many are now pharmaceutical grade.

Better still, this discussion/debate would be better served if you contact PROFESSOR A.H.BECKETT, O.B.E., B.Sc, Ph.D., D.Sc., FRPharm.S., Hon DSc.’s (Heriot Watt, Leuven, Uppsala), concerning supplements and Nutritional Science.
He is the Professor Emeritus, University of London
CHAIRMAN, VITABIOTICS (1992 – 2010)

About Professor Beckett, OBE (1992 – 2010)
Professor Beckett was Head of the School of Pharmacy at Kings College, London for 25 years. He published 465 research papers, and was founding editor of the distinguished international journal of Medicinal Chemistry. His professional posts included President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, and the Medicinal Commission of the International Olympic Committee.”

 
avatar

wavechange

I wouldn’t bother, Chris. Vitabiotics is another website selling chemical supplements to people who probably won’t benefit from them, possibly using the name of a retired prof to add respectability. It might be nice if Vitabiotics pointed out that most people do not need their products and that eating these chemicals may not be without risk.

 
avatar

Stuart

Read this thread and you will see an example – Vit D. I believe the papers are there too.

The DOSE makes the poison, ever heard that?

Water is lethal if you have too much.

 
avatar

Stuart

“About Professor Beckett, OBE (1992 – 2010)
Professor Beckett was Head of the School of Pharmacy at Kings College, London for 25 years. He published 465 research papers, and was founding editor of the distinguished international journal of Medicinal Chemistry. His professional posts included President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, and the Medicinal Commission of the International Olympic Committee.”

Appeal to authority. Has no bearing on whether he is correct or not.

 
avatar

Selina Import

Chris, In the 30 years since you found a way to overcome your leukaemia, how have conventional methods fared? I seem to remember there has been some improvement. Has anyone asked you how you did it?

 
avatar

chrisb

Selina,
I’m not sure as I haven’t inquired to make any comparisons.
A number of people have asked how I did it, but when I tell them they have this incredulous look on their faces, so I hardly bother now.
Of course I have been asked for proof that I did have Leukemia, and how I overcame it but the primary-care trust whose province I was under did not keep my records as I moved away from that area about 28 years ago. It is policy, or was policy not to keep medical records for a patient any longer than seven years, after they moved away from the area in which the diagnosis was made. Unfortunately.

 
avatar

chrisb

Wavechange,
Professor Beckett instigated Vitabiotics in collaboration with a medical Doctor, so he was in from the beginning as a perceived need to improve peoples health.
Just one of their products (Neurozan) was instrumental in curing my lifelong depressive illness.
It is clear that both you and Stuart along with David have preconceived and biased prejudices against anything that resembles Nutritional Medicine so my involvement ends here.

 
avatar

wavechange

chrisb

I have never said that I am opposed to supplements, only that they (like a GPs drugs) should not be used without without evidence of need or a good reason for taking them. You might be interested to know that I have worked on two EU-funded biotech collaborative projects doing research on the production of supplements, though I had no involvement whatsoever with the medical aspects of their use.

I think it would be a good idea if Vitabiotics included a prominent caution on their website, as Fuhrman does.

I am sorry to hear about your health problem and glad to hear that it has been resolved. My main health problem (severe asthma) is so well controlled with inhalers that my problem is remembering to use them. No more carrying inhalers, emergency injections or courses of oral steroids and worrying myself silly about having an asthma attack in a foreign country.

If my GP was profiting from the sale of drugs I guess that she might be tempted to prescribe more drugs than I need. Thank goodness the NHS has (I believe) addressed the problem of drug reps offering incentives to prescribe certain brands of drugs. I use the brands that the pharmacist can buy most cheaply and it works every bit as well as the well-known brands, saving the NHS money.

Let’s leave it there and not comment on each other’s views. It’s good that we have both found solutions to our health problems.

 
avatar

Stuart

Thats a good thing, since you have been endorsing bogus treatments such as Vit C for cancer.

 
avatar

Stuart

No, my issue is people who are not qualified recommending things to people which may not work and may be dangerous.

As Which? identified.

 
avatar

Selina Import

To all practicing NTs I wish you well and know that you will enable many many people to be well and in as natural a way as possible.

 
avatar

chrisb

Wavechange,
I am sorry to learn that you have to live with the medical condition of asthma.
Just in case you have a more open mind than other people here, the beneficial effects of fasting in asthmatics have been well documented in the Russian medical literature. Their clinical trials illustrated that more than 75 percent of patients had greatly improved conditions or never had symptoms of asthma again after fasting.
http://www.iumab.org/index.php/2002-conference/291-investigation-of-bronchial-asthma
http://eatingandfasting.blogspot.com/2009/07/intermittent-fasting-is-natural.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m3yLwN1fcM&feature=player_embedded
http://jeune-et-randonnee.pagesperso-orange.fr/devries.pdf

For what it’s worth, living with asthma does not have to be your only option, as it can be permanently remediable if you investigate further.

“Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness.” – Hippocrates

“Instead of using medicine, rather, fast a day.” – Plutarch

 
avatar

Stuart

Hippocrates also said:_

“There are in fact, two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance”

You’re quote mining.

 
avatar

Stuart

Also appeal to authority. Logical fallacy.

 
avatar

wavechange

Thanks chrisb. Even if fasting worked for me, I’m not sure that I would have the self-control or motivation to go through with it, and I am certainly not keen to do it. I would probably have a genuine need for supplements if I did. :-)

When I was 11 I moved from a village to the outskirts of a filthy, smoky city, where I promptly started to suffer from asthma. The GP failed to recognise this, despite my mother’s correct diagnosis of the problem, and gave me cough linctus and other ineffective treatment. After I suffered from several asthma attacks we moved to another GP, who prescribed the best treatment that was available at the time. I still regret that for over a year I was allowed to suffer because my GP had less knowledge than my mother, who had at least done her best to learn about my condition and the medication available via the NHS.

I have said many times that it is wrong to give unnecessary treatment but as others have pointed out, withholding medication that could help can have serious consequences.

 
avatar

chrisb

Stuart,
I think you have more of a problem with the evidence than wavechange, as his replies to my own posts are more civil. Still where there is breath there is hope, but to say that………………

“since you have been endorsing bogus treatments such as Vit C for cancer”

…………………is beneath contempt, and especially so when IV Vitamin C Therapy has been used successfully in treating cancer, by Professor Ian Brighthope and other distinguished and highly qualified Medical Doctors.
The mind boggles.

 
avatar

Stuart

Sigh, papers please. Evidence or GTFO.

What is beneath contempt is giving false hope to dying people and their families, whilst milking them of their savings.

Just FYI anyone in the UK who said they could treat cancer with Vitamin C woudl be potentially liable to prosecution. And rightly so.

 
avatar

Stuart

I’m still waiting for you responses on Acupuncture, seem to have gone quiet.

 
avatar

natasha

In most cases I have noticed that Wavechange argues his case with respect for others who have opposing opinions and I therefore have respect for him even though i may not agree with all he says. I have also sympathy for his condition. The point I want to make is that I found out the hard way that my asthma was not responsding to NT and taking supplements (even though Wavechange it could be worth having an open mind and looking up the studies that relate to magnesium deficiency and reactivity of the airways – as I do think that my lung fuction is better when i am magnesium sufficient) I discovered that it was living for many years in a property with condensation and mould spores that was the killer for me – keeping me quite ill – when I moved to a modern house I was fine and off all inhalers and have been ever since unless i spend more than 24 hours in an old musty house.. I also think that a big thing was also improving lung fitness through approppriate exercise. I think that a good so called ‘anti inflammatory’ diet does help too (using contaminant free fish oil – worth looking up those studies in relation to asthma too) as I can get a little wheezy after a binge. The points here are diet/nutrition was not enough to overcome the environmental effects of mould (thank goodness for drugs at that time) and there is no reason, in my opinion to get extreme and do fasting perhaps more people’s asthma can be improved with a bit of detective work..

 
avatar

wavechange

I usually try to be respectful to others, Natasha, and I know I have been a bit rude in some of my messages on this topic.

Moulds are one of my problems too. I suspect that it is moulds in dust that are responsible for my dust allergy. House dust does not affect me much (I live in a dry modern house) but dust in damp garden sheds is a problem. Moulds in grasses used to cause me a problem and once landed me in hospital. Blue cheese would cause intense itching of my throat, presumably because of the mould content. I had a several incidents with muesli, presumably because it can contain small amounts of mouldy nuts or cereal and I recall the fancy stuff from health food shops was worst. After a frightening incident my GP gave me an injection for use in emergency. I still have a problem with damp dust and avoid blue cheeses, but the other problems have gone. I can eat any brand of muesli and walk in the countryside without problems.

You are absolutely right to be worried about mould. Many people live in poorly ventilated houses. Double glazing is marvellous but draughty old windows did at least provide some permanent ventilation. There is another Which? Conversation covering damp problems and lack of ventilation is the most common diagnosis of the problems posted. Even those without asthma would do well to avoid exposure to moulds.

Allergies are unpleasant but fascinating conditions, and the only one who can really research the problem is the sufferer. My friends find it amusing that I can stroke one dog but unable to stay in the same room as another dog!

I have experimented with diet and will do so more now that I have retired. Fortunately, I have access to many journal articles that are not available to the general public, which is useful for keeping in touch with current understanding.

 
avatar

Elizabeth

Re. Stuart.
It is worth bearing in mind that attacks can be made by people with strong opinions who are not prepared to look at other approaches, however helpful they may be to suffering people.
Last year the GMC reinstated (with no case to answer) a pioneering, open minded doctor who had been suspended and forced to practice medicine under severe restrictions.
In another fitness to practice hearing at the end of last year, Clinical Scientist Stuart Jones was found guilty of professional misconduct by the Health Professions Council for making “disparaging, inappropriate and unprofessional comments in a public forum” about this doctor.
This council found Stuart Jones’ fitness to practice is “currently impaired by reason of misconduct”.
It gave him a two year caution order.
He had reported this doctor to the GMC over concerns about her website which offered support information for her patients. Jones had used the website run by Ben Goldacre to campaign against her, calling her an “uber-quack”.
He commented that he had done this deliberately to give her extra admin and increase anxiety levels in her patients “very pleasurable indeed”.
So there are “qualified” people out there who can be pretty awful in the way they operate.

 
avatar

Katie

Elizabeth

im sure alot of us know exactly who you are talking about – it was shameful – patients have a right to choose their treatment regardless I believe.

 
avatar

wavechange

I quite agree with you Elizabeth, and no-one is pretending that orthodox medical care is perfect or necessarily up-to-date. I’m sure that NHS advice on diet will change as we learn more about how our health is affected by diet.

I am concerned about certains aspects alternative therapy and that some of it exploits sick people who are desperate for a solution. Does iridology work? Does ear candling work? Does it make sense for anyone to take multivitamin tablets without any evidence that they will be of any benefit?

I am glad that Which? did this investigation and I hope that it will raise awareness of the need for effective regulation. As I have said numerous times I believe that NTs can provide individual support that would not be possible under the current NHS system. NTs who want to help people and not be associated with quackery should welcome this, and I fear that they are the ones who will have to push for reform.

 
avatar

Stuart

People can do whatever they want and choose their own treatment. Thats whats so great about the UK. Freedom.

When people want nonsense therapies from the NHS, or to propogate dangerous lies to people they need to be challenged.

Elizabether doesnt name the Doctor so it difficult to see what point she is making. Seems like the GMC ruled on the inappropriate behaviour and made a ruling.

The trouble is we live in a PC world where even those without evidence think they have a right to spount nonsense. When that endangers peoples health that should be allowed.

 
avatar

wavechange

Stuart

I’m not entirely happy with complete personal freedom where children and other dependants are involved. I believe it is wrong to deny anyone NHS treatment and I could be quite rude about those who would want to deny anyone a blood transfusion.

Although I have no problems with individuals having personal freedom to choose treatment for themselves, I share your concern about misinformation (which could range from dangerous lies to beliefs that cannot at present be supported by unequivocal evidence). We need to tread a little carefully because many of our useful drugs have come from sources (e.g. plants) that have been treated with contempt in the past, though proper use of drugs means having products that have been thoroughly tested and available in a consistent formulation.

I would like to see supermarket shelves cleared of supplements and replaced by good food. Clearly there are people who do need supplements but I advocate that the NHS provides tests and prescribes them if required.

 
avatar

chrisb

Stuart,
you cite the example of Vitamin D or the steroid hormone precursor, and the dose makes the poison; in that respect you are quite right as Vitamin D is a fat-soluble Vitamin, and where excess is stored within the body, but that depends on what we mean by “excess”.
It is generally recognized that there is a worldwide deficiency in this Vitamin and that the RDI’s are considered by most Vitamin D-experts including Dr Michael Holick…………………….
http://www.pcna.net/images/ce_bios/Michael_Holick_bio.php
and Dr William B Grant…………
http://www.sunarc.org/wbgbackground.htm
to name but two………………………….
…………………………………..as set at too low a dose; food sources are scarce, and many people do not receive sufficient sunlight exposure (the best source) for one reason or another.
The risk of toxicity is generally considered to be to the magnitude of over 50,000ius per day, but no one is advocating that amount of supplemental use and the risk of Hypercalcemia.

It is true that (and something I have posted on previously) that water will kill you if taken in large enough quantities, but that does not negate our need for water; similarly sufficient dosages of Vitamin D are required for optimal health and as a prophylactic against many diseases.
So the issue here is not about toxicity, but the worldwide pandemic of insufficiency. An ounce of prevention as it were…………….
Sources………………………
http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminD/
http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/what-is-vitamin-d/vitamin-d-toxicity/

However, water-soluble Vitamins taken in excess of bodily needs are firstly utilized by the body and where any excess is excreted. Take for example the case of Vitamin C where an excess intake results in what is known as the “bowel-tolerance-level” with no harm to the body
http://www.doctoryourself.com/cathcart_thirdface.html
http://www.livestrong.com/article/451616-do-all-excess-vitamins-get-excreted-from-the-body/

So what I am advocating here, and have done so since the beginning of this thread, is the vital role played by nutrition in preventing and even treating disease, but ignored by the Mainstream fraternity in favor of pharmaceuticals which even when properly prescribed can and do have horrendous side-effects and which are mostly absent from Nutraceuticals at a therapeutic dosage; and how one observational study on a small group of NT’s has in all probability turned the general populace away from Nutrition.
Therefore any impartiality and objectivity has been sacrificed and ignored.
I still maintain that this observational study was analogous to placing the fox in charge of the hen-house.

 
avatar

chrisb

Stuart,
I am sure that you are more than capable of doing your own research for the evidence in favor of IV Vitamin C Therapy so I’ll allow you to do the leg work.

In response to your comment…………………………..
“You refer to false hope to dying people and their families, whilst milking them of their savings”.

Perhaps you wouldn’t mind reading and comprehending the magnitude of this………………………

-Many doctors become so busy “practicing” medicine once they graduate from medical school that they no longer have time to study their art. They then rely on “trusted” sources to keep up to date. In fact, for most doctors, their sole source of information, once they start practicing, is the “party line” provided by the associations they belong to and the drug companies promoting their drugs or paying for “peer reviewed” studies that appear in their associations’ journals or, even worse, on the sensationalized reports of those studies in the media. The net result is that, over time, they become ill-informed or misinformed—merely parroting the party line.

Doctors, and people of your own particular persuasion in healthcare, complain that alternative healing is based on anecdotal evidence, not science like “real” medicine. Nevertheless, they remain blind to the fact that 85 percent of all medical procedures they rely on are also untested and based purely on anecdotal evidence. They’ve even developed a euphemism to describe the process: off-label use, the practice of prescribing drugs for a purpose outside the scope of the drug’s approved label. That’s right, once the FDA approves a drug for prescription use, there is no regulation as to what it’s used for, and so physicians can make decisions based on anecdotal evidence—or even their own best guess. In other words, large numbers of drugs are used for diseases for which their efficacy and safety have never been tested. And that’s called “science.”

Doctors say that many alternative healing procedures and herbal remedies are dangerous. In fact, fewer than five people die (theoretically) each year in the U.S. from complications resulting from overdosing on vitamins or an allergic reaction to herbal remedies. That matches up quite well with the 106,000 (conservatively) who die from the pharmaceuticals that doctors prescribe.

Doctors say that even when people aren’t being harmed by alternative health care, they’re being fleeced. “Millions of dollars are wasted each year on megadoses of vitamins that are peed down the toilet and on useless herbal concoctions.” Somehow, though, these same doctors don’t seem too concerned about the billions of dollars that have been spent (sorry, I meant “wasted”) on the “war on cancer,” only to see cancer rates soar to epidemic proportions, or about the $48 billion spent on useless angioplasties each year.

Fear – There is a saying in the medical community that goes, “It is better to die than to go against the faculty of medicine.” We’ve all seen prison movies—such as Cool Hand Luke, Papillon, and The Shawshank Redemption—where the evil warden keeps his prisoners in line by brutally and publicly punishing any who break any rules. Amazingly, these movies could just as easily have been stories about how the medical establishment keeps its ranks in line. Every doctor knows about the “renegade” doctors who have been harassed, raided, arrested, and driven from their practices for “going against the established order.” This tends to keep the rest in line. In 1979, for example, the Florida First District Court of Appeal reversed an order by the Florida Board of Medical Examiners placing Dr. Robert Rogers on probation, accusing him of “quackery under the guise of scientific medicine,” and directing him to stop using chelation therapy (a detoxification therapy for removing heavy metals). The district judges not only disagreed with the examiner’s ruling, but also declared that Dr. Rogers was a scientific and medical innovator comparable to Freud, Pasteur, and Copernicus. There are literally thousands of such stories—unfortunately, 99 percent of them end less than happily.

 

Which? sent a letter to Anne Milton outlining our research and findings on Nutritional Therapists.

She has informed us that there is a bill going through parliament to change the remit of the current Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) to provide a quality assurance role for voluntary registers and unregulated health and social care workers. This bill will include nutritional therapists.

The CHRE will open a consultation in April 2012 on the standards and criteria for this new scheme. They are accepting comments on their website until that point for anybody who wants to make recommendations with regard to the development of these standards.

http://www.chre.org.uk/voluntaryregisters/

 
avatar

Alan Henness

Shefalee said:

“She has informed us that there is a bill going through parliament to change the remit of the current Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) to provide a quality assurance role for voluntary registers and unregulated health and social care workers. This bill will include nutritional therapists.”

As I understand it, the scheme is about how you run a register of members and your disciplinary procedures and it says nothing about what service it is the members provide. The ‘quality assurance’ has nothing to do with protecting the public from misleading claims for products or services.

 
avatar

Katie

Shefalee – where then does the CNHC (Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council) fit in set byPrinces Trust and funded by DoH.

 
avatar

Alan Henness

chrisb said:

“Nevertheless, they remain blind to the fact that 85 percent of all medical procedures they rely on are also untested and based purely on anecdotal evidence.”

I debunked that old canard the last time you mentioned it.

 
avatar

chrisb

Alan,
I’m afraid you didn’t debunk that old canard this time around with “anecdotal evidence” which is synonymous with “off label use”.

“Off-label” is also called “non-approved” or “unapproved” use of a drug.

The New England Journal of Medicine.
Although off-label prescribing — the prescription of a medication in a manner different from that approved by the FDA — is legal and common, it is often done in the absence of adequate supporting data………………………….
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp0802107
And……………..
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/11/25/health/webmd/main4633004.shtml

 
avatar

Alan Henness

chrisb

You said:

“Nevertheless, [doctors] remain blind to the fact that 85 percent of all medical procedures they rely on are also untested and based purely on anecdotal evidence.”

Although you didn’t supply evidence to substantiate that figure, I debunked that: that only 85% of all medical procedures are untested and based purely on anecdotal evidence.

You then went on to say:

“They’ve even developed a euphemism to describe the process: off-label use, the practice of prescribing drugs for a purpose outside the scope of the drug’s approved label.”

Here, you state that ‘they’ had developed a euphemism (off-label use) to describe this process, but offered no supporting evidence and you’ve equivocated between talking about ‘medical procedures’ in the part I debunked and then moved on to ‘prescribing drugs’. Can you be clear what you are referring to?

In your last comment, you said:

““anecdotal evidence” which is synonymous with “off label use”.”

How do you see these as being synonymous?

 
avatar

Alan Henness

Katie said:

“Shefalee – where then does the CNHC (Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council) fit in set byPrinces Trust and funded by DoH.”

The CNHC was set up by Prince Charles’ Foundation for Integrated Health (which closed in 2010 amid arrests for fraud and money laundering), not the Princes Trust, but funded to the tune of around £900,000 of taxpayers’ money. There are some interesting details on the CNHC’s finances released today in response to a Freedom of Information Act request here.

The CNHC have expressed interest in the CHRE’s scheme and are presumably anxious to gain whatever credibility they can from it. The public will be further mislead by this false credibility since the scheme is just about having a register and says nothing about the efficacy or otherwise of any treatments given by those registered.

The CHRE is in the process of setting up this scheme because it’s in the Health and Social Care Bill, even though it is still in Parliament and it’s by no means certain it will become an Act. They seem to be assuming it will become law.

 
avatar

chrisb

Alan,
I assume that the ‘quality assurance’ has nothing to do with protecting the public from misleading claims for products or services, most likely means that there are many health modalities outside of Mainstream which do not need to “quality assured” as they are considered to be innocuous and of benefit to the patient.

 
avatar

Alan Henness

chrisb said:

“I assume that the ‘quality assurance’ has nothing to do with protecting the public from misleading claims for products or services, most likely means that there are many health modalities outside of Mainstream which do not need to “quality assured” as they are considered to be innocuous and of benefit to the patient.”

I don’t see how you can jump to that conclusion. The CHRE make no mention of anything the members of any future accredited registrar might be doing so it appears they are making no judgement about whether what they do is safe, efficacious, misleading or downright dangerous.

 
avatar

chrisb

Alan.
just pulling your leg re’ quality assurance.
Don’t worry.

 
avatar

chrisb

Alan.
by “anecdotal evidence” I meant information obtained from personal accounts, examples, and observations, and usually not considered “scientifically valid” but may indicate areas for further investigation and research” which tallies with “off label use” of a prescribed pharmaceutical, and not for the approved intention of the drugs usage.
I think you might be clutching at straws now.

 
avatar

Alan Henness

So, chrisb, what does the 85% figure you quoted refer to? And what’s your evidence for it?

 
avatar

wavechange

Spare a thought for the Which? team. Every message that includes a Web address has to be inspected before it we get to see it, and there are a lot on this Conversation.

There is bound to be an Internet forum for detailed discussion.

I propose that Which? was right to do their investigation and pass their findings on for more detailed study. Do I have a seconder?

 
avatar

Alan Henness

wavechange said:

“I propose that Which? was right to do their investigation and pass their findings on for more detailed study. Do I have a seconder?”

Seconded. (If they’ve not done it already.) I look forward to BANT and the CNHC publishing the results of their investigations.

 
avatar

wavechange

I can’t wait for the responses, Alan, and my comment was really a reminder for those who might not have seen the first half a dozen pages of this dialogue. Maybe BANT will let the public view its current ethics code at the same time.

 
avatar

Alan Henness

I hope you’re patient!

 
avatar

wavechange

NHS patient for preference. Mark my card ‘No unnecessary drugs or supplements please’.

 
avatar

chrisb

Alan,
the figure of 85% for off-label prescription drug use may have been a little high but whatever that figure is, it is very common: more than one in five outpatient prescriptions written in the U.S. are for off-label therapies.
Many people may be surprised to know that the FDA regulates drug approval, not drug prescribing, and … doctors are free to prescribe a drug for any [reason they think is medically appropriate],” says G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS, a medical ethics advocate and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “Off-label use is so common, that virtually every drug is used off-label in some circumstances.”

Thats quite a lot of unapproved prescribing. In other words, large numbers of prescription drugs are used for diseases for which their efficacy and safety have never been tested. A practice that is unscientific, and which relies on anecdotal evidence for that prescription.

 
avatar

Alan Henness

chrisb

Thanks for the clarifying that the 85% figure you quoted referred to off-label prescribing of drugs in the US rather ’85 percent of all medical procedures’ as being ‘untested’ and ‘based purely on anecdotal evidence’ as you originally said (even though I don’t think it’s at all relevant and you’ve not supplied any evidence to back it up, even if it’s not as high as 85%).

 
avatar

chrisb

Alan,
I suppose the word “procedures” was a “typo” instead of prescription drugs.
Apologies for that.

Ah yes, the all-important “evidence”!!! I suppose that depends on what type of “evidence” you are looking for, and that you find acceptable.

Well here are some examples for your perusal…………………………
WebMD
http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/off-label-drug-use-what-you-need-to-know
ScienceDaily
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060513122427.htm
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-05-08-offlabel-drugs_x.htm

“Off-label medication use is common is out-patient care, and most occurs without scientific support. Efforts should be made to scrutinize under-evaluated off label prescribing that compromises patient safety or represents wasteful medication use.”
Arch Intern Med.2006:1021–1026.
http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/reprint/166/9/1021.pdf

And so on and so on, but it would be acceptable to prescribe drugs “off label” without any scientific support, and based on anecdotal evidence, but NOT acceptable for anecdotal evidence to be used in Alternative Medicine.?
Last time I heard this was known as hypocrisy.

 
avatar

Guy

I have followed with interest the recent posts on various pieces of supporting evidence on both sides of the current debate. It is normal that the burden of proof falls more heavily on those who are promoting a new technology compared to those defending the existing technology. Whether or not this is correct is itself debatable.
Now the big question. What is new? I mentioned in a previous post, a book I found recently entitled ‘Nutrition and health’ written in 1907. It appeared that the importance of diet was fairly well established 100 years ago and before that (eg Hippocrates). I also previously mentioned ‘macro Theories’ such as Gaia theory which are much harder to solve by reductionist science. Another more relevant ‘macro hypothesis’ is that presented in ‘The Blue Zones’ which seeks to correlate lifestyle differences and longevity. The book does not seek to ‘invent’ but only to ‘discover’ (I will come back to this later). The ‘experiments’ which were being studied in the book involved sample sizes which make most pharmaceutical trials look like a joke. Whole countries have been studied over periods of decades. Comparisons between countries allowed contributing factors to longevity to be determined with good levels of accuracy. One study alone involved looking at 97,000 Adventists who live only 60 miles from LA but have levels of health which are completely off scale compared to the surrounding populations.
This book and others seek to discuss an experiment which has been going on for hundreds of years involving millions of people. As long as you are not the kind of scientist who believes that ‘reductionist science is the only science’ then the evidence is overwhelming that diet and health are solidly linked.
Now back to NEW medicine (pharmaceutical medicine) the effects of which have only been studied on a much smaller number of people over a much shorter period of time. This is a discipline which to a much greater degree has sought to ‘invent’ rather than ‘discover’. Indeed the companies that have made the greatest number of inventions have usually also made the greatest levels of profit. However these patents are hugely lacking in their scientific content and only require the inventor to describe a method and the result. The ‘mechanism’ of the invention is not required, indeed patent agents will always remove any such hypotheses in case they turn out to be wrong and thus ‘teach away’ from the desired invention.
Thus the patenting process (which historically has worked quite well at rewarding innovation) has
utterly failed in creating a scientifically-led medical industry. Good quality publications have been replaced by poor quality patents (p.s. I would also use the word ‘poor’ to describe the 25 patents that I have written). Publications only appear later and are still totally lacking in providing a sound scientific basis for this ‘new’ medical method. While some papers might describe the way in which the drug is thought to interact with the body, I suspect that none have tested the effect the drug on every other one of the thousands of processes which go on in the body (please excuse my lack of med-speak). There is of course an added need to do this for synthetic chemicals which have never previously been in contact with humans (as opposed to foods and herbs which have been consumed for thousands of years).
Every so often, society gets really excited about how science will change our lives for ever. Back in the 70′s, Raymond Baxter would tell us on Tomorrows World how we would all be living in dome shaped houses and wearing disposable clothes by the year 2000. I would suspect that in a few decades time, the ‘pharmaceutical bubble’ will have passed and will to our grandchildren appear as silly as the Dutch Tulip bubble of 1637. In fact the ‘peak oil’ moment might have already arrived with another announcement of big lay-offs from big pharma (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16851703 ). In the link, Prof David Philips of the RSC said ‘ It’s a fact that the easy targets, in the body, for the production of drugs have, essentially, all been used up’.

It is time for scientists to be a bit more humble and spend more time discovering and less time inventing. The answers are all around us already.

 
avatar

chrisb

Guy,
Sometimes it is difficult to see the wood for the trees, and that I think applies to all of us. Your input is a breath fresh air, accompanied with reason and just plain old commonsense.
Thank you.

 
avatar

wavechange

The difficulty of producing new drugs is well illustrate by antibiotics, yet there is a demand for new products to replace those that have been rendered ineffective thanks to man being outwitted by humble bacteria. The challenge here is to make a product that is and will remain effective against the bacteria without causing harm to human beings. One of the problems is that bacteria and humans have so much in common.

New drugs cost a fortune to develop and a long time to test. Patents have a limited life and when the patent expires, other companies are able to produce the same drug under their own name. They have not had the expense of research and testing, so can produce the drug at a fraction of the price, and this forces the holder of the expired patent to drop their price to match. If the drug fails late in the safety trials or is withdrawn when in use by GPs, etc, it means that a lot of money is wasted.

Patents are a big problem for young researchers eager to tell the world about their research at conferences and to get their first papers published. Publications must come after patents or the latter will be worthless. There has been criticism of peer review, but it is the best system of quality control we have devised for scientific papers. Patents are not peer reviewed. I recall a member of my research group repeatedly trying to test one of the claims in a patent before being told by one of the authors of the patents that the claim was made because it seemed plausible. Most patents do not make money for anyone, but help prevent others benefitting from using your ideas without paying for the privilege. I have never made a penny out of my own patents (which have no connection whatsoever to drugs or medicine), but I never expected to make money.

Guy says that we should spend more time discovering and less time inventing. These go hand in hand. To take a very old example, Fleming discovers that a mould produces a tiny amount of something that kills bacteria and call it penicillin. Scientists go on and select moulds that produce penicillin in vastly greater amounts and discover how to cultivate the mould in large tanks under conditions that maximise penicillin production. They establish how to purify penicillin make a consistent product that is free from other chemicals that could be harmful. The natural penicillin is a wonder drug but is ineffective against a major class of bacteria and it is found that other bacteria have a defence mechanism that protects them from the drug. The scientists then do some chemistry on penicillin and produce a range of semi-synthetic penicillins that can be used to treat infections caused by a much wider range of bacteria than the naturally occurring drug. Of course this is ancient history and the value of penicillins is declining, but it is one example of how a natural product can be exploited and modified to make it more effective. Many valuable drugs can be made from plants, and the biotechnology industry has helped us produce drugs that are much safer, consistent and effective than making direct use of the plant sources.

We need to get away from the idea that taking a pill will make you better and focus on the reasons for illness. We certainly don’t need people taking supplements any more than we need GPs prescribing unnecessary drugs. In both cases we should have evidence of need and a strategy to discover the underlying case of a problem and deal with this if possible.

Most owners of modern cars know little about the workings of their car engines, so if they have a problem they call a mechanic. The owner may, by trial and error, be able to fix the problem but they will probably achieve nothing and their tinkerings could damage the engine. A good understanding of biochemistry and nutrition is a good start if we are going to treat human illness.

 
avatar

Katie

Guy thank you forr your contribution. I may be wrong but I think that most of the ‘anti’ nutritional therapy brigade would agree that diet plays an important role in prevention as the types of studies (the epidemiolological and anthropological types ) you mention have demonstrated – even if these are the sorts of studies that reductionists tend to dismiss.
The issue, as I see it, is how does one effectively evaluate whether nutrition and diet has a role in a western society to halt the progerssion of ill health once disease processes are well established. If the randomised controlled trial type approach isnt right to evaluate the complex effect of nutrition on physiology what should be the next step? This is a particularly important question if it is true that pharmaceutical medicine has reached a peak.

 
avatar

chrisb

Wavechange,
I wanted to thank you for your most recent post which has been very illuminating, but with all due respect, and on what may be considered to be a rather cynical response…………………..

It is indeed true that drugs cost a fortune to develop, and where patents have a limited lifespan to recuperate those costs; after which time generic versions are allowed to be marketed and prescribed more cheaply.

The issues for me here are that it is reported that the Pharmaceutical companies actually spend more money on advertising/marketing than they actually spend on research in the development of new drugs………………………
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080105140107.htm
and according to a study in PLOS Medicine…………………
http://consumerist.com/2008/01/drug-companies-spend-almost-60-billion-on-marketing-30-billion-on-research-what.html
http://www.actupny.org/reports/drugcosts.html

So the cost factor could very well be a red-herring/diversion.

Some would say that as pharmaceuticals, which for the most part are derived from botanicals, any patents are only allowed if the chemical structure of that botanical has been modified or metamorphosed from its original chemical composition. For example, patents are not permissible for Vitamin C, and therefore no attempt is made to do so, because the profits from its production and sale as a therapeutic substance, would be considerably lower, and profit margins would be adversely affected.
It is questionable in my own view that modifications to the chemical structure of a botanical and their use therapeutically, are really for improving that treatment, or for exploiting the profit motive and financial gain.

You are most probably right in the example you gave of penicillin.

However, the use of white willow bark for example, which was used for medicinal purposes goes far back. Ancient Egyptians used white willow for inflammation, and even the Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about white willow’s medicinal uses in 5th century B.C. Scientists eventually discovered that an extract from this (salicin) was hard on the stomach, leading to bleeding and the development of stomach ulcers. The metamorphosed version produced by Bayer (Aspirin) is still known for irritating the stomach lining: so little has changed.

I couldn’t agree with you more wavechange…………………
“We need to get away from the idea that taking a pill will make you better and focus on the reasons for illness”, AND “we should have evidence of need for BOTH prescription drugs and even Nutraceuticals.

Can’t believe I just said that !!!!!

And your comment that………………
“A good understanding of biochemistry and nutrition is a good start if we are going to treat human illness”.

Hear hear, and Amen to that.

 
avatar

Alan Henness

chrisb said:

“The issues for me here are that it is reported that the Pharmaceutical companies actually spend more money on advertising/marketing than they actually spend on research in the development of new drugs.”

Compare and contrast one of the big pharmaceuticals, Merck with one of the big homeopathy manufacturers, Boiron. (Source)

In 2009, Merck’s sales were worth 7.38 billion euros and they spent 1.34 billion euros on research and 2.23 billion euros on marketing.

in 2009, Boiron’s sales were worth 526 million euros and they spent 4.28 million euros on research and 114.94 million euros on marketing.

Merck is clearly a bigger company (but Boiron isn’t exactly a cottage industry), but their marketing/research ratio is 1.7 – ie they spent 1.7 times their research budget on marketing.

Boiron’s marketing/research ratio is 27 – ie they spent 27 times their research budget on marketing.

Therefore this Big Pharma company spent 16 times more of its marketing budget on research than this Big Sugar company.

Was that because we already have a plethora of solid research that homeopathy works and little more is needed?

 
avatar

chrisb

Yes Alan,
Touche.

assuming your figures are correct then I would agree with you, but then Boiron’s greater % of expenditure on their marketing could be something to do with achieving “acceptability”, compared to Pharmaceuticals which are Mainstream and “more acceptable” I suppose in the eyes of the majority.

I am not a fan of Homeopathy and have never tried it myself, so probably not the best example.

 
avatar

wavechange

That’s might be a bit too subtle, Alan. :-)

To be fair to homeopathy, it can work – thanks to the placebo effect.

 
avatar

Alan Henness

chrisb said:

“but then Boiron’s greater % of expenditure on their marketing could be something to do with achieving “acceptability””

The way to achieve ‘acceptability’ would be to conduct robust scientific trials, not marketing.

We are certainly fortunate here in the UK that it is illegal for anyone to advertise POM products to the public so by far the greatest part of Merck’s marketing may well be to the public in the US. I seem to see more and more of it every time I go there and I find it very disturbing.

 
avatar

chrisb

Yes Ala,
Scientific trials are the best way forward to prove the efficacy of Homeopathy or otherwise, and it is significant that no one has as yet come forward to claim the one million $$ prize to demonstrate that it does.
However, when we had the discussion on acupuncture, which David described as “gobbledegook”,
it is a wonder as to why it is offered on the NHS: appeasement perhaps to keep the alternative community happy?
Who knows?

 
avatar

Alan Henness

chrisb said:

“it is a wonder as to why it is offered on the NHS: appeasement perhaps to keep the alternative community happy?”

Possibly – it’s certainly not based on any robust evidence.

 
avatar

Selina Import

I know nothing about homeopathy. I know people who believe it works for them. I just wonder if we are looking in the wrong place to understand it. If E=mcsquared – Energy and mass are interchangeable – We are condensed energy/mass. Therefore unless we can find a way to identify what is happening energetically how can we prove or disprove what is going on in Homeopathy. This why I couldn’t say whether Homeopathy works or not and therefore can’t rule it out. Are there any physicists about?

 
avatar

wavechange

I know enough about physics to be able to say Einstein’s celebrated equation, which you mention, has no relevance to homeopathy.

Homeopathy exploits the placebo effect, which does work. Sugar pills can help people feel better if they think they are taking medicine. Don’t tell Nancy Appleton or she will warn us agains that and cherry pick a reference warning of the danger of sugar pills.

 
avatar

Alan Henness

Selina Import

Your explanation sounds very like this from Dr Charlene Werner: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0c5yClip4o

I can assure you she is talking so far out of her depth of knowledge of anything to do with science that she drowns in her own ignorance. Like many homeopaths who try to explain how homeopathy ‘works’ she invokes sciency-sounding words, but hasn’t a clue what she’s talking about.

 
avatar

Elizabeth

How is it that homeopathy works in animals? have they been conditioned to accept a placebo effect?

 
avatar

Alan Henness

Elizabeth said:

“How is it that homeopathy works in animals? have they been conditioned to accept a placebo effect?”

There may be some element of that – dogs wanting to please their master, etc. However, it’s a human who gives the homeopathy and who observes the results.

Prof Richard Feynam once said:

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

That is why carefully designed trials are needed: we can’t trust each other and we certainly can’t trust ourselves – there are too many subtle biases – intentional or otherwise – including many that we are just unaware of. If we want to understand what is really happening, we must do everything we can to eliminate all causes of bias we can think of.

And when we do that with homeopathy, nothing is left; it doesn’t work any better than, well, a sugar pill.

 
avatar

Guy

Katie. You raise a very important question about how to prove the link between diet and health. Nutritional therapy alone will only help those who are willing to take responsibility for their own health (and indeed all aspects of their life). For widespread change to occur for all demographic groups within the UK will take much longer and has to start with education both in diet as well as the wider culture of personal responsibility ( also known as Big Society). This should begin in school but should be maintained somehow across all age groups. I would suggest that there is enough evidence already from ‘The Blue Zones’ and other similar works in order to direct government policy in the right direction. In fact the easiest policies for politicians to push are those which are already working in other countries. I would not expect this change to occur quickly which is a problem since every high street in the UK is full of walking examples of the failure of our current approach to healthcare. Sure, taking a couple of pills every day is a lot easier than giving up a whole load of highly addictive food habits but pills simply do not do the trick.
Any medical company that spends far more on PR than on research (thanks for the numbers AH) is clearly engaged in a huge and ongoing ‘replastering of the façade’ of modern healthcare. Infact it sounds like the research activity in many of these companies is drying up all together. Once all the recent drugs fall off-patent, revenues will fall drastically. However shareholders will still expect dividends and so the PR budgets will have to be slashed. This will lead to the façade becoming tatty which in turn will reduce the share price of drugs companies. This positive feedback might occur as fast as it did with the banking crisis. This resizing of drugs companies will create an opportunity/need for governments to once again get involved in large scale funding of medical research. This will be a far more optimum situation since medical research studies are clearly long term affairs and are therefore poorly suited to being supported by the private sector. With a more level playing field, I am certain that many approaches including NT will have a real opportunity to prove themselves.
In reply to Selina (since I am a PhD physicist), you are correct that energy and mass are interchangeable. However significant energy is only released in reactions which involve a change the size of atomic nuclei. I very much hope these do not occur in homeopathic remedies otherwise we would have to label them carcinogenic (like chemotherapy drugs). Seriously though, I think homeopaths have their work cut out in convincing scientists from any discipline that their methods are sound.

 
avatar

Selina Import

Yes wavechange, I can see that placebo could be it, but we can’t prove that either can we?. How is it proved that there is nothing left energetically?

 
avatar

wavechange

There is an extensive literature on homeopathy and I expect that you will find enough on Wikipedia to convince you that there is no scientific basis beyond the placebo effect. I think there is more evidence of the moon being made of green cheese than that homeopathy works, but please don’t ask for references.

 
avatar

Alan Henness

Selina Import said:

“How is it proved that there is nothing left energetically?”

I doubt any scientist would have any idea what that means. All sorts of nonsense is dreamed up by homeopaths in an attempt to ‘explain’ homeopathy in ways that are either designed to simply confuse the fact that there don’t have an explanation of how it might work (if indeed it did) or they invent things that sound sciency, but which have no discernible meaning when probed.

 
avatar

Selina Import

Alan, I assume you weren’t referring to anything I said. I don’t have any “explanations” about Homeopathy. I only have questions about it. If it works on animals, what’s the explanation for that?.

 
avatar

Alan Henness

Selina Import said:

“Alan, I assume you weren’t referring to anything I said.”

I’ve replied to several comments, so I’m not sure which one you are referring to.

“If it works on animals, what’s the explanation for that?.”

First, you have to establish that homeopathy does, indeed, work on animals. Then you can look for an explanation. However, there is no robust evidence that homeopathy works on any animals, human or otherwise. See my comment above.

 
avatar

Selina Import

Alan, “If we want to understand what is really happening, we must do everything we can to eliminate all causes of bias we can think of”. In thinking there is always more to be thought is there not?

 
avatar

Alan Henness

Selina Import said:

“Alan, “If we want to understand what is really happening, we must do everything we can to eliminate all causes of bias we can think of”. In thinking there is always more to be thought is there not?”

Of course there is very likely to be things we haven’t yet thought of, but that can never be an excuse for trying as hard as we can to identify and eliminate all the biases we know of. Nor for making stuff up to fill any gaps in our knowledge.

This isn’t something cutting-edge in science; scientists do this all day, every day. If they miss some potential source of bias in an experiment, it will be pointed out (frequently with great glee) by other scientists, peer-reviewers or researchers trying to replicate or debunk that work. This is the essence of how the scientific method works and why it’s been so successful in helping us understand how the Universe works.

 
avatar

Elizabeth

We have used it regularly on animals.
The first time we had experience was with the well known late veterinary surgeon George McLeod
and since, on our own, using his books.
One cat of ours had a sudden attack of cystitis in which his urine was nearly all blood. Unfortunately it was a weekend, with no vets available; so we gave the cat one tablet crushed of cantharis 30c and within two hours he stopped his moans and his urine was clear. We gave him some more the next day, and that was the end of it. We have used similar remedies on other animals, sometimes with success, sometimes not. But homeopathy depends always on the correct diagnosis and the appropriate remedy, which is one of the reasons that it can be elusive, and doesn’t lend itself to scientific trials, as each case is different.

 
avatar

wavechange

So a cat recovers and that is evidence that homeopathy works.

Is there even a remote possibility that the cat could have recovered without the ‘treatment’?

I am glad the cat is well.

 
avatar

Alan Henness

Elizabeth

I’m afraid that’s just another anecdote (like the many we had on previous pages). As wavechange suggests, you need to look for – and eliminate – all the far more likely (and mundane) explanations before tentatively invoking the hypotheses that homeopathy must work. Even then, the prior probability of a mechanism for homeopathy must be taken into account before declaring that homeopathy works.

I can thoroughly recommend this article by Barry Beyerstein: Why Bogus Therapies Seem to Work, particularly the section Ten Errors and Biases.

 
avatar

Alan Henness

Elizabeth said:

“But homeopathy depends always on the correct diagnosis and the appropriate remedy, which is one of the reasons that it can be elusive, and doesn’t lend itself to scientific trials, as each case is different.”

Sorry, I missed this.

This is an old canard: it is extremely easy to test homeopathy properly even allowing for individualisation of treatments. The problem is homeopaths rarely conduct robust tests, preferring to do ill-thought out trials that we would condemn Big Pharma for doing. And when they are conducted robustly, there is no effect over placebo.

 
avatar

chrisb

Wavechange,
whether Homeopathy works via the placebo effect is interesting and as you say there is a wealth of info’ to state that it does not.
However, when you mention Appletons warnings on sugar and her cherry picking references I would like to remind you of the recent report and study published in that prestigious Journal “Nature”, but it is a paid subscription and cannot publish it fully………..
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v482/n7383/full/482027a.html

Entitled……………..
“The toxic truth about sugar”
“Added sweeteners pose dangers to health that justify controlling them like alcohol, argues a Comment article.”
Appleton is saying essentially the same thing regarding “added sugars” to our diets, rather than those that are naturally occurring in fruits and complex carbohydrates.
http://www.canadiangrocer.com/top-stories/sugar-should-be-controlled-like-alcohol-report-11146

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is present in a wide array of processed foods like soft drinks and salad dressings, commercially made cakes and cookies, and breakfast cereals and brand-name breads to mention but a few. This commonplace additive silently increases our risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and atherosclerosis.
High dietary intake of fructose (HFCS) is problematic because fructose is metabolized differently from glucose. Like fructose, glucose is a simple sugar. Derived from the breakdown of carbohydrates, glucose is a primary source of ready energy. Sucrose (table sugar) comprises one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose. Thus, excessive sucrose intake also contributes to the rise in overall daily fructose consumption. Glucose can be metabolized and converted to ATP, which is readily “burned” for energy by the cells’ mitochondria. Alternatively, glucose can be stored in the liver as a carbohydrate for later conversion to energy. Fructose, on the other hand, is more rapidly metabolized in the liver, flooding metabolic pathways and leading to increased triglyceride synthesis and fat storage in the liver. This can cause a rise in serum triglycerides, promoting an atherogenic lipid profile and elevating cardiovascular risk. Increased fat storage in the liver may lead to an increased incidence in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and this is one of several links between HFCS consumption and obesity as well as the metabolic syndrome.
Gaby AR. Adverse effects of dietary fructose. Altern Med Rev. 2005 Dec;10(4):294-306.
http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2008/dec2008_Metabolic-Dangers-of-High-Fructose-Corn-Syrup_01.htm

The first I heard about the placebo effect was when a Dr Isaac Jennings MD substituted colored chalk pills for the real medicine of his day, and advised on diet and lifestyle changes to his patients. His success against many common diseases was so commonplace that he won a huge following throughout the United States, but on the discovery of his “cheating” he was denounced as a quack. Nothing has changed much since the early to mid 1800′s has it.
.

 
avatar

wavechange

chrisb

I thought we had agreed not to continue our discussions. They have not been very fruitful so far.

I don’t know about you, but I have access to Nature and a fair number of other journals online. What you have linked to is a comment article and you will find other oddball articles in this part of the journal. I looked it up after hearing one of the authors on the radio last week. I’m afraid that if scare science is the way forward I am very glad that I have retired. The government advice saying not to eat too much sugar/fat/salt seems a more balanced approach.

You may remember having reprimanded me for giving you a biochemistry lesson. Now you are trying to give me one, even covering some material I have taught at MSc level. Still, you did not know that, although I thought you were aware that I know something about simple sugars.

HFCS consists of a mixture of approximately equal amounts of glucose and fructose. The commercial process involves immobilised glucose isomerase, which enables a continuous process. Your dodgy reference suggests that HFCS contains 80% fructose, but that is impossible because of the thermodynamic equilibrium for the reaction. Fructose is much sweeter than glucose, so using HFCS instead of sucrose (table sugar) means less total sugar needed for sweetening food and drink.

Appleton may distinguish between added and natural sugars but that is nonsense. Fructose in orange juice is the same as fructose in HFCS.

Any of my first year students who wrote ‘Glucose can be metabolized and converted to ATP, which is readily “burned” for energy by the cells’ mitochondria.’ would be told that this statement would not be acceptable at A-S level never mind at university.

Any university-level biochemistry textbook will cover many of the topics you have written about, and while the Web is full of nonsense about health and disease, the biochemistry is pretty good on the whole.

Apart from baking, which I do not do very often, I do not use sugar and I avoid buying products that contain much sugar, fat and salt. Scare stories about sugar being dangerous is no better than giving drugs and supplements to those who don’t need them, and it brings science into disrepute.

Let us end this conversation once and for all.

Best wishes, wavechange.

 
avatar

Elizabeth

Of course the cat story is not “evidence” in any rigorous understanding. It was never meant to be.
I did say that we had used these treatments on many other occasions, and I also mentioned the work of the vet George McLeod, who pioneered the use of homeopathy in animals, and was very respected for it, particularly among farmers who use it on their animals.
I simply thought that with all the scorn being used in this discussion, and nobody else offering anything in the way of an open mind, it might be as well to offer an “anecdote” for those who may have such a thing.

 
avatar

wavechange

I see that someone has already disagreed with your view before I read it. Rather than saying that some of us are not open-minded, I ask if you are open-minded about all the effort that has shown that homeopathy does not work? Maybe the pot calling the kettle black? :-)

 

Back to top

Post a Comment

Commenting guidelines

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked

Tired of typing your name and email? Why not register.

Register or Log in

Browse by Category

Consumer Rights

783 Conversations

9761 Participants

28581 Comments

Energy & Home

667 Conversations

7539 Participants

25939 Comments

Money

838 Conversations

6390 Participants

16682 Comments

Technology

787 Conversations

7931 Participants

20825 Comments

Transport & Travel

603 Conversations

4871 Participants

13713 Comments