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It’s not worth risking your health or home on ‘miracle cures’

Miracles on a sign

The internet’s rife with adverts and claims for clinics and treatments that offer ‘cures’. But if you’re tempted by untested claims you might want to think again, argues Tabitha from Sense About Science.

A new Sense About Science guide, written with patients and medical charities, explores the danger of untested cures on the web.

People facing long-term or chronic conditions can be desperately searching for anything that might help, and are especially vulnerable to exploitation.

Bombarded with unsubstantiated claims for ‘pioneering cancer treatments’, new diets and unfounded stem cell cures, patients can be left chasing false hope, exposed to crippling financial and emotional costs and risking serious harm to their health.

These treatment claims offer hope of finding something that will do more than conventional medicines can. But the evidence for many of them is unreliable.

Harm to your health and wallet

It’s easy to see a treatment or cure and think ‘I’ve got nothing to lose…’ but the reality is that people can risk, and lose, a lot.

Patients have told us about harm to their health – aggravation of their condition, pressure to stop taking medication, being exposed to risk of infections such as HIV via treatment with unscreened stem cells. And patients have also told us about the financial costs – parting with life savings, risking loss of homes or jobs.

There’s also the emotional toll: pressure from well-meaning friends and family to try things despite a lack of evidence to support them and, perhaps worst of all, the disappointment of realising you’ve been sold false hope.

Aggressive advertising for ‘cures’

Many clinics use aggressive marketing, by selecting the best testimonials, using pseudo-science, even posing as patients in online forums. Some of these treatments cost tens of thousands of pounds. This runs into the hundreds of thousands if they involve costly trips to private clinics abroad – sometimes leading to high-profile emotional public appeals from family and friends to raise money for treatment costs.

In response, we’ve been working with patients and medical charities at Sense About Science to publish a guide to help people weigh up claims about unfounded cures on the web and in advertising. Christine, who has a thyroid condition, told us:

‘After a saliva test an “alternative thyroid doctor” gave me “adrenal glandular” tablets and told me to reduce my prescribed thyroid medication. I was in a lot of pain, bed-bound for weeks and it cost me a whole year out of my life – not to mention the huge costs of paid carers and useless and misleading saliva tests. My advice is not to make my terrible mistake of trusting anyone outside the medical profession.’

Cut through the hype

The clear message coming from patients is that if a claim about a treatment sounds too good to be true, it probably is – but also that there’s a lot that you can do, including:

  • Get involved in clinical trials.
  • Find good evidence-based information.
  • Ask questions about evidence to help tell the beneficial from the bogus.

We live in a world where it’s possible for people to trade in this area. The web provides an amazing advertising space – one which despite best efforts, defies jurisdiction. From our point of view, the best thing we can do is equip people against this: armed with evidence and some critical questions, anyone can put themselves in a stronger position to cut through the hype around unproven treatments for themselves.

What do you think about ‘miracle cure’ promises made online? Do you know of anyone who’s been affected by this?

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Tabitha Innocent, Scientific Liaison at Sense About Science. All opinions expressed here are Tabitha’s own, not necessarily those of Which?

Comments
Member

The subject of this topic is:
“It’s not worth risking your health or home on ‘miracle cures’”.

We have often been subjected to headlines in the media such as: “Statins are miracle drugs”, or “The Miracle of Statins” or even, “Statins: Miracle Drug Now More Miraculous”

Statins are a 25 billion dollar world wide business and are designed to reduce cholesterol levels and reduce cardiovascular disease, but a new study from the Massachusetts Medical School confirms a new and potentially dangerous side effect of statin drugs – diabetes. (Archives of Internal Medicine)
The research report analysed more than 153,000 postmenopausal women who enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative study in the 1990s. None of the women had diabetes at the outset, but 7 per cent were taking statins.
15 years later the women were followed up and nearly 10 percent of women taking statins had developed diabetes, compared to only 6.4 percent in women who took no statin drugs.
Further analysis by Harvard shows that women over the age of 45 are 50 per cent more likely to develop diabetes if they’re taking a statin drug.

THOUSANDS of Australians could now be taken off cholesterol-lowering medications because of mounting evidence they increase the risk of diabetes and dementia.
Australian health authorities are reviewing their advice after US regulators announced statins will now carry warnings they could increase the risk of diabetes and cognitive impairment.

However, deaths from heart disease are not in decline, and nor is type 2 diabetes. Worse, the official website for the American Heart Association says, “Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes.”

Although statins are designed to lower cholesterol and allegedly prevent cardiovascular events, but they also block and severely deplete the essential heart nutrient known as Ubiquinone, or more commonly known by the names of Coenzyme Q10 or Co Q10. Without adequate stores of CoQ10 and lacking the repair mechanisms common to nuclear DNA, irreversible oxidative damage to mitochondrial DNA results from buildup of superoxide and hydroxyl radicals.
Studies now prove that supplemental CoQ10 while taking statins improves functional capacity, endothelial function, and left ventricular contractility in congestive heart failure without any side effects, but do cardiologists recommend or prescribe Co Q10? No.
http://www.spacedoc.com/cardiologist_CoQ10.html

Statins do and can work, but not on the pretext of their prescribed use of lowering cholesterol, but by reducing inflammation: the actual cause of heart disease………………
http://www.spacedoc.com/inflammation_heart_disease_obesity

In more than fifty percent of new heart attack cases, the cholesterol level is normal or below………………………….
http://www.spacedoc.com/cholesterol_heart_disease

How many statin users have been informed by their Doctor/cardiologists that cholesterol is actually a vital substance manufactured in the Liver essential for health, the production of which is regulated by that chemical factory depending on dietary intake, and the bodies aim of achieving and maintaining homeostasis; cholesterol is essential for brain function and the synthesis of Vitamin D3 in the skin for example.

So statins are sold and prescribed on the pretext of preventing heart disease by lowering cholesterol, but this is actually untrue and essentially a fraudulent use of a drug (medication).

So perhaps statins are not therefore the “miracle drug” so often spouted in the media, and an unprecedented medical scam and a 25 billion dollar a year scam at that…………………..
http://www.spacedoc.com/statin_scam

Member

Why use an obviously polemical website when you could reference a much more nuanced treatment in a reliable source?

http://www.bmj.com/content/340/bmj.c2197
http://margaretmccartney.com/2010/06/29/statins-benefit-again-overstated/

The opinions of Lundell and others are clearly outliers, at the extreme end. A more balanced view is not only more accurate, it’s more persuasive.

Member

To perhaps add balance to this comment, try the NHS link http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cholesterol-lowering-medicines-statins/Pages/Introduction.aspx
There seems to be an obsession with “scams” as if all those involved in spending money on treatments are ignorant.

Member

Guy,
this “polemical website” you refer to is edited and contributed to by (amongst others):

Dwight C. Lundell M.D.
http://www.thecureforheartdisease.net
Chief Medical Consultant, Asantae Inc.
Chief Medical Consultant at http://www.realweight.com

Dr. Lundell’s experience in Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery over the last 25 years includes certification by the American Board of Surgery, the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.
Dr. Lundell was a pioneer in off-pump coronary artery bypass or “beating heart” surgery reducing surgical complications and recovery times.
He has served as Chief resident at the University of Arizona and Yale University Hospitals and later served as Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery.
He was one of the founding partners of the Lutheran Heart Hospital which became the second largest Heart hospital in the U.S.

AND………..
Duane Graveline MD MPH
Former USAF Flight Surgeon
Former NASA Astronaut
Retired Family Doctor

So I suppose they have no idea as to what they are talking about.?
Their findings are supported by the science that is “evidence-based”, so if you care to peruse the site, you should then understand why they write as they do: to reveal the truth about statins.
Not that you will of course, as this wouldn’t be in keeping with your belief-system of “Medical Science”.

Member

Malcolm R,
it has been noted before now that the NHS reflects conservative and sometimes outdated notions on health-matters.

So outdated in fact that the diet-heart hypothesis of dietary saturated fat being the cause of heart disease has recently been debunked, and cholesterol as well cause heart disease.
Uffe Ravnskov MD PhD not only destroys this myth with the hard data, but shows it was never based on honest science in the first place.
Ancel Keys first argued this theory by charting heart disease mortality against fat availability for six countries, showing the more dietary fat available, the higher the rate of mortality. There was just one pesky problem: data was available for 22 countries at the time. Include the other 16, and the association falls apart.
Ravnskov also reviews numerous examples of populations consuming diets rich in saturated fat who are virtually immune to heart disease, such as the Masai of Africa, who eat a diet almost exclusively composed of meat, blood, and milk.
Ravnskov’s extensive analysis of cholesterol-lowering treatments spans over 80 pages. He shows conclusively that cholesterol-lowering drugs are expensive, a waste of time, and even dangerous.

Early drug trials were a disaster. In the famous World Health Organization (WHO) trial, a cholesterol-lowering drug called clofibrate did indeed reduce the incidence of heart disease, but the heart disease mortality rate stayed the same, and the total mortality rate increased! In other words, people who took the drug were more likely to die earlier than people who did not.

Scroll down this website to……….Here are the facts! and their subheadings.
http://www.ravnskov.nu/cholesterol.htm

Do your own independent research and discover the truth for yourself.

Member

Right. If anything this is a lesson about being cautious with extrapolating evidence.

Ironically, the majority of recent “miracle” alternative treatments do exactly that!

Member

Incidentally, I do recommend Margaret McCartney’s “The Patient Paradox”, it shows you how to understand the claims for mass screening and statins among many other things. It also shows what a doctor realyl thinks about consultation times, and what really drives them, and what holistic care (the real kind, not the kind that holistically looks at their auras to balance their chakras) actually means practically within the NHS.