July 2015 in review: part 2

So far we’ve looked at the cover stories and the first ten pages. Brace yourselves, there’s more to come.

Page 11 is a full page advert for Cytoplan, who claim that their Wholefood Cherry C contains only pure, powdered acerola cherry because, as they say, “food supplement nutrients in the same form as those in food are always the most optimally effective”.

L-Ascorbic Acid (evil) Natural Vitamin C (not evil)
L-Ascorbic_acid-a L-Ascorbic_acid-g

Spot the difference. Continue reading July 2015 in review: part 2

July 2015 in review: part 1

There have been a good number of tweets on the #WDDTY hashtag highlighting bonkers claims in the July 2015 edition of WDDTY, so lets take a quick whistle-stop tour through its pages.

We dealt with the cover stories yesterday. Page 2 is (as usual) a full-page “we’ll never take advertising” advert for Altrient, which appears to be in competition with homeopathy as their strapline is “nothing compares to Altrient”. They lead with a “33% increase in skin firmness” cream, high dose vitamin C (perfect for enriching your urine) and “high performance” glutathione, which, you will be pleased to hear, may support optimal overall health (quackvertising code for: there is no credible evidence that it does), supports a number of fad diets, and contains no gluten or GMOs. WDDTY seems quite happy for the drugs it likes to be oversold with vague and inflated claims, it seems. Continue reading July 2015 in review: part 1

July 2015: the firehose of stupid at full blast

Your challenge: guess how much of this is valid information that doctors don't tell you.
Your challenge: guess how much of this is valid information that doctors don’t tell you.

The July 2015 issue of WDDTY is out.  You can tell from the cover that it’s going to be a cracker. HPV vaccine: new dangers revealed! Why low-cal sweeteners make you fat! Recipe for better breast health! How I beat Lyme disease! Staying sun-safe naturally! And the headline: 10 minutes to stronger bones.

Based on these I predict: an anti-vax diatribe based on misleading presentation of data with no balancing reference to the benefits of preventing cervical cancer; anti-aspartame conspiracist whacknuttery; pimping some refuted nonsense about breast cancer; favourite quack fake disease “chronic Lyme” cured by some quack nostrum; anti sunscreen bollocks; and something doctors already told you.

Let’s see how I do. Continue reading July 2015: the firehose of stupid at full blast

Painkillers are behind most murders and mass killings, say researchers

Painkillers are behind most murders and mass killings, say researchers

Researchers, eh. What are they like?

Pharmaceuticals are often behind the mass horror killings in schools and public places, a new study has confirmed. But it’s not the antidepressants that are likely to make you a killer, as everyone suspected: the real culprits are painkillers and the benzodiazepines for anxiety and insomnia.

TL;DR version: At no point do the researchers claim, still less “confirm”, that drugs, of any kind, are “behind” any violent crimes at all.

What they actually say is that people with a history of violent crime should be carefully assessed when prescribing painkillers, because there is an increase (of between zero and two-thirds) in their chances of committing a subsequent violent crime while taking painkillers.

Not dramatic enough, so WDDTY decided to make some shit up. As ever.

First, some perspective. In the UK in 2013 (the last year for which figures are available) there were 8,416 deaths due to a single drug, 2,955 deaths due to all other drugs combined. The larger figure is, of course, for alcohol. The drug that killed Charles Kennedy is still legally on sale in every high street.

But this is not about deaths due to drugs directly, it’s about homicides and spree killings – A tiny number in comparison, at least in civilised countries. Mind, Lynne McTaggart (aka Chief Shitting Bull) is American by birth and has never really seemed to understand the differences between the US and the UK.

This study covers the period 2003-2011 in Finland, during which time there were 1,091 homicides (and 3,549 road traffic fatalities, an undocumented proportion of which involved drug use of some kind).

So what did the new study “confirm”?

Most of the available studies are case reports that only suggest a coincidental link between violence or homicide and antidepressants  or benzodiazepines, while very little is known about the association between antipsychotics and homicide. Two recent ecological studies found no support for a significant role of antidepressant use in lethal violence in the Netherlands or the U.S., although data on individual offenders were not available.

In fact it was a specific and detailed investigation of psychotropic drugs, and the conclusion is:

These results – which may probably be generalized to other developed and stable societies that have a low to medium homicide rate, although not necessarily to countries with higher rates of organized and premeditated crime – imply that the use of antidepressants should not be denied to either adults or adolescents due to a presumed risk of homicidal behavior. The surprisingly high risk associated with opioid and non-opioid analgesics deserves further attention in the treatment of pain among individuals with criminal history.

This is science not pseudoscience, so the investigators published the finding despite it contradicting their original hypothesis. Yes, the researchers actually did not confirm anything, they disconfirmed their original hypothesis.

Did WDDTY lead with “antidepressants not linked to violent behaviour”? Don’t be silly.

The highest risk was among people who were aged 26 or younger and who were taking an opiate painkiller; they were four times more likely to become a killer, and the risk almost doubled if they were taking a benzodiazepine.

Up to a point, Lord Copper.

The median age of offenders and controls was 36.3 years (range 13.3-88.0 years). A total of 849 (88.5%) offenders were males, and 42 (4.4%) had more than one victim, 761 (79.4%) were intoxicated by alcohol and 51 (5.3%) by illicit drugs during the offence (as confirmed by the police).

So when we read that:

The results of this prospective study show that antidepressant use per se was associated with an only modestly increased risk of committing a homicide, with borderline statistical significance. Benzodiazepine and analgesic use was linked with a higher risk of homicidal offending, and the findings remained highly significant even after correction for multiple comparisons.

What we are actually seeing is a combination of these drugs with alcohol. And in some cases illicit drugs as well.

So does that mean there’s a causal link, as WDDTY imply? No, it does not. But “Being off your tree on alcohol and drugs, plus painkillers, is behind most murders and mass killings, say researchers” is not quite so on-message. Get with the programme: it’s always the DRUGS.

Sorry that should be DRUGS!!!!!

But the risk was almost as great in any age group if they were taking an anti-inflammatory painkiller, some of which are available without a prescription; the drugs quadrupled the risk of someone becoming a killer.

That word risk. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Correlation does not imply causation.

 

Researchers from the University of East Finland made the connection between the drugs and homicidal activity after they analysed the drug-taking history of 959 people who had been convicted of murder. They looked at their drug-taking before they had committed a crime and again afterwards.

They did indeed, and they found that:

The results of this prospective study show that antidepressant use per se was associated with an only modestly increased risk of committing a homicide, with borderline statistical significance. Benzodiazepine and analgesic use was linked with a higher risk of homicidal offending, and the findings remained highly significant even after correction for multiple comparisons.

Which is interesting but doe not prove causation and absolutely cannot be extrapolated to the population of normal people, rather than those recently released from prison for violent offences.

Surprisingly, the expected suspects—the antipsychotics and antidepressants—seemed to have only a minimal effect. Of the real culprits, the benzodiazepines seemed to have been prescribed in high doses for long periods, and they can weaken our ability to control impulses. Painkillers affect emotional processing, say the researchers

Really?  Search the full text of the article, see if you can find the claim that painkillers affect emotional processing.

What it does say is this:

These results – which may probably be generalized to other developed and stable societies that have a low to medium homicide rate, although not necessarily to countries with higher rates of organized and premeditated crime – imply that the use of antidepressants should not be denied to either adults or adolescents due to a presumed risk of homicidal behavior. The surprisingly high risk associated with opioid and non-opioid analgesics deserves further attention in the treatment of pain among individuals with criminal history.

See the qualifications? ” deserves further attention in the treatment of pain among individuals with criminal history”

So: no need to stop taking the painkillers unless you have a history of violent crime. The headline should in fact read:

Most pissed-up violent offenders who commit subsequent violent crimes, are also on painkillers, say researchers.

Homeopathy improves fatigue and pain of cancer patients ten-fold

Few fields demonstrate the exercise of the pseudoscientific method more consistently than homeopathy. Any half-competent editor of a health magazine will be well aware of the red flags, and will steer clear of the junk studies that define the field.

You’ve already spotted the problem, haven’t you? Yes, the editor would have to be half competent. And also they would have to give a shit about facts, rather than their advertising sales.

Homeopathy dramatically improves the mental and physical well-being of cancer patients who are being treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy, a major new study has discovered.

Really? I wonder who would produce such a study, and where it might get published?

Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2015; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2015.03.004. A low impact factor (2.2) SCAM-specific journal.

“Influence of adjunctive classical homeopathy on global health status and subjective wellbeing in cancer patients – A pragmatic randomized controlled trial”

The word “pragmatic” is a red flag with homeopathy studies: it means that they are engaged in benefit finding, and have deliberately chosen not to try to eliminate many common sources of bias.

Half the 410 cancer patients, who were prescribed individual remedies, reported “significant improvements” in their levels of fatigue and pain, and had better appetites, than those who weren’t given the remedies. Improvements ranged from seven to 14 times in those taking homeopathy, say researchers from the Medical University of Vienna.

Did they indeed. So a group of people who received amateur talk therapy and magic sugar pills, reported subjective benefits, but no objective measures were used. This tells us precisely nothing that we did not already know.

Here’s something else we know: users of SCAM fare worse when they get cancer.  They delay treatment, trying worthless SCAM remedies first, so they present later and with more advanced disease, and even after controlling for that, they still die sooner.

With that in mind, one wonders why the Medical University of Vienna’s IRB approved this trial. Would they approve one on voodoo?  Maybe they would, it would not be the most unethical thing the university ever did, as Prof. Ernst reveals in his excellent A Scientist In Wonderland.

All the patients, who were being treated for stages 3 and 4 cancer, were interviewed every week while they were taking the remedies, and the improvements in the homeopathic group was very noticeable compared to the group who weren’t taking homeopathy.

According to a bunch of homeopaths. Of course the rigorous blinding that ensured that neither patient nor experimenter was aware of which group they were in, and the use of a carefully selected placebo (including controls for the homeopathic “consultation”, which another study shows is the only part of the whole charade that matters).

Oh, wait, no, they don’t appear to have done any of that.

Improvements in overall health were 10 times greater in the homeopathic group over the three weeks the remedies were taken.

Amazing, isn’t it? You wonder how such a striking finding could come out of a decently designed study given that three separate government reviews of homeopathy (Switzerland, UK and Australia) have failed to find a single condition for which it is provably effective.

There are two possibilities here:

  1. All the previous research is wrong, especially that showing that positive results are more likely when the study design is sloppy and less likely when it’s robust; most of physics is wrong; there are two complete parallel systems of action in human biochemistry, one of which has never been identified by scientists; and there is a form of energy that has never been detected or measured, but which has profound effects on human health.
  2. This is another badly-designed study by True Believers seeking to proselytise their faith.

Which is more likely? Answers on a razor please.

Shilling for Big Herba

All drugs are bad, in any amount. All vitamins, supplements and other SCAM products are good, and the more the better.

That’s the message of WDDTY, brought to you by the advertising budgets of people selling vitamins, supplements and SCAM products.

Sunshine News #1: You’re only getting a tenth of what you need

No, you really aren’t. Unless you want skin cancer. What WDDTY actually want to sell you is pills. It must be pills: they say that sunscreen is carcinogenic, so they cannot possible be advocating more sun exposure, because that would be a literally murderous level of stupid.

People who have been following the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) amounts for vitamin D could be severely malnourished: scientists have discovered the recommendation is only one-tenth of what it needs to be.

Really?

The current RDA forthe vitamin is 600 IU/ day for everyone up to the age of 70, and 800 IU/dayforthose who are older. But a team of American researchers, in response to a letter by a pair of Canadian
researchers calling on all public-health groups and agencies to urgently change the current too-low RDA for vitamin D, say the
amount we really should be getting from all sources, including sunshine, is 7,000 IU/day.

Doses that large are normally promoted by the “orthomolecular” quacks. Who are these scientists and researchers?

We have a source: Nutrients, 2015; 7: 1688-90.  The first thing to note about this is that it is not a published article, it’s a letter. WDDTY readers probably don’t know the difference. Letters do not go through peer review, they are simply expressions of opinion.

The letter responds to another letter, again not a paper. Both are contingent on an estimate of appropriate serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. The letters are estimates based on regressions – they suggest a need for further research, theya re not a confident finding, and they are absolutely not a cast-in-stone fact, as WDDTY promotes them

And even this amount is way below the safe upper limit for teenagers and adults, which may be as high as 10,000 IU/day, says Cedric Garland of the University of California at San Diego.

Garland is a darling of the orthomolecular crowd.

In fact this adds very little to what is already known: that people living in Northern latitudes may, in later life, require vitamin D supplementation.

The idea that large amounts of supplemental vitamin D are essential to life in the otherwise healthy adult human, is evolutionarily improbable and unsupported by data.

Shilling for quacks

As you will no doubt have realised, in most cases when doctors don’t tell you something, it’s because it is wrong (or at least unsupported by credible evidence). Sometimes, though, it goes a bit further. June’s lede is one of those cases.

Barry Durrant-Peatfield is a former GP who had an active practice treating what he diagnosed as thyroid disorders. WDDTY consistently call him “Dr.” but that is misleading: he has been voluntarily erased from the medical register rather than defend himself on fitness to practice charges, so he is no longer licensed to practice medicine in the UK.

Suspended by the GMC, rather than fight the case, “Dr Durrant-Peatfield retired but decided to take his case directly to the public.” Rather than publishing in the peer-reviewed literature. Because that’s hard work and less profitable.

WDDTY spin the familiar narrative of the Brave Maverick Doctor. The reality is much more prosaic. He trained at the feet of the acolytes of Broda Otto Barnes, who had eccentric ideas of thyroid function that failed to gain any meaningful scientific support (in the technical jargon of medicine, he was wrong). He used a quack diagnostic test and quack remedies to treat a disease that pretty much all reputable physicians would say his patients did not have. Continue reading Shilling for quacks

Alan Hunter’s wibble

andrew-neil1Alan Hunter is an obvious crank. He is also a quack trying to horn in on the allergies market. Allergology is a notorious difficult and complex field, which of course makes it an ideal hunting ground for snake oil salesmen of all descriptions.

Hunter is a compulsive spammer who  is now barred from using our email feedback form because he seems unable to comprehend the simple business of comments under blog posts. Unlike Lynne McTaggart, we don’t believe in suppression of speech (mockery is a far more effective way of addressing opposition), so this is a placeholder for a series of his differently-coherent replies copied and pasted from our feedback system.

Apologies for lack of formatting, this is a result of picking them out of the spam bin.

There are contributions here fomr other websites, not just WWDDTYDTY: if you’ve been the “beneficiary” of Alan’s “wisdom”, feel free to send it in. Please include the date and time of receipt (we might, if we can be arsed, track the coefficient of blether against time – it’s noticeable that the posts written after the pubs shut are the least coherent).

Feel free to reply to his tirades in the comments below, especially if you can go one step further than “Ha ha ha! Fuckwit”.

Amazon ban on – sorry, sales of – herbal products “illegal” – sorry, illegal.

amazonCall the police! A shrieking headline says:

Amazon ban on herbal products ‘illegal’

Wow, really? Let’s look a little closer:

The online retailer Amazon has pulled more than a hundred St John’s wort products, a herbal remedy for depression, after it was approached by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

So the statutory regulatory body approached Amazon, and Amazon pulled the products. And this is supposedly illegal. According to whom? Let’s read on:

The campaign group, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH),
says the MHRA “overstepped the legal mark” and some of those
107 products should never have been removed.

Oh really. And there’s not quite enough space to note that WDDTY contributor Rob Verkerk is the founder of the ANH, or point out that this is a body founded to promote the interests of the supplement industry, which profits handily from bullshit claims for products like St John’s Wort.

Follow the money. Unless it’s going to your friends.

The MHRA says the products were unlicensed and making
illegal medicinal claims or were inappropriately labelled. It now
plans to contact other on line retail outlets, including eBay, which have been supplying the products.

Statutory regulator enforces regulations shock. Pictures at eleven.

Amazon had two choices: challenge the request, or accede. Amazon chose to accede tot he request. They have lawyers and a metric fuckton of money, so that rather suggests that they accept the MHRA’s view that the marketing claims were illegal and the products were unlicensed.

It’s understood the MHRA acted after being approached
by the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) last
December. The association’s executive director Graham Keen
has described the action as having “a very positive outcome”.

So even some of those selling natural woo, are pissed off by the fraudulent claims of other marketers of natural woo. Interesting.

But the ANH questions the “legitimacy of the forced
product removal” and says that some of the medicinal claims
are “carefully worded health claims that are as yet not nonauthorized by the European Commission”.

Does Rob Verkerk work for the Ministry of Truth? That is some amazing doublespeak there.

It says this latest ban is part of an “ongoing campaign by the
MHRA to attack herbal food supplements without adequate
legal justification”.

Skeptics will be rolling around on the floor laughing at this: the MHRA is notoriously spineless in challenging the dubious claims of natural-woo scammers, this is incredibly rare and is based on clear-cut and flagrant breaches of the law.

How happy would WDDTY be for Big Pharma to sell products with unapproved claims via Amazon, do you think? Answers on a postcard, please.

Under attack? Try smearing someone who had absolutely nothing to do with it.

The best defence, they say, is a strong offence. Lynne McTaggart’s clearly taken this to heart, as she’s decided to hit back at the people who defaced her webshite by attacking someone who not only didn’t do it, but expressed disapproval of the vandalism.

I’m sure there’s some sort of logic behind that, but I’m glad I don’t understand it.

Was Changed to
How do you solve a problem like a cyber lynch-mob? How do you solve a problem like Maria?
 What better way to take the moral high ground when accusing others of pursuing a personal vendetta, than to personalise your own vendetta against the reality-based community? Awesome.
I was fascinated to see that among those offering support that the perpetrators get caught was Maria MacLachlan. Maria and her husband Alan Henness are effectively the Nightingale Collaboration, a tiny organization that was given seed money by Sense About Science in order to spend a prodigious amount of time reporting advertisers and practitioners of alternative medicine to the UK’s The Advertising Standards Authority. I was fascinated to see that among those offering support that the perpetrators get caught was Maria MacLachlan. Maria and her husband Alan Henness are effectively the Nightingale Collaboration, a tiny organization that was given seed money by Sense About Science in order to spend a prodigious amount of time reporting advertisers and practitioners of alternative medicine to the UK’s The Advertising Standards Authority. And many of the ads they’ve tried to stop are the ones that appear in the pages of our magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You.
 Yes, many of the adverts we, the skeptic community, have stopped (successfully, most of them are no longer published in their prior form) are indeed in WDDTY. And many aren’t. The campaign against fraudulent advertising by quacks pre-dates the campaign to get WDDTY to stop being dishonest. What Lynne has never understood, is that we challenge false advertising wherever we see it. I’ve challenged false claims in ads for finance companies, insurance companies, lobby groups and quacks. I have had two complaints upheld against adverts by groups with which I was involved. We changed the copy in one, and successfully challenged the adjudication in the other. It is not personal. It only seems that way because virtually every word in WDDTY, and much of the advertising, promotes fraudulent products and practices. When everything you do is promoting fraudulent nonsense then challenging the fraudulent is the same as challenging everything you promote. The obvious solution is to stop promoting fraudulent nonsense.
 What knowledge this is is not apparent as the couple appear to have no background in evaluating or studying medicine or alternative medicine (Henness reports his former employment as R&D manager for Honeywell Security and Customer Electronics).  What knowledge this is is not immediately apparent as the couple appear to have no background in evaluating or studying medicine or alternative medicine (Henness reports his former employment as R&D manager for Honeywell Security and Customer Electronics).
Ah, right, so identifying the expertise requires you to actually check your facts a tiny bit. I can see why that would present an almost unsurmountable problem for you.
From now on, I’m going to call this kind of ‘do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do’ activity ‘the Maria Problem.’Simon Singh has also got a Maria Problem. He has styled himself as the champion of free speech in science, but has been busy for nearly three years encouraging ‘book burning’ in the form of pressurizing and campaigning for stores and distributors to stop stocking What Doctors Don’t Tell You.
 This never gets any truer, however often it’s repeated. Simon has not “styled himself” as a champion of free speech, he is a champion of free speech. Unlike WDDTY, who supported Wakefield’s suppressive lawsuits, also supported Chris Woolams in using legal thuggery to suppress dissent and said nothing about Peter Wilmshurst, Simon has not only fought off a suppressive libel suit, he has actually helped to change the law – even the kind of shit WDDTY and Lynne McTaggart print about people is now marginally less likely to end up with the tawdry rag bankrupted. Commercial speech is not protected. Your right to say something does not confer any obligation on others to sell it for you. And all you have to do, in order to stop the critical backlash, is to stop printing lies and promoting health fraud.
This has nothing to do with free speech. They are free not to like my magazine and to publicly say so. But that is a far cry from encouraging people to interfere with our free trade or sending cyber attack dogs to abuse me online. This has nothing to do with free speech. They are free not to like my magazine and to publicly say so. But that is a far cry from encouraging people to interfere with our free trade or sending cyber attack dogs to abuse me online. That kind of activity is a threat to freedom and to a free, multi-cultural society.
 Wait, are you accusing Simon of racism here? Simon Singh? The well-known British Asian scientist and author? Who has collaborated with Edzard Ernst, the well-known German-born naturalised British scientist?The sound you can hear may sound like the incoherent screeching of a deranged harridan, but apparently it’s actually Lynne’s fingernails frantically scraping the bottom of the barrel in the hope of finding something underneath the barrel itself, to allow her to go still lower.
There have been ‘Master Lists’ kept by husband and wife combo Michael and Laura Thomason, writing as ‘Josephine Jones’ (he a database developer, she a coffee shop supervisor) and passed around from skeptic to skeptic as though we are engaged in behavior that must be monitored, blow by blow.  There have been ‘Master Lists’ kept by husband and wife combo Michael and Laura Thomason, writing as blogger ‘Josephine Jones’ (he a database developer, she a coffee shop supervisor) and passed around from skeptic to skeptic as though we are engaged in behavior that must be monitored, blow by blow.
 You are engaged in behaviour that must be monitored blow-by-blow. You relentlessly promote health fraud and attack critics. If you want to escape constant scrutiny, stop doing these things.Oh, and you could also stop telling belittling lies about people, especially after the facts have clearly come to your attention. It does rather undermine your umbrage about the original incident…
Encouraging the kinds of targeted bullying that have been directed against me and WDDTY is exactly how things do escalate and finally get out of hand. The only way to stop a lynch mob is to stop creating targets of hate. Which goes back to the Golden Rule. And that, Maria, is how you solve a problem like a cyber lynch mob. Encouraging the kinds of targeted bullying that have been directed against me and WDDTY is exactly how things do escalate and finally get out of hand. It’s how ordinary, law-abiding Germans were finally incited to go on a rampage, smashing windows and looting the property of Jewish shopkeepers during Kristallnacht.The only way to stop a lynch mob is to stop creating targets of hate. Which goes back to the Golden Rule, being tolerant of people whose beliefs are different from yours.And that is how you solve this cyber-bullying problem, Maria.
 Oh yes, because refusing to sell a magazine that promotes health fraud and risks public health by spouting anti-vaccine bullshit is exactly like the Endlösung. Remind me again, did they set fire to your offices? Drive you from your home? Beat you? Steal your property? No.

So: Lynne responds to critical commentary by doubling down, cranking the paranoia up to eleven and attacking someone who not only wasn’t responsible, but actually condemned those who were.

Think about that for a moment. The first thing Lynne thinks about when her webshite is defaced, is: how can I make this about restoring my profits, and, how can I turn it into an attack on the people I hate, even though they are plainly not responsible?

What "What Doctors Don't Tell You" Don't Tell You

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