All posts by Anarchic Teapot

It never fails to amaze me that, even when a writer uses a pseudonym in order to encourage people to judge the text on its own merits, you can always find someone dishonest enough to use ad hominem attacks because the writer is using a pseudonym. I'm a British citizen living in France, neither young nor especially inclined to tolerate quacks, scammers or dippy, dewy-eyed New Age mystics. Or Nutella. I really, really loathe Nutella. Vile stuff. *rants* I also dissect, debunk and devastate pseudoscience and bigotry on my own blog.

Crying “wolf”

Remember all those tearful posts and editorials about WDDTY being bullied? Well, here’s a crystal clear explanation of what they consider to be bullying.

PS it’s a spoof account, taken over by real human beings when WDDTY – who had been using it for some time – went back to @wddty recently. That is: @_WDDTY is a spoof. The other one is very, very real.

WDDTY: Sick or elderly person could be taking 30 drugs almost every day

This headline appeared recently on WDDTY’s appalling webshite:

Sick or elderly person could be taking 30 drugs almost every day

That’s an incredible amount, yet some people could be, although I doubt many young(ish) people fall into that category. Nevertheless, what’s surprising about the WDDTY headline is that it’s partly in the rough vicinity of the truth. It’s quite common for the very elderly (i.e. geriatric) to be on a staggering number of medications per day, and it’s a known problem that not only costs the State money but could also be shortening their lives.  Let me explain briefly and simply. There are several things to take into account, including:

  • The more medicines you take, the greater the risk of an interaction between them and the less chance there is of spotting it because, well, where to start?
  • As you grow older, your body becomes less efficient at eliminating substances. What was the proper dose for a chronic ailment at 50 may be an overdose at 80.
  • Some drugs – statins spring to mind as the most obvious example – are used to prevent health problems that may arise far in the future. There’s no point in giving someone a drug to prevent a heart attack or stroke in 20 years’ time when they’re 90.

The claimed source is “Daily Telegraph, 8 July, 2015”. This may well be, but not only is the Torygraph  quite definitely not a repository of peer-reviewed literature, I can find no article with that headline on its website. The rant below was, in fact, lifted from a story entitled:

Warning of ‘a nation of pill pushers’ as figures show 55 per cent rise in prescriptions

Which isn’t exactly the same thing. Now – bearing in mind that WDDTY promotes homeopathy, vitamin supplements and other forms of snake oil aimed at the healthy, thereby perpetuating the pill-popping culture – read on.

A sick or elderly person could be taking upwards of 30 different prescription drugs, often to treat conditions that could just as easily be managed by lifestyle changes.

The original article does not mention 30 different drugs a day at all, nor does it focus specifically on the elderly, except to state that 60% of prescriptions in 2014 were for patients aged 60+. Hence my clarifications above re the known problem of overprescription for geriatric patients.  Could the reworking and gratuitous augmentation of the text possibly be to twist it to the WDDTY agenda? Rumour has it that ursine excrement has been discovered in forested regions.

In all, UK doctors wrote one billion prescriptions last year for conditions such as depression and heart problems, costing the taxpayer £9 bn.

This is deliberate misrepresentation of sources. According to the Telegraph, the correct formulation should be “1 billion prescriptions… including drugs for conditions such as depression, diabetes and heart problems…”

Prescribing has increased by 55 per cent over the past decade, with the biggest rise in prescriptions for statins, for lowering cholesterol, which have doubled, followed closely by prescriptions for antidepressants, which have risen by 98 per cent.

No, statins more than doubled, while antidepressants rose by 97%, not 98%. You can’t even copy off the back of the cereal packet properly, can you?

The trend has been highlighted in a report from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which suggests that 20 prescriptions were issued to each person last year.

20 prescriptions on average. Incidentally that’s not 20 drugs a day, nor is it 20 pieces of paper with (possibly) several drugs on them. A prescription is one line on that piece of paper the doctor just gave you. I personally think it’s a bloody stupid definition to use, if the Telegraph got it right.

Example: I’m in my mid-50s. Say I see my doctor once every 3 months, excluding acute illness, and he gives me a quarterly prescription covering an allergy (2 items: tablets & eyedrops, or ointment), a HRT for a dodgy thyroid and … I dunno, let’s say an anxiolytic or something like that. That’s 4 lines, 4 times a year, which counts as 16 prescriptions, according to the official reckoning. If I only go twice a year for my chronic problems (it can happen), there would only be 8 prescriptions, even though the number of drugs consumed daily doesn’t change.

All I need now is to catch a cold which degenerates into bronchitis (they often do), or contract some other acute condition. Or even get an attack of shingles (increasingly likely as you age).  A dental abscess, requiring antibiotics & painkillers. A sports injury…

It doesn’t take much to get to 20, let’s face it.

As many people do not take any prescription medication,

This does not appear in the original article, certainly because it’s irrelevant. Healthy people tend not to visit the doctor and therefore won’t be included in the statistics. We are concerned only with people who do take prescription medicine. Because we’re talking about prescriptions. Practically the only medicine you give to people who aren’t sick is vaccines, you moron. Only quacks try to medicate the healthy. Of course prescription medication is for the sick. There’s no treatment for old age either. Medicine is supposed to alleviate the ills that come with old age.

the actual numbers given to the sick and elderly will be far above that average.

WTF? Do you even Truth? This is another piece of bullshit tacked onto the original report to deliberately distort the reader’s conclusions: PEOPLE WHO GO TO DOCTORS ARE PUMPED FULL OF DRUGS THEY ARE ALL GOING TO DIE BUY OUR ADVERTISERS ILLEGAL BULLSHIT INSTEAD.

Fuckwittery, and vicious fuckwittery at that. Take a statistic, add on 50%, replace “quarterly” by “daily”, and then claim, with no evidence whatsoever, that the reworked “figures” are in fact horribly understated.  Hamlet once denounced someone as having “the lie in th’teeth as far back as the lungs”. This lot have the lie in the teeth as far back as the arsehole.

In 2004, the average was 13 prescriptions per person.

And here, as with the Torygraph article, is the nub of the problem. While nobody disputes that there is overprescription of certain drugs –  especially to the very old (who may no longer need them) and to those whose psychological and/or behavioural problems would respond better to therapy – all other factors are being (deliberately?) ignored.

For example, is the increase in prescription for ED medications purely due to men wanting to show off, or are people now less inhibited about discussing the problem with their partners and doctors? What about all the new drugs that only came onto the market in the last decade, treating ailments that were previously neglected? There is a prescription drug in the process of being authorised in a number of countries for use as a prophylactic against HIV transmission between partners. We could only dream of it back in 2004.

Addendum: Many of these prescription items will also not be drugs at all. Incontinence pads and dressings are also covered, as are some gluten-free food staples for those diagnosed with coeliac disease.  Some prescriptions are for supplements, not drugs: those with osteoporosis or osteopenia will typically be prescribed calcium and Vitamin D. We’re shocked – shocked! – to see WDDTY engaging in such simplistic anti-medicine rhetoric. – Ed.

The UK is fast becoming a nation of pill pushers, says Katherine Murphy, of the Patients’ Association, who believes that prescribing is now “out of control”.

That is not the meaning of the original text, which runs:

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the public’s increasing reliance on pills was becoming “out of control”.

My emphasis. In other words, Murphy, unlike WDDTY, is not blaming the doctors. Funnily enough, WDDTY carefully omit every single reference to the horrified reaction of the medics themselves to the problem. And I quote:

Earlier this year, the medics – who represent all 21 medical royal colleges in the UK – said too many patients were being given treatment and tests which could do more harm than good.

The senior doctors are currently drawing up a list of medical treatments which should no longer be routinely offered, in a bid to halt over-diagnosis and needless treatment.

Prof Bailey said: “Doctors and patients should all recognise that resources aren’t unlimited in the NHS and we must all work together to be good stewards of the resources we do have. “Doctors and their patients should always discuss whether a particular prescription is really necessary and reach the decision together,” she added.

So in fact this overprescribing problem is something the doctors have already told us about. Not that it stops WDDTY smearing them by omission and implication. And we finish with the standard quack assertion that what they consider to be a proper diet will cure everything:

Instead, doctors should be advocating lifestyle changes, such as an improved diet and exercise.

… which we compare and contrast with what was actually reported in the Torygraph:

She said far more needed to be done to encourage people to eat more healthily and take regular exercise.

WDDTY, Kingsley and cancer – A vital report that’s a gift for you

This has just landed in my email inbox:

A vital report that’s a gift for you from WDDTY

The campaign to get What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY) banned in stores across the UK is relentless.

A small group of pharma-supported trolls just don’t want you to read vital information about your health; bad for their paymaster’s pockets no doubt.
But sometimes the information is so important that we want you to have it.  Our July issue featured the extraordinary work of Dr Patrick Kingsley, who explains the six major causes of cancer (and most aren’t the obvious ones).  You can download the whole issue here:

I removed the link for the download, since it’s only valid for 72 hours. Yes, I downloaded the pdf. Yes, it will be passed around for gleeful evisceration. The rest of the email was yet another attempt to attract subscribers, so I left it out as well; if you subscribe to WDDTY emails, you’ll get reduced-price subscription offers impressively often, so it would be a waste of space printing it here. In any case, the points I wanted to address are in the four relatively short sentences reproduced above. Let’s be having them:

The campaign to get What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY) banned in stores across the UK is relentless.

Uh-huh. It’s already been pointed out many, many times to the Great McTaggart that nobody is seeking to ban WDDTY. All that has been asked is that supermarkets and newsagents cease stocking it until such time as the editorial team clean up their act and stop presenting half-truths and whole lies as incontrovertible fact.

A small group of pharma-supported trolls just don’t want you to read vital information about your health; bad for their paymaster’s pockets no doubt.

Interesting. Now this was in an email sent out to subscribers: i.e. a public list. Wisely (for once) she doesn’t name the alleged “pharma-supported trolls”. Unfortunately, McTaggart has already named and given the home and/or work addresses of people she believes to be skeptics who have been part of the campaign. In fact, it’s mostly people who had bugger-all to do with the campaign that she seems to have exposed to potential abuse and harassment from her fanatical band of swivel-eyed loony followers. Way to go, Lynne.

Anyway, we all know who she means: Simon Singh and the Sense About Science group, Alan Henness, Guy Chapman, “Josephine Jones”, Jo Brodie etc. It’s as well for the Blessed McTaggart that none of them is at all litigious, as the unequivocal allegation that they are being paid by a pharmaceutical company to blog and tweet about WDDTY and its love of potentially lethal quackery is probably actionable. Given the precarious financial situation of the WDDTY group companies based in England and Wales, McTaggart and Hubbard couldn’t afford to defend a libel claim.

But sometimes the information is so important that we want you to have it.

Ye-e-es. This is WDDTY we’re talking about. They’re not strong on information. Misinformation, yes; disinformation, certainly. Information, not so much. See the rest of this site for details.

Now, I learnt a new term last night: native advertising. It’s a vaguely racist-sounding term for what are, basically, heavily-disguised infomercials.  Some online newspapers are increasingly using them in place of real journalism, on the basis that they have to eat.

There’s an awful lot of native advertising in WDDTY, when you look at it closely. Not only does it carry the usual amount of ordinary advertising, not infrequently from businesses already in trouble with the ASA – see the figures lovingly calculated by wandering teacake – but it also contains a lot of stuff written by the editorial team that boils down to glorified adverts for their own quackery practices. This suggests that WDDTY is being used as free publicity by the entire editorial team. No wonder they’re screechingly sore about losing access to passing gullible idiots in local supermarkets. Speaking of free publicity for the editorial team:

Our July issue featured the extraordinary work of Dr Patrick Kingsley, who explains the six major causes of cancer (and most aren’t the obvious ones).

This is probably the bit where we steeple our fingers and assume an interested expression. What are Kingsley’s 6 major causes of cancer, then? I’ll compile a list. Brace yourselves.

wddty cancer kingsley july 2014

1. A lack of digestive enzymes

Kingsley bases this on some vague extrapolation from the correlation between the tapering-off of growth of the placenta and the development of the fetal digestive system. No, I am not shitting you. He argues that a chronic lack of digestive enzymes – due to modern foodstuffs, of course – can lead to cancer because digestive enzymes control cellular division, according to him.

2. Stress

“Stress of any sort is a major cause of cancer,” sez Kingsley, who then clearly specifies mental stress. Environmental stress doesn’t get a look-in in the tiny paragraph devoted to this “major cause”.

3. Too much acid

And in at Number Three is that firm favourite, alkaline diet! It’s been debunked over and over. The quacks love it, because it sounds vaguely plausible – acids are aggressive, right? So if you have too much acid, like when you get heartburn, it must be bad for you, right? – and they can sell supplements for it. Next up is another traditional quack mark-catcher:

4. Free radicals

These things were all in the news some years ago and were thought to contribute to ageing. There were ads everywhere for expensive moisturising creams claiming to combat free radicals and make your skin look 23% younger, or something. Diet hucksters published recipe books claiming to combat free radicals. Foodstuffs on supermarket shelves were claiming to combat free radicals. About the only thing not claiming to combat free radicals was the Army. Again, there’s no evidence to support it, but since when did that stop quacks from selling anything?

5. A fungus

YES! Where would a round-up of pop-eyed, straw-in-the-hard quackpottery be without C. albicans? When it strikes, it generally infects the mouth or the genitals. It does not, despite the assertions of Kingsley and similar profiteering fuckwits, regularly infect the whole body and get into the bloodstream. That, fortunately, is very rare.  The day you have candidemia raging through your circulatory system, you had better put yourself in the hands of a real doctor in an emergency ward or you will very shortly not be in possession of a single fuck to give, because you will be dead.

Kingsley’s test for C. albicans involves trying to float your spit on top of a glass of water for half an hour. Trust me, if you have an oral candida infection, you will know about it. The perils of eating too many homegrown cherries, since you ask. The cream I had to rub on the inside of my swollen cheeks tasted disgusting (I loathe orange flavouring) and it was a weird sensation to feel the colonies pop and die as the treatment got to them.

6. …

… Now isn’t that odd? There isn’t a 6th cause. All that trumpeting and ranting,  and they couldn’t even count to 6? What a rip-off.

Here are the main causes of cancer, according to real cancer specialists on a reputable website like Cancer Research UK:

  • Cancer causing substances (carcinogens)
  • Age
  • Genetic make up
  • The immune system
  • Smoking, bodyweight, diet and physical activity
  • Day-to-day environment
  • Viruses
  • Bacterial infection

Not quite the same as Kingsley’s list, is it? Now, this is where Kingsley gets down to the nitty-gritty and you understand why they were so desperate to get this issue out to the mugs, even as a freebie. It’s blatant native advertising:

1. How to diagnose your supposed ailments without bothering your doctor?

There are some blood tests that Kingsley recommends:

  • serum ferritin, which he incorrectly states is often overlooked when testing for anaemia),
  • thyroid function – another pointless test, as it will be prescribed by a doctor if patient presents symptoms of hypo- or hyper-thyroidism,
  • Vitamin D – while most Europeans are said to be low in Vitamin D, it is not considered useful to test for it. Spending 15 minutes a day in outdoors is probably enough, unless you’re daft enough to wear a burka
  • candida overgrowth. This is the quack-invented ailment which you test for by floating spit on a glass of water. It’s the second time I’ve typed this and I still cannot believe someone would seriously propound such transparent bullshit.
  • stool analysis – of course a quack, member of a breed that’s forever ranting about gut imbalances and such-like nonsense – is going to put the anal back into analysis. According to Kingsley: farting, constipation, the shits or an itchy arse are obviously due to some sort of infection. Not due to eating too many beans, or burgers or not wiping properly.

Now, how to get these tests done? Well, you can use your local lab, as long as you ignore their reference levels as those are just averages and absolutely not tailored to you. This is Standard Quack Ploy No 1: convince the mark  you believe they’re extra-special and that only you really understand their specialness and special needs for special treatment. Because they’re so much more special and different to everyone else.

Kingsley recommends 3 labs for this work. One is Genova Diagnostics, which I’d already noted as suspicious but couldn’t get beyond the login page to examine, and Biolab, which I’d already listed as quack-facilitating. Above all, though, he praises Neuro Lab, who have a terrible Web reputation and, when you see the claims the owner makes, you can understand why:

 In the late 1970’s (Olga Galkina) was one of the principles in a joint eastern bloc project that utilised Lactobacillius Bulgaricus as an extremely successful product in treating cancer patients.

Admire also this little gem of raging WTF:

schizophrenia is associated with too much memory and the younger age group whereas Alzheimers disease is associated with the ageing process and too little memory.

So, that’s three quack-friendly labs promoted. He goes on to promote various superfluous supplements and homeopathic remedies, usually specifying a brand and always specifying a stockist. More covert advertising. Last but not least, oh deary me no, we have Dr Patrick Kingsley’s Patent IV Vitamin Cocktails.

And all this fuckwittery, of which I have skimmed but the scum-covered upper atmosphere, and more comes from a book written by Kingsley. It is available AT SPECIAL DISCOUNT PRICE (What else?), signed by the author himself, and comes with lots of discount coupons for more pointless quack products.

No wonder WDDTY are so eager to spread their rag around, at a loss if need be. If sales figures continue to plummet, expect them to send people to distribute it at subway exits. With multipage native advertising pieces like that, they’re almost there anyway.

‘Sleeping with baby’ a factor in cot deaths

At first sight, you’d think this headline had been brought to you from the Dept Of The Bleedin’ Obvious:

 ‘Sleeping with baby’ a factor in cot deaths

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)—once known as cot death—remains a mystery, although it’s more likely to happen when the baby is sleeping with the parents, a new analysis has discovered.

It’s the one factor that stands out in an analysis of 8,207 SIDS deaths, which involved children aged up to one year.  In 69 per cent of the deaths, the children were sleeping in the same bed as the parents.  The ratio rises to nearly 74 per cent in children aged between zero and three months.  Older infants who were sleeping near the parental bed were often found prone with blankets or stuffed toys nearby.
These tragic cases suggest that risk factors change during the first year of life, and that babies in the first three months of life are at special risk when they sleep with parents.
(Source: Pediatrics, 2014; doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-0401)

Well, yeah, except smothering isn’t usually classified as SIDS.

If you actually look up that article, which is here – Sleep Environment Risks for Younger and Older Infants (Jeffrey D. Colvin, MD, JD; Vicki Collie-Akers, PhD, MPH; Christy Schunn, MSW, and Rachel Y. Moon, MD) – you will see that there are currently two responses to it, both saying it’s a badly conducted study:

1. Study on Sleep Location Flawed, Inconclusive

This one is quite long, and begins:

The article by Colvin et al, “Sleep Environment Risks for Younger and Older Infants,” incorrectly concludes that bedsharing is the top risk factor for sleep-related deaths.

The authors fail to include any of the other major known risk factors for these deaths in their analysis besides sleep location and position. By far the other leading risk factors for SIDS are maternal smoking, infants sleeping unattended, and formula feeding. The risk of infant death from bedsharing, it is strongly potentiated by maternal prenatal and/or postnatal smoking. The use of alcohol and sedating substances by parents/caregivers poses the greatest risk of suffocation death but was not included in the study. The smoking variable was actually available in the authors’ dataset, and their failure to utilize it is inexplicable and concerning, as it would have likely significantly altered their results.

The authors also failed to distinguish adult beds from far riskier types of sleeping surfaces, although the literature clearly shows that most accidental smothering/entrapment deaths involve sofas, recliners, or chairs.

Because the authors did not use a control group, or population statistics regarding the prevalence of all factors stratified by age and smoking status at a minimum, it is impossible to draw any conclusions about the cause of sleep-related deaths from their study. Furthermore, 25% of the infants in this study actually died in cribs.

My emphasis in that last paragraph. The second response is, in its entirety:

2. Murky definitions, missing data prevent meaningful conclusions

“Sleep Environment Risks for Younger and Older Infants” (Colvin et al, Pediatrics 2014-0401) fails to add any useful information to the SIDS/infant mortality dialogue. Like many other papers on sleep-related risks, this article lacks clear, unambiguous definitions of critical variables, omits significant documented risk factors, and conflates SIDS and other unrelated forms of infant death, drawing conclusions that the data do not support. Specifically:

(1) The bed-partner could be human or animal, drunk or sober, smoker or not, adult or child, caring mother or inattentive other. A baby sleeping with an inebriated uncle is different from a baby sleeping next to his sober breastfeeding mother.

(2) “Adult bed” included adult bed, waterbed, adult mattress, bunk bed, child’s bed, sofa bed, and air mattress. (We can only presume that sofas and recliners are included. They are common shared-sleep choices, especially for mothers who have been told their bed is unsafe.) A baby sleeping on a soft sofa cushion next to that inebriated uncle is different from a baby sleeping with his breastfeeding mother in a firm, uncluttered bed. The categories “Adult bed” and “person” (defined as “sleeping on the chest or in the arms of another person”) were combined as one category, though one is inanimate and of varying safety, and the other is animate and of varying safety.

(3) Infant feeding method is never mentioned, despite the fact that formula-feeding is a risk factor for SIDS and affects the mother’s behavior during bedsharing.

(4) The words “smoking” and “smoke” do not appear in the article, yet smoking during pregnancy and in a baby’s household is a significant risk for SIDS. The authors acknowledge that “because there is no comparison group, risk cannot be determined.” Without a control group, actual risk cannot be calculated.

(5) SIDS and smothering are conflated. Most SIDS risks have nothing to do with sleep location, while smothering and suffocation are entirely location-related. The distinction is especially important when bedsharing is discussed. SIDS is linked to physiological problems; suffocation results from environmental problems.

(6) Bedsharing is cited as “the predominant risk factor for younger infants” without reference to other significant risk factors or data from comparison groups.

(7) The study refers to “sudden infant death syndrome and other sleep-related causes of infant mortality” but focuses almost exclusively on the “other sleep-related causes” The combining of safe and unsafe situations in single categories is distressing but not new. The studies on which this article relies – the Ohio child death review for example*, – tend to do the same, a shortcoming that the authors acknowledge but accept. The conflation of SIDS and suffocation issues is also distressing but not new. The current review, like many before it, fails to provide adequate guidance to health care professionals and is potentially damaging to families making decisions without full information about their options.

* Presentation by Tessie Pollack, Ohio Department of Health to Ohio Collaborative to Prevent Infant Mortality, March 2014.

Again my emphasis. In any case, it’s been known for millenia that a baby sleeping with its parents is in danger of being smothered. It even figures in the Old testament: look up 1 Kings 3:16 if you don’t believe me. It’s not SIDS; it’s accidental smothering, but then WDDTY aren’t about to let a minor detail like that interfere with a neat-sounding fake scoop.

Why don’t doctors tell you babies sharing beds is a major cause of cot death?
Because it isn’t. Cot death is caused by other things. Babies who share beds are in danger of smothering, and doctors already tell you that.

Meet the people who would dictate your health care

It’s time for the double-barrelled WDDTY-McTaggart spam shoot again. Seriously, what idiot imagined that sending subscribers to one list exactly the same emails from a second list they never signed up for was a smart marketing move? Oh, right, McTaggart. Who else?

McTaggart’s clearly getting jittery, and it’s everybody’s fault but hers that her precious monthly bundle of lies is under  attack. This is just in:

Meet the people who would dictate your health care

Dictate health care? Isn’t that a bit over the top? I haven’t seen anybody in Parliament sponsoring a Bill to prevent people refusing treatment, even for serious conditions, and opting for dumbfuckery.

As you know, we have been the target of a concerted campaign to get the store chains to stop stocking us. The architects of this campaign are the same people who spend a good deal of time attacking and harassing alternative practitioners of every variety.

Nope, they’re not being targeted qua fringe therapists. They’re being targeted qua blatant liars in their marketing blurb. And being asked for evidence. I know Sandra Hermann-Courtney thinks being asked for evidence is hate speech (no, gentle reader, this is not exaggeration on my part). Am I to conclude that you have the same paranoid mentality, Lynne?

And now, from the Dept. of Hasn’t A Fucking Clue:

Their numbers aren’t large (there’re only about 80 of them in total), and they aren’t well followed (Alan Henness of the Nightingale Collaboration, for instance, has just 462 followers on Twitter; Simon Singh, just 44 actively following him), but they are well organized and fuelled by a good deal of self-righteous passion about their mission, which is to stamp out what they view as quackery (ie, natural medicine of every variety, particularly the likes of homeopathy).

Learn to read, woman. Alan Henness follows 462 accounts; quite a lot more follow him. Simon Singh follows 44 people, with all of 54k following him. That’s a lot more than are following our Lynne, who clocks in at around 17K followers. I see we’ve also gone from the previous rant’s “handful” to “about 80”. Ye gods, those skeptics must breed like rabbits!

By the way, quackery is only “natural medicine” if you consider that doing nothing (at best), and charging large amounts of money for it, is natural medicine.

So we thought we should shine a light on the qualifications of the most vocal proponents of a group who believe they have the right to determine what you can or can’t read about your health or indeed the kinds of medical treatments you should be allowed to have access to.

What What Doctors Don’t Tell You Doctors Don’t Tell You

Of those who can be found on the GMC List of Registered Medical Practitioners, one has been issued with a warning, one has relinquished his registration, and all of them advocate dubious interventions, some of which have been shown to do more harm than good.

By all means. First though, let’s shine a light on WDDTY’s qualifications. To start with, we have McTaggart and Hubbard, who have no medical expertise or qualifications whatsoever. Remember this; it’s important.  They also don’t even hack it as journalists, given the quality of their copy. I keep running out of breath trying to read the sentences, so bereft of punctuation are they. Each has their own-brand whackjobbery: McTaggart’s “Intention” is just Reiki in an expensive wrapping; while Hubbard has a “Time-Light” plan that he claims cures chronic depression.

Now the so-called doctors on the editorial panel. I invite you to peruse this useful and well-researched post by Josephine Jones, whose only fault is that it classes Harald Gaier as a doctor. McTaggart doesn’t like Josephine Jones. We will come to this later.

Simon Singh. Singh is not a medical doctor; he has a Ph.D in particle physics.

Yes, this is common knowledge. He doesn’t hide it.

As he often signs his letters ‘Dr Singh’ when writing to Tesco or our distributors, most stores and media naturally assume that he has medical qualifications.

Please produce these letters where he does this, and explain how you obtained them. Of course, since Simon Singh is quite famous (u jelly, Lynne?), especially in the UK, I think it unlikely that his use of the title “Dr.” – which he has every right to – would mislead anybody. No more than, say, Dr. Brian May or Dr. Rowan Williams. I’ll leave the next paragraph as-is, since the venomous stupidity of someone who has no history of studying or writing about conventional medicine, other than as an exercise in writing fiction, is most entertaining.

He does not, nor does he have a history of studying or writing about conventional medicine. He’s written books about mathematical problems and patterns, codes and code-breaking and even cosmology, but nothing to date about conventional medicine – only one co-authored book (Trick or Treatment?- the clue to the slant is in the title) largely trashing alternative medicine. Singh is the public face of Sense About Science, a charity set up by a holding company in India, whose trustees include Simon Singh and his older brother, Tom, who founded the high street chain New Look. Sense about Science reports that it is supported by donations from a variety of sources, including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and many pharmaceutically backed charities, such as Cancer UK.

Yes, yes, the “charity set up by a holding company in India” is pure spiteful misrepresentation. Either she hasn’t a clue about how charities work, or she couldn’t care less as long as it sounds bad. Tom Singh is not on the Board of Trustees, so I’m going for the second option. Now we come to the implied call for harassment, which already went out on Facebook this weekend. I’m removing the employers’ names, because we know what fanatics like to do, don’t we?

‘Josephine Jones’. ‘She’ is the pseudonym for two people: Michael and Laura Thomason, who live in Warrington. Mike works as a database developer at [redacted] Pharma Solutions; there is a Laura Thomason on Linkedin who works as a supervisor at a [redacted] Coffee Shop, but we can’t verify if they are one and the same. If so, there can’t be many people popping in and ordering cappuccinos because she and her husband seem to have the time to catalogue WDDTY‘s every move, which they circulate on Josephine Jones’ blog as a constantly updated ‘Master List’. Presently, they are carrying out a survey of stores we’re in, presumably in hopes they might be able to pick us off, one store at a time. Neither professes to any medical qualifications.

I don’t know who Mike Thomason is, but he has nothing to do with Josephine Jones. One of the reasons Laura hesitated to come out from behind the pseudonym was precisely due to bullies like McTaggart trying to sic their followers on her and her family. Female bloggers always get rougher treatment than male bloggers, because sexist brutality. Well done, Lynne, for proving her right. That is what I call balls-out übercuntery.

Guy Chapman, who created a website called ‘What What Doctors Don’t Tell You Doesn’t Tell You’, and writes a good deal of bile-filled statements about alternative practitioners, is a software developer for Dell Computers. He’s also a member of a choir.

Like me, you may be wondering what all this has to do with the price of fish. Is she jealous of people who seem to lead fuller lives than she does? I do hope she’s not mistaking my prose for Guy’s, although we are by no means the only contributors to this blog. And talking of bile-filled, Lynne, can we have some evidence for that claim? There’s plenty of bile in the missives you’ve been spitting out over the past year, if by “bile” you mean defamatory statements and hate speech.

Jo Brody works two days a week as a public engagement coordinator for a research project which runs across four sites, including UCL, Queen Mary, City University and Swansea University), studying how to make medical devices safer. Jo’s job is to update the website and expand the project’s online presence. For the rest of the week she works as an information officer at Diabetes UK. Previously she worked as a secretary for Professor Stephen Wharton. As she freely admits: ‘I am not medically trained.’

Nor are you, Lynne. In fact, your qualifications are far worse than Jo’s. Incidentally, are you sure you’ve got the right person?  Next name on the list is Alan Henness. Usual distortion of facts and petty-minded sniping applies.

Alan Henness. He and his wife Maria MacLachlan, who live in Harrow, are effectively the Nightingale Collaboration, a tiny organization that was given seed money by Sense About Science, but that spends a prodigious amount of time reporting advertisers and practitioners of alternative medicine to The Advertising Standards Authority. Despite the name, the ASA is not a government body; it’s an advertising-industry-sponsored organization with no teeth. The best it can do is place advertisers it deems out of line on the naughty step, listing them on as a ‘non-compliant advertiser’ on its own website. Evaluations of the advertisements of alternative medicine or practitioners through the ASA are a stacked deck; they are evaluated, as our ads were, by known skeptics like Dr. Edzard Ernst, Simon Singh’s co-author of Trick or Treatment?

Now, if the ASA is toothless, why is reporting illicit advertising claims to them bullying and harassment? Make your mind up, doughball. As for the stacked deck, well, that’s just the usual quack special pleading. All the ASA asks for is evidence. If you can’t back up your claims, tough shit. I’m going to snip a bit, because McTaggart has delusions of being a great investigative journalist and, frankly, all she’s doing is demonstrating that the people she hates are more rational and thoughtful than she is. Here’s a wee cracker, though:

 Maria (Maclachlan ) wrote, in a short précis of what it means to be a humanist: ‘Humanists embrace the moral principle known as the Golden Rule. This means we believe that people should aim to treat each other as they would like to be treated themselves – with tolerance, consideration and compassion.’

I wonder if this ‘Golden Rule’ also includes harassing groups, practitioners or organizations who advocate or advertise alternative medicine?

No, sweetie popkins, it does not mean standing by while the naïve and vulnerable get conned out of their health and wealth by unscrupulous hucksters and charismatic fruitcakes. Lastly, she gets very upset over Andy Lewis, aka @lecanardnoir, because he’s made it difficult for her to use ad hominem.

Andy Lewis. Set up the ‘Quackometer’ site, which he claims to be an experiment in ‘critical thinking’. Doesn’t reveal what his credentials, education or employment history are – says they ‘don’t matter’ nor does an honest debate of the issues because the wording on websites will, through his own use of critical thinking, offer prima facie evidence of ‘quackery’.

It must be really frustrating to be unable to create a diversion by attacking the writer instead of the words. I can only conclude that McTaggart and her cronies are livid that they can’t answer criticism on the Quackometer. Not, I hasten to add, because they’re not allowed to post. It isn’t the WDDTY Facebook page. It’s because they have no evidence for their often totally unrealistic and long-debunked claims.

That’s who they are. WDDTY, on the other hand, has seven medical doctors on its editorial panel, plus several PhDs and highly qualified practitioners of a number of alternative disciplines.

I refer you again to the Josephine Jones post exposing this august assembly as a bunch of quacks, frauds and profiteering dingbats, irrespective of the letters they have after their names.

Thousands of doctors and health practitioners of every persuasion regularly read WDDTY and comment enthusiastically.

The Facebook page doesn’t seem that busy. Or are the enthusiastic comments mostly negative, and therefore deleted? I think you need a large FPI™ order to wash that assertion down.

The two editors of our magazine have been medical science writers for 25 years, and every word in our pages is checked by a science editor with an extensive history of writing and editing medical studies for the pharmaceutical industry.

Bad news, McTaggart and Hubbard: WDDTY, Intention and Time-Light do not qualify as writing about medical science. I see you fail to name your science editor. It seems uncharacteristic  that you should use someone in the pharmaceutical industry. After all, you constantly spit on Big Pharma and once issued the challenge to find a drug, other than antibiotics, that had ever cured anything.

Do you want these eight people to be the ones to determine what you can read about your own health care?

I thought there were 80 of us?

If not, write to Tesco today and ask them to re-stock What Doctors Don’t Tell You….

Etc. etc. whine, whine. It ends with the now habitual plea to ask Tesco to stock WDDTY again. Being chucked out of Tesco has really hurt, it would seem. Could it be that WDDTY doesn’t attract enough subscribers, in spite of the hard sell (every month I see a SPECIAL SUBSCRIPTION OFFER email befouling my inbox), and they desperately need to prey on the innocent who might see it presented in their local supermarket as a genuine health magazine? I suspect so.

All the more reason to encourage all supermarkets and newsagents to drop WDDTY like a mouldy, worm-infested potato. If people are stupid enough to subscribe, fine. But they shouldn’t be gulled into buying this crap because it’s on the same shelf as publications that don’t tell you as if it were solid fact that cancer can be treated with intravenous vitamin C, that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, that vaccines are pure poison, that homeopathy reverses cancer, that electric power lines cause Alzheimer’s, that pollution causes diabetes…. and so on.

Responses from those personnally targeted:

Jo Brody’s Stuff that occurs to me: It seems the magazine ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ doesn’t like me

Guy Chapman’s Blahg: WDDTY goes “the full Errol”

Maria Maclachlan: Comment on Think Humanism forum

Nothing compares to Altrient by Livon?

Those foolish enough to read WDDTY cannot fail to have noticed that the inside cover has for some time carried an ad by Abundance and Health Ltd. for dietary supplements.
abundance and health altrient ad
The introductory blurb leaves me somewhat perplexed. Firstly, because there’s only so much Vitamin C you can take into your system before you excrete it (it’s water-soluble) and secondly, WTF is Glutathione? I’ve never heard of it. Well, that’s easily sorted anyway. Stand back while I perform the Rite of WikiPedia using only the power of my mind and a computer keyboard…

Ah, it’s an antioxidant. Moreover, Wikipedia says:  “Glutathione is not an essential nutrient, since it can be synthesized in the body from the amino acids” and I for one would tend to accept that, since otherwise we’d be hearing a lot more about glutathione deficiency from the medical establishment. How much are this lot charging for something we do not, in fact, need?

The website says: only £55.95 for a box of 30 sachets and it’s supposed to last you between two and four weeks. The page also claims that “Physicians and researchers all over the world are excited about GSH”. Maybe they are, but certainly not about taking it in oral form. Trying to raise glutathione levels with oral supplements isn’t very effective.

This lot make the clear claim that their oral glutathione is effective in raising blood levels. I think the Advertising Standards Authority might be interested in that (checks with the Nightingale Collaboration) Yes, they were very interested in that: witness this post dated 9 January 2013. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks as if Abundance and Health’s idea of compliance is to change the name of the product and set up a new web domain. Is the ASA aware of this unashamed jiggeryfuckery?

From now on, I shall drop any pretence of assuming good faith on the part of Abundance and Health, because if you admit you can’t provide evidence for your claims and simply sell the same thing under a different label while maintaining some of the claims, you are quite blatantly not in good faith.

On to the Vitamin C, mainly because I mentioned it above, even though the glutathione rubbish and attitude towards the ASA alone are enough to show this lot are probably scammers.

They’ve dropped most of the dodgy health claims that the ASA objected to in the original ad, but still would have you believe that their powders (or gels or whatever the damn things are), are the most efficient way to supplement your vitamin C. This is complete bollocks: if your diet is balanced you don’t need any extra vitamin C, and 1000 mg is way over the adult daily requirement of 40 mg. Need a bit more? Eat some fruit. Incidentally, contrary to a statement elsewhere on the site, you can overdose on vitamin C: symptoms include stomach cramps, the squits and farting. Ask the NHS if you don’t believe me.

There’s a lot of pseudoscientific gibberish about bioavailability, which I shall pause only to sneer at, as we’ve already seen the whole thing is a waste of electrons. It’s only there to gull the marks. There’s the mind-boggling price of £29.95 for a box of 30 (Boots currently sell 20 tabs for £2.59). Now there’s a barefaced rip-off if ever I saw one.

And there is this astounding claim:

New research shows Altrient C makes skin 33% firmer

Really? I do not think that claim would stand up to close scrutiny. Let’s have a closer look:

Abundance & Health, today announces positive results of a 4 week clinical trial investigating the anti-aging skin firming properties of their lead product Altrient® C, the world’s first liposomal vitamin C gel sachets.

4 weeks? FOUR WEEKS? That’s not a clinical trial, those take years.

The placebo-controlled trial was conducted by Aspen Clinical Research, the clinical and cosmetic industry researchers.

This perfectly real and apparently pukka company is in Utah, so I looked up the US suppliers for A&H: Livon. Do you know, they don’t mention this amazing discovery at all?

The trial involved 60 participants with non-firm aging skin aged between 31 and 65+.

Not only is it a ridiculously short “trial”, it’s a ridiculously small one. If, in fact, it ever happened.

50% took 3 sachets of Altrient C a day for 4 weeks and 50% taking a placebo.

Remember what the NHS says the side effects are if you go over 1000 mg/day? Well, at least we know now why the “trial” was so brief.

Participants’ skin firmness and elasticity were measured at three points through the trial by Cutometer MPA 580, the Courage + Khazaka electronic GmbH elasticity measurement device.

It seems Aspen Clinical do use this device, but not over periods as short as 4 weeks. The conclusion is, of course, that “100% would change their current anti-aging routine by not just adding Altrient C to their skin regime, but replacing all products they currently use with Altrient C”, because if you’re going to spout complete bollocks, go all the way. The bigger the lie, the more likely people are to believe it.

Seriously, would you replace your moisturiser, aftershave lotion, hand cream etc with an overdose of incredibly expensive vitamin C?

Footnote: In her blog post of 24 Jan 2014, Lynne McTaggart whinged that people had “reported virtually every single one of our advertisers to an advertising standards body”, as if it had been done on purpose just to spoil her birthday party. No, I shit you not, that’s exactly how it reads. Obviously it doesn’t occur to the Blessed McTaggart (Saint and Martyr) that the advertisers were reported because they were not complying with advertising standards. And in this case at least, continue to do so.

 

WDDTY on depression

depression
Until coffee was discovered, people committed suicide all the time. Sometimes twice a day.

WDDTY makes some predictably reckless claims about depression, a serious condition which, if neglected, can destroy (both metaphorically and literally) the life of the sufferer and those around him or her. Needless to say, they conflate “feeling a bit low” with clinical depression, because money. The NHS has information on the symptoms of clinical depression here, with a simple test anyone can do. There is advice on what to do and telephone numbers to call if the situation is urgent. Certainly modern medicine does not yet have a perfect answer to the problem of depression, which presents in a number of forms and may well have a number of causes; nevertheless, this imperfect response is infinitely preferable to the completely and dangerously wrong fuckwittery to be found on the WDDTY website.

For example:

The great depression deception (WDDTY, Vol 23.3, June 2012)
Chronic depression has been described as the disease of modern times. It afflicts 121 million people worldwide (1), which equates to around one in 10 adults, while one out of every 13 Europeans is currently (2) taking an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant such as Prozac to counter it.

Tragically, they are all being poorly served by medicine, which is working with an unproven, and flawed, theory of the causes of depression, and with drugs that are doing more harm than good (3).
Instead, a new theory is developing that suggests that depression is the byproduct of the body’s natural inflammatory response to infection (4). If true, an anti-inflammatory would be a better drug therapy than an SSRI (5), and this is supported by the evidence (6), which has found that the SSRI drugs are ineffective in around two-thirds of depressed people (7) (Am J Geriatr Psychiatry, 2011; 19: 839–50).(8)

  1. Wrong. The WHO says over 350 million and simple arithmetic says neither that nor WDDTY‘s figure equates to 10% of 7 billion.
  2. Untrue. The report WDDTY is presumably referring to says, according to Science Daily: “One in thirteen of adult European citizens — and 10% of middle-aged Europeans — took an antidepressant in the previous twelve months“.
  3. A blatant lie. The increase in antidepressant prescription over recent years correlates with a decrease in the suicide rate. While a direct link has not, as far as I know, been shown, it is certainly not evidence of the drugs “doing more harm than good”.
  4. Again, this is misleading. It suggests a single cause for depression. The study I found (dated 3 Sept, 2012, and published in Archives of General Psychiatry) looked at patients with moderately hard-to-treat depression who also suffered from chronic inflammatory diseases, because there is a known correlation between hard-to-treat depression and chronic inflammation.
  5. Again, this erroneously assumes a single cause for depression, and on the basis of a single study to boot. It’s like saying all cancers can be treated by the same drug, or that if we find a treatment for cystic fibrosis it will also work for other genetic disorders, such as dwarfism and Down’s.
  6. Which, you will note, is not forthcoming. Unsupported assertion.
  7. I can find no other instance of this assertion, which I can only conclude has been internally (i.e. rectally) sourced by the anonymous author. Or again, it may be based on a single study on a specific population, and WDDTY has once more massaged the language to make it apply to the general case.
  8. This is the best part of all. I looked up the article at Am J Geriatr Psychiatry, 2011; 19: 839–50. It is not the study the author is referring to. Or, if it is, he/she has been spectacularly dishonest in presenting it. The reference is, in full: The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry Volume 19, Issue 10 , Pages 839-850, October 2011 “Complementary Use of Tai Chi Chih Augments Escitalopram Treatment of Geriatric Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial”

Geriatric depression. In people who have doubtless suffered chronic inflammation for a long time, on top of all the other problems of ageing, and who are taking an anti-depressant. All the abstract confirms is what we suspected all along: a little gentle exercise and socialising does you good, especially as you get older, frailer, and more likely to find yourself isolated.

There’s more to that WDDTY article, much more: all of it similarly debatable, disingenuous or downright dishonest. It all boils down to the usual “self-diagnosis and supplements” mantra you expect from the anti-health extremists. Here’s a second example from another piece, this time online:

Coffee helps ward of depression and suicidal thoughts (30 July 2013)

Caffeine in coffee acts as a mild antidepressant that could even be enough to stop someone committing suicide.
Drinking two or more cups of coffee day reduces the risk of suicide by around 45 per cent, say researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. They think that caffeine boosts mood hormones in the brain, and stops us feeling depressed. But the benefits seem to stop at around three cups, or 400 mg of caffeine a day, they say.

The published research is here. Notice the title: “Coffee, caffeine, and risk of completed suicide” – completed suicide is not the same thing as suicidal thoughts, or even suicide attempts. It’s a pretty crude measure, really. Notice that WDDTY uses affirmative verbs – “helps”, “acts” – while the researchers themselves carefully employ the conditional – “may”, “appears” and so on. And a “lowered risk of depression” is not the same thing as “stops depression”, otherwise no coffee drinkers anywhere would ever be depressed.

There are other examples of WDDTY’s reckless, misleading and irresponsible reporting on depression, mostly involving the old warhorse of nutrition. Depression is due to bad diet, to lack of various B-vitamins, to hypothyroidism… Well, the last one isn’t entirely false: untreated hypothyroidism can result in depression, but the assertion that “diagnosing hypothyroidism isn’t easy” is a downright lie. It’s very easy; all you need is a blood test. The test is a bit of a pain, admittedly, but only for the patient who’s forgotten to bring music or a podcast to listen to. The biology side of it is pretty simple.

My third and final example of WDDTY’s deadly fuckwittery on the subject is this headline from their webshite. Just the headline, as it’s quite evil enough:

Alternatives to drugs for depression

I find ripping the balls out of WDDTY’s vicious, mercenary falsehoods a briefly stimulating alternative to getting roaring drunk and playing Pink Floyd’s The Wall at neighbour-baiting volume, but it hasn’t cured my depression. Nor will taking extra doses of vitamins that I already get a full daily dose of in my normal diet. Drinking more coffee not only doesn’t cheer me up, it proactively treats any incipient constipation for the next 48 hours, so stuff that. No, all things considered, I’ll keep taking the pills, thank you very much, and make sure I always have someone to get in touch with when things get on top of me.

Also posted at Plague of Mice

HIV-AIDS and the deadly denialists at WDDTY

Deadly denialists
We take a trip back in time to vol. 5 no. 4 (July 1994) for a look at the article titled “HIV infection: tested to death”, a veritable cornucopia of denialist dross published around ten years after AIDS was properly identified, seven years after AZT was approved, two years after combination therapies were approved – in other words, at a time when “skepticism” about the HIV-AIDS link had already crossed the line from the normal process of questioning emerging science, and into denialism.

Several well-known AIDS denialists are given a platform in this article, at least one of whom was repeatedly rejected as an expert witness in courts due to having absolutely no professional expertise in the subject.

It’s worth remembering that there is no record of WDDTY ever publishing an apology or correction for this offensive bullshit. In fact, there is reasonable evidence that they still harbour at least vestigial AIDS denialism. Indeed, the response “We covered the ‘does HIV cause AIDS’ controversy years ago, but it’s probably time for an update” is pure denialism: the HIV-AIDS link has not been remotely controversial for decades.

HIV-AIDS and the deadly denialists at WDDTY

Reblogged from Plague of Mice by the author, who has generously granted himself permission to do so

People living with AIDS, 2008
People living with AIDS, 2008

A friend sent me a copy of the latest issue of that collection of outrageous and mercenary lies legally registered under the title of What Doctors Don’t Tell You. It looks like we can expect some especially deadly fuckwittery in the near future. This somewhat transparently fake “letter” (read: an obvious plant) appears in the “Have Your Say” letters page.

Keep up the fight—and now onto AIDS

Dear WDDTY

After reading your excellent November 2013 issue, I felt I must write to you all to congratulate you on your achievements. It’s fabulous that this type of information is available in supermarkets, and essential that such a sphere of influence is maintained. Following your brave articles on assessing true causes of cancer, which often go unreported, as well as treatments which can heal, I was wondering whether you had ever considered similar investigation into what I consider the biggest medical fraud of recent history— that of HIV/AIDS.
A dedicated reader

WDDTY replies: We covered the ‘does HIV cause AIDS’ controversy years ago, but it’s probably time for an update. Thanks for the suggestion. Continue reading HIV-AIDS and the deadly denialists at WDDTY

Academics paid by drug companies to whip-up media health scares

Front entrance of the London School of Hygiene...
Front entrance of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps the awareness campaign exposing the dangerous lies and disinformation in a magazine that is being sold in newsagents and supermarkets under the false flag of “health” is starting to hurt. The WDDTY team have been making numerous attacks on their critics over the past couple of months, and it all smells very defensive indeed. It smells, in fact, of a threatened revenue stream. It stinks of a well-rotted golden goose slaughtered by its owners as they choose the perceived glory of retail outlets over the more discreet and less risky (for them, not their readers) subscription-only method.

You see, when you put yourself in the public eye, you must not be surprised when the public eye looks back. Nor should you whine when your errors and – in this case, as I hope to show – blatant lies are laid bare for all to see and mock. This was published under “News” on the WDDTY website on 18 November 2013. Full text first…

Academics paid by drug companies to whip-up media health scares

Health scares in the media are often fuelled by academics with links to drug companies that would benefit from the panic, an independent report has found. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) was found guilty of the practice after it warned of a swine flu ‘pandemic’ in 2010 that never happened.
Although academics are trusted sources, those with pharmaceutical links were eight times more likely to advocate the use of an anti-viral drug to treat the H1N1 virus responsible for swine flu, say researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The panic that was whipped up clearly worked: the UK government alone spent £1bn on pharmaceuticals, including antivirals, to counter swine flu, and the pharmaceutical industry earned up to £6.5 bn from the sale of H1N1 vaccines alone.
The researchers analysed 425 articles published in the newspapers about swine flu. Academics were the second most quoted sources after government officials, 30 per cent of whom had drug industry links. More than half the claims they made were exaggerated and went beyond the official view.
However, even the ‘official view’ was tainted; one in three of the experts on the WHO’s emergency committee had drug company links.
(Source: Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 2013; doi: 10.1136/jech-2013-203128)

Now let’s examine that. What actually happened was that researchers from the London School of  Hygiene and Tropical Medicine investigated fears that pharmaceutical companies had unduly profited from sales of H1N1 antivirals during the 2009-2010 pandemic, as a result of academics with competing interests. This is the report in question: Academics and competing interests in H1N1 influenza media reporting. Do you see a difference in meaning and scope between the WDDTY headline and that of the report? It’s just the beginning.

Health scares in the media are often fuelled by academics with links to drug companies that would benefit from the panic, an independent report has found.

No, it hasn’t. Nowhere in the text does it even remotely come close. The conclusion was that academics who had some form of CoI (Conflict of Interest: a very broad term, by the way) were more likely to state risk assessments “higher than official sources”. It was also observed that academics are the second most-quoted source in the media after Ministers of Health.

Even the World Health Organization (WHO) was found guilty of the practice after it warned of a swine flu ‘pandemic’ in 2010 that never happened.

This is doubly untrue: the pandemic did happen – people died, by the way – and the WHO was not “found guilty” by anyone of anything. The WHO is an Official Source, not an individual person.

Although academics are trusted sources, those with pharmaceutical links were eight times more likely to advocate the use of an anti-viral drug to treat the H1N1 virus responsible for swine flu, say researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Uh-huh.  The actual conclusion was “Academics promoting the use of antiviral medication were more likely to have a competing interest than those not commenting on its use“. Of course, reputable researchers don’t extrapolate from a small study to the entire population, which is what the WDDTY hack here is desperately trying to do, if only by implication.

The panic that was whipped up clearly worked: the UK government alone spent £1bn on pharmaceuticals, including antivirals, to counter swine flu, and the pharmaceutical industry earned up to £6.5 bn from the sale of H1N1 vaccines alone.

There was 100% consensus over the vaccines, whether or not the academic had any competing interests. The consensus was: get vaccinated. Get vaccinated, because this one is a killer.

The researchers analysed 425 articles published in the newspapers about swine flu.

Twelve newspapers were studied in all. No, funnily enough WDDTY wasn’t one of them. These were the criteria used: The database was searched using the following terms (an exclamation mark is used as a truncator in this database): H1N1, Influenza A, Swine !flu!, Pandemic !flu!, Pig !flu!. Only articles that contained at least three mentions of the search terms were eligible for inclusion in order to select articles where H1N1 influenza was the main theme…between 20 April and 5 July 2009, the period in which the major decisions on pharmaceuticals as part of the pandemic response were taken by the UK government.

Academics were the second most quoted sources after government officials, 30 per cent of whom had drug industry links.

30% of government officials had drug industry links? Presumably the unnamed hack means the academics, but clearly their writing skills are as poor as their reading skills.

More than half the claims they made were exaggerated and went beyond the official view.

I cannot find the word “exaggerated” anywhere in that report, no more than the word “claim”. This suggests that the WDDTY hack is making exaggerated claims as to the dishonesty of some people, which I find ironic. It is not necessarily true that an estimate which is higher (or, indeed, lower) than official figures is exaggerated. That statement is therefore a distortion of the findings.

However, even the ‘official view’ was tainted; one in three of the experts on the WHO’s emergency committee had drug company links.

Which were declared. The CoI that’s declared can be taken into account. Undeclared CoI – which is the focus in the report – is more potentially dangerous. The report does not condemn the WHO or its assessment in any way, and the hack here carefully skates around the issue that the WHO itself expected the pandemic to be less severe than previous ones.

Perhaps it is significant that WDDTY totally fails to mention this last point, also raised in the report:

Finally, journalists themselves may have undisclosed CoI that would impede truly impartial reporting

When, in fact, did McTaggart & co ever mention a conflict of interest in any of their pro-quackery puff pieces?

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WDDTY – The evidence for homeopathy (WARNING: Accurate statement detected)

It seems the WDDTY team do sometimes read what sceptics write. I’m not quite sure how this happens, since McTaggart is prone to blocking and deleting the least criticism, but apparently it does. Witness this little exercise in misinformation, which turned up in a slightly reworded and longer form in the Nov 2013 issue.

The evidence for homeopathy

Homeopathy is a nonsense, at least according to scientists and sceptics. Yet Indian doctors are using it every day to treat cancer—and now the US government is interested

Doctors call it “nonsense on stilts”, and professors of medicine have been bullying government and health authorities to stop offering it on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), while scientists say it is implausible, if not impossible, as it breaks every law of science they know.

Homeopathy is everyone’s favourite whipping boy, and if it does clear up a snuffly cold or minor headache, it’s all due to the placebo effect: it’s just mind over matter, and people merely think it’s making them better. Any active ingredient in a homeopathic remedy is diluted sometimes thousands of times, so any effect must be entirely in someone’s imagination.

That makes perfect sense,…

Let’s take that apart, shall we?

The evidence for homeopathy

Homeopathy is a nonsense, at least according to scientists and sceptics.

I hear echoes of that reality-denialist cry “You and your science!” that galvanised me into actively seeking out and debunking anti-science fuckwittery wherever it may lurk and fester. Funny how pro-SCAM whackjobs are quick to laud science when they think they can use it to support their favourite money-making placebo though. Here’s a classic example: five occurrences of the word “science” on a page selling a form of Thinking Happy Thoughts Really Hard, touted by one… Lynne McTaggart. Funny, that.

Yet Indian doctors are using it every day to treat cancer—and now the US government is interested

Yeeees. Indian homeopaths (they are not doctors) may be using homeopathy to treat cancer, but that doesn’t mean it actually does any good. The USA is not exactly renowned for always letting reality prevail over fuckwitted dogma, either, so even if the two claims were more than fallacious arguments from popularity and authority, they still wouldn’t mean dick.

Doctors call it “nonsense on stilts”, and professors of medicine have been bullying government and health authorities to stop offering it on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), while scientists say it is implausible, if not impossible, as it breaks every law of science they know.

The doctors are correct, the scientists are correct and the professor in question (it’s an obvious attack on Edzard Ernst, who has studied homeopathy and other fringe therapies for years) hasn’t been bullying anybody, merely stating the truth. In fact, he has rather been the victim of bullying, notably from homeopaths trying to smear and discredit him.

Homeopathy is everyone’s favourite whipping boy, and if it does clear up a snuffly cold or minor headache,

… which it doesn’t …

it’s all due to the placebo effect: it’s just mind over matter, and people merely think it’s making them better. Any active ingredient in a homeopathic remedy is diluted sometimes thousands of times, so any effect must be entirely in someone’s imagination.

Bloody hell, I think I’ve just found an accurate statement about homeopathy in WDDTY. I claim my prize.

That makes perfect sense,…

Yes, Lynne, it does. And funnily enough, it’s the power of the imagination you claim to harness in your Intention dingbattery. Is it just me, or are you trying to have your cake and eat it, while selling it a slice at a time?