Category Archives: Misleading advertisements

Stop backing ASA faulty judgements, alternative medicine bodies urged

WDDTY is apparently hell-bent on encouraging a mass suicide mission among quacks. The editors consistently urge quacks and charlatans to openly defy the Advertising Standards Authority:

Alternative health practitioners are being urged to lobby their associations to stop recognising the judgements of the Advertising Standards Association (ASA), which has consistently ruled against practitioners’ advertisements and websites.

Why has the ASA consistently ruled against these people? There are two reasons:

  1. Misleading claims are endemic among quacks.
  2. Complaints are usually made by well-informed people, so few complaints fail.

The editors of WDDTY never let any opportunity pass for fallacious reasoning, so they choose to imply that rulings against misleading adverts are a problem, rather than the misleading adverts themselves:

Some practitioners have retired or gone out of business following an ASA ruling, believing it to be a government body, because they have been unable to state that their therapy has helped specific conditions.

No, they have not gone out of business because they believe anything about the ASA. They have in fact three options:

  1. Stop making false claims.
  2. Continue making false claims and take the consequences.
  3. Shut up shop.

So they have gone out of business because they believe they cannot legally continue to advertise fraudulent products and services. And in this, they are absolutely correct.

Lobby group Freedom4Health says the ASA is a limited company with no government sanctions or legal powers.

Lobby group Freedom4Health is this: wrong. The ASA is a voluntary regulator for the advertising industry, but it has relationships with statutory regulators and its codes are underpinned by consumer protection legislation. It has powers to regulate advertising output, and (rather more importantly) it is recognised as the arbiter of truth in advertising. In other words, an advertiser who wilfully ignores ASA adjudications and is then brought up in front of Trading Standards, can be in very deep trouble indeed.

“Unfortunately it’s being given validity by some practitioners’ associations and bodies who are recognising the rulings and are telling members to abide by them—although others support their members in challenging ASA decisions,” said director Martin Weightman.

Consider that statement for a moment. Apparently it is a huge problem that trade associations for quacks require their members to defer to an independent arbiter to ensure that their advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful.

Well, yes: it is a huge problem in as much as the quackery industry evidently needs such a rule. How are you supposed to trust someone who has to be told by their regulator that they must withdraw misleading advertisements?

Of course most forms of quackery are unregulated, the purported “regulators” are merely trade bodies. Any quack who falls out with their regulator can continue to practice right up until the moment that Trading Standards shut them down.

Freedom4Health is now urging therapists to lobby their associations so that the truth about the ASA can be passed on to their practitioner members.

I have some bad news for you. They already tell their members the truth. The ASA is an independent arbiter of truth in advertising, and it is unethical and often illegal to continue to use an advertisement that has been adjudicated as misleading.

“Nobody wants to see dangerous or misleading advertising, but the ASA is ill-equipped to properly assess claims of efficacy of alternative and complementary therapies, and so finds against them each and every time,” said Mr Weightman.

What Mr. Weightman means is that the ASA are, in fact, extremely well-equipped to properly assess claims of efficacy of quackery. That’s why the quacks generally lose. They believe their nostrums work, but they don’t.

That is, after all, why they are alternative.

To avoid distress and even the closure of businesses, Mr Weightman wants the associations to explain to members that ASA rulings have no legal sanction and aren’t backed by the government.

To avoid distress and even the closure of businesses, Mr. Weightman wants the ASA to magically disappear. He’d be better advised to encourage his fellow quackery apologists to stop lying to people. And if their business cannot survive without dishonesty, I venture to suggest that the ASA is not the problem.

Further reading:

The 7-Step Plan

WDDTY have published a 7-step plan for any practitioner who has attracted the attention of the ASA. The whole page is comedy gold.

If you were a magazine under constant criticism for publishing misleading information, would you take the time to promote the ASA’s adjudications against your contributors and advertisers?

Well, you might if you were in denial and didn’t care about reality I suppose.

7-step

“After enduring two years of relentless censorship, alternative practitioners have decided to create their own ASA, one that has the expertise to evaluate health claims fairly”

Since the ASA is the voluntary regulator charged with monitoring the advertising industry, and has powers of sanction that include the ability to place Google ads warning of fraudulent practice, removing postal discounts and so on, setting up an “alternative” is a futile and ridiculous exercise. It will have precisely no effect on the ASA or its backstop, Trading Standards.

The 7-Step Plan is written by Jenny Hautman of the Islington Homeopathy Clinic. This is like taking tips on avoiding arrest from Ronnie Biggs!

Step1 Register all your social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google plus etc) on Klout.com, which registers your online influence, and watch your impact grow as you follow the next six steps.

Ah yes, that will certainly help with the accuracy of your advertising. Oh, wait, no it won’t.

Step 2: When you get the complaint from the ASA, thank them, but also tell them you don’t intend to take any advice from a limited company with no legal powers and which has a conflict of interest. Send them an invoice for your time. You can use a template letter from the Freedom4Health website created specifically to help
practitioners deal with the ASA.

This is essentially simply refusing to co-operate. It will not stop ASA from adjudicating against you, it will not stop them from publishing your details as a misleading advertiser, it will not stop them listing you as a non-compliant advertiser if you continue to refuse to comply, and it will not stop them taking out a paid Google ad to tell the world about your misleading advertisements.

The ASA has no “conflict of interest”, that is conspiracist nonsense. It is funded by a levy on advertising. It constantly finds against advertisers. If, in fact, the source of funding was a conflict of interest, the ASA could not function and would never have been set up.  The claim of conflict is self-evidently wrong.

You may be member of a voluntary register such as OfQuack. They do listen to the ASA. A defiant approach to ASA adjudications is very likely to lead to formal complaints. Think how that’s going to look. Of course, you can leave the voluntary register (they have no teeth either), but that’s one more tool gone from your marketing armoury.

And, most importantly, if your misleading advertisement ends up in front of the courts, your defiant stance is not going to look too good in court. It really isn’t. Oh, did WDDTY forget to tell you that there is an actual law in play here, not just a voluntary regulator? That was mind-bogglingly stupid of them, wasn’t it?

Maybe, you know, it is not so smart to take advice with potential legal ramifications from people with absolutely no legal training and a vested interest in denying that their fraudulent claims are misleading.

Step 3: Post a summary of your correspondence with the ASA on your website. Better yet, record a video of interviews with you and your clients presenting the situation as you all see it

Oh yes, please do. It will be hilarious! There is nothing more calculated to give a skeptic a good belly laugh than a quack bleating about criticism from the reality-based community.

Step 4: Tell all your clients that, when It comes to complementary therapies, the ASA is neither legal, decent, honest nor truthful. Present examples of your experience and give them the link to your site to find out more, and ask them to write to their local newspaper. Post all or this on your website.

Again, a goldmine for mockery. Just think to yourself: how’s it going to look when you go tot he newspaper and for balance they contact the ASA? ASA will put them in touch with someone like Prof. Ernst or Sense About Science. And if they present only the self-serving claims of quacks, the Press Complaints Commission beckons, because newspapers (unlike quack websites) are duty bound to be accurate and are themselves subject to regulation.

Step 5: Post a link to your website on your Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as to any relevant Facebook groups.

How does this address the issue of misleading claims? Oh, it doesn’t.

Step 6: Sit back and watch your Klout score rise as the ‘skeptics’ feed on your audacity (their natural hunting ground is Twitter, so make sure you post there too). Don’t worry about nasty comments from the trolls – they’re only boosting your Google rank and Klout Score.

Ah, the “no such thing as bad publicity” gambit. That worked so well for Stephen Ferguson and Errol Denton, didn’t it?

The mistake here is assuming we care. And indeed that we are unaware – skeptics are pretty good at social media because we’re nerds. And one thing we can guarantee: the more often you promote your bogus claims, the more often they will be challenged, and the more prominent the rebuttals will become. Bring it on!

Step 7: Get ready for all the new clients you’ll get (and quietly give thanks lo the ASA and Sense About Science for helping you).

Ah, bless.

So, in the spirit of sharing, here’s our competing guide which, we venture to suggest, will work rather better.

  1. Check the CAP code, which is freely available online.
  2. Make sure you have robust evidence to support your claims, in the form of large, properly conducted clinical trials on people.
  3. If in doubt, consult the Copy Advice Team, also free.
  4. If the ASA do contact you, remove the claim and tell them you have done so. Informally resolved cases are not put before Council and have limited impact on your reputation.
  5. Encourage your fellow practitioners to do the same. ASA is more likely to act if there are a large number of misleading advertisers.
  6. Familiarise yourself with the relevant law. If you do end up in trouble, consult competent legal advisers.
  7. Do not be tempted to go it alone and whatever you do, don’t go to the echo chamber of other quacks, because that will only result in your errant behaviour being reinforced.

In summary: WDDTY thinks that if your misleading claims are challenged, the best response is to defy criticism try to boost your social media presence.

This is probably the single most stupid thing you can possibly do, because in deciding whether to pursue criminal charges for unfair trading, the likelihood of an effective civil remedy is a deciding factor.

Follow WDDTY’s advice and you may end up on criminal charges. And you can bet they won’t be there to serve time for you.

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.

 

Alan Hunter’s allergy cure

WDDTY are currently bombarding their email subscribers with this piece of arrant nonsense:

Are you one degree away from having a healthy gut?

So many of us suffer gut problems, whether it’s indigestion, allergies to some foods, IBS or worse. Alan Hunter was the same; for years, he suffered chronic fatigue and depression as a symptom of his food allergy.

Then, after suffering for years, he made a remarkable discovery.
His food allergy was responsive to body temperature.
The allergy completely disappeared when he ran a fever. And the amazing thing was, it only took a rise of one degree F for him to feel completely healthy and well. So, Alan worked out how he could raise his body temperature naturally and permanently. His insights earned him several prestigious awards and a doctorate – and he explains his methods in this month’s issue of What Doctors Don’t Tell You.

Yes, well, among the things WDDTY doesn’t tell you is that the “prestigious awards and a doctorate” didn’t actually come from any recognised academic or scientific institution. Any bets on iQuim? It’s the most likely candidate, other than some Indian diploma-mill, for someone who says he’s a Doctor of Philosophy in Alternative Medicines. And who, therefore, has no right to call himself a doctor in the UK, let alone imply – as he does on his website – that he is a medical doctor. (UPDATE: June 2015: now corrected)

Watch this space. Alan Hunter, your arse will be ours.

Natural pain relief

From WDDTY e-news 3 April 2007 No.347

Natural pain relief

A reader is eager for advice on how he can replace prescription pain medication with a natural alternative.  He suffers from multiple herniated discs and degenerative disc disease and without medication the pain is unbearable.  He has chronic pain in his lower back, buttocks and sciatic nerve.  He currently takes oxycodone, fetanyl (skin patch) and methadone in high doses, but doctors say his medication can be reduced if he opts for surgery.  He has had surgery for his condition in the past and is not keen to have any more operations.  Is there a natural remedy out there that may be able to help?

If you seriously believe that a magnetic bracelet can replace high dose methadone, then you have absolutely no business offering health advice.

Let’s be really clear here: as @LennyLaw pointed out on Twitter, this man is in agony due to serious structural problems. He is unlikely to get relief without some form of surgical intervention. The pain killers he is using are among the strongest available, and go way beyond the “ooh my dodgy knee felt a bit better” kinds of effects that the quack treatments proposed could provide, even if they worked as advertised.

But what counts as “natural”? What “works”? Let’s review the responses one by one:

Bioflow wristbands

According to Nick, you should try a Bioflow wristband, which uses a patented magnetic module to treat the blood and assist the body to heal itself, providing natural pain relief.  “My arthritic thumbs and knees no longer give me any pain and I am sleeping better and have more energy,” he reports.  Another reader points out that the wristbands have been proven to reduce pain in a clinical trial of nearly 200 men and women with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee (BMJ, 2004; 329: 1450-4).

Apparently, Bioflow comes with a 90-day money back guarantee, so there is nothing to lose – but the pain!  See www.usefulmagnets.co.uk for more information.

Does it work?

Bioflow have a sciencey-looking study and are apparently classified as a class 1 medical device. So how do they work?

ernst-bioflowEr, apparently they don’t. The website makes no claims for therapeutic effect other than to cite the study. To see the problem with this approach, check this crank website making all kinds of inflated claims for the product – note the weasel words. Intriguingly the study is from Peninsula, and was overseen by Edzard ErnstW. I asked @EdzardErnst whether the result was reliable. His reply was unequivocal (right).

The consensus of systematic reviews is that magnets do not objectively improve symptoms of arthritis or any other condition (Complement Ther Med. 2009 Oct-Dec;17(5-6):249-56, FACT Volume 13, Issue 1, pages 5–6, March 2008).

Is it plausible?

No. There is no reason to suppose that these permanent magnets should have any effect whatsoever. They are, after all, quite small magnets, much stronger fields are used in medical imaging with no evidence of clinical effect (CSI, BBC). Some of the authors of the study Bioflow cite, have since published a rather different view.

 

Is it natural?

No. There is nothing remotely natural about wearing chunks of rare-earth magnets. These are an industrially manufactured product. And a profitable one: the magnet therapy industry was estimated at $1bn by CSI five years ago.

Should WDDTY have known this?

Probably. They promoted Bioflow in vol 16 no. 9 (Dec 2005), vol 17 no. 4 (Jul 2006) and vol 18 no. 3 (Jun 2007), as well as in this article from their e-news. Claims for magnets date back a long way, with sciencey-looking studies in the late 90s being prominently promoted (CSI). They have been busted for at least as long (e.g. Ann Intern Med. 1993;118(5):376-383).

Icewave

Another recommended product for natural pain relief is IceWave.  According to the manufacturer’s website, IceWave is “a non-invasive nanotechnology product that works within minutes to provide a cooling effect and soothing relief to inflamed and injured areas.”  See www.lifewave.com for more information.

Does it work?

You have to be kidding. LifeWave is a vendor of devices to “protect” you from non-ionising (i.e. essentially harmless) radiation, it is a predator on the vulnerable (people with chronic pain).

Our exclusive non-transdermal patch system utilizes new technology to gently stimulate acupuncture points – literally improving the flow of energy in the body for improvement of pain and discomfort – within minutes of use!

Needless to say, there is no good evidence that acupuncture points are of any physiological significance (J Intern Med. 2006 Feb;259(2):125-37). There’s no uniform definition of where they are or what they do; the apparent uniformity within parts of TCM is largely an artifact of the Maoist refactoring f TCM in the 1950s – Japanese analogues exist but are different, and needling does not seem to have any different effect whether the “correct” points are used or not.

The sales pitch relies on the usual anecdotes. Oh, and the packaging says they are homeopathic, hence the nanobollocks, presumably. And note the quack Miranda warningW.

Is it plausible?

Not remotely. And to be fair they don’t even try to make it look plausible, other than using sciencey-sounding language.

Is it natural?

No. It’s an entirely synthetic product with completely made up claims.

Should WDDTY have known this?

Almost certainly. The community that promotes LifeWave’s numerous bogus products is well aware of the fact that skeptics know it to be bogus. Oh, and it seems to be sold via multi-level marketingW, which is another red flag.

Homeopathy

If these suggestions don’t appeal to you, why not try readers’ favourite, homeopathy. According to Sue, the homeopathic remedy Mag Phos in a 200C potency (available from homepathic pharmacies such as Helios and Ainsworth’s) is known to be very effective for pain relief, especially if dissolved in a little warm water and sipped at regular intervals.  Norene also swears by homeopathy for the treatment of pain – although she uses arnica:  “Start with a very high dose of arnica (for myself I used 10M).  After a couple of days, reduce the dose and continue taking the remedy for a while, according to personal needs.  To maximise effectiveness, take homeopathic Symphytum (comfrey) in addition to arnica.”

Does it work?

No. There is not one case where homeopathy has been unambiguously and objectively proven to have cured anything, ever. All observations are consistent with the null hypothesis (see homeopathyW at Wikipedia, which goes into great detail).

Is it plausible?

No remotely plausible mechanism has ever been advanced, and the doctrines of homeopathy conflict at a fundamental level with basic principles of physics such as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy. Unless you believe in “future-information medicine“, in which case you may be interested in buying this rather fine bridge I have for sale.

Is it natural?

No. Not only is the entire system of preparation by dilution and twerking entirely man-made, most over the counter remedies are manufactured by industrial scale pharmaceutical companies.

Should WDDTY have known this?

Yes. Homeopathy has been known to be wrong since at least 1840, and the doctrines were refuted by the early years of the 20th Century.

Bowen therapy

Other suggestions for this problem are Bowen therapy and osteopathy.  Says Lorraine of osteopathy, “I cannot sing its praises enough…I suffered terrible back problems but have not felt a twinge in the past six years since my treatment.”  As for Bowen, Angela reckons it can bring amazing relief to many pain sufferers.

Does it work?

It depends who you believe. SCAM believers claim it is “useful” (source),  but when challenged, practitioners were unable to provide any credible evidence.

So that’s a no.

Is it plausible?

Bowen was an unregistered osteopath. There’s no reason to suppose that Bowen technique  has any effect beyond that of massage, which is basically what it is, when the bullshit is stripped away. Claims to allow the body to “reset” itself are fanciful. You’re probably better off with a warm bath.

Is it natural?

Massage is sort of natural, Bowen technique is completely made up.

Should WDDTY have known this?

If you look for any credible evidence, you find none. If on the other hand you routinely believe the claims of commercial providers of services at face value without looking for evidence or applying any critical judgment then you’ll probably not spot that it’s quackery.

So, if WDDTY pretends to be in any way scientific or evidence based, it absolutely should have spotted this.

Osteopathy 

Finally, we have an encouraging story from Diane:

“I have suffered from bulging discs, sciatica, oedema and a host of related problems for the past three years.  But recently I have started several therapies which have helped me immensely.  First of all I started going to acupuncture once a week, then I began drinking Green’s Plus – adding powdered calcium, magnesium, and powdered MSM (Methyl-sulfonyl-methane) to the drink – everyday for nutrition.  MSM is a great natural pain reliever, along with magnesium.  I also use magnesium oil – either in the bath or applied directly to the site of pain.  It works wonders!

Does it work?

Osteopathy is a grey area. There is evidence of effects for musculoskeletal pain, as for any manipulative therapy, but the claims of the fringes of osteopathy (and especially cranial osteopathy aka cranio-sacral therapy) are unambiguously bogus. The writer also adds acupuncture (bogus), magnesium (plausible to a degree) and MSM (bogus) to the mix.

Is it plausible?

As invented by Andrew Taylor Still the practice is completely speculative – he surmised that the bone (osteon) was the root of all disease, and this is unambiguously nonsense, but subsequent changes have resulted in a variety of manipulative therapy which is plausible for some conditions, but wildly implausible for others. Note that this varies around the world, the Wikipedia article on osteopathyW is essential reading.

Is it natural?

The practice was invented from whole cloth in 1874. It’s a manual therapy so you could defend it as natural, but the practice is largely a set of man-made rituals.

Should WDDTY have known this?

Yes. The consensus around osteopathy has been settled for a long time.

Chiropractic

In addition to this, last year I started seeing a chiropractor, who uses a ‘Pro Adjuster’ on me.  I have now been free of pain for the last month.  I was told that I was going to have to have back surgery, but now I am feeling so wonderful that I am considering not having the surgery at all.  I can go all day without my pain medication and can sit and stand longer than I ever thought I would again!”

Does it work?

No. OK, technically, it is as effective as other forms of manipulation therapy for musculo-skeletal pain, but so many chiropractors exceed the bounds of evidential supportability that it is safer t avoid them altogether, especially given their history of antivaccinationism and the fact that one of their signature moves is potentially deadly.

The chiropractic profession includes some of the most cynical charlatans on the planet. Their training is big on “practice building” (i.e. maximising revenue) and chiropractors’ aim is to get you in, and keep you coming back, not to discharge a healthy patient. They use all manner of superstitious nonsense about “maintenance adjustments” and maintaining optimum wellness, but basically they are the canonical manipulative quacks.

Is it plausible?

As Wikipedia says:

A critical evaluation found that collectively, spinal manipulation failed to show it is effective for any condition. The scientific consensus is that chiropractic may be on a par with other manual therapies for some musculoskeletal conditions such as lower back pain, but that there is no credible evidence or mechanism for effects on other conditions, and some evidence of severe adverse effects from cervical vertebral manipulation. The ideas of innate intelligence and the chiropractic subluxation are regarded as pseudoscience.

So as with osteopathy, it’s plausible up to a point, but the profession as a whole is deeply untrustworthy due to widespread belief in completely bogus ideas, and a tendency to duplicate the action of hanging.

Is it natural?

No. It was invented from whole cloth by D. D. Palmer in 1895

Should WDDTY have known this?

The facts about chiropractic have been known for a long time. Yes, WDDTY should know that this is a dangerous woo-riddled field that no responsible person could possibly recommend without serious caveats around the likely harms and the costs of endless unnecessary treatments.

Summary

WDDTY’s ideas of what constitutes a “natural” remedy are absurd and seem to be founded more on the absence of credible evidence (i.e. being “alternative”) than on any actual natural origin. They try to have their cake and eat it, simultaneously claiming that something is “natural” and that it’s “nanotechnology”.

Their approach to the therapies is entirely credulous. Homeopathy was refuted over a century ago, they still promote it. There is no evidence that their enthusiasm for a product or treatment is conditional on plausibility or evidence of effect.

The article acts primarily as a propaganda piece for disproven or unproven therapies, often at significant potential cost.

The Advertising Standards Authority Exposed

The Advertising Standards Authority Exposed
“The ASA is not a government regulator—it’s a media-industry self-regulator—but it behaves as if it were a government regulator” says the callout box in Rob Verkerk’s opinion piece.

Why does the mouthpiece of the Alliance for Natural Health have such a fixation with a group whose mundane job is to check that advertisements are “legal, decent, honest and truthful”?

The answer probably lies in the sheer number of upheld complaints against the SCAM industry in general and WDDTY advertisers in particular.

In this article Verkerk tries a number of well-worn fallacies in order to advance the thesis that it’s perfectly acceptable for the SCAM industry to substitute belief for fact, because natural.

Continue reading The Advertising Standards Authority Exposed

Legal, decent, honest and truthful

asaIn the UK, advertisements must be legal, decent, honest and truthful. WDDTY’s advertisements have a bit of a problem here.

Fortunately, the Advertising Standards Authority have produced a series of handy guides for advertisers of SCAM, while Jo Brodie has helpfully posted the following useful information:

It [is] the Committee of Advertising Practice who set the guidelines that the Advertising Standards Authority uses in determining if marketing and advertising material are OK, or not. Since a large number of complaints are made about misleading websites promoting alternative or complementary health treatments the section on ‘Therapies’ is now quite extensive, reproduced below.

I like to think of this as a handy list of itemised nonsense. It is not illegal to sell any of these treatments, as far as I’m aware, but it is not fair to make claims for them that cannot be defended.

In each there are two aspects to consider (1) health-condition-specific concerns and (2) treatment-specific evidence.

(1) Health-condition-specific concerns
If an advertiser is making claims about treating really serious health conditions (asthma, cancer, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure etc) but isn’t medically trained themselves or doesn’t have access to a doctor in their clinic then the ASA is more immediately concerned about the customer not having appropriate medical care. The evidence for the actual therapy becomes a secondary concern in this situation. The ASA has also expressed concern if it thinks that customers may be discouraged from seeking appropriate medical care.

(2) Treatment-specific evidence
This covers all the claims that are made for the treatment and the ASA appear to want ‘robust evidence’ – generally the sort of thing that’s published in peer-reviewed journals, ideally a meta-analysis of smaller trials. Evidence from individual small trials is more of a compass bearing than an agreement that you’re in a particular place and not generally seen as robust, it depends on the study of course. Testimonials don’t count.

Full alphabetic index: AdviceOnline index
Searchable index: AdviceOnline database

The relevant T section including all therapies currently listed, I added Testimonials as a bonus.

Thanks, Jo! So now WDDTY’s advertisers will have a quick reference to check what they may and may not claim. And of course this is doubly important now that Trading Standards have become ASA’s legal backstop, making it dramatically easier for ASA to take enforcement action against non-compliant advertisers.

And Now A Word From Our Sponsors…

And Now A Word From Our Sponsors…
In 1989, Lynne McTaggart promised The Times that WDDTY would take no advertising in order to remain “pure”. A quote from the Times piece is still used today as an endorsement on WDDTY’s home page.

Whether or not WDDTY originally set out to be a factual journal describing alternative treatments, the fact is that its current content makes it part of the SCAM industry’s PR machine, the network of blogs, websites and junk journals that makes the claims the industry cannot legally make, allowing SCAMmers to maintain the fiction of advertising on an “availability only” basis.

Wandering Teacake takes a look at advertising income and specifically analyses how that correlates with advocacy for a particular form of woo. The results show that – like any other magazine in the segment – content may be driven by the availability of advertising revenue as much as by the agenda of the editors. The analysis further undermines WDDTY’s specious claims to independence from vested interests.

Continue reading And Now A Word From Our Sponsors…

Sick as a dog – another worthless advert in WDDTY

Reblogged with permission from westernsloth.wordpress.com, thanks to Dr. Matthew Lam (@DrMatthewL).

2013-11-apocapsSo I was just casually scanning over the most recent (November) issue of WDDTY – yes that issue with the atrocious homeopathy and cancer article – when my eyes glanced over an advert for:

‘Apocaps –The world’s first all-natural apoptogen formula’

Now I have to admit, when I see the prefix ‘apop’, I automatically think of apoptosis, the process of programmed cell death that plays such a vital role in many aspects of an organism’s development.  On closer inspection it’s clear that the product in question is selling something about apoptosis – something that got my interest having previously spent time in the lab researching that very mechanism.  So let’s see what kind of bullshit the team at ‘Functional Nutriments’ have concocted for this ‘world’s first’.

The product itself appears to be a pill made up of ‘natural’ chemicals for kick-starting apoptosis in dogs.  Now I don’t know about dogs, but as a human I would not be convinced by someone wanting to kick off apoptosis in my cells by feeding me a pill.  Sounds like a quick way to end up in the hospital.

The special ‘apoptosis formula’ (I have to keep putting these things in quotations because I just don’t understand what they mean) is a powerful nutraceutical supplement designed by Dr Demian Dressler.  A quick Google search on Dressler reveals that he once thought of himself as a conventional veterinarian but know considers himself a full spectrum veterinarian, combining the best of conventional medicine with nutraceuticals, supplements, diet and body-mind medicine.  He is co-founder of Functional Nutriments and the inventor of Apopcaps.

But what are Apopcaps? The advert doesn’t really give you any information as to what the product is or does – a common theme amongst adverts of quackery.  I had to log on to their wonderful website to find out more information.  I always find the ‘About’ section of these websites the best for finding bullshit.  Here’s what they have to say about Apopcaps:

‘Apocaps was created as dog lovers began asking for a simpler, easier way to give apoptogens to their dogs.’

Really?! What the fuck are apoptogens? I’ve never used the word before and a quick Google search reveals that apoptogen is only ever used in conjunction with Apocaps.  So without knowing what they are how does one know that they need a simpler and easier way to give them to their dogs?

‘The challenge was to find a combination of the most important – luteolin, apigenin, silymarin and curcumin and other key ingredients – in a formula that is absorbed by the body.’

Ahh..so here are four alleged apoptogens.  Two flavonoids (luteolin and apigenin), milk thistle extract (silymarin) and a curcuminoid (curcumin).  I know from experience that luteolin and apigenin have been shown to induce apoptosis in the lab.  But so have many other things.  So how much evidence is there that these chemicals could induce apoptosis in dogs?  I’ll answer that in due course, for now let’s continue with the spiel.

‘Because luteolin, apigenin, curcumin and silymarin are all natural substances, the body’s digestive and elimination systems could potentially use up or eliminate these apoptogens before they reach the bloodstream. We didn’t want that to happen.’

This statement hints at a complete misunderstanding of mammalian physiology.  I eat a lot of natural substances every day, if I spent all that energy digesting food only to shit and piss the best bits out, I’d be very unhappy.  Nutrient absorption in the gut is very effective.  It’s evolved that way over thousands of years so we can spend energy doing other things like riding bikes or blogging about stupid pseudoscience.

‘The patent-pending proprietary “Trojan Horse” formula used to create Apocaps “tricks” the body into circulating the apoptogens throughout the bloodstream.’

This sounds exciting but my sceptic radar detects bullshit.  I couldn’t find a shred of evidence for their ‘Trojan Horse’ formula or how it would work.

After looking at the entire website for Apocaps, I still could not find one statement that actually said what the product was for or for what conditions it should be given.  I mean: do you go into Dr Dressler’s clinic with your dog and he says:

“Yes, it looks like your dog has low levels of natural apoptosis; let’s boost this back up with Apocaps.  Don’t worry the active ingredients easily get into your dog’s circulation where they can have an effect on the whole body”.

Even if Apocaps worked, how would increasing apoptosis across your dog’s body help with anything?! It sounds like the least targeted form of chemotherapy ever made.  So back to my earlier question – is there any evidence that the four key ingredients have any effect on apoptosis in dogs?

The answer is no:

  • PubMed search for ‘Luteolin’ AND ‘dog’ – 8 papers, none on apoptosis
  • PubMed search for ‘Apigenin’ AND ‘dog’ – 11 papers, none on apoptosis
  • PubMed search for ‘silymarin’ AND ‘dog’ – 39 papers, none on apoptosis
  • PubMed search for ‘curcumin’ and ‘dog’ – 23 papers, none on apoptosis
What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you that luteolin, apigenin, silymarin and curcumin restore apoptosis and stop cancer?

Because there’s no evidence it’s true

Number crunching: Adverts

A picture speaks a thousand words. Especially this one:

WDDTY - adverts in numbers

We’re indebted to Alan Henness of the Nightingale Collaboration for this eloquent testimony to Lynne McTaggart’s claimed screening of advertisements.

For more on misleading advertisements, watch the Misleading Advertisements category.