I want to explain the problems with an article found in What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY) titled “The doctors’ case for homeopathy.” This piece is full of misinformation, and it serves as an ideal case study of what I’ve observed to be WDDTY’s typical behavior. Here’s the full list of problems I found with the article, which I will elaborate on below…
… scream WDDTY on their webshite in a brief post dated Thursday, October 29, 2015:
All very scary. For once, given WDDTY‘s tendency to muck up the references, the journal and abstract are easy to find: they’re here.
So, are dental fillings per se triggering decay in surrounding teeth? Well, in a word:
Yes, once again WDDTY has totally misrepresented the findings of a study. What the researchers really concluded, in as many words, was:
Both patient- and dentist related variables are risk factors for caries development on approximal surfaces in contact with newly placed Class II composite restorations.
What are these patient-related variables? Dental hygiene, or the lack thereof. But you’d guessed that.
What are these dentist-related variables? Skill and technique, says the study.
I suspect we can add to that: not enough time spent on educating patients, especially the very young, about the necessities of dental hygiene and why fluoride is a good thing. Of course, like most medical professionals, dentists often don’t have much time to spend on prevention. Which is why irresponsible lies and scaremongering by rags like WDDTY is all the more reprehensible: they try to frighten people away from getting proper preventive care and real medical care.
Why don’t doctors tell you dental fillings could be causing decay in other teeth?
Because it’s exactly as true as saying cars cause car accidents.
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:
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.
The Holy Trinity of anti-vaccinationists runs thus:
- Vaccines are dangerous.
- Vaccines don’t work.
- Vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t serious anyway.
And when one is rebutted they move to another, frequently in rotation, perennially moving the goalposts.
Still, deaths from preventable disease are the anti-vaccinationist’s worst nightmare. Their narrative can only succeed in an atmosphere where the realities and consequences of preventable disease are a distant memory. We do recommend you watch The Vaccination Chronicles by Australian skeptic and all round good egg Richard Saunders.
Provable deaths in the newspapers are the ultimate heresy to the antivax cult. You need only look at the torrent of vile abuse heaped on the parents of Dana McCaffery by Australian antivax whackaloon Meryl Dorey. Your child died of vaccine preventable disease? Off-message. STFU.
So it is with the recent death of an American woman from measles.
The first death in 12 years from measles was reported last week from the USA, which had doctors emphasising the important of vaccination. However, what doctors didn’t tell you was that the woman who died had been given the MMR vaccine.
What they did tell you, however, was that she was immunocompromised, and thus in the high risk group for exposure to measles, a highly contagious disease. Hilariously, WDDTY try to spin this as an anti-pharma angle:
It’s believed the woman caught measles when she was in hospital, and she died because her immune system had been seriously compromised from too many pharmaceuticals.
Let’s get this straight, Lynne: you have no fucking clue why she was immunocompromised. She was on immunosuppressant drugs, there are a number of reasons for using these including transplants, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, control of severe allergic asthma.
The immune system is a complex beast and when it works against you, as it does in autoimmune disorders, you can suffer dramatic and life threatening symptoms.
All in all it’s just as well that all those products you pimp for “boosting your immune system” do no such thing. If they could, they would be dangerous.
Doctors at the hospital in Washington state, where she died, confirmed she had had the MMR vaccine when she was a child. One, Dr Jeanette Stehr-Green, also said on local TV that the woman had been taking medication that had interfered with her immune system, and made her more vulnerable to the measles virus.
Right, so you assumed that she was actually taking “too many pharmaceuticals” when actually you (and we) have no idea at all of her health history or the reason she was on immunosuppressant therapy. But you assume… What? That the doctors put her on it on a whim? Fatuous.
The hospital has refused to reveal the age of the victim, but have said she was not elderly.
Indeed. Measles kills indiscriminately, including years after the event due to subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. Odd that something as natural as measles turns out to be a real bastard. And don’t pretend you don’t know about SSPE: in October 2007, WDDTY said:
Latent infections also lie at the root of a number of serious chronic diseases that are dependent upon the immunological response, including progressive multifocal leucoencephalopathy, a rapidly progressing neuromuscular disease, and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, a rare progressive brain disorder caused by an abnormal immune response to the measles virus. In fact, the latter is thought to be triggered, in some cases, by the MMR vaccine.
You cited this source: Latent Virus Infections. See where it mentions immunisation as a source of SSPE? Me neither. Of course nobody has ever checked this, have they? Oh, wait, yes they have:
For situations where cases of SSPE occur in vaccinated individuals who have no previous history of natural measles infection, the available evidence points to natural measles infection as the cause of SSPE, not vaccine.
WHO, Jan 2006. And while it might be charitable to attribute your ignorance of the falsity of your claim, it would also be incredibly naive.
Mind you, that’s pretty tame. In September 1994 you said:
Besides causing dangerous mutations like atypical measles, the measles portion of the [measles] vaccine has been associated with numerous side effects, including nerve deafness, encephalitis, epilepsy, febrile convulsions, Guillain-Barre Syndrome (a paralysis) and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), a fatal wasting disease rarely associated with measles .
That was characteristically inaccurate, in that these things have “been associated” primarily by anti-vax cranks.
What does the reality-based community say? Two thirds of people with Guillain–Barré syndrome have experienced an infection before the onset of the condition, usually gastroenteritis or a respiratory tract infection. Vaccines can prevent some causes of these. In many cases the exact nature of the infection can be confirmed: approximately 30% of cases are provoked by Campylobacter jejuni bacteria, which cause diarrhea. A further 10% cases are attributable to cytomegalovirus (CMV, HHV-5). Despite this, only very few people with Campylobacter or CMV infections develop Guillain–Barré syndrome (0.25–0.65 per 1000 and 0.6–2.2 per 1000 episodes, respectively). The strain of Campylobacter involved may determine the risk of GBS; different forms of the bacteria have different lipopolysaccharides on their surface, and some may induce illness while others will not.
While rare cases of GBS have been reported following flu vaccination, a link with measles virus is explicitly ruled out in “Pediatric Guillain-Barré syndrome”. Current Opinion in Pediatrics 25 (6): 689–693. doi:10.1097/MOP.0b013e328365ad3f
On we go:
She was receiving hospital treatment for several health problems when she caught measles from another patient. As her symptoms worsened, she was taken to the University of Washington Medical Centre in Seattle, where she died from pneumonia due to measles last spring.
Doctors did not establish the cause of death until the autopsy was carried out, as the woman did not display any of the usual symptoms associated with measles, such as a rash.
Yup. Rare, but not unheard of especially in the immunocompromised. It’s quite likely that there have been other deaths that were never identified as being due to measles, because these patients are by definition very sick anyway.
No other patient developed the disease, and the hospital is confident the outbreak has been contained.
Good, but it should never have had to be contained.
Measles vaccination rates declined due to anti-vaccination activists and especially the fraudulent work of Andrew Wakefield. As rates dropped below the levels required for herd immunity, measles infection rates rose.
Antivaxers are responsible for the greater prevalence of measles. Antivaxers are responsible for its return from near-eradicated status in the 1990. Antivaxers are responsible for the fact that the virus can circulate among a larger pool of people who are not immune. The unvaccinated are much more likely to contract measles than the vaccinated.
Call the police! A shrieking headline says:
Amazon ban on herbal products ‘illegal’
Wow, really? Let’s look a little closer:
The online retailer Amazon has pulled more than a hundred St John’s wort products, a herbal remedy for depression, after it was approached by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
So the statutory regulatory body approached Amazon, and Amazon pulled the products. And this is supposedly illegal. According to whom? Let’s read on:
The campaign group, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH),
says the MHRA “overstepped the legal mark” and some of those
107 products should never have been removed.
Oh really. And there’s not quite enough space to note that WDDTY contributor Rob Verkerk is the founder of the ANH, or point out that this is a body founded to promote the interests of the supplement industry, which profits handily from bullshit claims for products like St John’s Wort.
Follow the money. Unless it’s going to your friends.
The MHRA says the products were unlicensed and making
illegal medicinal claims or were inappropriately labelled. It now
plans to contact other on line retail outlets, including eBay, which have been supplying the products.
Statutory regulator enforces regulations shock. Pictures at eleven.
Amazon had two choices: challenge the request, or accede. Amazon chose to accede tot he request. They have lawyers and a metric fuckton of money, so that rather suggests that they accept the MHRA’s view that the marketing claims were illegal and the products were unlicensed.
It’s understood the MHRA acted after being approached
by the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) last
December. The association’s executive director Graham Keen
has described the action as having “a very positive outcome”.
So even some of those selling natural woo, are pissed off by the fraudulent claims of other marketers of natural woo. Interesting.
But the ANH questions the “legitimacy of the forced
product removal” and says that some of the medicinal claims
are “carefully worded health claims that are as yet not nonauthorized by the European Commission”.
Does Rob Verkerk work for the Ministry of Truth? That is some amazing doublespeak there.
It says this latest ban is part of an “ongoing campaign by the
MHRA to attack herbal food supplements without adequate
Skeptics will be rolling around on the floor laughing at this: the MHRA is notoriously spineless in challenging the dubious claims of natural-woo scammers, this is incredibly rare and is based on clear-cut and flagrant breaches of the law.
How happy would WDDTY be for Big Pharma to sell products with unapproved claims via Amazon, do you think? Answers on a postcard, please.
This is an article which appears to conflate several disjoint issues into a single article. I say conflate: they have been forced together with a crowbar.
The issues are:
- There are some who claim infants do not feel pain. Most of this seems to come from those who promote non-medical infant circumcision.
- There are good reasons not to use general anaesthesia on neonates, some of which are discussed below.
- Premature babies may require surgery, and the risks of anaesthesia are much higher in these infants because their brains are at an earlier stage of development.
- WDDTY is vehemently opposed to the use of “painful procedures” on infants. By “painful procedures” they mean, of course, vaccinations.
The result is a diatribe that is unusually unhinged even for WDDTY.
How could WDDTY resist this one? For once, they are not the most misleading story about this study, Variation in cancer risk among tissues can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions, Tomasetti & Vogelstein, Science 2 January 2015: Vol. 347 no. 6217 pp. 78-81.
The abstract states:
Some tissue types give rise to human cancers millions of times more often than other tissue types. Although this has been recognized for more than a century, it has never been explained. Here, we show that the lifetime risk of cancers of many different types is strongly correlated (0.81) with the total number of divisions of the normal self-renewing cells maintaining that tissue’s homeostasis. These results suggest that only a third of the variation in cancer risk among tissues is attributable to environmental factors or inherited predispositions. The majority is due to “bad luck,” that is, random mutations arising during DNA replication in normal, noncancerous stem cells. This is important not only for understanding the disease but also for designing strategies to limit the mortality it causes.
The body of the paper contains considerable additional information. Luckily, Adam Jacobs has written a great blog post describing exactly what it does mean.
So, what does WDDTY say?
Around 60 per cent of cancers are just down to ‘bad luck’—and have little to do with genetics or lifestyle, researchers have claimed. Instead, they happen because of random DNA mutations that occur when stem cells divide.
That’s not what the researchers say. All cancers are down to mutations in DNA, in the end; the point of the study is that these are most likely in those areas where cells are dividing most quickly. Which is hardly surprising. Or, as Adam Jacobs describes it:
They found a very strong correlation between those two quantities: tissues in which stem cells divided frequently (eg the colon) were more likely to develop cancer than tissues in which stem cell division was less frequent (eg the brain).
The correlation was so strong, in fact, that it explained two thirds of the variation among different tissue types in their cancer incidence. The authors argue that because mutations that can lead to cancer can occur during stem cell division purely by chance, that means that two thirds of the variation in cancer risk is due to bad luck.
Which is the source of the “two thirds” claim.
Only six major cancers were more likely to be caused by environmental and dietary factors, and these include skin, throat, thyroid, lung, liver and colon cancers, say researchers from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre. But even some of these could be more down to ‘bad luck’, such as lung cancer in the non-smoker.
And as you wrote that, you should have realised that something was wrong in your understanding of the paper, because the correlation between smoking and lung cancer is vastly stronger than one in three. In fact, 80-90% of lung cancers occur in people who have smoked long-term, and of the remainder, most are in people exposed to radon, asbestos or other pollution.
This is quite easy to check. As is the fact that around 70% of cervical cancers are caused by just two strains of human papillomavirus (HPV).
In fact, the study is only explaining the variation in risk from one tissue to another. It doesn’t address the extent to which modifiable risk factors affect that risk. Essentially, it explains why some smokers get cancer and others don’t, but it absolutely does not prove that it’s just bad luck when smokers get cancer: it’s caused by smoking.
However, their discoveries don’t give people a licence to embrace unhealthy lifestyles, they say. A bad lifestyle can add to the ‘bad luck’ factor.
Correct – as the tobacco example shows, their study does not really address that question.
Nonetheless, a healthy diet will have less influence on two-thirds of cancers that are more likely to occur in tissues where there is more frequent division of stem cells in tissues. Cancer arises when tissue-specific stem cells make random mistakes, the researchers say.
I am not sure you can draw that conclusion, but it’s reassuring to see that WDDTY now intends to drop its incessant stream of fatuous stories claiming that this or that food gives you cancer, and the other prevents it.
We’ll keep an eye on how well they do with that.
There is no bullshit in the world so self-evidently fatuous that someone won’t assert it. Non-existent “wheat intolerance” caused by bread that has gone through some nebulously-defined “processing”? Sure, why not? Continue reading Wheat intolerance? Processed breads are the real culprit, says researcher
Reblogged from Swift at the James Randi Educational Foundation
The stupid. It burns.
WDDTY’s story “vaccines won’t protect our children, say 74 per cent of parents” covers a publication which shows that 74 per cent of parents understand that antivaxers are a public health risk.
Yes, that’s right: McTaggart says that anybody who understands the dangers of unvaccinated children, believes that vaccines won’t protect their kids.
Most parents don’t believe in the protective effects of vaccinations.
Why do you think that might be? Anything to do with the antivaccine lobby? Including the “viciously, viciously anti-vaccine” Lynne McTaggart?
According to one survey, 74 per cent of American parents said they would remove their vaccinated children from a daycare centre if there were any children attending who weren’t up-to-date with the vaccine schedule.
Very sensible – no vaccine is 100% effective and unvaccinated children are one reason why the US is currently seeing outbreaks of measles and pertussis, both of which had been virtually eliminated prior to the Wakefield farrago.
Although it’s mandatory for every child attending a daycare centre in the US to be vaccinated with the MMR and other childhood vaccines, they do not have to have received all the vaccines.
Thanks to assiduous lobbying by antivaxers, yes. You must be so proud.
In a US survey carried out by the University of Michigan, most parents believe that the centres should police vaccination schedules, and 74 per cent said they would consider boycotting a centre if they knew that as many as one in four children was not fully up-to-date with vaccinations.
It’s almost as if there is a resurgence of vaccine preventable disease, isn’t it?
The questions didn’t mention children who were still unvaccinated.
On the grounds that an unvaccinated child is, by definition, either too young to have been vaccinated, so up to date, or not fully up-to-date with their vaccines. How is this not obvious?
Just 10 per cent of parents were relaxed about the idea of children who weren’t fully vaccinated.
Still far too many. But the public education campaigns should fix this in time, as long as WDDTY and their antivax fellow-travellers never mention vaccines ever again.
All of which beggars the question: isn’t your child supposed to be protected anyway?
No, Lynne. Your story beggars belief, but the report does not beg the question, because anybody who is even slightly educated about the vaccine issue recognises precisely what it means: three out of four parents think you and your ilk are a public health danger.
The other one out of four need to wise up.
@Zeno001 reminds me that there are two messages here. The first is the bald assumption of the anti-vax trope “if vaccines work, why are we a threat?”, which is based on the false assertion that medicine claims all vaccines to confer 100% immunity to the relevant disease. This is, of course, tosh, and is one reason why herd immunity is so important.
The other message is that large numbers of people – most, in fact – are not taken in by the anti-vax bullshit. This si great news for the reality-based community and it’s just a shame that it has taken deaths and serious harm in outbreaks of preventable disease to bring home to people why vaccination is important. We’ll never kill the zombie memes set loose by Wakefraud, but we can isolate them in small pools until they die out naturally. A well informed population is effectively vaccinated against bullshit, it’s not 100% effective but a high enough immunisation rate prevents outbreaks.