Archive for category Pseudomedicine
Having a rare weekend free, and having the need to pop into town in order to buy secret things for my girlfriend’s upcoming birthday (July 22nd if you want to wish her a happy birthday, by the way), I chanced into St John’s Shopping Centre and came across the rather charming ‘Dr & Herbs’ Traditional Chinese Medicine outlet. Which I immediately dived into and immersed myself in, obviously.
I’d like to say up front, before I get into any real detail – the two people who seem to run the shop were helpful, kind and friendly. Unfortunately, they were also entirely wrong in a number of ways…
The first thing that struck me about the shop was the crude (and rather awfully-designed) posters in the window, listing various ailments and how TCM can help – the list was reasonably long, and didn’t include any more wild and dangerous ailments to treat, but I was able to grab shots of the claims for Thrush, Stress, Eczema and Asthma.
Thrush: TCM treats this as a problem of damp in the body, usually internal damp caused by an infection or fungus; herbs are a very effective treatment.
While it’s true to say that thrush is caused by a fungus, it’s vague and bewildering to claim it a problem of ‘damp in the body’, and the bald assertion that herbs are a very effective treatment is an outright falsehood, unsupported by evidence.
Stress: According to TCM, Stress is due to too much dampness and heart heat from internal and external pressure. We can treat this by clearing the dampness as well as regulating your Qi (vital energy) through a natural process).
Here the issue is somewhat more fundamental – the notion of ‘stress’ is something favoured by pseudomedical practitioners because of its dual properties of vagueness and ubiquity. Many people believe they have stress; very few of them could quantify what they mean by the term. Fortunately, Dr & Herbs seem to know, and they’re pretty sure it’s to do with dampness – although, in fairness, dampness is their go-to diagnosis. That they can regulate this invented dampness – both internally- and externally-caused – via the regulation of Qi is neither here nor there, given that Qi adds one more invented element to the pot. All in all, their claims to fighting stress don’t stand up to scrutiny. Read the rest of this entry »
As a result of a little digging around the papers last week, as-ever on the trawl for nonsense, I stumbled across the following in the Daily Express:
HERBAL REMEDY’S NAGGING RELIEF TO THE HENPECKED
BATTLING couples could have found the cure for their marital bust-ups – a herbal remedy which claims it can tame the nastiest of nags.
A miracle cure you say? To get rid of nagging? With a slight hint of a putting-your-woman-in-place angle? Thanks very much, Diana-mourning, Maddie-sleuthing Daily Express. The article was written by Nathan Rao, who I feel is worth calling out because frankly I suspect he contributed barely a word to it, as you may well come to suspect too I’m sure. The article continues:
The world’s first anti-nagging medicine hit the shelves yesterday.
Two sentences in, and we’re suddenly claiming not only a world’s first, but that this herbal product is classifiable as medicine, and all that that entails. In short, if the Express, Nathan Rao or whoever wrote this piece wants to call this herbal remedy a medicine, that’s fine – so long as it’s a licensed product, licensed by the MHRA. If it’s not, then labelling it a ‘medicine’ is… well, let’s call it naughty. And complaint-worthy. And potentially pretty serious. So, a nice start then! Let’s continue Read the rest of this entry »
As I’ve covered previously, the position of homeopathy on the NHS in the Wirral region has been under review, with the Professional Executive Committee evaluating the future continuation of the 200-year-old non-science in the wake of dwindling patient interest.
Following the open meeting of March 10th to discuss proposals to cut homeopathy from the budget, the PEC collected their thoughts and formally presented them to the Wirral NHS Board. This meeting took place on the 22 March 2011, and unsurprisingly attracted the attention of the North West ‘Friends’ of Homeopathy, whose very vocal envoy John Cook persuaded the board to allow him to present his objections to their proposal. Readers of the previous blog or listeners to Skeptics with a K will know John well, and his forthright advocacy style.
Fortunately, a local councillor is a supporter and friend of the MSS, and he was able to equally persuade the board to allow an external voice of support into the meeting to counter the objections of the homeopathic lobby – which is why I found myself called upon to give a 5-minute speech in favour of disposing with the sugar pills once and for all.
The exact text of the speech is presented below, and my opportunity to present it came immediately after 5 minutes from the homeopaths, in which the main thrust of their argument was:
- The consultation process had not been as robust as one would hope (essentially attempting to get off on a technicality)
- Homeopathy does indeed work and there is science to prove it
- Homeopathy is used by 10% of the population (a somewhat spurious figure brilliantly put into context by the board, who pointed out that the 60 affected patients in the Wirral each year are in fact just 0.02% of the population)
- Those who seek to end funding for homeopathy are in fact attempting to ban it, with similar zeal to the calls to rid the world from smallpox.
I’ve no doubt that John will be able to offer a fuller clarification of these points below, and I welcome him doing so if he so wishes. Following this argument, I took to the rather official-looking table with it’s little microphone, the eyes of the board upon me, and began: Read the rest of this entry »
Having written about and campaigned against homeopathy extensively in the past, I’ve seen a number of counter-arguments and issues raised by people who either disagree with the 10:23 Campaign (primarily homeopaths, admittedly). The one which crops up most regularly and seem to have, at least on the surface, the most sway is: if homeopathy IS just a placebo, is that so bad? Placebos, after all, can be shown to have an effect, and if judicially used could form a perfectly legitimate part of mainstream healthcare.
Persuasive as this sounds, the answer is actually pretty simple – leaving aside the implications for doctor-patient trust (handing out pills known to be ineffective and claiming they’re medicine definitely doesn’t gel with the important notion of informed consent), incorporating homeopathy into proven medicine lends the modality legitimacy, which can lead to things like this (screencapped from an email):
Following the link from that alert takes you to the Homeopathy Plus website, with their advice on how to deal with the side effects of Chemotherapy – advice they believe to be equally applicable to radiation poisoning. Just to make it absolutely clear, as if I even needed to, there is a HUGE difference between the side-effects experienced after having a well-controlled, targeted and managed dose of chemotherapy to fight cancer, and being randomly exposed to an uncontrolled amount radiation following a damaged nuclear power plant. It goes without saying that this is irresponsible and dangerous advice, and by all means it should be ignored. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve had a rather interesting evening. Last week, MSS member and local councillor Darren Dodds alerted me to the fact that Wirral NHS were holding an open meeting to discuss whether to continue funding homeopathy in the region, with the recommendation being very much ‘No, we absolutely shouldn’t’. Needless to say, I agree with this recommendation, and wanted to go along to let them know that I – and by extension the hundred or more local MSS members – applaud their step in the right direction. Interested parties should read the report they came up with, it’s really pretty good. Some highlights:
The paper concludes that the lack of evidence on efficacy and cost-effectiveness of homeopathic therapies means that it should not be a high priority for the PCT at this time. It is recommended that NHS Wirral does not commission homeopathictherapies.
The key risk is that NHS Wirral fails to maintain its reputation as an evidence-based commissioning PCT.
Excellent stuff. Still, it seems we weren’t the only ones made aware of the open meeting – also invited were patients currently or formerly using homeopathy, and the ‘North West Friends of Homeopathy‘. This latter group are most interesting, and I’ll come back to them a little later in more detail, but first it’s worth pointing out that I appeared on local radio with a member of the group on Monday morning, in an exchange that might amuse, and will certainly give a far better impression of who John Cook is than I could ever do justice with words. UK-based readers can listen here, it starts around the 2hour 13minute mark and lasts about 10 minutes. I’ll wait.
For those not able, willing or interested in listening, what we have from John is a charming ability to hog a conversation, and the maniacal insistence that the date of the meeting was aired. Clearly, John wanted his supporters to arrive mob-handed. Fair enough, he probably feels he has a strong case. As it was, when I arrived with a couple of other MSS members there were maybe 40 or so people present, a number which I presume to be in excess of the general norm for these meetings.
John, having lobbied for inclusion, was amongst the speakers, joined by Dr. Hugh Neilsen BA MA BM BCh MRCP FFHom (it’s worth pointing out that his name is actually Hugh Nielsen, and the NWFoH’s own website, while painstaking in it’s detail of Hugh’s many qualifications, mispells the name of their own president), and the panel was completed by two local GPs who were involved in making the recommendation, and who spent the evening ranging between bemused, compassionate and at times startled. Startled, not least, by the quite spectacular opening by John, the homeopath’s friend (which I imagine is rather like a Fisherman’s Friend, but lacking in clout), in which he directed a quite flattering string of insults at me directly, and at the Merseyside Skeptics Society. Read the rest of this entry »
Today, I want to talk to you about Man Bags. Or, rather, I specifically don’t – what I WANT to do is tell you a tale of two bullshitters. You’ll see what I mean as I go. So, from the Telegraph on Feb 14th:
They are the ultimate symbol of a modern metrosexual, sported by David Beckham and Brad Pitt: the man bag. But the grown-up satchel is responsible for causing serious back injuries, according a group of medical experts.
Please note the medical experts bit there, that’s important.
Man bags have come of age in the last decade, replacing the old-fashioned briefcase, and sported by an increasing number of commuters. Unlike a stiff attache case which has a carry handle, a man bag has a strap and is usually made of soft leather or canvas, allowing men to sling it across their backs.
When they first appeared in offices across the country, the owners were often mocked for adopting the distinctly Continental fashion of men having handbags. They were the final nail in the coffin for the era of furled umbrellas, sturdy brief cases and even stiffer upper lips.
But an increasing number of high profile men from David Beckham to Jude Law sporting them meant the trend took off. John Lewis said sales of man bags have increased 21 per cent over the last year, with shoppers buying ever smaller ones thanks to the iPad, the tablet computer made by Apple, being able to squeeze into smaller spaces.
Quite the appeal to celebrity to sell this story so far, with Beckham, Jude Law and Brad Pitt getting a mention. Even the photo was of Beckham and Jude Law. The Mail, similarly, went for a huge Beckham picture, despite the fact that the article is supposedly about back pain caused by heavy man bags – not something we know of Beckham suffering from. Hey ho, this is the news.
Footballer David Beckham has one, as does movie star Robert Downey Jr and model David Gandy (no idea!)- but slinging a man bag over your shoulder could give you a serious back injury, experts warn.
There’s that expert again I wonder who they might be. A medical back specialist? Physiotherapist? Posture expert? Even a humble old GP?
New research from the British Chiropractic Association found that men are carrying too many ‘essentials’ with them on their travels.
That’s right, the BCA – latterly famous for unsuccessfully suing Simon Singh for alluding to the fact that Chiropractic is based on nonsense and is bogus. Red flag ahoy. Read the rest of this entry »