Archive for the ‘Quackery’ Category

Students Make Film About Vaccines – Get Harrassment

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

It’s always nice to see young people with a passion for science, reality, skepticism and advocacy.   In Carlsbad, CA, a group of highschool students in a journalism class made a film about vaccines and vaccine denialism.  (It’s on the correct side of it)

Via NBC San Diego

More than a dozen current and former Carlsbad High School students have found themselves in the middle of the long-running vaccination debate after they produced the film Invisible Threat.

The film debuted online August 1, more than a year after it was completed.

Students tell NBC 7 that’s largely due to the backlash they’ve faced, even during the production stage.

Brad Streicher worked on the film his junior year. The current USC student and NBC 7 intern said the idea came from the San Diego Rotary Club.

People there were impressed by two previous films they’d worked on and wanted the high school broadcast journalism class to do one on the immune system and immunizations.

“We ended up telling Rotary we’ll do the film but only on our terms, which means we were going to approach the film from a journalistic standpoint,” said Streicher. “We wanted to make sure whatever story we were telling, it would be unbiased and we would attack it from both sides of the argument.”

The Rotary gave the students $60,000 for the project with that understanding, according to Streicher.

Months into the film’s production, students say they started to received e-mails and online comments harshly criticizing their work.

People called the project “pro-vaccine” and “propaganda.” At one point the teacher and director of the film, Douglas Green, proposed the students stop the project. The students refuse.

Here’s a video about the production and the students behind it:


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It had to happen: The Ebola Conspiracy Theories

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

It happens periodically:  Ebola, a highly contagious and very deadly virus with horrific symptoms known as “flesh eating” has flared up in Africa.   This recent outbreak has been especially bad.   The virus is native to Africa and appears to survive in natural reservoirs such as bats or gorillas.  Periodically, it makes the jump to humans and that is where an outbreak occurs.

The only good news is that these outbreaks tend to be short-lived and the lives lost never total more than the hundreds.  Granted that’s a tragedy for everyone who loses their life, but the scale is small.   There are a number of reasons for this, including the generally rapid response to contain it.  But also, the nature of the virus makes it prone to brief outbreaks.   It does not have an extended incubation period and often kills its host quickly.  This makes it an inefficient virus when it comes to transmission, because it is the fact that many viruses have a long period when the host is apparently healthy that they are able to infect so many.

Well, it had to happen.   The conspiracy theories have started:  It was produced by the government, to depopulate the world or just out of evil.  It was caused by HAARP or chemtrails.  Yes, they are all out there and the anti-vaccine groups are getting in on the action.

Here is what the Australian Vaccination Network has to say:

With the current epidemic of Ebola, it is instructive to remember that
the first outbreaks of a Filovirus (Marburg which is nearly identical to Ebola and which causes clinically indistinguishable hemorrhagic disease) took place simultaneously in laboratories in Frankfurt, Marburg and Belgrade in 1967. These labs were all producing vaccines using (amongst other animals) African green monkeys.

Interestingly, though the outbreak was associated with the monkeys,
there is no known animal reservoir for either of these viruses -
humans appear to be their only victims. It seems that fruit bats can
spread the virus but they are not affected by it.

The Filoviruses also appear to be a strange combination of viruses
which have never before been seen in nature – much like the 2009 ‘swine-flu’ which the well-respected scientist, Adrian Gibb, said had to have been man-made. These viruses have strong structural & genetic similarities to both Rhabdoviruses & the Paramyxoviruses (both measles and mumps are paramyxoviruses) – and are novel or new – never having been seen before.

And again, the index cases were not in Africa but instead, were in European vaccine laboratories.

These facts have to lead a thinking person to ask the question – are these viruses man-made or do we believe that their sudden emergence simultaneously in three European vaccine labs is a mere coincidence?

People in parts of Africa affected by this outbreak are avoiding doctors like (pun intended) the plague and you have to think – do they know something that we don’t know?

There are so many conspiracy theory websites out there, it’s hard to even pick one to use as an example. But here’s a good one.

Via the Sky Alert:



Click here if your browser does not support embedded videos

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British MP Seeks to Incorporate Astrology Into National Healthcare System

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

Well at least the US is not alone in having idiots for elected leaders.

Via the BBC:

Astrology-loving MP seeks health answers in the stars
A Conservative MP has spoken of his belief in astrology and his desire to incorporate it into medicine.

David Tredinnick said he had spent 20 years studying astrology and healthcare and was convinced it could work.

The MP for Bosworth, a member of the health committee and the science and technology committee, said he was not afraid of ridicule or abuse.

“There is no logic in attacking something that has a proven track record,” he told BBC News.

He said he had studied the Indian astrological system Iahiri and the way it was used by that country’s government and recalled how Chris Patten, Britain’s last governor of Hong Kong, had an official astrologer, whom Mr Tredinnick had consulted while on a parliamentary delegation there.

The MP recently spoke about his beliefs at the Glastonbury Festival, sharing a platform with Daily Mail astrologer Jonathan Cainer.

Recalling the experience in the House of Commons, he said he had been invited to take part because of his “radical agenda” on complementary medicine – he is vice-chairman of the government’s herbals working group.

He said he had been the subject of much ridicule for his beliefs over the years, including a fake Twitter account entitled “Inside the head of David Tredinnick”, but many of the sceptics who had attacked him were “bullies” who had “never studied the subjects”.

“I am absolutely convinced that those who look at the map of the sky for the day that they were born and receive some professional guidance will find out a lot about themselves and it will make their lives easier,” he told MPs.

Explaining his beliefs to BBC News, Mr Tredinnick said he had been right about herbal remedies and healing, which he said were now becoming accepted in parts of the NHS, and he now wanted to promote astrology, which was not just predicting the future but gaining an insight into personal problems.

I don’t have much more to say to this. I have, however, studied the subject. No, I have not studied the mechanics of astronomical prediction, but I have studied the accuracy, repeatability and social acceptance of astrology. I can say that science undoubtedly shows it does not work. This is no surprise, of course. The basis is arbitrary animals, characters and objects that ancient people say in the patterns of stars, which are themselves many light-years apart in space.

The fact that herbal and “natural” medicine is becoming accepted by NHS is not proof that it works. It’s proof that politicians and the public are ignorant of the subject and demand it. We have the same problem of alternative medicine creeping into the mainstream in the US. In fact, most countries seem to have that issue these days.

It’s also not a huge surprise that the former governor of Hong Kong had an astrologer. Many politicians are prone to believing in astrology or other superstitions.

Of course, when they use these superstitions to govern, that can be a problem. Thankfully for the UK, this one member of parliament is unlikely to be able to do much about getting astrology officially recognized or making it part of the medical system.

It is still unfortunate that this MP sits on science and health committees. Isn’t there someplace else they can put him? What about the Ministry of Silly Walks?

In India, Homeopaths Now Can Write Prescriptions

Monday, January 13th, 2014

I hate to pick on the nation of India all the time for bone-headed homeopathy policy, but it’s hard to avoid.  For a nation which has been growing technically, by leaps and bounds, even sending probes to the moon and beyond, India still seems to have healthcare regulations from the middle-ages.

It also should be seen as a warning to the rest of the world.  In India, homeopathy has taken hold an is respected more than perhaps anywhere else in the world.   Contrary to popular belief, homeopathy is “western” medicine, as it was dreamed up in Germany.  Modern science has long rejected it, and, indeed, it never really gained much of a following in mainstream medicine.  Yet in a few places, most notably India, homeopaths have become a strong and organized force.  They have demanded the same respect and privileges as real doctors and have often gotten it.

Via FirstPost India:

Homeopaths can do one-year course, prescribe allopathy drugs: Maha govt

In a move that could benefit over 60,000 homeopaths practising in Maharashtra and one that has invited shock and anger from MBBS doctors and others, the Maharashtra government has given its nod to a proposal to permit homeopaths to prescribe allopathic drugs after they complete a year-long course in pharmacology.
The Indian Medical Association has opposed the decision, threatening to approach the Bombay High Court and calling it a move to promote quackery.
Homoeopaths first made the plea to allow “combined practice” almost three decades back, according to a report in The Times of India.
“Their fellow practitioners in Ayurveda and Unani are allowed to prescribe allopathy medicines,” said the report.

The pharmacology course, to be offered first at Nashik’s Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, could be one way to tackle the shortage of qualified doctors, especially in rural areas, it has been argued.

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/india/homeopaths-can-do-one-year-course-prescribe-allopathy-drugs-maha-govt-1332985.html?utm_source=ref_article

The pharmacology course, to be offered first at Nashik’s Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, could be one way to tackle the shortage of qualified doctors, especially in rural areas, it has been argued.

Shocking as it may sound, homopathy doctors are often appointed as housemen in hospitals, an official was quoted as saying, adding that this pharmacology course would only improve their education. IMA honorary secretary Dr Jayesh Lele said the move was “nothing but legalising quackery”. Pharmacology was usually studied by MBBS students over three years, doctors said. The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) will also approach the courts against the decision, reported DNA. Dr Santosh Wakchaure of MARD was quoted as saying: “It is a disrespect to science and we will approach court to get a stay order on it.”

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/india/homeopaths-can-do-one-year-course-prescribe-allopathy-drugs-maha-govt-1332985.html?utm_source=ref_article

Shocking as it may sound, homopathy doctors are often appointed as housemen in hospitals, an official was quoted as saying, adding that this pharmacology course would only improve their education. IMA honorary secretary Dr Jayesh Lele said the move was “nothing but legalising quackery”.
Pharmacology was usually studied by MBBS students over three years, doctors said.
The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) will also approach the courts against the decision, reported DNA. Dr Santosh Wakchaure of MARD was quoted as saying: “It is a disrespect to science and we will approach court to get a stay order on it.”

The pharmacology course, to be offered first at Nashik’s Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, could be one way to tackle the shortage of qualified doctors, especially in rural areas, it has been argued.

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/india/homeopaths-can-do-one-year-course-prescribe-allopathy-drugs-maha-govt-1332985.html?utm_source=ref_article

Homoeopaths first made the plea to allow “combined practice” almost three decades back, according to a report in The Times of India. “Their fellow practitioners in Ayurveda and Unani are allowed to prescribe allopathy medicines,” said the report. The pharmacology course, to be offered first at Nashik’s Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, could be one way to tackle the shortage of qualified doctors, especially in rural areas, it has been argued.

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/india/homeopaths-can-do-one-year-course-prescribe-allopathy-drugs-maha-govt-1332985.html?utm_source=ref_article

In a move that could benefit over 60,000 homeopaths practising in Maharashtra and one that has invited shock and anger from MBBS doctors and others, the Maharashtra government has given its nod to a proposal to permit homeopaths to prescribe allopathic drugs after they complete a year-long course in pharmacology. The Indian Medical Association has opposed the decision, threatening to approach the Bombay High Court and calling it a move to promote quackery. Homoeopaths first made the plea to allow “combined practice” almost three decades back, according to a report in The Times of India. “Their fellow practitioners in Ayurveda and Unani are allowed to prescribe allopathy medicines,” said the report.

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/india/homeopaths-can-do-one-year-course-prescribe-allopathy-drugs-maha-govt-1332985.html?utm_source=ref_article

In a move that could benefit over 60,000 homeopaths practising in Maharashtra and one that has invited shock and anger from MBBS doctors and others, the Maharashtra government has given its nod to a proposal to permit homeopaths to prescribe allopathic drugs after they complete a year-long course in pharmacology. The Indian Medical Association has opposed the decision, threatening to approach the Bombay High Court and calling it a move to promote quackery. Homoeopaths first made the plea to allow “combined practice” almost three decades back, according to a report in The Times of India. “Their fellow practitioners in Ayurveda and Unani are allowed to prescribe allopathy medicines,” said the report. The pharmacology course, to be offered first at Nashik’s Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, could be one way to tackle the shortage of qualified doctors, especially in rural areas, it has been argued. Shocking as it may sound, homopathy doctors are often appointed as housemen in hospitals, an official was quoted as saying, adding that this pharmacology course would only improve their education. IMA honorary secretary Dr Jayesh Lele said the move was “nothing but legalising quackery”. Pharmacology was usually studied by MBBS students over three years, doctors said. The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) will also approach the courts against the decision, reported DNA. Dr Santosh Wakchaure of MARD was quoted as saying: “It is a disrespect to science and we will approach court to get a stay order on it.”

Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/india/homeopaths-can-do-one-year-course-prescribe-allopathy-drugs-maha-govt-1332985.html?utm_source=ref_article

There may indeed be a legitimate shortage of doctors in rural areas, and if that is the case, then it is a problem which is not easily tackled. However, this is certainly NOT the way to address it!

In fact, if you are going to solve the problem of lack of prescribers this way, you may as well give up the whole system of prescriptions and just let all drugs be sold over the counter.  After all, the entire reason prescriptions exist is that it is understood that certain drugs are too hazardous, too prone to miss use or too complex in administration to be given without advanced medical knowledge.  Other drugs treat conditions which should not be treated without a doctors supervision.

A year of training in pharmacology is a poor substitute for years of college, medical school, internship and residency.   Even with this background, real doctors do occasionally make errors with prescriptions.  This is why many doctors will not prescribe medications that they are not familiar with or which treat areas outside their specialty.  Having less qualified practitioners write prescriptions is certainly not going to help the situation.

Other countries should not be so quick to dismiss this as a uniquely Indian problem.  In the UK, for example, homeopaths have been trying to get more standing in the medical system and have their procedures compensated by state-run health programs.  In Canada, naturophaths and homeopaths have demanded the right to be considered “doctors,” and in the US homeopathic institutions have been lobbying for government-sanctioned accreditation in the same way medical schools are accredited.

The risks from this lunacy, which is not beyond possibility outside India, are pretty obvious:  more improperly treated conditions, greater risks of prescription drug abuse and addiction, more drug interactions, fewer conditions treated by qualified doctors, more improperly administered antibiotics.

Besides, if homeopathy actually worked, why would they need anything else?

Jessica Ainscough’s Non-Treatment For Cancer Kills Her Mother

Monday, October 14th, 2013

You may remember Jessica Ainscough, who I wrote about some time ago.   A few years back, she was diagnosed with a rare, slow-moving form of cancer.   After attempts to treat it with chemotherapy, which may have stunted the cancer’s growth, but ultimately did not lead to lasting remission, Jessica’s doctors told her that amputation of one of her arms was necessary. Removing the arm of an otherwise healthy young woman is certainly nothing a doctor would take lightly, but in this case, the nature of the cancer made it the only treatment likely to save Ms. Ainscough”s life.

Jessica decided against the operation or any further treatment with real medicine, such as additional chemotherapy or radiation.   Had she made this decision based on the facts and fully aware of the consequences, it would be impossible to dispute her.   There are, after all, those who, having been diagnosed with cancer, decide that they would rather live a relatively short life in comfort than extend their life through the use of treatments with painful side effects or disfigurement.   If Jessica had simply said “I know it will kill me, but I’d rather live a few more years with two arms,” then that would be her right to choose.

That, however, is not what she did.  Instead she started a program of alternative treatments, which she seems convinced will cure her cancer.  She has claimed that cancer is just “your body’s last-ditch attempt to get your attention — and demand some TLC.” or that it is somehow directly related to a need to detoxify or improve nutrition. Of course, science knows this is not what cancer is, but many alternative practitioners would like you to believe this. Her treatments have consisted of organic foods and coffee enemas. (Yes, you read right.) She has become especially fond of Gerson therapy, a thoroughly debunked alternative treatment for cancer that has killed many others.

Worse still, Jessica Ainscough has gone to the media and is actively preaching to cancer patients, telling them to stay away from real doctors and medicines that can save their lives, instead eating a special diet and putting coffee into their rectums. Many in the media have given her a pat on the back for her apparent bravery and good health. In fact, it’s hard to even be sure how many her lies may have killed.

Jessica herself may well live a few more years and appear relatively healthy for much of that time. It’s hard to tell, but since the cancer is slow moving, it could take a while to invade life-critical structures. It is highly unlikely that she will live anything near a normal life span.  Now 27 years old, she might just make it to 30.  She probably won’t make it to 35.

Unfortunately, her mother did not manage to hold on as long…
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Lets Get Something Straight: Marijuana is Not a Cancer Treatment

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

I should first state that I am not categorically opposed to medical marijuana.   I do have some reservations about doctors prescribing something which is all too often in a crude, unmeasured and inconsistent form.  I have reservations about the fact that medical marijuana seems to occasionally mix the pothead culture with actual medicine, which it really should not do.

But I certainly have no ethical objection to the use of cannabis to relieve the symptoms of those suffering.   If it works, great.  If it works and can be extracted into a measured, quality-controlled pill, even better.

I honestly do not even have any objection to the use of cannabis for recreational purposes.   As long as you are not smoking up and then driving a car or operating machinery, while intoxicated, knock yourself out.

But lets make something clear:  Marijuana is not a treatment or cure for cancer.   It relieves some of the symptoms of the treatments that do effect cancer.  It can sometimes even reduce the symptoms of the cancer itself.   It can reduce pain, restore appetite, act as a tranquilizer and, in some circumstances, some of the compounds present may reduce certain forms of inflammation.   To a cancer patient who has lost their appetite and is losing weight as a result of chemotherapy induced-nausea, it can be a huge help.

But it is not an actual treatment for cancer!

There have been a number of reports and postings out there which claim that studies have found marijuana can cure cancer.  For example, this post claims that there are twenty studies that show cannabis is a cure for cancer. The studies are real, but the conclusion drawn is not correct.  In fact, what these studies seem to indicate is that some of the compounds, which can be extracted from cannabis, may have certain biological effects that could be of use in treating cancer. For example, some of the compounds may reduce the growth rate of certain tumor cells.

This really is not something to get that excited about. Many compounds will slow the growth of cancer cells in a petri dish, but making them work in the human body is much more complex. Side effects on healthy cells are common and proper delivery to the cancer cells can be difficult. Although a handful of studies have been conducted in humans, they were all small scale and provide only preliminary data. According to the National Cancer Institutes, there is only one human study to return evidence of potential therapeutic effects against cancer. The study did not involve the use of marijuana itself but rather the injection of delta-9-THC, a chemical extracted from marijuana, into the tumors of patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme. The study found potential anti-tumor effects, but they were not that dramatic.

There are a handful of small scale laboratory studies which have shown potential anti-cancer properties of canaboids. Delta-9-THC has been shown to effect the growth rate of some forms of cancer cells. Evidence also exists that canaboids could reduce inflammation that may be associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.

It must be stressed that in all cases, even if this limited evidence is viewed in the most optimistic way possible, it does not make cannabis a cancer cure. At best, it means some compounds may be worth combining with traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation.

But nobody would be so stupid as to think marijuana is an effective treatment or even cure for cancer, right…?

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Jenny McCarthy to Join “The View”

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

For those who do not know what “The View” is, which is likely to be most who live outside the US and perhaps a few in the United States – it’s a popular television show on the ABC television network.   The morning talk show was created by Barbara Walters in 1998 and has included a number of Co-Hosts.   It’s reasonably popular and targeted primarily at women.  It is one of the longest running daytime talk shows in history.

Many co-hosts have come and gone, being replaced to maintain a panel of five women.    Now, with the departure of Elisabeth Hasselbeck, it has been announced that Jenny McCarthy will join the show as a co-host. Barbara Walters stated “We are delighted that Jenny will be joining us as a permanent co-host on ‘The View’ starting in September…Jenny brings us intelligence as well as warmth and humor. She can be serious and outrageous. She has connected with our audience and offers a fresh point of view. Jenny will be a great addition to the show as we usher in an exciting new chapter for ‘The View’”

This is not good news for anyone who likes science, good health, children and dislikes idiocy and infectious disease. While it is certainly true that the cast of “The View” is not exactly chosen based on their intellectual caliber, it’s worth noting that Jenny McCarthy has absolutely zero background in journalism, entertainment, commentary or anything else that can help bring “intelligence as well as warmth and humor.”

Jenny McCarthy would be unknown if not for the fact that she was Playboy’s Playmate of the Year in 1993. Following her career as a nude model, Ms. McCarthy had a few roles in B-list movies and TV show appearances. Her foray into writing and advocacy began after her so Evan, who was born in 2002, was diagnosed with Autism. Initially, McCarthy was a supporter of the “Indigo Child” movement, which claims that certain children have a special spiritual energy. Later she became a major promoter of alternative treatment for autism and of the belief that autism is caused by vaccination.

It is unfortunate that she will be on a program like “The View,” both because it gives her a platform to continue to spout her nonsense and because the demographic targeted by the view seems to be upper class women who are not working during the day (stay at home mom’s).   This happens to be a group that is especially prone to buying into anti-vaccine hysteria.

One of the stupidest things I have ever seen…

Monday, June 24th, 2013

While I am not one to pull punches, I have to admit there is something a bit unsavory about simply calling someone an idiot.   It’s a bit of an ad hominem kind of attack. It’s personal, a little immature and comes across as name calling. It does not really have the kind of logical basis or sophisticated analysis that one wants on a science blog. Yes, I have a lot of fun and joke around here quite a bit, but when it comes down to it, I prefer to at least ground things in something more sophisticated than just pointing at someone and calling them stupid.

Sadly, I can’t really come up with any other way of summing up this news story about none other than Jessica Ainscough. This is certainly a little sensitive as well, given that her extreme stupidity is literally killing her, and clueless though she may be, it’s a shame that it would be a capital crime.

Via News.com.au

Jess Ainscough claims ‘organic’ cafe misled with veggie burger

‘Wellness warrior’ Jessica Ainscough vented on her blog after eating a burger she believed was 100 per cent organic, only to later discover it was ‘not totally’ chemical-free.

Well, no, it’s full of glucose, dihydrogen monoxide, sodium chloride, polysaccharide and all kinds of other chemicals. I’m not sure what she would expect to eat that is not chemical free. Perhaps she could eat free electrons? That might be difficult.

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No, there is not a vaccine for autism!

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Many of my skeptical and pro-science friends are extremely passionate about the issue of autism and vaccines.   The scientific data indicates, very compellingly, that vaccines do not cause autism.  So when a press release came out claiming that a new vaccine could actually reduce autism, many jumped on and posted it all over social media feeds, as if it was vindication of the positive effects of vaccines and science in combating disease and disorders.

But lest be careful, because it’s not quite what it seems.

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Modern diseases might not be so modern

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

It is often claimed by various “alternative medicine” gurus that the diseases currently faced by humanity are largely the result of our civilization and artificial causes.   Common claims are that everything from genetically modified foods to our use of wireless devices are the reason things like cancer and heart disease exist.  (Apparently at one time, people were always in good health and thus never died, either.)

There is some, limited, truth to this, in that some diseases now have the chance to exist more often, simply because less people are killed by something else first.   Heart disease, cancer many other diseases become more common with age and therefore would not be as common in a time when many died at an earlier age, as a result of infectious disease and traumatic injury.  Other diseases exist in the population today because they can be treated, while in centuries past, they would have resulted in death.   Type 1 diabetes, for example, was once a death sentence, but can now be treated.

A few other diseases may be more common today as a result of lifestyle changes.   Yet even these diseases were not unheard of in earlier human history.   Although a sedentary lifestyle and high calorie intake is well known to be associated with heart disease, a recent study has discovered compelling evidence that atherosclerosis – the buildup of plaque in the heart, existed long before modern lifestyles.

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