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The Bait and Switch of Unscientific Medicine

Savvy consumers are familiar with the classic scam of the “bait and switch” – in practice if not the term itself. My wife and I ran across it when we were shopping for our first car. We needed a bargain and so we were attracted to the ads that promised a new Colt for only $9,000 (that’s the bait). Of course when we got to the dealership they were all out of Colts with the configuration advertised, but they had plenty of others that had different options that cost several thousand dollars more (that’s the switch).

It’s a basic and very successful form of deception, and so even though there are laws against such practices it is impossible to eliminate in all its various and more subtle forms. It even permeates scientific, political, and other intellectual endeavors – anytime a more palatable idea or claim is put forward to represent the less acceptable truth.

Science, however, requires transparent honesty to function properly, and therefore scientific practitioners must vigilantly guard against the cognitive bait and switch. Generic intellectual virtues incorporate this vigilance – they include the need to unambiguously define terms, to make claims as specific and operational as possible, and the use of valid logic. Beware of any claims that subtly violate these rules because they are probably setting you up for a bait and switch.

The purveyors of unscientific medical claims have become as expert at this classic deception as the slickest used-car salesman – in fact they have left the hawkers of dubious transportation in the dust.

Practitioners of health fraud, unscientific and sectarian medical practices have learned how to apply the bait and switch at multiple levels – with respect to specific modalities and at higher categorical levels. First I will address some of the more common sectarian practices and show how they apply this deception, whether consciously or out of intellectual sloppiness.

Chiropractic

Chiropractic is perhaps the most common and egregious example of the bait and switch in medicine. The deception begins with the name itself – “chiropractic” fails the basic test of transparency because it is not unambiguously defined. There are in fact numerous professions doing very different things and employing mutually exclusive philosophies under the banner of “chiropractic.”

Therefore someone may go to see a chiropractor and think they will be seeing a medical professional who will treat their musculoskeletal symptoms, but in reality they will see the practitioner of a cult philosophy of energy healing. So-called “straight” chiropractors (who make up an estimated 30% of all chiropractors) still adhere to the original philosophy of chiropractic invented by “magnetic healer” D.D. Palmer, which is based upon the claim that an undetected life energy called “innate intelligence” flows through the spinal cord and nerves and is responsible for health. Such chiropractors will treat any disease or ailment with spinal manipulation.

Most other so called “mixer” chiropractors reject the notion of innate intelligence either partially or entirely, but still incorporate other pseudosciences into their practice. Chiropractors are the primary practitioners of homeopathy, applied kinesiology, and iridology in the US. The bait – claims that chiropractors are medical practitioners with expertise in the musculoskeletal system. The switch – practitioners of discredited pseudosciences that have nothing to do with the musculoskeletal system.

A more subtle form of the bait and switch among chiropractors is the treatment of musculoskeletal symptoms with standard physical therapy or sports medicine practices under the name of chiropractic manipulation. Ironically, the more honest and scientific practitioners among chiropractors are most likely to commit this subtle deception. The problem comes not from the treatment itself but the claim that such treatments are “chiropractic.”

Using techniques like massage, range of motion exercises, strength-building exercises, and mobilization of joints are all legitimate science-based techniques used by physical therapists and physicians with specialties in physiatry, orthopedics, and sports medicine. Some chiropractors also use similar techniques -and with good results. But by doing so and calling it “chiropractic” it legitimizes the pseudoscientific practices that are very common within the profession – like treating non-existent “subluxations” in order to free up the flow of innate intelligence.

Acupuncture

Many studies of acupuncture employ this latter form of bait and switch – studying something that is not really acupuncture but calling it acupuncture and thereby legitimizing pure pseudoscience. Acupuncture refers to a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) pre-scientific philosophy of health and illness that is based (very similarly to straight chiropractic) on the flow of life energy called “chi”. Fine needles are inserted into special locations on the body called meridians for the purpose of improving, freeing, and balancing the flow chi.

No study has demonstrated that chi exists, or that acupuncture of the meridians has any specific effect. A look at the entirety of the acupuncture literature, in fact, clearly demonstrates that it does not matter where the needles are placed (or how deeply, or if they are manipulated in ways that are designed to manipulate chi). This means that any effects of sticking acupuncture needles into a patient are non-specific – they are not related to the flow of chi. There may be some small non-specific physiological effects – such as counter-irritation reducing pain or inhibiting nausea – but even these claims remain elusive and controversial.

But some studies of “acupuncture” show a larger and more reliable effect, usually on pain. What these studies have in common is that they employ “electrical acupuncture” (for example). Electrical acupuncture, however, is not acupuncture – it’s transdermal electrical stimulation, which is a scientific practice that has proven efficacy in the treatment of pain. Giving transdermal electrical stimulation through acupuncture needles, calling that “electrical acupuncture” and then using positive results to conclude that acupuncture works – is an elaborate bait and switch.

Homeopathy and Herbal Medicine

Homeopathy is another dubious practice based upon pre-scientific notions long discredited. A truly homeopathic remedy is diluted to the point that no active ingredients remain – so a homeopathic remedy is pure solvent, either water or alcohol, sometimes placed on a sugar pill (making a homeopathic pill a literal placebo). But much of the public believes that “homeopathic” simply means “natural” or “herbal”. Few realize that it means that the so-called medicine contains nothing.

But some homeopathic products are not even truly homeopathic – meaning they are not based upon homeopathic principles but rather contain measurable amounts of real drugs. This is now not uncommon for over-the-counters lotions and cold remedies. For example, this pimple cream contains many active ingredients at a “1x” dilution – that’s only 1:10, meaning there is still actual molecules of drugs in the cream. That’s not homeopathic.

A similar and more subtle deception is used in the marketing of herbs. They are sold and regulated as “natural supplements” when in fact they are drugs. Herbs contain chemicals that have pharmacological activity and they are usually taken in doses that are insignificant in terms of their nutritional content, but are significant in terms of their pharmacological activity. The bait is that they are nutritional supplements, the switch is that they are unpurified drugs.

CAM – the Biggest Bait and Switch

All of these modalities fall under an artificial category – so called “complementary and alternative” medicine (CAM) or “integrative” medicine that was created as the ultimate bait and switch.

The deception is largely two-fold. The first is to include modalities within this false category that are legitimate, like nutrition, exercise, physical therapy, relaxation, etc., – and then claim that these legitimize the entire category of CAM, even the far-out stuff like homeopathy. This is just a higher-order version of including physical therapy modalities within the umbrella of chiropractic, for example.

Essentially, at every level terms are used that are vague and poorly defined, and in practice are designed to be all-inclusive so that the purely pseudoscientific can ride on the coattails of the barely plausible or even the legitimate.

This is the opposite of what happens within scientific disciplines – where terminology evolves over time to become more discriminating, unambiguous, and specific. To take an example from my specialty, multiple sclerosis (MS) has been divided into sub-diagnoses: relapsing remitting and chronic progressive. Divisions multiplied and now there are seven subtypes – for example, primary progressive, and progressive remitting.

This increased “splitting” as it is called is not just a pedantic dedication to precision, but a recognition that such divisions may reflect differences in underlying mechanism of the disease. Also, different subtypes of MS respond differently to different treatments. Some drugs work in relapsing remitting but not in primary progressive. Part of the motivation for finer categories is to more accurately predict which MS patients are likely to respond to which treatments.

Contrast this to the maximally broad and imprecise but common marketing slogan “chiropractic works.”

The second kind of deception created by the category of CAM is in the language used itself – “complementary” and “integrative.” What, exactly, are CAM modalities integrating? On close examination it is quite clear – the movement is an effort to mix unscientific, disproved, and dubious modalities into scientific medicine. The bait is that CAM offers legitimate alternatives, the switch is that it primarily promotes treatments that don’t work or are at best untested and highly implausible.

If there were truth in marketing then we would have the Office of Implausible Medicine, the Journal of Bad Medical Science, the Center for Rejected Therapies, and the Institute of Dubious Medical Claims – all under the umbrella of unscientific medicine. It used to be called, even more simply, “health fraud.”

Conclusion

The public would be best served if they were given a reasonable expectation of honesty and clarity in the health marketplace. Instead, increasingly they are being given the old bait and switch, and increasingly the governments and institutions of medicine that should know better are instruments of this deception.

Science and intellectual honesty require that terms mean something specific and definable. Unscientific health modalities have become very savvy at using terminology to confuse rather than inform, to deceive rather than to illuminate.

It is the simplest form of the bait and switch – just call a product or service something that it isn’t.

Posted in: Health Fraud, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (68) ↓

68 thoughts on “The Bait and Switch of Unscientific Medicine

  1. Michelle B says:

    B-b-b-ut, science based medicine is not natural, and it does not have a soul, and it lacks profoundity!!!!!! All your intellectual ‘contortions’ are just that, to make believe that science-based medicine is the only way to achieve efficacious medical treatment. That is the lie that is science-based medicine.

    *Sarcasm off*

    One of your best posts, and as usual, I learned heaps, in addition, I am anticipating my application of the well known bait/switch approach to sCAM nonsense will be just so pleasingly satisfying.

  2. Wonderfully stated, Dr. Novella.

    Alt med, cam, integrative medicine are marketing terms created by professionals in the alt industry, an industry that has nothing real to sell, just empty promises and false hope. Marketers are experts at using words to deceive people. They can do it blatantly or subtley. When they do it subtley, they use words they know people not familiar with the topic will associate with things that are valuable. For instance, if they use the word medicine or call the practitioner a doctor or a physician, most of the general public will assume that it is scientific since most of us have always associated science with medicine and doctors. Marketers paint word pictures and those who expose fraud in marketing have to do the same. We have to use the words that actually do describe the practices we are talking about and not the terms the salesmen want us to use.

    You stated, “Chiropractors are the primary practitioners of homeopathy, applied kinesiology, and iridology in the US.” Please don’t forget supplements. The sale of supplements is a very big part of the practice of many chiros as it is of most alts including naturopaths and acupuncturists. Supplements are the fuel that runs the engine of their billion $$$ unscientific industry, the “alt med” industry.

  3. David Gorski says:

    The deception is largely two-fold. The first is to include modalities within this false category that are legitimate, like nutrition, exercise, physical therapy, relaxation, etc., – and then claim that these legitimize the entire category of CAM, even the far-out stuff like homeopathy. This is just a higher-order version of including physical therapy modalities within the umbrella of chiropractic, for example.

    This is what bugs me the most about CAM. It appropriates perfectly fine science-based medicine and modalities like nutrition and then uses them to make its other woo seem legitimate. But it’s even worse than that. The flip side is that the the quackery in CAM is tainting these legitimate science-based modalities by association–an association that most science-based practitioners of these modalities do not welcome. Indeed, one of my friends is a natural products pharmacologist and complains about this all the time, likening it to his specialty having been “ghettoized” by the association with pseudoscience that CAM such as naturopathy has accomplished.

    Isolating drugs and active compounds from natural products is a branch of pharmacology with a long and distinguished history in scientific medicine, having produced highly effective drugs like digoxin, the taxols, and many others. Yet, when my friend proposes projects to look at the mechanisms and efficacy of herbs and plant extracts, the grants get sent to NCCAM. There, the reviewers complain that his approach is in essence too scientific, because it proposes to isolate active compounds when pharmacologic effects are seen and isn’t “holistic.” So, this bait-and-switch has real consequences. Natural product chemists now fight against the taint on their profession due to how CAM has associated itself with herbal medicine to the point that any natural products used for medicinal purposes are now perceived as “CAM.” Moreover, they don’t fit in the CAM world because they’re doing science, but their grant proposals get sent to NCCAM, where they are dinged because they are too scientific and–gasp!–reductionist.

  4. Joe says:

    If I may add, I cannot remember (i.e., credit) the source; but, someone observed that “the best mis-information has a kernel of truth.”

    Anyway, Steve, this is an interesting take on the problem.

    Finally, I think my nemesis, Michelle B., should be disqualified for writing “B-b-b-ut …” I hope my “bolding” comes out correctly. Michelle has already admired my italics. Perhaps we can have a reconciliation.

  5. vinny says:

    Excellent essay.

  6. AntiVax says:

    LOL. You don’t need any bait when you have a medical monopoly

    “Supplements are the fuel that runs the engine of their billion $$$ unscientific industry, the “alt med” industry.”

    And who makes most of them–the drug companies. And the biggest part of the practice of an allopathic MD is the selling of drugs which kill 120,000 people every year

  7. nwtk2007 says:

    No kidding. I am continually amazed at the self indulgent, self praising and anti-everything else nature of a group of people who kill 500 or so people everyday through their mistakes. Mistakes in every aspect of the field including the drug industry.

    Everyday, 500. A jumbo jet full crashing everyday due to medical mistakes and they have the gaul to criticize all other forms of anything related to health care not their own.

    It’s all fraud. It’s all charlatinism. When considering medical mistakes, I say it’s all murder., man slaughter, etc.

    By the lowest estimate the 8th leading cause of death in the US and at it’s highest, number three.

    Wow. I think they need to clean out their own closet first before they go after everyone elses. I mean, really, WOW.

  8. Michelle B says:

    Joe, you are now both bold and beautiful. New challenge: do blockquotes. That’s when quoted text is centered and lovingly embraced by a gently defined space. Pressing the Ctrl key and the letter u simultaneously will allow you to see the html code being used on most websites and blogs. You then use the feature find on this page from your browser’s menu to find the particular passage of which you want to learn the code.

    I can imagine my sarcastic comment earlier in this thread be taken seriously by our resident trolls, wagging their heads, right, someone finally got it, science based medicine is the ultimate lie, to think those bastards regard their efficaciousness and the fine-tuning of their proven modalities through time mean anything important to the soul and to global healing. Umphf!

  9. AntiVax says:

    “No study has demonstrated that chi exists, or that acupuncture of the meridians has any specific effect. ”

    Oh really. Human energy doesn’t exist! If acupunture is quackery how come they can do teeth extractions and other surgeries using it to stop pain?

    “A similar and more subtle deception is used in the marketing of herbs. They are sold and regulated as “natural supplements” when in fact they are drugs. Herbs contain chemicals that have pharmacological activity and they are usually taken in doses that are insignificant in terms of their nutritional content, but are significant in terms of their pharmacological activity. The bait is that they are nutritional supplements, the switch is that they are unpurified drugs.”

    Nonsense, that is the ploy used by Allopathy to take them off the market. Competition.

    Better go down to your local supermarket and remove all the Cayenne pepper and garlic off the shelves. And I don’t want you using those ‘drugs’ in your cooking any more. Absurd.

    Herbalist can’t make any claims about herbs as Allopathy made it illegal. The only reason they make drugs out of herbs is to get a patent. Herbs work better every time obviously, god is a better maker of med than pharma.

  10. Regarding pharmaceuticals killing 120k – antivax is profoundly confused as to the significance of such statistics. When considering any medical intervention you have to consider risk vs benefit, not just risk. In antivax’s world if airbags saved thousands of lives every year but killed a few through bad luck or malfunction, we should not used them to save those few lives. Profoundly confused. I guess he liked it better when the average life expectancy was 40.

    Regarding medical mistakes – same criticism, you have to consider net risk vs benefit. Mistakes are part of the risk when humans are in the equation. The rational response is to take efforts to minimize mistakes, not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Regarding “clean out their own closet” this is, first of all, the logical fallacy of tu quoque (you too). If there are problems with mainstream medicine this does not justify fraud and nonsense by others.

    This is also a false dichotomy logical fallacy (a two for one fallacy fest) – it’s all medicine and healthcare. All medicine should be held to the same standards of evidence and ethics. Who are the “everyone else?” people who are not healthcare professionals? Then who are they and what are they doing?

  11. Antivax wrote: “Oh really. Human energy doesn’t exist! If acupunture is quackery how come they can do teeth extractions and other surgeries using it to stop pain?”

    This has not been established. If you think it has, provide a reference.

    “Allopathy” – a derogatory term again used to make a false dichotomy. This is a red flag for anti-scientific attitudes.

    Antivax says that pharmaceutical companies are marketing supplements, now he says that “allopathy” is trying (and apparently failing) to take them off the market. Make up your mind.

    This is also historical revisionism. Congress created DSHEA specifically to allow supplement manufacturers to make pseudo-health claims about their supplements. But you cannot claim that anything cures cancer (or any disease) without providing evidence – this included drugs. How does this translate to “allopathy” making herbal claims illegal? Profoundly confused.

    And then for a straw man, just to add another logical fallacy to the mix – no one is advocating taking garlic or pepper off the shelves. They are obviously being used as food. You just cannot create a market for you product – whatever it is – by making disease claims without evidence.

    The god comment speaks for itself.

  12. David Gorski says:

    If logical fallacies didn’t exist, Mr. Scudamore (a.k.a. AntiVax) would be unable to speak or write.

  13. HCN says:

    David Gorski said “If logical fallacies didn’t exist, Mr. Scudamore (a.k.a. AntiVax) would be unable to speak or write.”

    Well, he claims his bum was burned by satanic black lines! Obviously that affected his ability to think.

    (for those who are confused, more information here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/06/the_nuttiness_that_is_whaleto.php … check out the link to the misc.health.alternative thread for the black line reference)

  14. Harriet Hall says:

    nwtk2007,

    Please read “Death by Medicine” at http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=136

    And by the way, “having the gaul” would mean having someone from France. Did you perhaps mean “gall”?

  15. Michael Barry says:

    This is always my last statement when I realize the other side doesn’t understand the purpose behind an argument, or the proper protocol when having an argument.
    Dr. Novella wrote:
    “I guess he liked it better when the average life expectancy was 40.”

    As always Dr. Novella, nice post.

  16. jonny_eh says:

    This is what I call a ’5 star’ blog article. This should be published in some dead tree publication somewhere.

  17. vinny says:

    antivax, I would really like to know if you are Scudamore. I also want you to know that I appreciate your comments as they are a wonderful source of humor for this blog.

  18. Joe says:

    Michelle B. wrote “Joe, you are now both bold and beautiful. New challenge: do blockquotes. That’s when quoted text is centered and lovingly embraced by a gently defined space…”

    I am pleased to accept your olive branch and offer to bury the hatchet (without mixing metaphors).

    As for further computer challenges- I wrote my first program in 1969, and I tire of adapting to newer and newer protocols over the decades. I am a chemist, not a programmer.

  19. AntiVax quoted me saying, “Supplements are the fuel that runs the engine of their billion $$$ unscientific industry, the “alt med” industry,” adding himself, “And who makes most of them–the drug companies. And the biggest part of the practice of an allopathic MD is the selling of drugs which kill 120,000 people every year…”

    If in fact the drug companies really do have the biggest share of the supplement $$ pie, then practitioners of unscientific medicine, aka alt. med, should understand the need to join with proponents of scientific medicine in demanding that the supplement industry be regulated like the drug industry is to minimize the fraud which in the real world can never be entirely eliminated.

    Unlike practitioners of unscientific medicine, practitioners of scientific medicine rarely sell the drugs or supplements they prescribe.

    I can’t think of anyone I know personally who was “killed” by an approved drug, but I know many, including myself, who have benefited from them, some whose lives have been saved by them, lives that would have been cut short by lethal diseases that killed their parents, and I know others with chronic diseases who couldn’t live without approved drugs.

    I myself and everyone I know have had lots of vaccination without being harmed, and I remember the polio epidemics of my childhood and the people severely crippled by the disease. Believe me everyone I knew back then was very pleased when the vaccine was developed and we got it.

    I’ve had many dogs and cats vaccinated without being harmed. I did see one cat die as a result of being vaccinated when I was assisting at a spay/neuter clinic. The cat had an anaphylactic reaction. To my surprise, the visiting vets holding the clinic didn’t have epinephrine with them. One vet was in her 50s the other in his 60s and they said they’d never witnessed such a reaction before even though they had vaccinated an awful lot of cats during their careers. They probably vaccinated 30 or more at the clinic that morning alone.

    I have a friend with a dog boarding kennel and had another who had a shelter. Both are heavily into unscientific medicine and have never met a supplement they don’t like except for silver. Yet both go ballistic at the mention of not requiring vaccinations for dogs and cats because they remember the deadly epidemics that used to periodically wipe out cat colonies and they remember parvo and kennel cough. Parvo killed a lot of dogs and they tell me that it was horrible to watch helplessly.

  20. TsuDhoNimh says:

    I’ve noticed the confusion between herbal medicine (often useful) and homeopathy (total woo) recently too.

    I never thought of it as being used to camouflauge the quackery in with genuine, supportive practices like diet modificaiton, stress reducing meditation, and exercise.

  21. durvit says:

    nwtk2007 wrote:

    I think they need to clean out their own closet first before they go after everyone elses.

    It’s interesting how different observers bring their own perspective to the same literature. Dr Ben Goldacre frequently argues that one of the substantial differences between science-based medicine and CAM is that the former engages in reflection and self-critical review. E.g., Goldacre reports that Susan Mayor’s audit of the most-accessed/cited/response generating papers in the BMJ in 2005 indicates that the most popular papers were those that were critical of a drug, a drug company or a medical procedure.

    Goldacre comments:

    Such critical self appraisal is startlingly absent from the academic and commercial CAM literature, on the other hand. I think that’s a shame, and I think it’s partly responsible for them indulging some rather silly ideas, and exposing themselves to justified public mockery.

    More recently, the BMJ has just published a letter that asks What if back surgery was a drug? The author argues that surgery and drugs ought to be subjected to the same standard of critical evaluation.

    I find it fascinating that surgical treatments and medical treatments are evaluated very differently in the literature and by ethics committees. Let’s say you told a human research ethics committee (HREC) that you expected only a short to medium term reduction in radicular pain (editor’s note: that means pain that radiates from the back to the legs – or sciatica) with no real improvement in disability or axial back pain for a drug treatment. You go on to say that treatment had a 70% chance of entrenching the axial back pain as permanent, a 5% chance of worsening the pain, 1% risk of permanent neurological damage, with lesser chances of major vessel damage or paraplegia, I wonder how many HRECs would approve it ? If you then presented a literature search that relied mainly on a 30 year old study with major design flaws and a couple of meta-analyses of poor data you could reasonably expect to be sent packing. By way of comparison, in Australia last year lumiracoxib was banned by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for causing fulminant hepatitis at a rate of one in 15,000, with two deaths out of an estimated 60,000 patients who received it.

    The search for continuous improvement is apparent in such studies as the one that evaluated a checklist for reducing the number of infections related to IV lines.

    The writers here are upfront about the realities and challenges of science-based medicine. It is easy to find evidence that researchers are considering such issues very carefully and working to resolve them. What efforts are being made by those who practise the folk remedies or arts that they would wish to promote in the place of science-based medicine?

  22. nowoo says:

    Excellent article. I Dugg it. Everyone else, please Digg it too.

  23. wertys says:

    Don’t forget that for musculoskeletal pain, dry needling of trigger points, which is done using acupuncture needles, but with a wholly different and rational purpose in mind, is often confused with TCM acupuncture, even sometimes by poorly trained or terminologically challenged practitioners…just makes it harder to keep the woo out.

  24. wertys says:

    Can I add as well that once again Dr N has expressed complicated ideas with admirable conciseness and accuracy…

  25. Michelle B says:

    Scopie Law Incarnate writes: god is a better maker of med than pharma.
    _____

    Which god? The Norse one? The Egyptian one? The Chinese one? Since these cultures do not use the same herbs, how do we know which is the true herbal system? And since Scopie Law Incarnate obviously has an hot line to the true god and the true herbal system, why not publicize the number so we all can call god up for the truth?

    I am wondering if like in religious fundamental families where the nonsense is passed on from generation to generation (not because it is true) but because of indoctrination, does the same happen for people like Scudamore? They hail from a long line of wooers? Brainwashed, stultified, and deeply confused per tradition?

    Reduced to dogmabots, they are compelled to save your health from the clutches of science-based medicine, prattling their inanity, flailing their straw-men, and spewing fallacies, all the while quote-mining furiously, all for our own good because they know what is the best for us all.

    Yes, the arrogance of ignorance is overwhelmingly repellent.

  26. AntiVax says:

    “I have a friend with a dog boarding kennel and had another who had a shelter. Both are heavily into unscientific medicine and have never met a supplement they don’t like except for silver. Yet both go ballistic at the mention of not requiring vaccinations for dogs and cats because they remember the deadly epidemics that used to periodically wipe out cat colonies and they remember parvo and kennel cough. Parvo killed a lot of dogs and they tell me that it was horrible to watch helplessly.”

    “Canine parvovirus is closely related to feline viral enteritis virus. The sudden widespread appearamce of the disease in 1979 has led to the suggestion that it originated from an attenuated feline enteritis vaccine strain.. Read that sentence again: it is thought that a vaccine caused parvovirus.”—Catherine O’Driscol. (What Vets Don’t Tell you about Vaccination, p 129) http://whale.to/vaccine/driscoll1.html

    Which god? The Norse one? The Egyptian o”ne? The Chinese one? Since these cultures do not use the same herbs, how do we know which is the true herbal system?”

    There is only one God but plenty of religions. If you don’t know what herbs to use ask a herbalist http://whale.to/c/shulze.html

    “Unlike practitioners of unscientific medicine, practitioners of scientific medicine rarely sell the drugs or supplements they prescribe. ”

    LOL. They don’t get paid £100,000 just to diagnose. They manage to get the taxpayer to fund the scam

    “Indeed the modern physician now only represents an extension of these (medical) industries into the public.”–Carl Reich, M.D.

    “In the last century the practice of medicine has become no more than an adjunct to the pharmaceutical industry and the other aspects of the huge, powerful and immensely profitable health care industry. Medicine is no longer an independent profession. Doctors have become nothing more than a link connecting the pharmaceutical industry to the consumer.”—-Dr Vernon Coleman MD

    Modern Medicine is not a science By Dr Vernon Coleman MD
    http://whale.to/a/coleman3.html

  27. AntiVax says:

    # David Gorskion 02 Jul 2008 at 2:58 pm
    If logical fallacies didn’t exist, Mr. Scudamore (a.k.a. AntiVax) would be unable to speak or write.

    See yourself in others, your whole argument against whale is a logical fallacy!

    I have collected your main ones:

    Appeal to incredulity (aka Scopie’s Law or Clutching at straws)
    http://whale.to/b/appeal_to_incredulity.html

    Ad hominem paranoia http://whale.to/a/paranoia_h.html
    Ad hominem conspiracy http://whale.to/a/conspiracy.html

    and then you sieze the high ground and accuse your opponents of your own sins

    ‘Pseudoscience’ & ‘anti-science’ http://whale.to/a/pseudoscience_h.html
    Quackery http://www.whale.to/p/quacks.html

  28. vinny says:

    Ha, funny argument antivax. Essentially it boils down to: “No, you are. ” So are you the infamous Scudamore?

  29. overshoot says:

    I guess he liked it better when the average life expectancy was 40.

    You don’t understand — it would have been 120 except that allopaths were killing so many people.

    </sarcasm>

    Mr. Scudamore is long on record as claiming that diseases like measles, cholera, smallpox, etc. were harmless except for iatrogenic deaths. He even parrots the old line about measles being a necessary part of pediatric development.

  30. qetzal says:

    “Canine parvovirus is closely related to feline viral enteritis virus. The sudden widespread appearamce of the disease in 1979 has led to the suggestion that it originated from an attenuated feline enteritis vaccine strain.. Read that sentence again: it is thought that a vaccine caused parvovirus.”—Catherine O’Driscol. (What Vets Don’t Tell you about Vaccination, p 129)

    Antivax has provided yet another example of the bait and switch: from “led to the suggestion that…” to “it is thought that…” Note the switch to the present tense. A brief exploration on PubMed shows that the suggestion was made, it was scientifically studied, and shown to be inconsistent with the evidence (i.e. false).

    I’m sure Antivax is immune to such evidence, but for the benefit of any lurkers:

    Truyen et al. (1998), No evidence for a role of modified live virus vaccines in the emergence of canine parvovirus. J Gen Virol 79:1153-1158.

    Abstract: In this study the early evolution and potential origins of canine parvovirus (CPV) were examined. We cloned and sequenced the VP2 capsid protein genes of three German CPV strains isolated in 1979-1980, as well as two feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) vaccine viruses that were previously shown to have some restriction enzyme cleavage sites in common with CPV. Other partial VP2 gene sequences were obtained by amplifying CPV DNA from paraffin-embedded tissues of dogs which were early parvovirus disease cases in Germany in 1978-1979. Sequences were analysed with respect to their evolutionary relationships to other CPV and FPV isolates. Those analyses did not support the hypothesis that CPV emerged as a variant of an FPV vaccine virus. Neither did they reveal ancestral sequences among the very early CPV isolates examined. Other possible sources for the origin of CPV are examined, including the involvement of viruses from wild carnivores.

    (Link to full text)

  31. RickK101 says:

    Very good blog post, and interesting discussion. Just want to jump in with a few thoughts from someone new to these arguments but experienced in the difficulty of finding real medical answers in the fog of pseudo-medical information.

    It is very frustrating that those in the “Meditainment” and “Faith Healing” circles are winning the war of terminology in their attempts to build up their own industry and line their pockets. Now many of these terms (homeopathy, naturopathy, herbal medicine, etc.) have positive marketing connotations, so profit-driven sellers use these terms even when labelling actual proven medical products.

    “Medicine” as a term should be reserved for products that are actually proven to do something even if the patient doesn’t believe in them.

    Products that have no proven efficacy but help people believe they are getting benefit are all versions of healing based on faith – not necessarily religious faith, but faith in the treatment. Most supplements and many “-opathies” fall into this category. There is no doubt that many people just need catalyst to help them make themselves feel better, hence the large numbers of anecdotes of benefit from these products. But if there is no proven, testable efficacy, then the product is operating through the faith of the user.

    Treatments that tell you about all the ways you are sick, and then set about healing you (naturapathic allergy diagnoses and treatment, psychic curse removal, etc.) are clearly examples of money for entertainment. I like to think of these as “meditainment”, and should not be confused with medicine any more than an infomercial should be confused with objective news reporting.

    Feels like we need some better terms for the different categories of non-medicine, and to take some active measures to keep marketers from putting too much smoke in front of patients who are seeking actual effective treatments.

    Probably not telling any of you anything you don’t already know – just trying to put a few thoughts down and learn from the discussion.

    Oh, and ps. AntiVax – deny chemistry, deny biology, deny physics, but if you are truly against vaccination for things like polio and smallpox, you are advocating negligent homicide. Have you ever TALKED to anyone who lived through those times? Are all the deaths due to malaria today due to iatrogenic issues, or should we continue to try to find something to prevent that as well?

  32. AntiVax says:

    “Mr. Scudamore is long on record as claiming that diseases like measles, cholera, smallpox, etc. were harmless except for iatrogenic deaths. He even parrots the old line about measles being a necessary part of pediatric development.”

    That is a lie, the smallpox death rate was 18% under allopathy, and 0-2% under homeopathy and naturopathy. Hardly harmless. http://whale.to/v/smallpox2.html

    and measles was more deadly that smallpox in it day, but under proper medical care was pretty safe, Dr Trall never lost a cse in the 19 century.

    And lets have the studies that prove measles isn’t a necessary process of the immune system. http://whale.to/m/measles3.html

    either way MMR is killing more kids now than measles would be doing with or without vaccination http://whale.to/vaccine/mmr2.html

  33. Michael Barry says:

    AntiVax, here is an idea, do you really think that homeopathy, naturopathy, holistic woo work? Then take the million dollar challenge from the JREF!!!!
    http://www.randi.org/joom/challenge-info.html

  34. Harriet Hall says:

    Antivax,

    Do you know what “cherry-picking the literature” means? You are a master of it.

    When someone makes up his mind and then only believes evidence that supports his view and ignores any evidence that contradicts it, we call that “confirmation bias.” You have a real bad case of that.

  35. weing says:

    Another bait and switch. Allopaths were the ones using herbs and bleeding as their treatments and homeopaths used water. Do allopaths exist now? Yes they do. They are called sCAM providers and naturopaths. Conclusion: You’re better off drinking Poland Spring than seeing a naturopath or sCAM provider.

  36. vinny says:

    Just think what would this blog discussion would be about, without antivax. Antivax, why aren’t you answering my direct question?

  37. Hinode says:

    and measles was more deadly that smallpox in it day, but under proper medical care was pretty safe, Dr Trall never lost a cse in the 19 century.”

    Is that, by any chance, anecdotal evidence? More than a hundred years old?

    Anyway, it’s really interesting to observe how proponents of woo never actually address any of the rebuttals of their “arguments” (proof by assertion, most of the time) and if they do, they cherry pick the arguments they think they can handle and ignore the rest. The arguments they do address, normally end up in another “proof by assertion” or in a “look at what this person with a PhD said about it!”-kind of post.

    It’s still a good way to improve your analytical skills to write a rebuttal to such post though. If not for the person you’re arguing against, but for yourself and others who can read your criticism.
    In a real debate however it is of utmost importance to insist that the other party addresses the points you make and doesn’t move the goal-post or just ignores you. You have to be persistent.

  38. vinny says:

    Hinode, at some point you realize that you are simply repeating yourself while attempting to reason with these fascinating woo pushers, and it becomes tiresome. It can become entertaining again when ridiculing the other side becomes the goal of conversation. I wonder how long the entertainment value of such discussion will last.

  39. Gerry says:

    Best Post Ever!

    Also, AntiVax, you do know that to counter the argument that you couldn’t speak or write without committing a logical fallacy, you, in fact, committed another logical fallacy (tu quoque) again?

  40. RickK101 says:

    Perhaps we should make vaccinations completely voluntary. Those of us that support vaccination will support a fund to compensate those who have adverse reactions, just as we do now. Those that choose not to vaccinate will be responsible for compensating the victims of the disease. Out of 24000 cases of measles in Nigeria in 2005, over 500 kids died. You don’t have to go back 100 years for one obscure quote to make the case FOR vaccines – the case is obvioius every single day.

    It’s so easy to point to the occasional adverse reaction to a vaccine and say “see! they cause more harm than good!” when you’ve never seen a victim of polio. These antivax people benefit from the very envelope of safety that they criticize.

    All it will take is one American child crippled with polio or one set of parents who lost a kid to a bad measles or a mother who lost a baby to congenital rubella syndrome to appear on Oprah, and the antivax people will vanish into the woodwork for another 20 years. And if that day does come, somehow I doubt Jim Carey and Jenny McCarthy will be waiting off-stage with their checkbooks out.

  41. Harriet Hall says:

    RickK101,

    Your proposal would put us all in danger. As the herd immunity drops, disease can move back into a community and spread. Those who are too young to have been vaccinated yet and those who have been vaccinated but don’t have 100% immunity can get the disease and die.

    The only way to let the anti-vaccine folks have their way and still protect the rest of us would be to require that those refusing vaccination move to some enclave where they can be isolated from the rest of the population.

  42. AntiVax says:

    Herd immunity is just the needed cover story to eliminate unvaccinated kids who would stand out and expose vaccination, like the Amish http://www.whale.to/a/herd.html

    If you read Nkuba you will see what is really going on in Africa http://www.whale.to/a/nkuba_h.html

    “At the main hospital in Mbarara during that month of 1977 more than 600 children had died following polio vaccination. 600 children ! ”

    Didn’t read that in Time did we.

    The WHO make up figures to suit http://www.whale.to/a/african_d_stats_q.html

    “All it will take is one American child crippled with polio or one set of parents who lost a kid to a bad measles or a mother who lost a baby to congenital rubella syndrome to appear on Oprah, and the antivax people will vanish into the woodwork for another 20 years.”

    Have a look at all the kids crippled by vaccines MMR http://www.whale.to/vaccine/mmr5.html

    or all the ones killed by smallpox vaccine, 25,000 babies in 1880 http://www.whale.to/vaccines/deaths.html

    They don’t tell you that in medical school do they, that smallpox vaccine killed MILLIONS and spread leprosy into Hawaii and around the world along with smallpox, syphilis, TB and any infectious disease you care to name.

    They don’t tell you there isn’t a SHRED of evidence measles vaccine did anything except maim and kill kids along with the mercury vaccines that took autism –a disease most docs had never even seen to 1 in 100 or 69 kids.

    They keep that away from the public and people like you who don’t want to see the truth as it would blow your mind, no need for any drug ;0)

  43. HCN says:

    RickK101,

    In Japan they made the measles vaccine voluntary… then they had an epidemic of measles that required the closing of several college campuses.

    It didn’t work, and has caused much embarrassment for the Japanese when they are signaled out as the primary importers of measles to other countries (munged URLs):
    w w w .jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jsv/57/2/57_171/_article
    and
    w w w .ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18346240?

    Which also shows that the “sanitary improvement” argument holds no water.

    As for AntiVax/Scudamore… after ten years you are still an idiot, should be ignored:
    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/06/the_nuttiness_that_is_whaleto.php

  44. RickK101 says:

    “Perhaps we should make vaccinations completely voluntary. Those of us that support vaccination will support a fund to compensate those who have adverse reactions, just as we do now. Those that choose not to vaccinate will be responsible for compensating the victims of the disease. ”

    Sorry folks, that was not a serious suggestion, it was sarcasm that missed the mark. I was trying to point out an economic comparison, not making an actual proposal.

    I’ll shut up now :)

  45. Harriet Hall says:

    Antivax just gets funnier and funnier: “They don’t tell you that in medical school do they, that smallpox vaccine killed MILLIONS and spread leprosy into Hawaii and around the world along with smallpox, syphilis, TB and any infectious disease you care to name.”

    They darn well don’t tell us that! If a med school professor told lies, he’d lose his job. And if he told that particular lie, the entire classroom would have been rolling on the floor laughing.

  46. HCN says:

    RickK101 said “Sorry folks, that was not a serious suggestion, it was sarcasm that missed the mark.”

    The reason it missed the mark for sarcasm was because it has been seriously asked by anti-vaxers! They fail to understand that there is a reason for the vaccines, the reason being that people, including the researchers who developed the vaccines, did not like losing children and other loved ones to things like measles, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, etc!

  47. AntiVax says:

    “They darn well don’t tell us that! If a med school professor told lies, he’d lose his job. And if he told that particular lie, the entire classroom would have been rolling on the floor laughing.”

    There wouldn’t be a med college if the truth on vaccination came out.

    [1880] That since Vaccination has been rendered obligatory, infantile syphilis (under one year old) has been increased in England, according to a Parliamentary return, dated February 25th, 1880, from 472 per million of births in 1847, to 1,736 per million in 1877, or fourfold; and that other inoculable diseases, such as pyaemia, scrofula, erysipelas, and bronchitis, were also augmented in infants. In England, the increase of inoculable diseases was 20 per cent., notwithstanding an expenditure of 200 millions sterling since 1850 in sanitary works. Another Parliamentary return (No. 443, Session 1877) demonstrates that 25,000 babies are yearly sacrificed by diseases excited by Vaccination. http://www.whale.to/a/navl.html

    Which is easy to prove with Leicester statistics:

    “The saving of children’s lives under five years of age is on the same lines of progress. Whereas in the high vaccination period of 1866-72 there were 107 deaths per thousand living at that age, now there are only 34 per thousand, being a decrease of 73 per thousand, or a saving of 68 per cent. This represents a saving of over 2,200 lives each year of children living under five.” http://www.whale.to/a/biggs1.html

    as you would expect if you cut pus into babies arms

    This is an excellent demonstration of Orwell’s dictum:

    Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”–George Orwell

  48. AntiVax says:

    HCN “They fail to understand that there is a reason for the vaccines, the reason being that people, including the researchers who developed the vaccines, did not like losing children and other loved ones to things like measles, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, etc!”

    LOL. The only reason for vaccine is http://www.whale.to/vaccine/why_vaccination_continues.html

    To inoculate yourself against the speil above try looking at vaccine deaths over 200 years http://www.whale.to/vaccines/deaths.html

    just for starters, then try smallpox stats http://www.whale.to/a/smallpox_stats_h.htm

  49. Diane Henry says:

    Hello,

    I’m having a hard time seeing the relevance of vaccination data from the 19th century. I don’t even know what “pyaemia, scrofula, [and] erysipelas” are–perhaps because, due to vaccination, they are no longer problems? Are infants still dying due to syphilis now? That seems too ludicrous to imagine. So why bring up really old data, if data it is?

    Thanks to Drs. Novella, Gorski, Sampson, Hall and Crislip for this interesting and informative blog.

  50. Fifi says:

    Interesting that anti-vax is quoting George Orwell. Look at General Stubblebine of healthfreedomusa – a much more high profile and well known advocate of the same woo as antivax promotes – who was very intensely involved in trying to create new age soldiers, and in developing mind control and torture techniques for covert military operations. Like in 1984, antivaxers and woo use doublespeak and demean “reality based thinking”. (George Orwell’s fictional fascist “future” was actually based on what he saw going on around him during his own time, as was Animal Farm.) Sometimes I wonder how many of the people like antivax who throw out 1984 and Orwell quotes to try to legitimize their paranoia and attempts at mass fear mongering have actually read 1984 (and/or understood it if they have). After all, the “resistance fighters” or “alternative rebels” in 1984 were faux “rebels” and actually a trap to round up the Winston Smiths of the world before they can cause any real damage those in power or actually change the system. Think about it – if you can convince everyone who happens to be upset with how things are going right now (and/or what their government is doing) to focus on praying and meditating for change, instead of looking at the evidence and acting to create change, you get a whole lot of nothing going on in terms of resistance to ‘reality based actions’ like making laws, going to war, funneling money out of public coffers into the pockets of corporate friends, and so on. Antivax is quite literally a disinfo agent (I’m not accusing him of working for the government, people are quite capable of making their paranoia into a career without government funding, but his sole purpose is to spread disinformation and attack reality based thinking in the guise of being an agent of change.)

  51. Fifi says:

    I also have to wonder how much of the Hollywood anti-medicine push is being influenced by Scientology and Hollywood Scientologists? As well as the Unification Church (aka Moonies) – who are powerful in Washington and promote a more right wing, neo con agenda…. So there’s “left wing” woo for those liberal Hollywood types and “right wing” woo for the Funadmentalists and Born Agains. Woo has little to do with left or right wing, it has to do with promoting fiction over fact and eroding reality based thinking in favor of passive wishful thinking (and, of course, manipulating the masses for fun and profit).

  52. AntiVax says:

    General Stubblebine http://www4.dr-rath-foundation.org/THE_FOUNDATION/Events/codex-moderngeneral.html

    “Antivax is quite literally a disinfo agent ….his sole purpose is to spread disinformation and attack reality based thinking in the guise of being an agent of change.”

    LOL. Nice line of speil, how about some evidence?

  53. overshoot says:

    LOL. Nice line of speil, how about some evidence?

    I do believe that’s one for the quote collection.

  54. Fifi says:

    Antivax – Oh, I think it’s highly possible you’re not particularly aware of what you’re doing and believe very strongly in what you promote (though it’s also possible your site is just a front to promote anti-science and the supplement industry). Whether you’re lying or a believer in what you promote, it remains disinformation simply because it’s an attempt to bend the truth to promote an agenda/ideology (it warps the truth, it uses doublespeak and other elements of propaganda, it misrepresents people, etc).

    Scientology’s anti-science and anti-medicine stance is well known (and Scientology considers itself an alternative science and medicine), as is the cult’s influence in Hollywood, so there’s no need to point out the obvious links to you or others.

    As for the Moonies or Unification Church, their attempts to influence health policy have already been mentioned in this blog.

    Of course you and other proponents of woo have distanced yourself from healthfreedomusa NOW but considering that your message and beliefs are almost exactly the same, that doesn’t mean much. Well, apart from the fact that you share the same beliefs and agenda – there’s no more reason to doubt that Stubblebine doesn’t genuinely believe what he says just as much as you do (and plenty of reasons to think he does believe what he promotes). And, of course, none of this changes the covert involvement of US military intelligence in creating and driving all kinds of “alternatives” to reality based thinking or posing as radical dissidents (as is common practice, not that long ago the RCMP got caught out pretending to be anarchists here in Canada). If it’s useful to plant faux anarchists at demonstrations to whip up violence and incite people to do things they wouldn’t without encouragement and suggestion, then I have no doubt that General Stubblebine (and yourself, no matter how naive) are also very useful to shut down reality based criticisms and dissent.

  55. HCN says:

    Antivax = Scudamore = whale.to

    Oh, I very seldom even bother reading his silliness becase “In any discussion involving science or medicine, citing Whale.to as a credible source loses you the argument immediately.”
    see:
    http://rationalwiki.com/wiki/Scopie%27s_Law

  56. RickK101 says:

    Antivax: “LOL. Nice line of speil, how about some evidence?”

    I’m curious, Antivax. Just speaking hypothetically, what if you’re wrong.

    What if the people that work for the government and for the medical community are just like the people that work for churches, schools, automobile manufacturers, etc? What if there isn’t a great government conspiracy to kill or sterilize much of the world’s population? What if most doctors actually try to do what will best help their patients, based on experience, evidence and vast amounts of continually improving medical knowledge? What if some of the tragic deaths you pull out of the past were a sad part of the maturation process of medical science, but that the end result is dramatically lower incidence of serious illness, fewer disease-related deaths, and longer average lifespans? What if the reason some modern day Woodward and Bernstein haven’t become famous, powerful and wealthy by exposing the story you’re pushing is because there is no story?

    Do you ever consider that if the above is true, then you’re dedicating your life to a cause that ultimately makes the world a less healthy place, and has the potential to create the very unnecessary loss of life that you speak so strongly against?

    I’m not a religious person. But I believe there is evil in the world. It occurs where ignorance is promoted over knowledge, where ideology is promoted over objective fact, and where anybody is actively trying to make the world less safe for our children.

  57. overshoot says:

    Do you ever consider that if the above is true, then you’re dedicating your life to a cause that ultimately makes the world a less healthy place, and has the potential to create the very unnecessary loss of life that you speak so strongly against?

    That card plays both ways. I really don’t like to think about how surgeons who gave their patients Trasylol feel now that the data is coming clear.

    Let’s face it: the least demanding way to deal with grief is denial. Deny that you’ve done harm in the first place, in the present context. That ever-mounting burden of potential guilt is a powerful force for hardening positions, and one of the best reasons to stick with methods that are designed to counter self-deception.

    The blog is “Science-based medicine,” after all, not “Fashion-based” or “wishful-thinking based.”

  58. Calli Arcale says:

    AntiVax — just curious, but are you physically capable of citing anybody other than yourself to back up your claims? If so, I highly recommend it. It is a much more effective debate strategy, since then you don’t look like you’re just inventing stuff and backfilling your webpages to provide a citation. Just a thought.

  59. overshoot says:

    AntiVax — just curious, but are you physically capable of citing anybody other than yourself to back up your claims?

    John has perfected his technique on Usenet, where point-by-point responses are the norm. He found that by posting a link to a 10,000 word dogs’ breakfast of hallucinatory ranting he made other posters dig up something resembling a coherent argument for him, then rebut it at the obvious risk of being accused of creating a straw man.

    Mostly, those links-only posts are thread killers — which appears to be the whole idea. Or maybe he’s found that the “straw men” that others crank out for him are better than anything he can do for himself, as well as being much less work.

    Who knows?

  60. daijiyobu says:

    Dr. Novella, you may find this interesting, concerning the effects of criticizing unscientific pseudomedical woo:

    I’ve been video-texting through Youtube about the ‘bait and switch of unscientific medicine,’ specifically naturopathy education.

    I should say “used to” because, without notice, Youtube permanently suspended my account today,

    http://www.youtube.com/daijiyobu : without communication, without explanation.

    All I was doing was comparing naturopathy’s claims to that of the standards of science and medical ethics, in a format that was intended rather ‘for the future,’ a large-text slideshow easily viewable for mobile phone browsers.

    I’m guessing someone complained. Good thing I have everything saved. Interesting that Youtube doesn’t forewarn, in any measure.

    Does this blog get pressure from the woomeisters it criticizes?

    I’m wondering about the implications of this.

    -R.C.

  61. Calli Arcale says:

    YouTube, like any content provider, can set whatever policies it likes. In a lot of cases, really big providers, especially those offering free services, tend take a strategy of being overly aggressive in response to complaints. They may be concerned about legal action, and may want to appear that they are trying to satisfy the complainer’s request.

    It would be interesting to know why they banned you. It is possible someone made a false copyright claim against you; YouTube is very sensitive to copyright claims, and tends to be overly aggressive about them out of legal concerns. A guy I know on another website was posting clips off NASA TV, and they all got blocked by YouTube after a TV station made a sweeping copyright claim against a whole batch of clips, most of which were not taken from that TV station but from NASA TV itself. He complained to YouTube, and I believe they set it right, but again, it’s clearly a case of taking action first and only investigating the claim if the accused complains back.

  62. daijiyobu says:

    I have written Youtube, and I’ll be optimistic for now — had damn near 90,000 reads on textual slide shows I’d never have thought even 100 people would ever care to bother with.

    But, also, I was thinking:

    “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” – Groucho Marx.

  63. weing says:

    If Youtube is so aggressive with complaints, maybe we should complain whenever a video advocating woo, creationism or anti-science appears. Two can play at the game.

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