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The Prince of CAM

Prince Charles is a big supporter of “natural” medicine, which in practice means unscientific and ineffective medicine. He has no particular expertise in this area, and there is absolutely no legitimate reason why he should have any influence over the practice of medicine in the UK. But he is the Prince of Wales, and he has chosen to use that celebrity to promote CAM.

Prince Charles has also recently been criticized for his credulous support for medical nonsense. The Telegraph recently reported that Simon Singh, co-author with Edzard Ernst of Trick or Treatment, and exposer of CAM pseudoscience, spoke about Prince Charles at the recent Hay Festival in India. Singh had some sharp criticism, including:

He only wants scientific evidence if it backs up his view of the natural treatment of health conditions…

We presented evidence that disputes the value of alternative medicine and despite this he hasn’t changed his mind…

Singh’s point is that Prince Charles is ideologically “fixated” on CAM and natural remedies, and this fixation trumps science and evidence. This seems to be true, and is not surprising since the psychological evidence suggests that this is how most people operate most of the time. We are all subject to confirmation bias and a host of other biases that cause us to hold and defend our ideological beliefs against disconfirming evidence. It takes a  certain dedication to the process of science and evidence to overcome these innate emotional responses.

I would argue that being in an influential position, like the Prince of Wales, and actually using that influence to advocate for a certain position, comes with it the responsibility for due diligence – to make sure that the position you are supporting is valid.

In 1993 Prince Charles founded a Foundation for Integrative Health, whose mission is to explore:

“how safe, proven complementary therapies can work in conjunction with mainstream medicine”

The statement is very revealing – the Prince wants to show how CAM works and can be integrated. He does not want to explore if it works. This is not a subtle difference or quibbling about word choice. This represents a fundamental flaw in Prince Charles’ approach to the issue. Scientific evidence is a means of backfilling justification for beliefs he already has, not a tool for understanding the world and figuring out which medical interventions are safe and effective.

The Prince is not just an advocate for CAM in the UK, he appears to actively and effectively lobby for its promotion, or at least removal of science-based standards that would stand in the way of abject quackery. David Colquhoun reports on Prince Charles’ lobbying of the MHRA:

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is an executive agency of the Department of Health). It is roughly the UK equivalent of the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in the USA.

The MHRA has just betrayed the trust placed in it by the public by allowing untrue claims to be put on the labels of homeopathis and herbal treatments, apparently under pressure from the government and the Prince of Wales, as described below, and here. The cause such outrage that the MHRA was censured by an annulment debate.in the House of Lords, It also caused condemnations to be issued by the many learned societies, most of which you can read at the links here. For example, Royal Society, the Medical Research Council, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Royal College of Pathologists, the Biosciences Federation (which represents 40 affiliated societies), the Physiological Society and the British Pharmacological Society.

Prince Charles has also meddles in the career of Edzard Ernst, the only professor of complementary and alternative medicine, who has published over 1000 articles examining the evidence (or lack thereof) for specific CAM claims and modalities. Again David Colquhoun reports:

A letter was sent from Clarence House to the vice-chancellor of Exeter University, Steve Smith. The letter alleged a breach of confidence by Ernst. Having been sent a draft of the Smallwood report, Ernst was so horrified by the scientific standards in that document, he felt obliged, in the public interest, to speak out about it. Ernst was contacted by a newspaper, which had a copy of the draft, and described the initial findings as “outrageous and deeply flawed”. He added: “It is based on such poor science, it’s just hair-raising. The Prince … also seems to have overstepped his constitutional role”

Ernst was essentially let go from his position, but is now back working part time.

The Prince of Wales is not only a supporter of dubious health products, like homeopathy, but sells them as well. His Duchy Original Detox Tincture is a classic bit of snake oil.

It should be noted that we in the US have our equivalent of Prince Charles, or at least as close as we can get. Senator Tom Harkin has been as meddling and effective an advocate for unscientific medicine in the US as Prince Charles has been in the UK. Harkin is largely responsible for DSHEA, a terrible law and a gift to the supplement industry. He is also the power behind the NCCAM, which has funneled billions of dollars into researching implausible health claims and products, with little to show for it except a few studies of herbal remedies that are useful only in providing evidence for lack of effectiveness. Harkin is the source of as many embarrassing quotes as Prince Charles. Regarding the NCCAM he complained:

One of the purposes of this center was to investigate and validate alternative approaches. Quite frankly, I must say publicly that it has fallen short. It think quite frankly that in this center and in the office previously before it, most of its focus has been on disproving things rather than seeking out and approving.

We see here the exact same mentality as the Prince – the purpose of spending billions of dollars of tax payers money is not to find out if highly implausible methods work, but to demonstrate that they do work. Harkin does not seem to know how science works, and gives no evidence of caring. We find out which treatments work by designing studies capable of showing that they do not work. Only when a treatment passes through several well-designed studies do we begin to accept them as evidence-based. Harkin apparently wants his pet, the NCCAM, to spend our money to prove his highly dubious and unscientific ideology to be correct.

There is a lesson here in the appropriate relationship between politics and science, and the harm that results when that relationship is abused.

Posted in: Science and Medicine

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139 thoughts on “The Prince of CAM

  1. cervantes says:

    This dude Charles Windsor has no substantial accomplishments or learning to his credit. He’s only a celebrity because he happens to be descended from some inbred mass murdering psychopaths who seized tyrannical power by means of ruthless violence. So why should anyone give a shit what he thinks?

  2. David Gorski says:

    It should be noted that we in the US have our equivalent of Prince Charles, or at least as close as we can get. Senator Tom Harkin has been as meddling and effective an advocate for unscientific medicine in the US as Prince Charles has been in the UK. Harkin is largely responsible for DSHEA, a terrible law and a gift to the supplement industry. He is also the power behind the NCCAM, which has funneled billions of dollars into researching implausible health claims and products, with little to show for it except a few studies of herbal remedies that are useful only in providing evidence for lack of effectiveness.

    Unlike Prince Charles, though, Harkin has a good side with respect to medicine. Over the years, he has been one of the fiercest advocates for increased NIH funding for biomedical research. Indeed, he is largely revered in much of the NIH for his advocacy. The problem is that he’s also into woo and uses his influence as a very powerful, entrenched senior senator to promote NCCAM, having in fact been the prime Congressional mover who created it back in the 1990s. Harkin also protects NCCAM from all threats. For instance, when then NIH director Harold Varmus, dismayed at what he rightly saw as pseudoscience being funded through NCCAM’s precursor back in the late 1990s, tried to introduce measures to bring it under his control and increase its scientific rigor, Harkin introduced a bill to elevate NCCAM to full Center status, which put it out of the direct reach of the NIH.

    Unfortunately, Tom Harkin is very much a two-edged sword when it comes to the NIH. He’s a powerful and dedicated patron to the NIH, fighting for increased research funding, but he is also a powerful and dedicated patron of NCCAM, protecting it from all attempts to dismantle it and fold it back into the NIH. Deciding whether his value in promoting funding for the NIH is worth the pseudoscience he foists upon the NIH through NCCAM is a tough call in these incredibly tight fiscal times, where the pay lines for NIH grants are in the single digit range.

  3. Janet Camp says:

    In this country, Harkin, Hatch, et al, have also helped spawn the “Health Freedom” meme–which I now have to listen to every time I attempt to inject a bit of reason into some ridiculous CAM discussion. They look at me with terror (real or feigned I do not know) and plead in a tone more in line with someone about to be executed: “Don’t take away my choice! My medical system is part of my religion and I have freedom of religion in the US!”

    You simply cannot argue with faith, and I think I have also read that the Prince of Wales is a Man of Faith as is Sen. Hatch and probably Sen. Harkin. Even so, isn’t there something (in this country anyway) about separation of Church and State? I think we lost that one in the name of tolerance, a long time ago. I know that some believers are capable of accepting science, but the scenarios I experience, described above (no particular religion, just a mush of New Age, Buddhism, Hinduism and other “ancient practices” plus a little “quantum” this and that), have become increasingly common with the growth of the University of Google.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. kathy says:

    When any individual has a high position, whether born to it like Prince Charles or placed in it like Lysenko was placed by Stalin, there’s a risk of that position being used to promote nonsense. I’m not saying that Prince Charles is on the same (im)moral level as Lysenko, just that their positions at the top of the tree make them potentially dangerous.

    I’m thinking also of people like PM Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, and his listening to absurd theories about the cause (and therefore best treament) of AIDS … and the way some political personages scurried to follow his lead and insist that doctors and hospitals toe the political line … even to the extent of sacking doctors who bought ARV’s out of their own pockets for poor hospital patients.

    These are just anecdotes (maybe I’m getting into my anecdotage) but it seems to me a reasonable hypothesis that when politicians get into science the result can be toxic. In an ideal world they wouldn’t, but this ain’t gonna happen … specially when quacks find they can bend some powerful but scientifically undereducated political ear. And do it more easily than the ears of their sceptical fellow doctors/scientists … who tend to reject them and their nine-dollar-note theories abruptly with words like “rubbish” (Brits) or “garbage” (USA).

  5. cervantes says:

    Well, the saddest part about Mbeki is that he was in fact listening to a scientist, a very prominent one, in fact, named Peter Duesberg, who happened to have gone nuts. And this is disturbingly common — in fact it seems to be an occupational hazard of Nobel laureates, from Linus Pauling to Kary Mullis. Politicians do need to listen to scientists, but they need the meta skill of knowing which ones to listen to.

  6. Quill says:

    There is a good scientific explanation behind Prince Charles’ mindset. It is partly the product of letting cousins marry generation after generation and the subsequent decline in things like IQ. Also, there is the timeless problem of information flows in hierarchies, where the closer you are to the top the more people tell you what you think you want to hear instead of anything resembling the truth. He’s probably gotten a lot of bad advice and opinions from people looking to curry favor with the crown.

    All in all, I think asking this Prince about medicine is a lot like asking a B-movie & television star about vaccines.

    The Harkin-Prince Charles analogy seems to fall short, though. Harkin needs to build donor constituencies that will back him and found one in the CAM world. Of course he’ll fight hard for those who give him campaign funds irregardless of the ideas or values of the donors. The Prince isn’t in need of any more income and seems to just be enamored with the “natural” world.

    In the US I’d say the people most like Prince Charles are Oprah Winfrey and bored billionaires like Linda Resnick, she of POM Wonderful “pomegranates cure all diseases!” fame.

  7. DrRobert says:

    I tried to come up with something witty involving the Prince, the family jewels, and science. But I got nothing.

  8. NZ Pharmacist says:

    Janet – Prince Charles as the heir to the throne has the potential to be head of both the state (as a constitutional monarch) and the Church of England (a la Henry VIII). He has a good reputation in other endeavours such as the Prince’s Trust, organic farming and architecture although the latter two are controversial!

    Anyway a few years ago I had the privilige (?) to attend one of the meetings run by the Foundation for Integrative Health around mental health as a representative of the local NHS mental health Trust and the College of Mental Health Pharmacy (a specialist professional support group in the UK). Out of around 200 participants there was me, 1 consultant psychiatrist, a coupel of occupational therapists and a lot of people practicing woo (as Ben Goldacre would call it).

    Mind you the consultant psychiatrist had expressed the view that lion dung could be good for some neuroses and the OTs presented on some intervention they had done which helped people – in an open naturalistic series of a small number cases. I can’t even remember the intervention, so impressed was I (not).

    There were Reiki, acupuncture, hyperbaric oxygen, naturopathy, homeopathy, nutrition and other practitioners so I was quite outnumbered. My table group had some robust discussions and mainly people were reasonably polite (except the hyperbaric oxygen practitioner who probably had at least one DSM IV diagnosis on Axis 1). Did I find new treatment moities for mental health?

    Nope.

    But I did confirm that giving people a little choice and some comfort with interventions like massage, nice smells and a sympathetic, listening carer or even trained psychological therapist could be useful adjuncts to the more usual therapies we use – at least for those who were not acutely and severely mentally ill!

    And that all the alternative practitioners were desperately looking for their “treatments” to be validated and accepted for mental health problems.

  9. Mojo says:

    And that all the alternative practitioners were desperately looking for their “treatments” to be validated…

    Which is not, of course, the same as wanting their treatments to be tested.

  10. Mojo says:

    The Prince of Wales is not only a supporter of dubious health products, like homeopathy, but sells them as well. His Duchy Original Detox Tincture is a classic bit of snake oil.

    ASA Adjudication on Duchy Originals Ltd

    “We noted that it was intended that the Detox Tincture was presented as a food supplement that could help eliminate toxins and aid digestion. We considered however that the claim that it could “treat … digestive discomfort” implied that Detox Tincture had scientifically proven benefits. Because we had seen no evidence for the efficacy of Detox Tincture, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”

  11. Janet Camp says:

    @Quill

    I think the analogy is fair. I’ve read a lot about Harkin and he is a true believer in CAM–it isn’t just a constituency, rather the constituency is drawn to his support of their beliefs.

  12. Quill says:

    @ Janet Camp: Thanks for the information. I am happy to be better informed about this influential legislator but sad to hear he’s a “true believer.”

  13. Badly Shaved Monkey says:

    @Quill

    “Also, there is the timeless problem of information flows in hierarchies, where the closer you are to the top the more people tell you what you think you want to hear instead of anything resembling the truth. He’s probably gotten a lot of bad advice and opinions from people looking to curry favor with the crown.”

    A friend of mine was at a reception featuring the prince of fools. The prince made some preposterous statement about CAM that absolutely demanded a rejoinder. My friend began to speak at which point the prince was turned away by a lackey and another lackey said to my friend that “The prince does not expect to be disagreed with”.

    There you have the problem in a nutshell

  14. GLaDOS says:

    There were Reiki, acupuncture, hyperbaric oxygen, naturopathy, homeopathy, nutrition and other practitioners so I was quite outnumbered.
    The anti-psychiatry team is spamming us into submission. The sheer volume of “natural” cures for autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, etc., is taking up all the oxygen in the room leaving no time or energy for anything else.

    I remember when I used to be able to say, “Dietary interventions haven’t been shown to work,” and that was that. Ah, the good ol’ days.

    Everyone is being trained to do psychotherapy now, except their calling it “life coaching” or “traumatic incident reduction.” Staff at funeral homes are now offering “grief counseling.”

    But the psychotherapy these “certified” people offer is the worst sort imaginable. It’s a provocation of a positive transference without awareness of its manipulative power, combined with some MLM supplement scam.

  15. libby says:

    I’m always surprised, and perhaps shouldn’t be, at the hostility by conventional medicine advocates towards anything beyond our pharma based health system.

    Setting that aside, I had a personal conversation with Cuban researcher Dr. Gustavo Bracho who mentioned that fortunately in Cuba the different health disciplines do not operate in this way. His field of training was conventional medicine and he moved to homeopathy about 2 years ago, originally having little faith in its value.

    Over time, after studying it, he noticed some inexplicable occurrences. What they discovered was that after many dilutions of a remedy no trace of the original component was found, as has been mentioned on this board many times. That is correct. What they didn’t expect was that by introducing different enzymes, the molecule reappeared. They do not understand how that could happen, but it’s possible that when remedies are administered internally, the same event happens.

    Bracho noted a study on Leptospirosis. A massive dose of the bacteria was injected into 300 mice divided into 3 equal groups. Group A received nothing and they all died. Group B received a standard vaccination and all lived. Group C, having been given a homeopathic remedy, had a failure rate of 20%, so that 80% of the mice lived.

    Re Leptospirosis in the field, researchers found that in one of the worst provinces with Leptospirosis outbreaks, usually during hurricane season, where homeopathic remedies were administered to everyone in that area, there were no deaths, and fewer cases than other areas traditionally better off in previous years. Although admittedly not a standard western clinical trial, this success motivated Cuba to put more emphasis on homeopathic treatment as a low-cost alternative to expensive pharma approaches, usually not viable in undeveloped or developing countries.

    Expensive conventional vaccines are not usually feasible on a large scale in Cuba. As well conventional vaccines are considered too dangerous to be administered to anyone under 20 years of age. With these motivations, Cuba looked for other answers and found homeopathy to not only be sufficiently beneficial, but cost-effective as well.

  16. Harriet Hall says:

    Colbert said “Michele Bachmann is citing studies from The New England Journal of Some Lady I Just Met”
    And now Libby is citing studies from ‘The New England Journal of Some Cuban Homeopath I Talked To.”

    We needn’t feel any hostility, just incredulity. “The molecule reappeared?” – it’s a miracle!! Hallelujah!

    The only connection of Libby’s assertions to any reality is the unconvincing leptospirosis study that has been covered and discredited on SBM at http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/homeoprophylaxis-an-idea-whose-time-has-come-and-gone/

    The idea that Cubans think vaccines are too dangerous to administer to anyone under 20 is absurd and is demonstrably false. See http://www.granma.cu/ingles/cuba-i/10feb-IMMUNIZATION.html Among other things, it says there that “The entire Cuban population under 20 years (close to 3 million) vaccinated against meningococcal meningitis B, the only such program in the world.” So obviously Cuba CAN and DOES afford conventional vaccines.

    Let’s stick to facts and scientific evidence and ignore Libby’s fairy tales.

  17. weing says:

    Just think how much money Obamacare could save by adopting homeopathy. The government could produce the treatment saving $billions. No more of those barbaric surgeries and endoscopies, medieval respirators, lines, etc. Just a few drops of the homeopathic elixir. Then the added gains from no longer having to send them social security checks. Oh yes. The government has to adopt the low cost Cuban model.

  18. Chris says:

    My brother is presently working in Cuba. The interesting thing is that we are not allowed to send packages to him, and the Christmas card he and his wife sent had absolutely no verbiage, when they are usually full of news of their adventures when they move to a new country. When they come back stateside I hope to visit them, and then there should be some interesting news.

    It just makes me a bit more suspicious of anything that comes out of Cuba.

  19. libby says:

    HH is using a logical fallacy employed by the radical Christian Fundamentalists in the US to prove God’s existence. Their argument is that since evolution can’t be proven (in their view), then God must exist. HH uses the same argument: “Since there is no proof that Cuban researchers are competent, then they must be incompetent.” Curiously, she has never talked to any Cuban researcher, never gone to Cuba, never monitored their work for herself, never bothered to take a serious, objective view of their work, and yet she is a self-proclaimed expert on the Cuban health care system. It’s truly an idiotic and duplicitous position.

    As for the illogic of her reasoning, she can’t really mean what she is saying because it would direct her towards all kinds of illogical conclusions, such as: “Time was constant until Einstein published his papers on Relativity” or “America didn’t exist until Columbus discovered it” and other such nonsensical results. Clearly the most she can say about Cuban medical research is that she doesn’t know anything about it.

    Her stance does make political sense when one realizes that pharma gifts to doctors (to the tune of $19 billion a year) is not likely to motivate any US doctor except for the most courageous to put any value on alternative systems and research.

  20. libby says:

    Chris:

    Matters that you are discussing should be put in perspective. Remember Cuba was illegally invaded by forces supported by the US, there were illegal secret bombing raids from Florida, their leader was constantly under threat of assassination by the CIA, and the illegal embargo was brought about during the early 60′s and is still being enforced.

    Whether Cuba is right or wrong in limiting communication from US sources is open for discussion, but the mistrust does have a source, and the US is not guilt-free. The Munroe Doctrine lives on.

  21. libby says:

    weing:

    That’s a fraudulent post. No homeopath would support that position and you know it.

  22. weing says:

    “That’s a fraudulent post. No homeopath would support that position and you know it.”
    Because THEY know it’s just water.

  23. weing says:

    “Since there is no proof that Cuban researchers are competent, then they must be incompetent.”
    Since you have no proof that HH is not a big pharma shill, then she must be a shill or cowardly not to believe tooth fairy medicine Since you believe anything made by pharma can’t possibly work, then all their research must be of no value. Wow! You sure are good.

  24. Chris says:

    Libby, I know about those: my father was part of their training. They had to move some of the Cuban refugees more inland since they kept sneaking out to run their raids. It was one reason why I attended kindergarten in three different states.

    One interesting little tidbit my father told me, the Cuban refugees were from the upper classes. The soldiers who were working on training them in Spanish were from Puerto Rico. The Cuban refugees mocked their trainers because of their lower class, but they were soon set straight. So the nuances of the semi-feudal society of that time and place are not lost on me (especially since I spent some of my youth living in another Hispanic dictatorship).

    I agree that the embargo is outdated and stupid. If it had been lifted decades ago, the politics in Cuba would more reflect what happened to the Soviet Union. Oh, wait, the former Soviet Union.

    But, still the actions of almost fifty years ago is no excuse for the repression of free expression on that island. So the only way to trust the research you speak of is to have it replicated elsewhere, like in Venezuela, Paraguay, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Canada, Denmark, Taiwan, Ukraine or any other country that has a more solid diplomatic relationship with Cuba. Come back when you find those.

  25. Harriet Hall says:

    @ libby,

    Your criticism of me is wildly off-base and inappropriate. I did not commit a logical flaw. I pointed out factual errors in what you said, and instead of responding to that, you misrepresented and distorted what I said beyond all recognition, created a distraction, invented a false dichotomy, and used a whole series of logical fallacies yourself including the cui bono argument.

    I never claimed to be any kind of expert on Cuban medicine. I must say that all it took was a little Googling to learn more about the actual practice of vaccination and homeopathy in Cuba than you apparently learned by talking to one obviously biased Cuban (After all, he’s a homeopath motivated to justify his practice.) It is demonstrably not true that they can’t afford conventional vaccines or that they believe vaccinations are dangerous for those under 20, and I showed you evidence to the contrary.

    I certainly did not say Cuban researchers were incompetent. I only said the leptospirosis study you cited was flawed and I cited one of several criticisms of that study by other people.

    No I have not visited Cuba nor personally observed Cuban researchers. Have you? For that matter, have you visited the pharmaceutical companies you criticize so vehemently? Surely we can both form opinions based on other, more reliable kinds of evidence than personal observation.

    Using words like “idiotic and duplicitous” is offensive and not conducive to rational discourse. Please try to restrain yourself and reply substantively to what has been said rather than resorting to personal attacks.

  26. libby says:

    Chris:

    Sensible post and a good read.

    I would say however that the actions that started 50 years ago are ongoing. The embargo you mentioned, but also attempts on Castro’s life that went on for decades after the revolution. Imagine the furor if some nation was continually threatening the lives of US Presidents whatever their stripe. It would likely be seen as an act of war.

    Cuba was well aware of the Arbenz experience in Guatemala, and the US interference there that led to his downfall. The Castro regime wanted to protect itself against the same outcome, and placed solid barriers against any outside influence, esp from the US.

    Cuba should be criticized for its oppression of freedoms of course. However if you look at the previous Batista dictatorship, supported by the US until he lost control, one sees the seeds of the Revolution. Had the US intervened in a positive way and helped to set up a prosperous democracy, Cuba might have avoided Communism. As it was, Cuba was just a tropical playground for Mafia corruption and corporate fleecing.

  27. libby says:

    HH:

    Correction: It is the Leptospirosis vaccine that is not administered to anyone under 20 as it is considered possibly unsafe for immature immune systems.

    The rest of the post stands as is.

    Peter Lipson article is incredible. He even admits his complete bias by the following statement:

    “There is no reason to think that ultra-diluted potions containing nary a molecule of “medicine” should affect anything. Given this lack of plausibility, statistically significant findings should be examined with suspicion…..”

    Earlier, in his speculation that natural swings in the disease probably accounted for a decrease in morbidity/mortality, he showed that he missed the point entirely, that the target province historically had the most severe problems with leptospirosis but after administering the remedy it fared much better than other areas that had not received the remedy. That was the key. A natural swing would have affected all areas and not just one area.

    At one point Lipson claimed the the Cuban government was somehow making money off of their free health care program.

    “The authors state that the study complied with ethics requirements of the authoritarian regime who runs the country and presumably profits from the manufacture of the product being tested.”

    Clearly Lipson thinks somehow in the dark of night the Cuban regime decided to overhaul their health system to a for-profit affair where the gov’t, being the owners, would rake in truckloads of doe from the poor peasants using the FREE health care system. I’ll say it again, FREE health care system. I haven’t seen that kind of seriously flawed nonsense in quite some time.

    So we can dispense with Lipson’s obvious bias and mathematically challenged mind.

    So Harriet, I’ve dealt with your vacuous source on homeopathy. Your other source on vaccination showed, if you had bothered to look at it carefully, that not all Cubans get vaccinated. So thanks for providing a source that proved MY point. Sporting of you.

  28. Harriet Hall says:

    @libby,

    “not all Cubans get vaccinated.” Well, duh! So what, and who ever said they did? But a high percentage do, and they have had many immunization campaigns that have eliminated several vaccine-preventable diseases from the country. And it is clear from the reference that I provided that Cuba can and does afford conventional vaccines. In no way does it prove the point you tried to make.

    “the target province historically had the most severe problems with leptospirosis but after administering the remedy it fared much better than other areas that had not received the remedy. That was the key. A natural swing would have affected all areas and not just one area.”

    I’m embarrassed for you. There was a natural swing upwards that didn’t affect all areas but only one area of the country, and when homeopathy was used, along with antibiotics and public health information campaigns, that area of the country fell back into line with the rest of the country. Please read the explanation on the following website and look carefully at the Annual Leptospirosis Incidence graph to see how wrong your interpretation is:
    http://apgaylard.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/much-ado-about-nothing/#more-1219
    Note that that province did NOT historically have more severe problems but had a rate of leptospirosis similar to that of the rest of the country for the entire period covered by the graph except for the two years 2006-7.

    Not only are the data compatible with a natural regression to the mean, but the patients also got antibiotics and there was a public health information campaign. So there were many factors that combined to bring the incidence back to the expected level and there simply is no legitimate reason to attribute the decrease in incidence to homeopathy. The study did not use proper controls.

    Incidentally, the Cuban government has developed an effective leptospirosis vaccine (a real vaccine, not a homeopathic one) and the main reason they did not give it to everyone was that they were unable to produce a sufficient quantity in time. Look up Vax-Spiral: it has been given to over 11 million people and has been proven safe and effective. The only reference I could find to those under 20 was that the phase 3 trials were conducted in subjects age 20 and up. It is intended mainly for adults in specific high-risk occupations, so I’m guessing they did not think it was important to test it in children since their risk was lower. It’s a very safe vaccine and there is no reason to think it would be dangerous in those under 20, it’s just that it hasn’t been properly tested in that age group.

    Maybe the Cuban government is not making money by giving free care to its citizens, but did you know Cuba sells Vax-Spiral and other vaccines to other countries? Presumably they sell it for a profit, just like the capitalist pharmaceutical companies do!

  29. Chris says:

    Libby, time moves on. It has just taken longer in Cuba, but there are things happening. Though you still need to post replicate studies.

  30. weing says:

    Another victim of the law of small numbers.

  31. libby says:

    HH:

    Don’t worry about my embarrassment. Anyone who parks themselves in front of a monitor day-in and day-out writing apologetics for a corrupt industry has lots to be embarrassed about.

    Again more misinformation on a topic you know nothing about because you choose ignorance. Bracho clearly stated to me that Cuba is moving away from the costly vaccinations (roughly $20 per vaccine compared to pennies for the remedies). You of course choose the filtered US media and industry spins rather than the real thing. You avoid actual contact with the real research.

    You pull figures from decades ago as if there is some meaning to them other than historical. It’s pathetic, dishonest, and duplicitous.

    “There was a natural swing upwards that didn’t affect all areas but only one area of the country…” Utter rubbish and fraudulent. More nonsense from Lipson no doubt.

    And please, apgaylord as a reference? Seriously what trash are you sending my way. That’s just more crap pseudo-science. Your case is weakening by the second.

    Now wait a minute, the Cuban medical system you vilified previously (I think you called them thieves) is now selling it’s wares internationally? And Lipson begrudges the Cuban gov’t any profits as if Merck, McNeil and GSK don’t do the same thing. I’m surprised the US isn’t trying to stop these sales by tightening the reins of the embargo.

    “Incidentally, the Cuban government has developed an effective leptospirosis vaccine…” I told you that.

    “….and it is safe and effective.” Bracho’s team is NOW, not last year, not figures from decades ago, is NOW considering that the conventional vaccine might be too risky for those under 20.

    You really have to get up-to-date on this stuff.

  32. libby says:

    Chris:

    I agree. I don’t believe that the US is that much of a threat to Cuba at this stage and so allowing internal freedoms should not be an issue. The days of saying that all criticisms are products of the enemies of the revolution must be getting rather old among the population. They can still have strict controls on outside political and economic interference and that’s fine.

    The problem with studies from Cuba is that they are not interested in fulfilling our guidelines for proving efficacy of medical substances. They seem to prefer to do field work as they did with Leptospirosis. That of course attracts the neysayers here but I don’t think they really care much about what we think.

  33. weing says:

    “Bracho clearly stated to me that Cuba is moving away from the costly vaccinations (roughly $20 per vaccine compared to pennies for the remedies).”

    That’s your evidence?. That’s your science? Sssorry baby. I don’t believe in anyone.

  34. Harriet Hall says:

    I don’t write “apologetics for a corrupt industry.” I didn’t “pull figures from decades ago,” but referred to a graph covering 2000-2008. I did not “vilify the Cuban medical system” or call them thieves. I did not choose the filtered US media but referred to articles from Cuba itself. I provided a link to an extensive, reasoned critique of the leptospirosis study and instead of responding to the facts and arguments therein, libby just insulted the whole thing as “trash” and “crap pseudoscience.” She says the data presented there are “fraudulent” without providing a single shred of evidence to support that claim. She calls me “pathetic, dishonest, and duplicitous” again even after being politely asked to carry on a civil discussion based on evidence and without personal attacks.

    I would be foolish to try to carry on a rational discussion with someone who behaves like this. libby has forfeited the right to any further response from me. I trust our other readers will be able to detect her errors without any help from me.

  35. libby says:

    HH:

    Yeah I”m all tears. It’s about time someone stood up to your nonsense.

    I placed a post talking about my conversation with one of Cuba’s leading researchers, an expert in both conventional and homeopathic medicine, and you responded this way:

    “The New England Journal of Some Cuban Homeopath I Talked To.”
    “…it’s a miracle!! Hallelujah!
    “Let’s……….ignore Libby’s fairy tales.”

    By telling me to be “civil” after that entry is verging on the psychotic.

    It’s good to know that the $19 billion spent to bribe doctors it not going to waste. I’m so glad I’ve moved away from conventional medicine. What a scam!! Thanks for confirming this for me.

  36. weing says:

    “Thanks for confirming this for me.”
    If confirmation is what you seek, confirmation you shall find. I’ll tell you right now. Bracho is a fraud. But you are too blind to see that because of your socialist ideology. BTW. Can you call big pharma and tell them to send me that check for my $19,000? They must have missed me, and I could really use the money.

  37. weing says:

    I grew up in a socialist country. We would see deluded, glassy-eyed westerners like you, enchanted with our oppressors. So excuse my reflex revulsion when I see this manifested.

  38. libby says:

    weing:

    Now for the lesson (So, baby, listen and learn):

    Evidence is not something that necessarily proves anything but is information that might support the final proof of something. Therefore, when you interview someone, that IS evidence. Courts use this kind of evidence all the time. A key witness will often be one that claims to have seen an event, an eye-witness. The courts do not throw this out as useless but incorporate it in the final decision. Sometimes its the only evidence available.

    Now Dr. Bracho could be lying. He could have taken the trip out of Cuba to attend a conference with the purpose of completely misrepresenting Cuban medicine. But common sense says that is unlikely. Possible though, and I have no way of verifying it. I certainly wouldn’t rely on any info from the US that negates his information. All those spins have been bought and paid for (remember the $19 billion).

    As for “not believing in anyone” I concur. No one should be believed. I should not have believed my doctor nor should I have believed McNeil Pharmaceuticals when both told me the Zomax was safe, don’t worry, it’s been tested, lots of people use it and there have been no problems. Fact was the drug had already been in the courts, indemnities had been paid, hush orders had been invoked, and our merry corporate barons at McNeil gladly continued to sell and make a profit off of a dangerous substance where more people died. It was a doctor in Syracuse who finally went public after almost dying from a reaction.

    I guess that’s what it takes, doctors taking their own crap medicines BEFORE they give it to us. Boy would that change things in a bleedin’ hurry. “Here you go doc, you first. Give me a call in the morning if you’re still alive.”

  39. pmoran says:

    Libby, we can be as corrupt and biased as you choose to imagine, yet that will still be irrelevant to the claims of homeopathy. Homeopathy will still need to perform as claimed in studies that have the capacity to show it. I am sure you know yourself that “I heard somewhere –” counts for little.

    You implied that only bias makes homeopathy implausible. I suggest that go into your kitchen and determine if you can enhance the biological, chemical or physical properties of any solution by means of dilution and succussion. It just does not happen, yet this should be a fairly fundamental or at least regular property of solutions, if homeopathy is to be anything more than an elaborate placebo.

  40. libby says:

    pmoran:

    I’m not imagining corruption, it exists and it is a real problem for many people looking for help. Unfortunately in some cases people make bad decisions and choose scams, charlatanisms, etc. The inappropriate connection between doctors and the pharma industry has already been established by the AMA and several medical depts, like Stanford, and trying to reverse the trend.

    The case of Zomax is real and unforgivable. As a potential patient, no one or sector of society puts my life at risk just to eke out a few more dollars for their pockets. I will not tolerate that.

    Here is one more for you, mercury fillings. What a stoke of genius that was. Let’s take a known neuro-toxic metal and stuff it in people’s mouths. It took 30 years for the public to wake up because they trusted the medical community without question. Now more people are questioning the actions of the medical field and that is not a bad thing.

    So maybe I am making a mistake looking elsewhere, but I don’t think so.

  41. weing says:

    We can all see how your were damaged by zomax. What if you hadn’t been? I mean, what if your experience with zomax had been a positive one? Somehow, I don’t think you would be a spokesman for big-pharma.

  42. weing says:

    BTW. Mercury fillings have been in use since the 1800s. They were not invented by big-pharma. The composite fillings that, I presume, you favor have been around for much less. How do you know they are safe? Aren’t they made by big-pharma? Is it possible the mercury filling scare is just marketing by the composite producers to drum up more business for themselves?

  43. libby says:

    weing:

    You crack me up.

    You do know that I was talking about $19 billion (you know, nine 0′s) and not $19 thousand (you know, three 0′s). I’m pretty sure that knowing the Arabic number system is a requirement for any doctor.

    I do think I can help you with the gifting (You can get your kids to help you with the numbers). I’m sure there is plenty of money available but it does not come without strings. A company is not going to shell out cash and get nothing in return. $19 billion is a lot of doe.

    Have a company send out a rep. Act very interested in all the drugs, especially the newer barely tested overpriced ones. That will especially make them excited because the newer ones are usually harder to sell. Then place as big an order as you can. When prescribing, use that company as much as possible. Don’t worry yourself if the patient ends up paying more for something when you know of a cheaper alternative. Not your problem. To sweeten things for yourself, start getting other drug reps involved and play them off against each other. Eventually go with the most generous gifter.

    You and your family will be whisking off to exotic places in no time at all, all paid for by your friendly international conglomerate.

    And no need to thank me. I’m glad to help.

  44. libby says:

    weing:

    Are you following this?

    We know mercury is toxic. We don’t know if the composites are toxic.

    Therefore, if we put mercury in our mouth it WILL BE TOXIC. If we use composites, there is a chance it is NOT TOXIC. Admittedly slight, considering who makes it, but at least there’s a chance.

    So do you follow that? There are no numbers involved so it should be easy.

  45. libby says:

    weing:

    You state: “We all see you’ve been damaged….”.

    HaHaHa. People are so brave anonymously sitting behind a monitor. You don’t even know your numbers. I can just imagine how that works in your office:

    “Gee nurse, I can never remember, is it 1, 2 or 3 zeros for 100?”

    You crack me up.

  46. libby says:

    weing:

    One serious point here.

    It is absolutely appalling for anyone, but especially a doctor given the charge of helping the sick, to make light of the victims of Zomax. To talk of my potential damage in such a way is disgusting, egregious, and revolting.

    You should be completely ashamed of yourself. Not only the victims who were administered by your health field, but the victims’ families and friends, suffered greatly at the hands of McNeil’s immoral decision to continue to knowingly sell a potentially lethal drug.

    You are a disgusting individual.

  47. weing says:

    Let’s see. $19 billion. Roughly 1 million MDs in the US. What’s my cut? Oh. You were potentially damaged. Sorry to break it to you, but any drug can potentially damage you, me, and anyone else. Even water, your homeopathic panacea, is potentially damaging. How many driving victims a year?

  48. weing says:

    driving should be drowning

  49. libby says:

    weing:

    I’m actually happy that you are finally exposing the real sadistic underbelly of conventional medicine.

  50. weing says:

    Here’s some advice for you. It’s worth a $billion. Stop looking for confirmation. Look for refutation instead. Have a happy New Year.

  51. libby says:

    I need to move on.

    Thanks to Chris and pmoran for your comments.

  52. Chris says:

    Though Libby did miss that the findings need to be replicated, until then the results are essentially useless.

  53. libby says:

    Hi Chris:

    We did something similar to Cuba and its field study of Leptospirosis with our H1N1 vaccine. That was never proven effective in a controlled study. What the CDC did was look at general trends after the vaccination program was introduced and noticed a reduction in the number of occurrences of the disease. Fair enough as one indicator, but seasonal diseases wane on their own.

    My proposal, that I presented to Novella, was to take all fatalities of H1N1 and look at their vaccination records. Since many people didn’t vaccinate for H1N1, it was a glorious opportunity to see how the vaccine works in the field against a field control group, those who didn’t vaccinate. Novella’s response was that it wasn’t done. So we really don’t know if it was effective. It’s just a guess. And we threw away the opportunity to prove its efficacy.

    So I find the attacks on the field study in Cuba rather disingenuous given that we do something similar, AND not as well. AND when we have the opportunity to do a proper field study, our medical community says, “We don’t do that.”

    My theory is this. How could the greatest medical minds in the country not come up with my proposal? Well, what would happen with a negative result. If the vaccinated were not really protected, and this became public, it would be a calamity for the vaccine program. So instead we acted as if we didn’t want to know.

  54. Chris says:

    Libby, do you know what “independent replication” means?

  55. libby says:

    Chris:

    What the fuck?? Of course I do.

    My turn.

    What is a MacGuffin?

  56. Chris says:

    Then you’ll tell us when that research is independently replicated then, preferably in another country.

  57. libby says:

    Chris:

    What study are you referring to? A study on the H1N1 vaccine? There was never any study on the efficacy of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine.

    If you’re referring to the Leptospirosis study, I can help you there. That field study occurred in 2007 and was repeated in 2008 with the same result. Since then, and every year after, the mortality rate for Leptospirosis is so low as to be statistically insignificant. Normally each season thousands of cases of the disease occur, but with the change in strategy, the number was reduced to about 10 cases.

    Initially Cuba tried to vaccinate only high risk subjects, but this failed to enervate the disease. Due to the high cost of conventional vaccines, Cuba moved towards a more cost effective method starting with the 2007 study. After that success, and its repetition in 2008, Cuba has continued the use of homeopathy to control Leptospirosis.

  58. Chris says:

    Yes, I am referring to the Leptospirosis study. Oh, good it was repeated in 2008? If it was independent it would have been done by a second group, and more than likely not in Cuba. So where is that study?

  59. pmoran says:

    iMy proposal, that I presented to Novella, was to take all fatalities of H1N1 and look at their vaccination records. Since many people didn’t vaccinate for H1N1, it was a glorious opportunity to see how the vaccine works in the field against a field control group, those who didn’t vaccinate.

    You, yourself, are unable to see the many problems in interpreting that kind of study? They are very similar to those which make the “homeopathic vaccine for Leptospirosis” unreliable.

  60. Harriet Hall says:

    I’d like to learn more about this. If the leptospirosis study was repeated in Cuba, where was the replication published? And how was it established that a lower rate of infection was due to homeopathic treatments rather than to other confounding factors or to a natural fluctuation in the disease? Where is the published evidence for the statistics for incidence and death since 2007? Is Cuba no longer using its highly effective Vax-Spiral? Has it stopped selling it to other countries like Argentina? http://www.medicc.org/cubahealthreports/chr-article.php?&a=1046 And Honduras? http://medicc.org/mediccreview/articles/mr_21.pdf According to this source http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Cuba's+leptospirosis+scare.-a0208269630 Cuba halted a previous outbreak in 1996, apparently before the Vax-Spiral vaccine was even registered.

  61. libby says:

    pmoran:

    So tell me. I’m listening.

  62. libby says:

    HH:

    Contact the Finlay Institute.

  63. libby says:

    Chris:

    As far as I know there are no studies of the kind that you are asking for outside of Cuba. As for the requirement that an independent study take place outside the country of the original study, you might want to check the facts on that.

  64. pmoran says:

    >You, yourself, are unable to see the many problems in interpreting that kind of study? They are very similar to those which make the “homeopathic vaccine for Leptospirosis” unreliable.

    Libby: >i>pmoran:

    So tell me. I’m listening.

    You said: “My proposal, that I presented to Novella, was to take all fatalities of H1N1 and look at their vaccination records”

    The hallmark of all reliable clinical study is to be able to establish comparison groups between which the variable of interest is the only difference.

    You cannot reverse engineer such groups from the data you describe. Because influenza vaccine is is a relatively weak vaccine, the deaths may predominate in overly exposed, overly susceptible groups, poor responders to immunisations, and patients with intercurrent diseases that will make even minor infections lethal.

    Look at this –.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3019108/?tool=pmcentrez

    This case control study (a more reliable kind of retrospective study than the Cuban one and the one you suggest) found evidence of efficacy of the H1N1 vaccine but note all the qualifications that GOOD scientists apply to their work. If the Cuban researchers are claiming to have proved the principles of homeopathy with such a weak study you surely should be reserving a little of skepticism that you lavish on the mainstream for them.

    However, the results of this study should be interpreted with caution because of limitations in the pandemic context (late timing of the studies, low incidence, low vaccine coverage leading to imprecise estimates) and potential biases due the study design, confounding factors, and missing values. The researchers recommend that in future season studies, the sample size per country should be enlarged in order to allow for precise pooled and stratified analyses.”

  65. Harriet Hall says:

    I contacted the Finlay Institute by e-mail to ask if they could verify Libby’s information. We’ll see what they have to say. Meanwhile, their website is interesting. It has a lot of information about the conventional vaccines they have developed and about ongoing research, but it says nothing about homeopathy. http://www.finlay.sld.cu/english/eindex.htm

  66. Chris says:

    libby:

    As for the requirement that an independent study take place outside the country of the original study, you might want to check the facts on that.

    That would guarantee it was actually independent, and there was no influence by those who did the original study. There are several claims of “independent” replications of Wakefield’s now retracted Lancet study, but on closer inspection they were done by his friends/colleagues, and most often were not the same kind of study.

    Also, since it has been established that freedom of expression in Cuba is limited, it would be more convincing if the replication came from somewhere where full and open criticism is not only allowed, but encouraged. Much like what happened with the XMRV research from Whittemore-Peterson Institute.

  67. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Libby, scientists are interested in the unusual and paradigm-challenging. Homeopathy actually working would be considered this. Homeopathy working would be a huge fucking deal, revolutionizing the fields of chemistry, biology and physics alone, since all three predict that homeopathy not only doesn’t work, but can’t work. Anyone claiming to be revolutionizing three entire scientific fields better have good fucking evidence. That evidence better be replicable beyond just one group. Pointing to a single dubious clinical trial, screaming “Big Pharma” and walking away doesn’t mean you won, it just means you’re hypocritcally demanding unfair advantage for a pet theory you are already convinced works. “Big Pharma” has to demonstrate their drugs are effective before selling them. Homeopaths do not, and have not. They just sell them.

    The H1N1 vaccine is produced using the same process for all seasonal influenza vaccinations, only the inactivated viral particles are different. Despite this, there is an extensive body of literature investigating the effectiveness of the vaccine at preventing infection:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22110695
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22102878
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22129867
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22178524

    The total number of studies returned by pubmed with the search words “h1n1 vaccine effectiveness” is 2010. This is four studies from 2011 alone against a vaccine from 2009. A large and accumulating body of evidence. A similar convergent body can not be presented for homeopathy, despite existing for more than two centuries.

  68. libby says:

    Chris:

    I believe what you and I consider independent is different. Re objectivity, the most important factor in any study is who funded it, not in which country it was done. If GSK does a study of its H1N1 vaccine and concludes that it is effective and safe, to me that is a dependent study. It would be like expecting Ford Motor Co. to evaluate the brake system on its Ranger compared to other brake systems in the same class, and then accepting the evaluation as an independent observation.

    This was quite evident in the 2005 Lancet meta-analysis on homeopathy put together by the enemies of homeopathy. It was so overtly biased that it was an embarrassment to medical science.

  69. libby says:

    pmoran:

    “The hallmark of all reliable clinical study is to be able to establish comparison groups between which the variable of interest is the only difference.”

    Yes, and the variable in my proposal, let’s call it CH1N1MR (Comparison of H1N1 Mortality Rates), is vaccinated to unvaccinated among the deceased. What you won’t know is why the vaccinated died, whether the vaccine exacerbated a weakened immune system, they subject was overexposed (your concept), the vaccine created a dangerous allergic reaction, a medical error occurred, incomplete histories were taken of high risk patients, the vaccine was ineffective, coincidence, etc. But you do know that they died and they were vaccinated. You also know how many died that were vaccinated. A comparison of the adjusted raw numbers to those unvaccinated is useful and should create new interest in establishing the cause death among the vaccinated.

    The study you referenced did not delve into side effects which to me is a vital aspect of any vaccination program. It is irrelevant to talk of efficacy and not about unintended negative effects. In that area field studies are better than clinical trials.

    Now if the vaccine turns out to be more dangerous than expected, in other words, if it is highly effective against the disease but for some reason causes undesirable side effects resulting in a significant number of deaths, CH1N1MR would show that. As it stands now, with any drug, a number of elements must fall into place before negative reactions are discerned, logged, transferred to some regulatory body, replicated, and action taken in the public interest.

    I don’t see any logical argument against establishing the cause of death of all fatalities of H1N1 within the vaccinated and unvaccinated. If we don’t do it because it wouldn’t give us perfect data, that would place on it an excessive restriction with which no study could ever comply.

  70. weing says:

    “Re objectivity, the most important factor in any study is who funded it, not in which country it was done.”

    Right. Government funded studies, especially in socialist dictatorships, are by definition objective. What a crock! They might even find homeopathy (water) to be effective for all ills. Oh, wait. They did. Such nonsense is as believable as me having $19 billion in a Swiss bank account.

  71. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Re objectivity, the most important factor in any study is who funded it, not in which country it was done.</blockquote
    Nope, the most important thing is replication and extension. Also important is convergence on and agreement with pre-existing knowledge. For instance, vaccination has several hundred years of safety data behind it. The kinds of adverse effects that cause vaccines to be pulled are generally so rare scientists sometimes have trouble even telling if they occurred (such as Guillain–Barré syndrome during the H1N1 pandemic in the 70's). Vaccines are given on such a large scale, if there are genuine side-effects it should be easy to show they are real. Conversely, a certain number of fluke correlations are statistically inevitable when you're vaccinating millions (or billions) of people. The ignore-the-benefits-and-scaremonger-the-risks logical fallacy that you've employed is little more than concern-trolling for someone trying to justify a decision they've already made. Similarly, the "Big Pharma is evil" is a compelling story to tell, with clear villains and heroic underdogs. It's also wrong (in many cases), oversimplified (in all cases), lazy, and really used to justify a preconceived notion rather than determine if the notion is correct.

  72. pmoran says:

    Now if the vaccine turns out to be more dangerous than expected, in other words, if it is highly effective against the disease but for some reason causes undesirable side effects resulting in a significant number of deaths, CH1N1MR would show that.

    Your study will definitely not answer that question, either. For example, how would doctors confuse “dangerous allergic reactions” to the vaccine with the “fatalities from H1N1″ that you urge us to gather?

    You seem to be on a fishing expedition without clear objectives, presumably in the expectation that we have always have something to hide. It’s insulting, also ridiculous to accuse any profession of being dominated by its worst elements. Consider how CAM looks when you do that — you are left with murderous fraud and lunacy.

    From my limited knowledge of this field, which is probably significantly stronger than yours, we can expect middling results from the study you have described. Because influenza vaccines offer very incomplete protection, and have been focused upon high risk individuals there will be a lot of deaths in the vaccinated as well as in the unvaccinated. But there will be insufficient information within that data to judge what measure of protection, if any, is being provided.

    After billions of doses there is also no reason to expect that any influenza vaccine has ever increased deaths from the virus.

  73. libby says:

    What is most remarkable is that at no time have you ever assumed that data from CH1N1MR would show few deaths among the vaccinated.

    (Now if the vaccine turns out to be more dangerous than expected, in other words, if it is highly effective against the disease but for some reason causes undesirable side effects resulting in a significant number of deaths, CH1N1MR would show that.)

    You state: “Your study will definitely not answer that question, either. For example, how would doctors confuse “dangerous allergic reactions” to the vaccine with the “fatalities from H1N1″ that you urge us to gather?”

    You’re crossing the river before the bridge is built. In order to investigate the data you have to HAVE the data. CH1N1MR would be the first step. In standard science, but apparently not in medical science, collecting data is a good thing.

    You state: “You seem to be on a fishing expedition without clear objectives, presumably in the expectation that we have always have something to hide. It’s insulting, also ridiculous to accuse any profession of being dominated by its worst elements. Consider how CAM looks when you do that — you are left with murderous fraud and lunacy.”

    The objectives are clear. Collect real data in the field that will allow for a thorough investigation of the efficacy of the H1N1 vaccine, comparing those who are vaccinated with the unvaccinated. It’s quite possible GSK would not be too happy about such data collection, and that’s all the more reason to do it.

    You state: “From my limited knowledge of this field, which is probably significantly stronger than yours, we can expect middling results from the study you have described. Because influenza vaccines offer very incomplete protection, and have been focused upon high risk individuals there will be a lot of deaths in the vaccinated as well as in the unvaccinated. But there will be insufficient information within that data to judge what measure of protection, if any, is being provided.”

    Rubbish. The H1N1 vaccine was not only given to high risk groups. It was a massive campaign that targeted the entire population. There was a huge media blitz to encourage total participation. What was surprising was that the huge blitz failed. Only 40% got vaccinated. There appears that the medical field has developed a credibility problem.

    You state: “After billions of doses there is also no reason to expect that any influenza vaccine has ever increased deaths from the virus.”

    This sentence makes no sense, so I cannot respond.

  74. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    What is most remarkable is that at no time have you ever assumed that data from CH1N1MR would show few deaths among the vaccinated.

    What is unremarkable is that you assume there would be deaths. Most antivaccination scaremongering assumes harms that have not been demonstrated despite billions of doses given.

    (Now if the vaccine turns out to be more dangerous than expected, in other words, if it is highly effective against the disease but for some reason causes undesirable side effects resulting in a significant number of deaths, CH1N1MR would show that.)

    Are you familiar with the debate between the use of live versus killed polio vaccines? The live vaccine is more stable and effective than the killed version, but will on rare occasions mutate to a version which causes harm. Because of this, the killed-polio vaccine is now preferred. Science learns and moves on.

    You’re crossing the river before the bridge is built. In order to investigate the data you have to HAVE the data. CH1N1MR would be the first step. In standard science, but apparently not in medical science, collecting data is a good thing.

    There’s already a massive amount of data regarding vaccines in general and the seasonal influenza vaccine in specific. It is imperfect, but it is effective within given, specific parameters. The H1N1 vaccine is different only in the type of antigen used. Your proposal would waste significant resources and time with no real benefit.

    The objectives are clear. Collect real data in the field that will allow for a thorough investigation of the efficacy of the H1N1 vaccine, comparing those who are vaccinated with the unvaccinated. It’s quite possible GSK would not be too happy about such data collection, and that’s all the more reason to do it.

    Such studies already exist:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22155144
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21861544

    along with the non-placebo trials I linked above. Keep in mind, placebo effects must only be controlled for when using subjective measures. Placebos are less useful and more wasteful when considering things like lab-confirmed diagnosis, objective blood tests, death and the like.

    Rubbish. The H1N1 vaccine was not only given to high risk groups. It was a massive campaign that targeted the entire population. There was a huge media blitz to encourage total participation. What was surprising was that the huge blitz failed. Only 40% got vaccinated. There appears that the medical field has developed a credibility problem.
    Targetted vaccination is not an ideal strategy for any illness. Higher-risk groups are also generally less responsive to vaccination because both effective vaccination and fighting off an illness require a healthy, well-functioning immune system. Universal vaccination in contrast, provides herd immunity. It breaks lines of transmission and prevents a disease from becoming epidemic. I, and you, and pretty much everyone, should get vaccinated primarily so we can’t give it to our children, grandparents or immune-compromised friends and relatives, in addition to reducing the risk of death or illness in ourselves. There is indeed a credibility problem with the medical community, because the ignorant and loud proclaim loudly the failings of medicine without actually understanding it. Turns out, medicine is complicated.

  75. libby says:

    @DrRobert:

    “All they promote is expensive quackery that is potentially harmful.”

    - In some cases that is correct. I would extend that to conventional medicine.

    “Where is the health involved in some quack sticking needles into patients, causing infection and pneumothorax?”

    - Reputable acupuncturists never reuse needles. The modern history of acupuncture shows it to be quite practical. During the civil war in China, military doctors, already unfamiliar with the details on ancient traditions of acupuncture, applied needles to injured soldiers until they noticed an effect. They then logged the results. Modern acupuncture is based in part on this rather painstaking methodology.

    “And how is health improved when parents are told by quack-holes that chelation therapy is going to remove all these mythical toxins, meanwhile vast amounts of calcium are chelated and the patient dies of hypocalcemic cardiac arrest?”

    - You would never undergo chelation therapy without afterwards reintroducing the lost minerals. As with most things, overdoing the process can be harmful. Eating too many carrots can be harmful as well.

    “Even these CAM purveyors of fringe “natural” diets aren’t promoting healthy life styles. One quack CAM diet guru told me that eating a fresh pear is going to kill me because of the sugars in it, but it was totally healthy to eat literally multiple sticks of butter per day, and also told people w/ Raynaud’s that if they just quit eating carbs they’d be fine (ignoring the fact that it could have been a presenting sign of Lupus), and also advised all of her customers to stop taking their doctor-prescribed statins because the FRAMINGHAM study was a complete lie. I spent a weekend at this lady’s house. She was a diet guru on Oprah. She also set up her clients with consultations with an herbalist who claimed to have cured Glioblastoma Multiforme, which is the deadliest form of brain cancer, and without aggressive chemoradiation therapy the chances of living are practically nil.”

    - Now are you talking about internet/TV scams or ACG’s. Surely you should be distinguishing between the two. If you are trying to say that there are hands in the trough in alternative medicine I would concede the point. Capitalist robber barons don’t miss out on any opportunity. I would however not limit that idea to only alternative medicine. McNeil Pharmaceuticals made truckloads of money off of the drug Zomax that they knew was killing people.

    “Oh, and she also told her clients that antibiotics are useless and that putting tea tree oil on, or ingesting it, is sufficient for any type of infection.”

    - Interesting that when my son had chronic ear infections as a child the conventional medical field tried a few ideas, mainly different doses of antibiotics (massive dosages over the short term, low dosages over the long term), and when those restrictive medical textbook concepts failed, the doctors were stumped. It was a combination of tea tree & olive oil that solved the problem. To you this is quackery, to me it was a night’s sleep.

  76. Harriet Hall says:

    @libby,
    “During the civil war in China, military doctors, already unfamiliar with the details on ancient traditions of acupuncture, applied needles to injured soldiers until they noticed an effect. They then logged the results. Modern acupuncture is based in part on this rather painstaking methodology.”

    I would love to read the details about this painstaking methodology and its findings. Can you provide a reference?

  77. Scott says:

    During the civil war in China, military doctors, already unfamiliar with the details on ancient traditions of acupuncture, applied needles to injured soldiers until they noticed an effect. They then logged the results.

    Let’s also note that this is a beautiful way to think that coincidence is meaningful. Hypothesis-generating at best, because there is no way at all to tell whether the needles did anything, or simply happened to coincide with improvements which would happen anyway.

  78. libby says:

    Setting aside the corruption, bribery (euphemistically called gifting), the concealment of information, and the lobbying within conventional medicine for a moment, what is generally wrong with conventional medicine is not peculiar only to it. Aggressively targeting a problem without considering the consequences is endemic in our society.

    We helped to destroy democracy in Chile and Indonesia and the result was years of brutal dictatorship (Pinochet and Suharto). We spray toxic chemicals on crops to get rid of 1 or 2 pests not considering that we’re killing much more than that and contaminating our own bodies as well. For years we threw lead in gasoline to cheaply boost octane levels, not considering that lead floating around in the air we breathe is probably not healthy. Japan built nuclear plants on a fault line in an area susceptible to tsunamis. Enough said there.

    In medicine it’s just the same story again. We target a problem with toxic drugs and we overlook their inefficacy and rationalise away the deaths and permanent afflictions that are caused.

    Fact is, for me alternative medicine works more often and is safer. If you are going to show me a study that something works, it better not have been drummed up by a mega-pharma company that is in line to garner massive profits from the product.

    I”m pragmatic. If most drugs don’t work for me, and the ones that do screw up my body, I don’t keep flushing my money down the toilet no matter how many times the peddlers try to convince me otherwise. Same thing with alternatives. They have to work. So far so good.

    If others have success and want to take the pharma route that’s their business. It’s just not for me.

  79. weing says:

    “Fact is, for me alternative medicine works more often and is safer.”
    This reminds me of patients who tell me that they never had a fever. I tell them it’s because they’ve never been sick. So you can continue living in your delusional state as long as you enjoy good health.

    “If you are going to show me a study that something works, it better not have been drummed up by a mega-pharma company that is in line to garner massive profits from the product.”

    You automatically assume that the drug must not work in this case. You much prefer the claims of someone from a socialist dictatorship. That’s enough proof for you? No halo effect here.

    BTW, I assume you are using a computer and ISP that are not garnering massive profits from it and polluting the environment?

  80. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Setting aside the corruption, bribery (euphemistically called gifting), the concealment of information, and the lobbying within conventional medicine for a moment, what is generally wrong with conventional medicine is not peculiar only to it. Aggressively targeting a problem without considering the consequences is endemic in our society.

    None of which means that alternative medicine works. Real medicine could be 100% ineffective or actively harmful, but that still wouldn’t mean that homeopathy, acupuncture or nutritional therapy works. You keep justifying your choice of alternative medicine by criticizing mainstream medicine, but that argument has more in common with creationists than reality. Creationists insist that if they can somehow “prove” that evolution didn’t happen, that means the Christian god exists – ignoring both all other hypothesized gods, and potential non-evolutionary mechanisms.

    We helped to destroy democracy in Chile and Indonesia and the result was years of brutal dictatorship (Pinochet and Suharto). We spray toxic chemicals on crops to get rid of 1 or 2 pests not considering that we’re killing much more than that and contaminating our own bodies as well. For years we threw lead in gasoline to cheaply boost octane levels, not considering that lead floating around in the air we breathe is probably not healthy. Japan built nuclear plants on a fault line in an area susceptible to tsunamis. Enough said there.

    The destruction of democracy in Chile and Indonesia were political, not scientific acts – what relevance do we have here? The use of pesticides results in much larger crop yields allowing us to feed more people. The toxic doses of pesticides in humans is known, and the residue left on food is minimal (not to mention plants themselves contain significant toxins, what we call flavours, that the body detoxifies through the liver and kidneys). Naturopaths didn’t determine that lead in gasoline caused harm – scientists did, and lead was since removed. That nuclear plant provided electricity to millions. Your one-sided analysis ignores both the benefits of the scientific and technological advancements, and the fact that science also changes its mind or methods to produce solutions. The political points are pretty irrelevant here, you might be looking for another blog.

    In medicine it’s just the same story again. We target a problem with toxic drugs and we overlook their inefficacy and rationalise away the deaths and permanent afflictions that are caused.

    Except for when the drug is pulled because aftermarketing surveillance finds out it has hidden dangers. Such as the live polio vaccine. The whole cell pertussis vaccine. Vioxx. Thalidomide. Hormone replacement therapy. Not to mention your massive straw man – doctors recommend lifestyle changes universally when they can, providing medication to reduce short-term risks until diet and exercise reduces a risk (if possible). Not to mention sometimes there simply aren’t any risk-free solutions. What would you do about multiple sclerosis? Lou Gehrig’s disease? Cancer?

    Fact is, for me alternative medicine works more often and is safer. If you are going to show me a study that something works, it better not have been drummed up by a mega-pharma company that is in line to garner massive profits from the product.

    If alternative medicine is safer and more effective, then this should be easy to show this in the form of actual published research. Yet, nearly every alt med intervention tested has failed. But I’m sure it’s science’s fault.

  81. libby says:

    Drug companies and their minions, this website being an example, are trying to feed us the notion that medical science is pure science. It is not. It is corporate science, bought and paid for. We’re not talking about physicists trying to better understand the laws of gravity, or astronomers trying to understand black holes. Medical science is nothing like that.

    The Lancet meta-analysis on homeopathy (Aug 2005) is a splendid example of this. It’s completely predictable that a study performed by the enemies of homeopathy would make sure that it failed by creating the structure for failure. This is bad science, not science. It is also predictable that scientists hired by companies to ‘test’ products that already cost millions of dollars to develop are going to find that these products work well. How else are they going to keep their job.

    As an example, when Eckart complained about GSK’s plant in Puerto Rico, the company didn’t bother solving the problems, they just fired her. That’s what happens in a corporate environment when you disobey. Scientists hired by corporate leaders have to obey like anyone else.

    When I stuck tea tree oil in my son’s ear time after time and his earaches vanished by the next day, and after having tried numerous antibiotics that were a complete failure, the ‘science’ will however show the antibiotics are effective and the tea tree oil is just woo. Again entirely predictable.

  82. Harriet Hall says:

    Libby has shown that she does not understand or value medical science, preferring to be guided by her homeopath and her personal experimentation. She is using our blog to vent her anger against pharmaceutical companies, to express her political opinions, to promote conspiracy theories, and to relate scientifically meaningless anecdotes, rather than to contribute to a meaningful discussion about science-based medicine. Her statements are easy to refute and other commenters have repeatedly done so. Now she accuses this website of being “minions of drug companies.” That is as silly as it is offensive.

    “a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion” DNFTT (do not feed the troll).

  83. Chris says:

    libby:

    Drug companies and their minions, this website being an example, are trying to feed us the notion that medical science is pure science. It is not. It is corporate science, bought and paid for.

    Dr. Hall:

    Now she accuses this website of being “minions of drug companies.” That is as silly as it is offensive.

    And it is the very old boring trope known as the Pharma Shill Gambit.

  84. libby says:

    HH:

    I agree with you on 2 points: Firstly, I don’t value most pharma drugs. However in the areas of emergencies, prosthetics, aural aids, some types of surgeries, etc, medical science is valuable. Secondly, there is no conspiracy within conventional medicine.

    Furthermore anyone who would want to abolish conventional medicine would be creating a grave error. Setting aside the exceptions above, conventional medicine fulfills the need of those who have decided to hand over the decisions for their health to corporate barons. And this group, the uninspired, the uncreative, and the dependent, need conventional medicine to fill that need.

    So how does conventional medicine deal with those who prefer to think for themselves, to evaluate for themselves the efficacy of a product, conventional or alternative, and challenge any system that predictably leads to questionable results? In other words, the disobedient.

    Mainly vilification and personal attacks. That’s why on this board I’ve been labeled a troll, a Nazi and a moron. Disobedience is clearly taken seriously.

    Here’s an example of how one facet of the medical system works.

    Why is it that doctors recommend an analgesic from a drug company rather than steering their patients towards willow tree bark that bears the same chemical, which is what I do? Because that’s not how the system works. The system is based on profit, which requires patentable substances. You cannot patent a willow tree. Ergo, it never gets mentioned. When I peel off some willow bark and make a tea out of it, pharma gets nothing. I’m being disobedient. That makes me a troll, a Nazi, and a moron (perhaps not in that order).

    No doubt the health of a patient is important to a doctor, but only within the framework of what is allowed. Handing over a sample of willow bark to a patient would not be allowed. There are, however, unlimited supplies of samples from drug companies, as well as special consideration for obedient doctors ($19 billion in the US alone each year and rising).

  85. weing says:

    “So how does conventional medicine deal with those who prefer to think for themselves, to evaluate for themselves the efficacy of a product, conventional or alternative, and challenge any system that predictably leads to questionable results? In other words, the disobedient.”

    Wow. So people that go to doctors are sheep? And I thought they were ill. How could I have been so wrong? Only those that go to homeopaths get unquestionable results? Interesting. They unquestionably get a placebo effect, so that is true. Unfortunately we want to give something beyond the placebo effect. No, we do not have 100% results. Anyone promising you unquestionable results is a fraud, even if it is yourself.

  86. libby says:

    Here’s a little tidbit for your amusement:

    http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/submitted/morreim/prescribing.html

    “…the drug companies are getting more and more sophisticated about their marketing techniques. Now they can go to the American Medical Association and buy biographical data on individual doctors including their prescription license numbers. Then they can buy information from pharmacies about what a particular physician is prescribing and keep track of what tends to influence him or her: This guy goes for gold address labels. That doctor likes to be taken out for vegetarian food.”

  87. weing says:

    From the same article:

    “This is not to say that profit is evil or that business is evil. The pharmaceutical industry has done some great work, developing a host of marvelous drugs in the past 20 or 30 years. They’ve been a godsend for thousands and thousands of people, who in many cases, can save money by avoiding costlier, more invasive treatments.

    You’re not going to get this kind of vigorous productivity if you’ve got some government bureaucrat dictating five-year plans for drug research; you need a free market. And if the companies are going to continue to produce new drugs, they have to sell the ones they’ve developed, which means they have to market them.”

    “Physicians need to avoid being naïve.”

    There’s more, and I wholeheartedly agree.

  88. Harriet Hall says:

    libby asked

    “Why is it that doctors recommend an analgesic from a drug company rather than steering their patients towards willow tree bark that bears the same chemical,”

    Willow bark does NOT contain the same chemical, only a related one. Willow bark also contains other stuff whose effects and safety have not been adequately tested. With willow bark, you don’t know how much active ingredient you’re getting. Willow bark extract has not been shown effective for the types of pain aspirin has been proven effective for. It also has a number of side effects and should be avoided during pregnancy and breast-feeding. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-955-WILLOW%20BARK.aspx?activeIngredientId=955&activeIngredientName=WILLOW%20BARK.

    That’s why.

    It has nothing to do with profits or with “how the system works.”

  89. libby says:

    HH:

    Aspirin, one of the analgesics, uses the active ingredient salicin, or salicylic acid, FROM WILLOW BARK.

    Companies could very easily take a substance in its natural state and sell it but that is not how you make massive profits. As I’ve stated, you can’t patent a willow tree so the drug companies have to vilify the plant as dangerous and then set about extracting and processing the active ingredient, then comes the patent, then come the company reps, and then come the prescriptions.

    Of course its not about profit.

    By the way, thanks for the definition of “troll”.

    Now it’s my turn, if that’s alright with you.

    “minion”: a servile follower

  90. Scott says:

    Aspirin, one of the analgesics, uses the active ingredient salicin, or salicylic acid, FROM WILLOW BARK.

    That’s simply wrong. Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid. A related molecule, but absolutely NOT the same as salicin. Salicin isn’t the same thing as salicylic acid, either. (The former is metabolized into the latter.) This is why aspirin causes fewer digestive problems than willow bark. Bayer used the natural product as a springboard to produce something better.

  91. libby says:

    From the same text reference above:

    “…… drug representatives were promoting the use of Darvon for pain from fractures and major surgery. The scientific literature said, “At best, Darvon is as effective as aspirin.”

    That’s great. The poor patient is flat on his back after major surgery and pharma reps are trying to foist on him, through a doctor, the expensive drug Darvon over plain aspirin, and Darvin might not even be as good.

    While the patient is down, let’s rifle through his walllet. What do ya say?

    For sure, it’s not about profit.

  92. libby says:

    Scott:

    “Bayer used the natural product as a springboard to produce something better.”

    But first they had to convince us that willow bark has to be processed by them. Unlike you though, I have used both willow bark and aspirin, and they both work well, the only difference being the cost. For me, the willow bark is free.

  93. Scott says:

    And they convinced us by producing a better product, with fewer side effects and consistent dosing.

    “The only difference being the cost” is inaccurate; “the only difference you have personally noticed being the cost” would be a better characterization. Fortunately, most of us are not limited by personal experience.

  94. libby says:

    Scott:

    Your faith in what others tell you is commendable. I hope for your sake they merit such confidence.

  95. Scott says:

    Your faith in personal experience is entirely misplaced. Science is imperfect, but hugely more reliable than personal experience.

  96. libby says:

    Scott:

    Let’s take tea tree oil for a moment, something already trashed on this thread.

    I gave it to my son for his earaches, many times with success, mixed it with olive oil and placed a number of drops of the mixture directly in his ear. But you, having put your trust in solid scientific research, avoid it like the plague because you know by what the experts tell you that it can’t work.

    OR

    You try it. By giving it a one chance, you’re in no way bound by Papal law condemned to live eternally in the world of alternative medicine, you simply discard the idea as rubbish.

    I’m having a lot of trouble understanding your level of adherence to a system that requires such dutiful lack of interest in something different.

  97. weing says:

    “I’m having a lot of trouble understanding your level of adherence to a system that requires such dutiful lack of interest in something different.”

    What a crock. I prefer to adhere to science as opposed to adherence to old wives tales and other superstitions. that you consider superior. Why are you still using computers and the internet? There are capitalists making money off of you. You are contributing to the pollution of our environment from all the toxic chemicals released in making the circuits for the computers and routers.

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