Respectful Insolence

At a local Target store…

Yesterday my wife and I were doing a bit of shopping for various household supplies at one of our favorite stores, our local Target. Having already been disturbed by the sheer volume of Christmas decorations and items on sale two weeks before Thanksgiving, I was even more disturbed to see this:

i-10399a93bef67b21e12e09394ea8d143-photo.JPG

Yep, it’s everywhere. Oscillococcinum. A homeopathic treatment, quackery right there on the shelves. The only thing good I could think of to say about this is that it’s absolutely true that this remedy is, as advertised on the package, non-drowsy, with no interactions with other drugs, and without side effects. The only problem is, it’s without effects, too, because, being homeopathy, it’s water.

What was even more disturbing is that my wife and I were actually looking for one of our favored cold remedies. (We’ve both had a bit of a cough the last week or two.) We couldn’t find it; it didn’t look as though Target stocked it anymore. A whole, several foot long section of shelf, however, was chock full of Airborne and this stuff.

Lovely.

Comments

  1. #1 chris from ohio
    November 14, 2010

    My workplace has a wellness program that reimburses some of the health insurance premium for participation. One of the options is to read and answer questions concerning the Well Workplace Healthletter the most recent edition of which contained a section on CAM, including acupuncture, chiropractors, and homeopathy. I was appalled to find they treated each of these, as well as herbalism and other wackiness with complete credulity. It basically eliminated any confidence I have in anything else the little publication might claim as healthy or promoting wellness.

  2. #2 Drydoc
    November 14, 2010

    A buck a dose – for sugar, and not much of that. The profit margin must be amazing!
    No side effects or interactions but, according to their web site keep away from children and ask for advice if preganant or breast feeding. And, if your symptoms persist see MD. The woo Miranda. Such BS.
    How can these products be ethically sold by the pharmacists?

  3. #3 highnumber
    November 14, 2010

    Boy, that’s a great brand name for marketing purposes. Sounds like a bacterium.

  4. #4 MartinM
    November 14, 2010

    Surely 50% less would be a better promotion. Three for the price of six! Double the power!

  5. #5 Kausik Datta
    November 14, 2010

    Thank your lucky stars, then, that you didn’t go to something like Whole Foods… Their medicine aisle OS choc-a-bloc full of all the Woo-dicines you never wanted to see, with generous space donated to homeopathic nostra, colonics and so forth. What’s sad is that the particular aisle at my local WF always seems crowded!

  6. #6 doctorgoo
    November 14, 2010

    Not too long ago, a friend went to the local store to get something for a rash, and 2 days later she still was having problems.

    I took a look at what she was using and when I told her what it was (literally nothing) I took her too back to the store (Walgreens) that sold it to her. I asked for the manager and started in on him, but he cut me off almost immediately with an apology, followed by a full refund (even though the tube of cream was obvious opened and used).

    I got the impression that they have a policy of never refusing to refund customers whenever they inadvertently purchase the fake medicine they’re selling.

    But the worst part (which seems worse than for you) was that instead of having an entire section of the fake medicine, it was all mixed together… with the name-brand stuff mixed with the generic stuff and the fake stuff.

  7. #7 shortshrift
    November 14, 2010

    Nice article on Oscillococcinum if you haven’t seen it:

    http://www.usnews.com/usnews/biztech/articles/970217/archive_006221.htm

    “Somewhere near Lyon, France, sometime this year, officials from the French pharmaceutical firm Boiron will slaughter a solitary duck and extract its heart and liver–not to appease the gods but to fight the flu. The organs will be used to make an over-the-counter flu medicine, called Oscillococcinum, that will be sold around the world. In a monetary sense, this single French duck may be the most valuable animal on the planet, as an extract of its heart and liver form the sole “active ingredient” in a flu remedy that is expected to generate sales of $20 million or more.” (continues)

  8. #8 Matthew Cline
    November 14, 2010

    Fun facts about Oscillococcinum:

    1) It was based on a vibrating bacteria which doesn’t actually exist.

    2) It’s (supposedly) based on bacteria, but the flu is caused by viruses.

    Combined with the fact that it’s homeopathic, and it sends the quackery-o-meter off the scale.

  9. #9 Denice Walter
    November 14, 2010

    doctorgoo is right! I recently saw Wal-Born** ( and other faux ) mixed in with more reality-based OTC meds. Their supplement section prominently displays the latest in woo ( clearly, they must seriously research sales figures and trends ), _however_ they *do* provide me with my “drug of choice”: generic pseudoephedrine ( if I show ID and sign in)- which is very useful in spring and fall.

    ** Isn’t that supposed to be *Verboten*?

  10. #10 MikeMa
    November 14, 2010

    At least the woo in this case makes money without hurting anyone’s health. HuffPo reports that McDonalds, Pepsi and other similar interested parties will helping write health policy in Britain. Not really looking to shed the title of fattest EU country any time soon are they?

  11. #11 stephen
    November 14, 2010

    At my local Kroger you can buy the “Kids version” for 3 bucks less. Amazingly it’s the same product, 6 pills at the same dilution. If a company can sell 2 copies of the same exact product for different prices, it’s obvious it’s a scam.
    Fits in well in the earthy/hippy aisle.

  12. #12 Jack
    November 14, 2010

    Shoppers Drug Mart, the largest pharmacy chain in Canada, has been selling this for a long time. They also sell copper bracelets for arthritis and echinacea. On top of that, they sell a whole slew of vitamins and supplements – evidence-based ones (vitamin D) mixed right in with the woo (coenzyme Q10 for people without mitochondrial disorders).

    What dismays me is that Shoppers is a franchise with each branch run by a pharmacist. A pharmacist is selling woo… they should know better.

  13. #13 Chris
    November 14, 2010

    Whats also disturbing, is that these homeopathic pills cost more than actual cold medicines. Any thoughts on the Homeopathic teething tablets by Hyland that were recalled due to side effects caused to children?

  14. #14 shortshrift
    November 14, 2010

    When a spokesperson for the manufacturer (Boiron) was questioned about the safety of Oscillococcinum, they replied:

    “Of course it is safe. There’s nothing in it.”

  15. #15 Chuckles
    November 14, 2010

    Ok, it is a placebo, but let’s be frank. Nothing aside from Tamiflu actually treats the flu itself, only its symptoms. And most of the symptoms of the flu are a product of the body’s immune system trying to fight the virus, reducing them won’t help the person get better faster and seems counterproductive unless a person’s fever has reached a dangerous level. A placebo pill itself can be pretty powerful compared to doing nothing, especially when you’re dealing with self-assessed, somewhat ambiguous symptoms like “headache”, “feeling run-down” “body aches” etc. So people are paying money for a product that will make them feel better and the alternatives wouldn’t actually make them get recover faster- is it really that bad, aside from the deception?

  16. #16 Anthro
    November 14, 2010

    I’ve posted about this kid of thing may times; I’m glad you’ve seen this for yourself now. I harp at the pharmacist at Walgreen’s every time I pick up an rx–(s)he usually says something like, “I know, but there’s nothing I can do about it”.

    There’s a similar problem at libraries (and it helps to spread the woo): The CAM books are on the same shelf with actual medical books. Suzanne Sommers would be right there with, say, Susan Orac, MD, PhD; breast cancer surgeon and researcher.

    The same is true, of course, at bookstores, but it gripes me even more at a PUBLIC library, where you could, at one time, count on the reference librarian to help you find facts. Last time I submitted a medical question, I got three legitimate medical references and TWO homeopathic references (for a serious medical condition). When I asked about why the woo books were on the same shelf with the medical books, I was told that “readers can make up their own minds about what kind of treatment they choose”. Never mind that they need factual information in order to do that.

  17. #17 Joshua DeWald
    November 14, 2010

    Talked about this on my blog as well… I actually went up to the CVS pharmacist and asked if he would recommend the product if I had the flu (it said on the box “CVS pharmacist recommended” and was actually CVS branded! (“compare with active ingredients of Oscilloccinum”)). Thankfully, he said that no, he would not, “that it just tasted like sugar”. I said that’s all it was.

    He did say he tried it.. which was a bit disappointing but at least he wasn’t a complete shill.

    The really sad part is that the Oscillo was more expensive than the real stuff.

  18. #18 Brigid Keely
    November 14, 2010

    A few years ago I had bronchitis and the flu at the same time and, wanting to die, I dragged myself to a Walgreen’s Take Care clinic. The Nurse Practioner prescribed me a bunch of real medication (including oral steroids and an inhaler that OH MY GOD helped SO MUCH) as well as Oscilloccinum, which I’d never heard of at the time. “It’s really big in France,” she reassured me. We checked it out on the shelves and it was incredibly expensive which made me frown and then I saw the homeopathic label and walked away. It really bothered me that this medical person prescribed it, though. I mean, it’s WATER. And if I didn’t know what “homeopathy” meant, I would have dropped a lot of money on WATER. It felt like she’d tried to rob me. Ok, not literally, but still.

  19. #19 Mariela
    November 14, 2010

    I went to my university clinic last week because it was week 3 of a really horrible cold and nothing over the counter was helping, and at this point I needed to be productive again. The nurse practitioner told me to take massive doses of Vitamin C (2,000 mg three times a day), lots and lots of zinc, and echinacea – she even recommended a specific brand, and pointed out I would have to go to a natural food store to find it. I had to insist to get a prescription for official, hardcore cold meds.

    She also had a Bodytalk poster on her wall, listing energy points and crap like that.
    http://www.bodytalksystem.com/learn/bodytalk/

    What do you think: should I complain to the university? I think this is ridiculous.

  20. #20 blf
    November 14, 2010

    Amusingly, despite living in France, I can’t say I’d ever heard of this scam until now. However, the Pffft! of All Knowledge confirms it’s big here; guess I don’t read/watch the right garbage,

  21. #21 Jen in TX
    November 14, 2010

    “And most of the symptoms of the flu are a product of the body’s immune system trying to fight the virus, reducing them won’t help the person get better faster and seems counterproductive unless a person’s fever has reached a dangerous level.”

    At what point does fever become “dangerous?”

  22. #22 J. J. Ramsey
    November 14, 2010

    “The only problem is, it’s without effects, too, because, being homeopathy, it’s water.”

    Unless it’s like Zicam or those recalled belladonna teething tablets, in which case, it has the wrong effects. Trouble is, with alternative medicine as poorly regulated as it is, there’s no guarantee that any of it is harmless, even the homeopathic stuff.

  23. #23 MadScientist
    November 14, 2010

    We really need to regulate the woo-woo business better (regulate them out of business if we can). As a chemist I still have a habit of looking up the active ingredients in my pharmacokinetics book but I can’t carry that damned thing around and folks who are neither chemists nor physicians or medical researchers generally wouldn’t have a clue. When you’ve got a stuffy nose, big headache. and the world seems to be spinning around you’re in no great shape to read the box and decide it’s voodoo.

  24. #24 MadScientist
    November 14, 2010

    @Anthro: You can always make sure you visit the library with a large indelible marker and write “this book is dangerous bullshit” inside the woo-woo books. Just don’t get caught; I think the libraries can still fine you for defacing a book. That sort of stuff was appearing in a certain university library as well and I would make these books disappear whenever I had the opportunity (destroyed, disposed of – not merely returned to the wrong shelf).

  25. #25 D. C. Sessions
    November 14, 2010

    Oscillococcinum. A homeopathic treatment, quackery right there on the shelves.

    Puns aside, it’s something that’s truly remarkable: even more quackish than even run-of-the-water-mill homeopathy, since it doesn’t even derive from Hahnemann’s usual dogma and ritual.

  26. #26 shortshrift
    November 14, 2010

    @Chuckles

    I’ve wondered about this. If it’s purely a placebo (beyond question), but people derive genuine benefit from it, should it still be on sale?

    There are a number of troubling dimensions to this, though, aren’t there?

    (.) That this Boiron outfit – with a turnover in the hundreds of millions – is selling 9 tablets of nothing for $9.99 (“nothing” by their own spokesperson’s admission)… perhaps they’re trying to cover the R&D costs associated with the 1925 discovery of a bacteria that (as commented above) doesn’t exist and that overcomes the serious handicap of not existing to cause a viral infection? [though maybe the price argument simply boils down to caveat emptor: branded analgesics, etc., are often absurdly priced with respect to the generics]

    (.) That retailers are treating them interchangeably with real drugs that have real effects (and side effects).

    (.) How do you establish a regulatory framework for drugs that are indisputably snake oil? Presumably if they are sold alongside drugs they should be regulated by a body like the FDA, but I can’t see how you define a framework for the regulation and marketing of drugs that you know to have no intrinsic therapeutic effect without making a mockery of basic logic. Perhaps in the spirit of advertising standards it would not be deceptive to sell them if the manufacturer followed up the claims on the packet (“Reduces Duration and Severity of Flu Symptoms” is the normal claim for Oscillococcinum) with a clear warning that the product contained no active ingredients and had not been shown to be any more effective than sugar tablets!

    (.) And lending any credibility to rubbish like this (even with the well-meaning notion that people should be able to benefit from the placebo effect) is not helpful to the cause of evidence-based medicine, where it’s nice to from time-to-time observe studies where the treatment groups outperform the controls.

    Anyway, what’s the current legal position in the US? I thought that the authorities have long been able to clamp down on snake oil sales, so is an institutional blind eye being turned?

  27. #27 Chris
    November 14, 2010

    Chris:

    Any thoughts on the Homeopathic teething tablets by Hyland that were recalled due to side effects caused to children?

    All ready covered here. Sometimes if you have a question like that it is a good idea to use the search box on the top and left of this page.

  28. #28 Travis
    November 14, 2010

    @Jack, I was at Shoppers recently and saw they sold thier own brand of magnetic braclets as well. It also had the typical warning on the back about researching not backing up the claims made about them.

    But they will sell them anyway.

  29. #29 Charles Hixson
    November 14, 2010

    12 Posted by: Jack
    Shoppers Drug Mart, the largest pharmacy chain in Canada, has been selling this for a long time. They also sell copper bracelets for arthritis and echinacea. On top of that, they sell a whole slew of vitamins and supplements – evidence-based ones (vitamin D) mixed right in with the woo (coenzyme Q10 for people without mitochondrial disorders).

    What dismays me is that Shoppers is a franchise with each branch run by a pharmacist. A pharmacist is selling woo… they should know better.

    FWIW, Scientific American reported on an experiment (on rats) when Co-Enzyme Q10 + Alpha Lipoic Acid prevented the loss of hair cells in the cochlea. Since those never grow back, and loss of hearing is common with age in my family, I’ve been taking them. Don’t know if there are any side effects, or what the dose should be, however. But though it’s grossly unscientific (in the absence of evidence), to me it seems a reasonable precaution.

    I think that there is, as well as a tendency to promote woo, also a tendency to label things one doesn’t understand, or where there is ignorance, as woo, which is totally unjustified, and nearly unjustifiable.

    Ignorance is there to be cured, but given a finite lifetime, there will always be areas of ignorance. In those areas one must just do the best one can. And sometimes the evidence just hasn’t been collected yet.

  30. #30 Anthro
    November 14, 2010

    @MadScientist

    Not a bad idea, but defacing anything goes against my nature, although I may resort to this vigilante method if common sense continues to fail. My complaint to the library isn’t so much that they should not have woo books at all (that might be censorship), but that they should have a separate Dewey decimal section for them that is clearly labeled “Pseudoscience”. People should read this stuff to know how dumb it is, but if it’s on the same shelf with the medical literature, how are they to know, especially when the woo author has an MD after his or her name.
    ———

    On the matter of selling placeboes, maybe if they were some nominal price, but Oscico-whatever costs more than anything else on the shelf. I’ve seen it for up to $30!
    ——

    @Jen

    Not an MD, but had four kids and the rule-of-thumb for calling the doctor for a fever was anything over 102 degrees.

  31. #31 Medicein Man
    November 14, 2010

    So what? It works. Try it.

    You do know that Airborne is a multivitamin supplement right?

    What is it with liberals and people being free enough to make medical decisions for themsleves?

  32. #32 dedicated lurker
    November 14, 2010

    The homeopathic remedies always make me roll my eyes. That combined with the fact meth heads have made it impossible for me to get more than one pack of Sudafed sinus headache formula when they are on sale.

  33. #33 HFM
    November 14, 2010

    @29: There is a difference between woo and ignorance – woo doesn’t work, and you can prove this. Ignorance isn’t always so bad; there are plenty of valuable drugs for which we have only hand-waving and muttering as an explanation of how they work. But they *do* work, so we keep them around.

    If somebody fed magic sugar to a bunch of ferrets* and significantly shortened their flu…well, first I would assume that the “magic” was spiked with Tamiflu, but if it wasn’t…then the magic sugar can go into the ignorance bin. Until then, woo.

    *animal model of choice, apparently

  34. #34 Todd W.
    November 14, 2010

    @Chuckles

    True, that a lot of the symptoms of a cold or flu are the result of the immune system fighting off the infection. There are times, though, that I think it would be advisable to tone down those responses: for example, when sore throat or coughing significantly interfere with sleep. Getting proper rest is rather important for health.

    Anyway, what’s the current legal position in the US? I thought that the authorities have long been able to clamp down on snake oil sales, so is an institutional blind eye being turned?

    Homeopathy was grandfathered into the drug regulations back when the laws were first formulated. There is a Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States (HPUS – listing homeopathic substances and their uses) right alongside the United State Pharmacopeia (listing drug substances and their uses). Part of the homeopathy laws provide exemptions from full drug regulation, such as allowing homeopathic products on the market without purity or potency testing, as well as exempting them from alcohol content limits that apply to other drugs.

    Other fake medicines, like many dietary supplements, are protected from full regulation by the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act.

    Both homeopathy and dietary supplements need to follow Good Manufacturing Practices regulations, but they don’t need to actually prove efficacy before they’re marketed. Further, as long as a substance has been recognized as safe or been in use prior to DSHEA (or are listed in the HPUS), there is no need for safety testing. Recently, IIRC, thanks to new legislation, makers of CAM “medicines” have been required to report adverse events to the FDA, which they were not required to do before.

    You can probably find a bit more information on this over at Quackwatch or one of its subsidiary sites.

  35. #35 Chris
    November 14, 2010

    So what? It works. Try it.

    So says the illiterate electronics technician who stumbled who failed to provide the definitive cure when he challenged us to come up with conditions for him to prove his idiocy worked. He answered by posting commercial supplement webpages. He also claimed that a person was paralyzed by the H1N1 vaccine, when it turned out she had the seasonal flu vaccine and is not really paralyzed.

    What a maroon.

  36. #36 Jen in TX
    November 14, 2010

    “Not an MD, but had four kids and the rule-of-thumb for calling the doctor for a fever was anything over 102 degrees.”

    So, fevers are dangerous at 102 and not at 99.5?

    Who decided that 102 is the magic number, and on what evidence was that decision made?

  37. #37 KristinMH
    November 14, 2010

    My husband caught a cold when he was in Germany last month, went into a drugstore and asked the pharmacist to recommend something for his throat. And she sold him homeopathic cough syrup.

    He said that while it didn’t work, it was about 50% alcohol, so not a total loss ;)

    His only excuse is that he doesn’t speak German and thought a pharmacist would give him real medicine.

  38. #38 RRainsMD
    November 14, 2010

    In all fairness Orac, your preferred medication may have been missing because it contained antihistamines, which don’t work for infectious congestion and Phenylpropanolamine which was determined by the FDA to be both useless AND dangerous. My advice to patients with cold symptoms is to suffer. For myself, I abuse the hell out of Afrin, but I know better than to tell my patients to do it .

    -RR-

  39. #39 Chris
    November 14, 2010

    Here you go Jen in TX:
    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-fever/FA00063

    For colds I just use a throat lozenge, and will take a generic form of Benadryl to calm the cough. I also have lots of chicken soup, hot tea with lemon and my neighborhood’s Chinese restaurant’s hot and sour soup.

  40. #40 Not House
    November 14, 2010

    @Jen in Tx

    http://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/1001/p1219.html

    Check out figure 4, which refers to protocols for pediatric populations with temperatures of those over 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 degrees Fahrenheit; why so much literature continues to post things in Fahrenheit I’ll never understand). As you can see, the treatment protocols are vastly different, with those with a temperature under 39 getting a “watch and wait” approach, and those above 39 getting more extensive workup, meriting a hospital visit.

    And to cut off your next question, the protocols are evidence based (check out the links in the article)

  41. #41 Chemmomo
    November 14, 2010

    Jen, try these definitions:
    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003090.htm

    Depending on the individual, time of day, and how you measured it, 99.5 F isn’t necessarily a fever.

    For infants under 3 mos old, any temp over 100.4 F rectally is considered serious. For the rest of the first year, it’s 102.2 F (39 C), and after that you have to consider the context (i.e, duration, if it responds to treatment).

    If you want to know more detail on how doctors came up with these guidelines, you may need a medical textbook (there are two referenced on the site). The wikipedia article on fever references one of the same textbooks, as well as lots of journal articles including meta-analyses comparing acetominophen and ibuprofen for reducing fevers. If you’re looking for a link to Johnson and Johnson – I’m not going to do your homework for you.

  42. #42 john dough
    November 14, 2010

    Looks like it’s advertising 50% more flu symptoms. Which makes sense for a placebo.

  43. #43 lordsetar
    November 14, 2010

    I’ve seen a homeopathic remedy where the label on the front read “A.D.D.

    Homeopathic attention-deficit disorder. Well, it became obvious that it was a remedy after I picked it up…

  44. #44 Someone
    November 14, 2010

    Oscillococcinum

    Is that detectable by an oscilloscope?

  45. #45 Ellyn
    November 14, 2010

    I saw Oscillococcinum for sale at my local Woolworths not too long age, along with a number of other homeopathic remedies. While it was disappointing to see that a major supermarket chain was now selling this rubbish, whoever had stacked the shelves had done their best to put them as far away from most peoples line of sight as possible, tucked away in a corner at foot level. What was also reassuring was that a few weeks later, all three of these quack remedies on the shelves had been marked down by two thirds. It turns out that these quack remedies were not exactly flying from the shelves.

    They’ve been ‘on sale’ over a month now.

  46. #46 Jack
    November 14, 2010

    @29 Charles Hixson

    Scientific American reported on an experiment (on rats) when Co-Enzyme Q10 + Alpha Lipoic Acid prevented the loss of hair cells in the cochlea. Since those never grow back, and loss of hearing is common with age in my family, I’ve been taking them. Don’t know if there are any side effects, or what the dose should be, however. But though it’s grossly unscientific (in the absence of evidence), to me it seems a reasonable precaution.

    I’m very happy for the rats. However, since there is precious little evidence in healthy humans I don’t think it’s appropriate for a pharmacist to sell it for a profit. You may feel this is a “reasonable precaution” for you to take, and that’s fair. But the people whose careers are based on knowing the evidence should, you know, know the evidence.

  47. #47 chris
    November 14, 2010

    Chris,

    I forgot I learned of the recall from orac. I guess in all my homeopathic energy tablet fueled excitement I got ahead of myself.

  48. #48 Chris
    November 14, 2010

    Chris, :-)

  49. #49 Anthro
    November 14, 2010

    @Jen

    The 102 degrees was what my docs always cited. They didn’t want to be called at home for less than 102 degrees. That’s the reason I passed it on, I certainly didn’t pull it out of thin air; sorry, no intention to mislead you. I am glad others gave you links as I hadn’t included in my brief response that tiny babies are a little different.

  50. #50 AnthonyK
    November 14, 2010

    I think you’re being unfair. It only claims to treat “flu-like” symtoms, not actual flu.
    It is only “medicine like” after all.
    And it’s definitely, like, a waste of money.

  51. #51 MS3
    November 14, 2010

    “So what? It works. Try it.

    You do know that Airborne is a multivitamin supplement right?

    What is it with liberals and people being free enough to make medical decisions for themsleves?”

    No one is saying it doesn’t work.

    It is a placebo and we know placebos work. What we are saying is that it is evil. There is a difference.

    At its base medicine is manipulative. When people are sick they become desperate for any remedy that may alleviate their illness. We are thus obligated to make sure that when they pay real money they get real therapies.

    You are right, medical decisions are always up to the individual, though how can an individual make an informed decision when there is such misinformation present? In this case the “therapeutic” nature of the remedy is implied in many ways, being sold next to other medicines, and having packaging that says it helps with flu-like symptoms. Fine writing that says it has no active ingredients written in small letters doesn’t resolve the paradox. It just adds to the confusion.

    You are obviously okay with shams aimed at colds and flus. How do you feel about the exact same thing when the disease is cancer or autism? Should placebo therapies that cost thousands be protected as well?

  52. #52 Texas Reader
    November 14, 2010

    MS3 – no, it DOESN’T WORK. That is the entire point of this post. People pay their hard earned money on crap like this that doesn’t work, and it ought to be treated as fraud.

    It also represents a sad commentary on the state of our nation’s educational system that people are willing to pay for crap like this that does nothing.

  53. #53 Jen in TX
    November 14, 2010

    For infants under 3 mos old, any temp over 100.4 F rectally is considered serious. For the rest of the first year, it’s 102.2 F (39 C), and after that you have to consider the context (i.e, duration, if it responds to treatment).

    Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that fevers shouldn’t be taken seriously, especially in young infants. What I’m looking for is evidence that they are dangerous; as in the febrile response itself reaching a “level” of being so “dangerous” that it needs suppressing, as “Chuckles” @15 suggested.

    Does a toddler running a 102.2F temperature, but up and playing, eating, drinking, peeing, etc. need to have his fever suppressed?

  54. #54 Texas Reader
    November 14, 2010

    RRains – I use the old kind of Sudafed, the one you have to sign for at the pharmacist’s counter and it helps my congestion but I can’t take it after 2 pm or I won’t sleep at night.

    Have you heard of this trick to avoid rebound problems with Afrin? Spray it in only one nostril. Alternate nostrils. That way you can get air flow through your nose and actually sleep, but less likely to get rebound congestion.

  55. #55 Texas Reader
    November 14, 2010

    Sore throat – I’ve never gotten much help from lozenges BUT I got a prescription for a lidocaine gel you gargle and it worked pretty well. It’s hard to gargle a gel, but I managed to do it eventually.

    The BEST thing I’ve found for sore throat is 2 Alleve gel caps, after eating of course. Makes a HUGE difference for me. Alleve evidently has better anti-inflammatory effects than Motrin/Advil.

  56. #56 Dangerous Bacon
    November 14, 2010

    Orac and others protesting about “oscillococcinum” being a quack remedy: you’re missing the point.

    “”Somewhere near Lyon, France, sometime this year, officials from the French pharmaceutical firm Boiron will slaughter a solitary duck and extract its heart and liver–not to appease the gods but to fight the flu.”

    Of course it’s a quack remedy – it’s made from a freaking duck!

    These people have a sense of humor, anyway.

  57. #57 Chemmomo
    November 14, 2010

    Jen in TX

    Does a toddler running a 102.2F temperature, but up and playing, eating, drinking, peeing, etc. need to have his fever suppressed?

    That’s a judgment call for each individual parent (or sick adult) to make. At my house, the decision to medicate or not to medicate is based more on the child’s behavior than the numbers (although we do confirm that the child is running a fever before giving medication to reduce it). And, oddly enough, the behavior changes generally occur right around that 102 F mark.

    From the same website I quoted before:

    If the fever is mild and you have no other problems, you do not need treatment. Drink fluids and rest.

    Take steps to lower a fever if you or your child is uncomfortable, vomiting, dried out (dehydrated), or not sleeping well. Remember, the goal is to lower, not eliminate, the fever.

    The NIH agrees with you. So do I.

  58. #58 Sibyl
    November 14, 2010

    The best part, as mentioned above, is that CVS carries a “generic” version of Oscillococcinum!

    I collapsed into fits of laughter when I spied the label “compare with active ingredients of Oscilloccinum” on the CVS-branded box.

    WHAT ACTIVE INGREDIENTS?!

  59. #59 Jack
    November 14, 2010

    Jen and Chemmomo,

    You may be interested in reading the PITCH Trial (Paracetamol and Ibuprofen in the Treatment of CHildren with fever – yes, a terrible acronym). It was published in 2009 in Health Technology Assessment. PMID 19454182.

    The group found that ibuprofen was more effective at lowering a fever than paracetamol (tylenol) alone and was equal to ibuprofen and paracetamol together. What I found the most interesting though was that none of the interventions actually reduced discomfort. I have to wonder why we are so gung-ho to bring down temperatures if it’s not going to reduce discomfort.

    It’s also a good read because it’s a great example of a well-designed randomised control trial

  60. #60 Jim B
    November 14, 2010

    There are certainly ethical issues with selling placebos when the only effect is the very real placebo effect. Nevertheless, there are medicines that we’d all agree are real medicines where statistically the majority of the benefit is due to placebo effect.

    To those of you who complain that Walgreen’s selling homeopathic remedies while also selling real medicine, I’m also able to buy cigarettes, a well known carcinogen, at the same time I’m buying medicine. They aren’t in it for your health; they are in it to make money.

  61. #61 Orange Lantern
    November 14, 2010

    Jack, if I’m reading that study correctly, it’s saying there was no difference in discomfort between the combined ibuprofen/acetaminophen group and the separate groups. There was no “no antipyretic” group.

  62. #62 Jack
    November 14, 2010

    You’re right, Orange Lantern. I had been writing about that study from memory but now you’ve forced me to go over it again (hooray for skeptics! :)

    I now remember that there was no placebo-placebo arm and that was a major drawback to the study. However, I believe that the numbers for the “discomfort at 48 hours” outcome was similar to numbers seen in other studies evaluating the natural history of fever in children. The power to evaluate that outcome though was really poor. Also, one could argue that a more relevant outcome would be “discomfort at 1 hour” since parents usually expect (or hope for) symptoms to resolve faster than 48 hours when they’re giving antipyretics.

  63. #63 mxh
    November 14, 2010

    I’m also able to buy cigarettes, a well known carcinogen, at the same time I’m buying medicine. They aren’t in it for your health; they are in it to make money.

    The funny part is that, at least where I live, you could buy cigarettes at age 18, but you can’t buy a nicotine patch or other tobacco-cessation aids until you’re 21.

    As for woo being sold at pharmacies. It’s really not the store’s fault. Their goal is their profit margin and if people buy it, they’ll provide it. Though, I’d bet that if you ask most pharmacists working at those stores (who have little control over what gets stocked), they’ll be honest with you.

  64. #64 Composer99
    November 14, 2010

    JimB:

    One rather significant difference, though:

    The cigarette packaging are printed with large warnings indicating that they are hazardous to consume (and where I live, with graphics ranging from the disturbing – children mimicking their smoking parents – to the gross – cancerous lung tissue – to the amusing – a bent-over cigarette as a stand-in for impotence).

    The quackery does not have a similar large, clear, easily-read, not-to-be-missed label stating something to the effect of “You Are Wasting Your Money Buying This Product”.

  65. #65 DLC
    November 15, 2010

    I keep coming back to Oliver Wendell Holmes and his essay on homeopathy. it’s a brilliant deconstruction and contemporary to Hahnemann. Dr Barret at quackwatch has a copy posted.
    http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/holmes.html

  66. #66 shortshrift
    November 15, 2010

    @Anthro, #30

    “On the matter of selling placeboes, maybe if they were some nominal price, but Oscico-whatever costs more than anything else on the shelf. I’ve seen it for up to $30!”

    This probably won’t surprise you given the placebo effect hinges on the power of suggestion, but really expensive placebos have been show to be much more potent than cheap ones. No joke. Think this is discussed in Ben Goldacre’s book “Bad Science”.

    @Todd W., #34

    Thanks for your answer on homeopathic drug regulation.

    So the FDA is legislated to oversee real drugs which are required to work, and also a specially-exempted category of “drugs that we know don’t work and so shouldn’t be subjected to potency testing which will only tell us things we don’t want to hear”? The legal mind is an amazing thing!

    Still, in the UK you wouldn’t be able to make the claims about reducing symptoms if these were unverifiable. This would violate Advertising Standards and be seen as deceptive marketing. Although would you be able to argue that your woo *does* reduce symptoms, even if no more than any other placebo? Don’t know.

    You’re right, also… there is quite a lot on this at Quackwatch. Should have checked there first.

    @Dangerous Bacon, #56
    :)

  67. #67 Todd W.
    November 15, 2010

    @shortshrift

    Still, in the UK you wouldn’t be able to make the claims about reducing symptoms if these were unverifiable. This would violate Advertising Standards and be seen as deceptive marketing. Although would you be able to argue that your woo *does* reduce symptoms, even if no more than any other placebo?

    Ah, there’s the rub. Technically speaking, any of the homeopathic “remedies” that claim to actually treat a disease could be liable for fraud under the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission. So, although the FDA can’t really do anything legally unless one can prove harm, the FTC could go after them if evidence were presented that product X didn’t actually work as advertised.

    Granted, any actions that can be taken are only after the product has been on the market, rather than establishing standards to be met before it goes on sale. Also, because homeopathy is unlikely to produce any direct harm to consumers, it’s pretty low on the scale of things to actively pursue.

  68. #68 attack_laurel
    November 15, 2010

    Jen in TX and Jack:

    The reason a fever over a certain point (102-103F) is dangerous, especially in small children, is that it causes brain damage. If the body is heated past a certain point, organs are affected, sometimes catastrophically. It goes way beyond “discomfort”.

  69. #69 tim eisele
    November 15, 2010

    I just like the box design: reading straight across the top – “50% More Flu-Like Symptoms!”

    Yep, that’s what I want, all right. More flu-like symptoms.

  70. #70 Jen in TX
    November 15, 2010

    “The reason a fever over a certain point (102-103F) is dangerous, especially in small children, is that it causes brain damage.”

    Citation, please.

  71. #71 CyberLizard
    November 15, 2010

    Be careful about labeling homeopathic remedies as “harmless” or “nothing but water”. Quite a few “homeopathic” remedies contain significant amount of active ingredients. Case in point: Hylands Teething Tablets contain enough Belladonna to create adverse effects and was pulled by the FDA: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm230764.htm

  72. #72 Calli Arcale
    November 15, 2010

    Jen in TX @ 53:

    Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that fevers shouldn’t be taken seriously, especially in young infants. What I’m looking for is evidence that they are dangerous; as in the febrile response itself reaching a “level” of being so “dangerous” that it needs suppressing, as “Chuckles” @15 suggested.

    Does a toddler running a 102.2F temperature, but up and playing, eating, drinking, peeing, etc. need to have his fever suppressed?

    At 102, I don’t think the fever is imminently dangerous in and of itself, but it’s not healthy. It is definitely outside the body’s normal operating temperature, and you wouldn’t want to run that temperature for very long. (Fortunately, most fevers don’t last more than a day or so.) Also, I’ve never met a toddler who was comfortable with a 102.2 F temperature. Heck, I’m never comfortable with that temperature. My inclination is to control the fever in order to keep the child comfortable. After all, if you’re comfortable, you’ll eat, you’ll drink, you’ll keep moving, and those things are generally good for your recovery.

    Of course, what you’d really worry about is a fever which keeps climbing. 104 is the cutoff for high fever, and it’s definitely dangerous. 105 is the definition of heatstroke, and it’s around there that you start to see hallucinations, seizures, and, if it goes on long enough, brain damage.

    Jack @ 59:

    The group found that ibuprofen was more effective at lowering a fever than paracetamol (tylenol) alone and was equal to ibuprofen and paracetamol together. What I found the most interesting though was that none of the interventions actually reduced discomfort. I have to wonder why we are so gung-ho to bring down temperatures if it’s not going to reduce discomfort.

    I have to agree with the other commenters who pointed out that the study did not adequately study whether the interventions reduced discomfort. In my anecdotal experience (both with my own fevers and my daughters’), the symptom relief is so dramatic that I have a very hard time believing it’s purely a placebo effect. Ibuprofen lasts six hours; that’s how long it would be before I was shivering and miserable again. The “discomfort at 48 hours” endpoint is stupid, frankly; most fevers are gone in 48 hours, so you would expect similar results regardless of what was done.

    I am not terribly surprised about ibuprofen being more effective, though one must temper that with the knowledge that ibuprofen is harder on the stomach than acetominophen. As a lifelong sufferer of acid reflux disease, I have to wonder whether I’m doing myself harm by relying on ibuprofen so much. But for the kinds of pain I get, Tylenol just doesn’t cut it.

  73. #73 Orange Lantern
    November 15, 2010

    Fevers of 103 do not cause brain damage. That requires fevers approaching 107. But that does not mean that it is not worth having your pediatrician look at the child with a fever of 103, so he can figure out if it is more than just a virus.

    I agree with Jen in TX that we need to fight fever-phobia.

  74. How would you determine outright fraud in homeopathy? How can you determine if something really was prepared as claimed since the end product is indistinguishable from water? What stops the maker of a homeopathic “remedy” from just bottling plain water and calling it a homeopathic preparation?

    It’s not really possible to have a genuine 200C dilution. That would be 1 part per 1E400 parts, and there are only about 1E80 fundamental particles in the entire observable universe.

    -Karl Withakay

  75. #75 Adam
    November 15, 2010

    I’m a European and I am ashamed to say that when I went to the US one time I mistakenly purchased some Cold-Eeze for a cold. Forgive me since I was conned by the “clinically proven” lies on the packaging and I sort of assumed that medicine and homeopathic rubbish would be kept separate within the store.

    I was angry at myself for not reading the labelling more carefully, at Cold-Eeze for deceptive advertising and at the store (CVS) for even selling snake oil. Not only did they sell Cold-Eeze snake oil, they also sold their own version of it. At least they labelled theirs “homeopathic”.

    It beggars belief that legislation is not stronger to prevent misleading advertising like this. The EU isn’t perfect by any stretch (for example homeopathic / magnet therapy stuff gets sold in Boots), but it does seem to keep a tighter lid on things.

  76. #76 Pablo
    November 15, 2010

    Re: fever in kids

    I guess I don’t understand, because I don’t actually take a temp unless I see signs that my 2 yo son is uncomfortable. Or more likely, miserable, which is how he responds when he has something that gives him a fever. So we give him something to help with his discomfort. Yes, ibuprofen usually brings his temperature down, but more importantly, it gets him back on his feet and moving again. With ibuprofin, it will wear off in about 6 hours, and he gets miserable again (and his temp comes back up), at which point we usually give some tylenol, which works for about 4 hours.

    In the meantime, when that happens, we get him checked out. It’s typically just been an ear infection, and about 2 doses of amoxi is enough to get him going again (he still takes it for the full 10 days, of course). It has been viral once, and we feared it was Hand, Foot, and Mouth, but it turned out to just be herpangina (sp?), and passed in about 24 hrs again.

    The reason I take a temp is because the Gurg is showing signs of sickness, because it can be indicative of some parisitic cause if he has one. But that isn’t why we give medication – if he has discomfort that can be addressed with ibuprofin, we’ll give it to him, fever or not (usually it comes as a result of a big bump on his head that gives him a headache – he is a two year old)

    With babies, of course, it is very different, and the doctor wants to see the Monkey Boy (2 mos) if his (rectal) temp passes 100.5.

  77. #77 Jen in TX
    November 15, 2010

    “My inclination is to control the fever in order to keep the child comfortable. After all, if you’re comfortable, you’ll eat, you’ll drink, you’ll keep moving, and those things are generally good for your recovery.”

    Yes, but what price do we pay for that temporary comfort?

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/4341061/That-dreadful-fever-may-be-good-for-you

    Despite the widespread use of antipyretics, I think that some of us tend to forget that these fever suppressing drugs carry risks. Some known…and some not yet fully elucidated.

  78. #78 Triskelethecat Midwife of Death
    November 15, 2010

    Well, late to the conversation again.

    Hi, Jen in Tx. I know there is a fever phobia. And, fever seizures, which occur most often in young children, usually scare the bejeezus out of parents.

    You are right; a child (over a year or so) with a 102 fever who is playing normally, eating, drinking probably can be watched, with MD knowledge of the situation in case it changes suddenly. A younger child needs to be seen, at least by his/her doctor. ANY child with a fever over 102 who is not acting fairly normal (listless, refusing to drink, extremely cranky) should be seen immediately.

    However, medically, as Orange Lantern pointed out, fevers over about 107 degrees can be deadly (generally, core body temperatures are higher if an external temperature is that high) and core body temperatures at this level will lead to organ failure (brain, liver – which REALLY doesn’t like high temperatures) and death. One reason people die from heat stroke.

    Anectdote: Being a crazy, medical type person, one time when I had the flu I decided to watch and see how high my fever got. I was drinking fluids, just no meds to keep the fever down. However, when I hit 104.7 (I’ll never forget that number!) I got very anxious, decided that was high enough to freak me out and took some antipyretics!

    MI Dawn

  79. #79 christophe-thill.myopenid.com
    November 15, 2010

    “Big in France”: is it ? Alas, I can testify that it is. As noted, Boiron is a very big, very rich company (I hesitate to say “laboratory”) and they don’t skimp on TV ads, for this product as well as for a few other ones. Here, you can’t advertise for drugs, of course ; but as it isn’t one, they’re free to do so !

    A few years ago, I walked by a pharmacy and saw a hand made sign on their door: “Winter is coming! Vaccine yourself with homeopathy”. I made a letter to the Order of Pharmacist, which is supposed to give sanctions in this kind of case… but I bet they did nothing.

  80. #80 Scott
    November 15, 2010

    It’s not really possible to have a genuine 200C dilution. That would be 1 part per 1E400 parts, and there are only about 1E80 fundamental particles in the entire observable universe.

    Since they discard 99% of the solution at each step, the amount of diluent required goes linearly with the number of dilutions, not exponentially. So this particular objection is inaccurate.

  81. #81 Vicki
    November 15, 2010

    MXH @68:

    Yes, it is the pharmacies’ fault. “We just want to make money” is not a get-out-of-responsibility-free card. The mafioso running a “protection” scheme just wants to make money. Bernard Madoff just wanted to make money. Someone who picks your pocket, or sells you a sugar pill while claiming to supply a malaria treatment “just wants to make money.”

    In a capitalist system, people and organizations are significantly motivated by money. That doesn’t mean that nothing done for money can be wrong. Fraud is still unethical. Theft by violence is still unethical. Extortion is still unethical. Creating unreasonable fears so you can profit by them is still unethical.

  82. #82 JohnV
    November 15, 2010

    RE: cold-eeze

    I saw my parents had some and noted that it claimed to be homeopathic and also made the contradictory claim that it was zinc-based. Checking the ingredients a tablet has 13.6 mg of a 2E dilution of something. So that’s 0.00136 mg of whatever is in there, not a lot but not the magic 0 quantity in the big homeopathic dilutions.

    Sadly I can’t access from home the two citations it lists on the back for clinical evidence.

  83. #83 Calli Arcale
    November 15, 2010

    Jen in TX @ 77:

    Yes, but what price do we pay for that temporary comfort?

    I read the article, and while 30% more animals dying if the fevers were treated sounds pretty scary, but it was pretty short on details. Which antipyretics were they testing? What were the absolute numbers? (That is to say, was 30% actually significant? If 3 died in the no-drugs group but 4 died in the drugs group, that may just be bad luck.) There seem to be a lot of variables that could explain that other than the medication — the course of an infection can vary quite widely.

    Despite the widespread use of antipyretics, I think that some of us tend to forget that these fever suppressing drugs carry risks. Some known…and some not yet fully elucidated.

    If my child is miserable, I will not worry about hypothetical risks. Known risks, yes. Imaginary ones, no. There could be unknown risks to drinking fluoridated water — lots of people will tell you that, for sure, including a lot of actual scientists. But they are short on data. It’s all a bunch of maybes. Meanwhile, we know it reduces the dental caries rate, so I’ll continue to let my daughters drink city water, and drink it myself. The use of chloramines have their own controversy, but I don’t see enough reason to stop drinking city water.

    Same with treating fevers. My daughter gets miserable when she’s that sick. So do I. I want to keep her comfortable.

    Let’s flip things around. There are researchers looking into the risks associated with treating a fever. There are also researchers looking into the risks associated with *not* treating pain. That’s not exactly the same thing as a fever, but pain is associated with fevers. There is an interesting notion that uncontrolled pain may lead to chronic pain later on, even after the original stimulus is long gone. This research is mostly surrounding battlefield medicine, where the pain can be quite exquisite. But it could extend to other areas, more “quality-of-life” areas. Is it really better to suffer and avoid the side-effects of the medication, or be comfortable and not wind up bitter? Hard to say. I don’t think much of it will have a clear-cut answer, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to reduce pain.

    I have no “fever phobia”. I myself have had a fever of 107 and lived to tell the tale. (It was a near thing, though. I had spinal meningitis.) I’m also not a wimp when it comes to pain. I just don’t see the point in suffering needlessly, no matter how short the duration is.

  84. #84 Jen in TX
    November 15, 2010

    Calli,
    I was able to track down the original study:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2951171/

    And just so we’re clear, I do not advocate letting a sick child suffer. If fever causes pain, and that pain is interfering with sleep and fluid intake, then by all means medicate! Otherwise, watchful waiting. My kids mostly just want to sleep when they are febrile, so I usually just let them. As long as they are taking in fluids and peeing, and easily arousable, I don’t get too concerned. But, that doesn’t mean that I don’t keep a bottle of dye-free generic ibuprofen around, just in case. :)

  85. #85 Calli Arcale
    November 15, 2010

    And praise be to whoever finally decided that making a dye-free medicine was a good idea! ;-) I’ve never had the “fun” of a kid barfing the stuff back up, but it gets spilled pretty easily, and the stains don’t always come out. Now, if only they could come up with flavorings that don’t taste as bad as the actual medicine….

    I’ll read that study later on. It does sound interesting.

  86. #86 Calli Arcale
    November 15, 2010

    And praise be to whoever finally decided that making a dye-free medicine was a good idea! ;-) I’ve never had the “fun” of a kid barfing the stuff back up, but it gets spilled pretty easily, and the stains don’t always come out. Now, if only they could come up with flavorings that don’t taste as bad as the actual medicine….

    I’ll read that study later on. It does sound interesting.

  87. @Scott
    >>>
    “Since they discard 99% of the solution at each step, the amount of diluent required goes linearly with the number of dilutions, not exponentially. So this particular objection is inaccurate.”

    Scott, thanks, but I understand the concept of serial dilution very well (read the word GENUINE in my comment). My point was not that is is not possible to perform the serial dilution process to 200C, but that such dilutions are not meaningful. The labeled dilution on such a homeopathic product is essentially a label of process and has no real meaning in regards to the actual dilution/concentration of the remedy as it implies.

    Once you get to a certain point in extreme dilutions, you have to start dealing with the probability that the next serial dilution will not alter the concentration of your sample, either because no molecules remain or because no molecules were removed.

    Once you theoretically have only one molecule left in a sample, it is possible to perform the steps for another successive dilution, but that step is pointless. It’s absurd to claim that a 200C dilution has any useful meaning or is distinguishable in any way from a 50C dilution.

    The only way a 200C dilution would have any real meaning is if the ***end product*** had 1E400 + 1 particles in it and 1 particle was “cure” and the rest water. (or any equal ratio where #of “cure particles is an integer greater than or = 1)

    This is a fundamental problem with homeopathy, that such dilutions have no scientific meaning. The only way such extreme dilutions have any meaning is if you invoke water memory, quantum woo, vitalism, etc.

    -Karl Withakay

  88. #88 Prometheus
    November 15, 2010

    “Jen in TX” (our anti-pyretic Jeremiah) comments (#77):

    “Yes, but what price do we pay for that temporary comfort?”

    She later gives the original citation (highest marks!).

    Eyers S et al. The effect on mortality of antipyretics in the treatment of influenza infection: systematic review and meta-analyis. J. R. Soc. Med. 2010 October 1; 103(10): 403–411.

    Reading this paper, you come across a couple of salient points: first, their meta-analysis was based on only three studies. Second, the odds ratios included 1.0 in the 95% confidence interval – except for the Sunden et al (2003) study, which had the smallest number of animals.

    Finally, the experimental animals were mice (except the Sunden et al study, which had an arm with 30 newborn chickens). This is important because mice (and chickens) are not “natural” hosts for influenza. As a result, they have to have the virus solution instilled into the noses and tend to have a much more severe reaction (similar to avian influenza in humans).

    All of the currently used anti-pyretics decrease interferon levels (also in mice – as per Crocker et al (1998) – one of the three studies in the meta-analysis). Interferon is an important part of the anti-viral response and also causes muscle aches and fever. Interferons have a number of important functions, but some of their primary effects are to shut down protein synthesis in the cells and to promote cell death.

    Laboratory influenza infections in mice (and chickens) are much more serious than the typical influenza caused by person-to-person spread among humans – the virus “load” is higher and the “host” has a much more dramatic response. By reducing interferon production, those animals that would have “barely survived” the laboratory influenza infection are edged into the “didn’t quite survive” category.

    This may be important information for human infections with avian influenza, but it has less relevance for “run-of-the-mill” influenza and probably even less relevance for the much more common causes of childhood febrile illness – rhinovirus, adenovirus, coxsackievirus, etc…

    One final note – the evolutionary utility of fever is unclear except for some possible advantage with a few parasitic infections. The organisms that infect us are generally less sensitive to elevated temperature than we are. Most bacteria can tolerate prolonged temperatures of 45 deg C (~113 deg F) – we cannot. Viruses, since they are taking over our cells, have exactly the same temperature tolerance we do. It may be that fever is simply an unintended consequence of other responses to infection that has no advantage (and can cause real harm).

    Prometheus

  89. #89 AJ Milne
    November 15, 2010

    The pharmacy down the road from me is now chock full of homeopathic/naturopathic/woopathic nostrums. Cold-FX (it’s this seriously overhyped ‘n generally wootastic ginseng for your cold/flu thing) in the windows, herbal this ‘n that on the shelves, ‘n yep, actual homeopathic-type ‘well, technically, it’s only statistically water’ sleaze…

    I have begun to feel more that a little dirty even going in there, of late. They’ve been my go-to place for prescriptions a while, now, but I begin to think maybe it’s time I found someone else for that job. Y’know… mebbe someone at least marginally less creepily shameless.

  90. #90 Not House
    November 15, 2010

    @Prometheus

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought there was a theory that some of the heat-shock proteins which are activated at high temperatures also have antimicrobial activity. Am I just blowing smoke here?

  91. #91 Prometheus
    November 15, 2010

    Not House (#90),

    Most of what researchers consider “heat shock” proteins (HSP’s) are chaperonin-like proteins that help re-fold denatured proteins and may also prevent some proteins from becoming denatured at high temperature. However, there are a lot of genes up-regulated by high temperature that are non-specific stress-related proteins and also replacements for heat-denatured proteins.

    I can’t find anything about HSP’s having anti-microbial (i.e. anti-bacterial or anti-parasitic) activities, but I can’t claim to have done an exhaustive search. Also, by the time the HSP’s are expressed, the cell is already under serious stress, since the trigger for HSP’s is usually mis-folded proteins. The typical temperature for “heat-shocking” mammalian cells is 43 deg C (~109 deg F), but HSP levels probably rise before that.

    Also, HSP’s respond to other “stresses” that cause protein mis-folding and denaturing, such as low/high pH, oxidative stress, heavy metals, etc. HSP inhibitors are being investigated as anti-microbial and anti-cancer agents.

  92. #92 Not House
    November 15, 2010

    Prometheus

    Thanks for the clarification. I remember hearing something about that in an Immunology course I took a year back, but my (admittedly also brief) search of the literature also yielded nothing. Must have been misremembering it.

  93. #93 Lars
    November 15, 2010

    I’m stunned to say the least by your post, and the comments! I am almost convinced that the Insurance companies are some how involved here. Clearly their is very little knowledge regarding herbal treatments or natural remedies for two reasons:

    None of you seem to understand the basics of chemistry nor biology.
    And you have very little understanding of what medications are even derived from.

    Drug companies spend millions each year investigating natural remedies across the plant, and all medications are derived from isolated chemicals found in our natural environment or are replications of them.

    Officially modern medicine is only 170 years old in making, and it was entirely derived from natural herbal remedies and cures that have evolved over the past 10,000 years of documentation.

    How do you think human kind survived over the past 2 million years? I do not recall our ancient relatives nor our grandparents having Target to buy their meds from…

    Next time you decide to post an article regarding medicine, read the ingredients, find out its sources, it’s traditional uses, and try reading some research papers. You will not only learn some history, but realize that it’s use goes back hundreds or thousands of years.

    Don’t forget in western countries before the 1930′s home gardens were considered a families personal pharmacist, and apart from epidemics caused by industrialization or lack of urban planning, a simple cold or cough was easily dealt with using a simple tea right out of the garden.

    Since that knowledge has now been abandoned most families are at a drug companies mercy over all their health needs. Are you at all aware of how many new bacterial infections and diseases never known in mankind’s history have been caused by manipulations of natural formulas by drug companies hoping to make millions out of quick fix medications? Do you not read about recalls of medications?

  94. #94 Chris
    November 15, 2010

    Okay, Lars, you tell us how duck liver and heart is “herbal”, and how a 1 in 10400 solution works. Since it is obvious we know nothing about chemistry, this should be interesting.

    Let me clarify it for you: Oscillococcinum is one part duck bit to 10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 parts of the solvent (yes that is a 1 followed by 400 zeros).

    Now remember there are only 1080 atoms in the known universe. Here is an article on homeopathy to help you:
    http://www.skepdic.com/homeo.html

  95. #95 JohnV
    November 15, 2010

    “Are you at all aware of how many new bacterial infections and diseases never known in mankind’s history have been caused by manipulations of natural formulas by drug companies hoping to make millions out of quick fix medications?”

    Please, educate us on this point.

  96. #96 Chris
    November 15, 2010

    On the preview, the zeros stretched off the edge of the page. I believe that Lars does not know much about homeopathy.

  97. #97 Militant Agnostic
    November 15, 2010

    Lars (who is going to teach us all chemistry and biology)

    How do you think human kind survived over the past 2 million years?

    By having several children so at least a couple (on average) would live to reproduce.

    Don’t forget in western countries before the 1930′s home gardens were considered a families personal pharmacist, and apart from epidemics caused by industrialization or lack of urban planning, a simple cold or cough was easily dealt with using a simple tea right out of the garden.

    A simple cough or cold s also easily dealt with by doing nothing. If you knew any history you would now that epidemics occurred long before industrialization and were not limited to cities. I don’t think poor urban planning was a big issue with the Blackfoot Indians.

    By the way, the author of the post has a PhD and is an oncological researcher – I think he may know a bit more about biology and chemistry than you do. Actually most if not all the commenters here at least know what Avogadros Number is and why a 100C Homeopathic dilution is unlikely to have any molecules of the original substance in it.

  98. #98 novalox
    November 15, 2010

    I hope that Lars doesn’t forget that the average lifespan before modern medicine was around 30 years and now, at least in the developed world, is around 70 years.

  99. #99 Seb30
    November 15, 2010

    @ Lars

    Clearly their is very little knowledge regarding herbal treatments or natural remedies for two reasons:
    None of you seem to understand the basics of chemistry nor biology.
    And you have very little understanding of what medications are even derived from.

    Fair warning: I was born and raised in the city where Boiron is sacrificing their yearly duck, I am a fan of Ellis Peters and Robert Merle novels (medieval stories about early medicine, somewhat based on real accounts), and I spent the last 20 years of my life trying to learn something about biology and chemistry. Including how to extract active molecules from plants or animal tissues.
    So, go ahead, educate us. There is plenty I don’t know, I’m sure you can manage to tell me something new.

    Are you sure you didn’t confuse homeopathy and herbalism? It’s a common mistake, everybody does it. The latter is working (sometimes), the former is just water. Or, in the case of Oscillococcinum, sugar.

  100. #100 Chris
    November 15, 2010

    (oooh, I loved Robert Merle’s Malevil. I found it in my brother’s room after he went to college. It was the first of many post-apocalyptic novels I have read. I should check out the ones you mentioned if I can find them in English.)

  101. #101 Not House
    November 16, 2010

    “Are you at all aware of how many new bacterial infections and diseases never known in mankind’s history have been caused by manipulations of natural formulas by drug companies hoping to make millions out of quick fix medications?”

    Off the top of my head, the only thing that comes to mind is MRSA, and that’s as much a fault of the poor prescribing practices of physicians as the drugs themselves. Leaving us with a score of 1 against the drug companies, and about 320 for (using the WHO Essential Medicines guide as a reference).

  102. #102 nomuse
    November 16, 2010

    For no good reason at all, this post left me wondering how exactly you give a children’s dose of a homeopathic remedy. Do you give twice the number of tablets, maybe?

  103. #103 Chris
    November 16, 2010

    nomuse, the simple answer to that is that you don’t. The less of a homeopathic remedy the stronger it is. So if you don’t give any, it is better.

    Stick to real medicine. Give a child only what is prescribed. Which these days is not very much. Also make sure the humidifier is very clean before filling it up with water and plugging it in.

  104. #104 shortshrift
    November 16, 2010

    @Lars

    You’re stunned by the post and the comments.

    But did you really read them, because none of your subsequent arguments are relevant.

    There are no ‘traditional uses’ for Oscillococcinum… it’s 20th century quackery.

    And it’s not herbal. Killing a duck by decapitation and extracting its heart and liver (and then diluting until not a molecule of the original remains) seems more like witchcraft to me.

    Tight security has so far prevented me from getting any video of the Boiron staff standing round a cauldron in their white coats chanting as the dilution proceeds.

    And yup, thanks for the lesson, many medicines have natural origins. I don’t think any of the commenters are unaware of this, unless they are somehow ignorant of, say, aspirin and penicillin. So what was your point? You’re upset we’re ridiculing Oscillocoocinum. If you had taken the time to read its history and ingredients (as you instructed us) before your post, I doubt you would be defending it!

  105. #105 Matthew Cline
    November 16, 2010

    @nomuse:

    For no good reason at all, this post left me wondering how exactly you give a children’s dose of a homeopathic remedy.

    I think I remember one homeopath saying that homeopathic remedies have no dose/response curve, so there’s no need to worry about things like that. However, I don’t know if this is a widely held homeopathic theory, or an idea this one homeopath came up with.

  106. #106 Matthew Cline
    November 16, 2010

    A follow-up: a Google search shows multiple pro-homeopathy pages which claim that it’s impossible to overdose on homeopathic remedies, so I guess “you don’t have to worry about measuring out a child’s/baby’s dose” isn’t a rare idea.

  107. #107 Seb30
    November 16, 2010

    @ Chris 100

    OT to give you more details on the books I was talking about

    Ellis Peter wrote a series of crime novels centered on a herbalist/monk, Brother Cadfael, during the King Stephen/Empress Mathild wars of succession. Medieval herbal medicine is mostly in the background, but I like the description of what was available at the time.
    Robert Merle: I was referring to his series “Fortune de France”, which follows the life of a huguenot (French protestant) noble scion who will become a physician and witness the major events of the religion wars in 16th-century France. The second tome describes his stay at the medical university of Monptellier.
    I love the author’s description of this troubled period in my country’s history.

  108. #108 kemist
    November 16, 2010

    None of you seem to understand the basics of chemistry nor biology.

    Some of us have very good backgrounds in chemistry and biology.

    Indeed, as my handle suggests, I am a chemist. You can test me with chemistry questions if you like. My PhD is in medicinal chemistry, which means I have a very good background in biology, biochemistry, and most especially enzymology too.

    As a chemist, here’s my take on homeopathy : complete and uter bullshit – ref.: Avogadro’s constant.

    And herbalism : impure compounds with shity pharmacokinetics and unnecessary side-effects.

    Dude, is argument by authority easy, or what ?

  109. #109 kemist
    November 16, 2010

    How do you think human kind survived over the past 2 million years?

    Badly, with short lifespans and high child mortality due to diseases, predators and very restricted diets.

    Next time you decide to post an article regarding medicine, read the ingredients, find out its sources, it’s traditional uses, and try reading some research papers.

    I have read plenty of them as my former area of interest was drug design. There have been many studies examining traditional uses of plants as medication vs their actual potency, and it has been very disappointing. Actually, selecting candidate compounds using traditional use as a criteria is more or less like selecting them randomly – and that is what is massively used in the industry, they test massive banks of compounds and see what works (high throughput screening – HTS for short).

    If it was that useful, it would save R&D money and therefore pharmas would use it. But the cases where it has been useful are very, very few. Traditional medicines rarely have the effect intended by their users – that is understandable since they didn’t have modern tools, or a useful theory behind drug efficacy or lack thereof, so they selected compounds based on random anecdotes.

    epidemics caused by industrialization or lack of urban planning, a simple cold or cough was easily dealt with using a simple tea right out of the garden.

    epidemics were not caused by industrialisation but by many humans coming to live near one another. Higher concentration of hosts = better propagation of infections. Simple maths (ok, not so simple, you need differential equations to have a passable model).

    And cold and cough do not need to be “dealt with”. As my grandma used to say, a treated cold lasts 7 days, an untreated one one week. Anything you take deals only with symptoms. If tea makes you more comfy, so be it. But if I need to be functional, I’ll prefer a modern decongestant.

  110. #110 Vicki
    November 16, 2010

    Lars–

    The answer to how our ancestors survived is that most of them didn’t. I don’t just mean the tautology that in the long run, most of us are dead: my great-grandmother had 13 children. She buried nine infants. That’s what you get with poverty and lack of medical care.

    Darwinian evolution, real basics: organisms tend to have more offspring than the environment contains resources to support. In any given context, the ones that are fittest for that time, place, and set of conditions are most likely to survive. So, if there’s a plague, people with more resistance to that plague organism are more likely to live. In many cases, that means those who are better fed, or who haven’t been weakened by other problems (including previous diseases, or accidents).

    A species can continue that way, for a long time (though most species are extinct, over the very long times of geology). That doesn’t make it optimal: even people who want to have 13 children want to have 13 children, not bear 13 so they can have four.

    I am young enough that nobody I knew ever died of polio, and the only polio survivor I know is a generation or more older than I am. Nobody I know has ever had smallpox. You don’t get results like that with herbs from the back garden, assuming you’re lucky enough to have a back garden.

  111. #111 drksky
    November 16, 2010

    Don’t be too hard on poor Lars. I think he has that same screed in a Notepad file on his desktop that he puts in the comments of every post showing disrespect to homeopathy, here and elsewhere.

  112. #112 Chris
    November 16, 2010

    Seb30, thanks for the information. I actually have a couple Ellis Peters books in the house (I saw the television program “Cadfael” when several years ago).

    The books on that time in France would be interesting. Several years ago I did read an alternate history science fiction book that took place in Louis XIV’s court by Vonda McIntire, The Moon and the Sun.

    Also, when my daughter was younger I picked up some children’s books by Karen Cushman, which take place in medieval times (Matilda Bone and The Midwife’s Apprentice). Possibly because one of my interests was the old herbal healing methods. I believe that was sparked by reading The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton when I was twelve years old (in among the colonial politics, religion, fighting the natives and adultery, the title character was an herbal healer).

    So I have several herb books, including some with herbal remedies. Plus I have taken a class in herbal medicine many long years ago. I also live near a university where volunteers maintain its old pharmaceutical gardens (except what they have labeled as a Laurus nobilis is actually a plain English Laurel, sigh).

    I have backed away from reading historical fiction lately, and read mostly non-fiction science/math books. One of the recent ones was The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum. Though I might seek out the Robert Merle series (I enjoyed how he described getting civilization back together, and I was intrigued by the cave community… which I saw a real estate listing for one recently — they are very nice homes!).

  113. #113 Composer99
    November 16, 2010

    Too bad Lars is almost certainly a drive-by troll, and the rebuttals to his/her post will fail to penetrate his/her cloud-cuckoo land.

  114. #114 Prometheus
    November 16, 2010

    Lars, in his parody of “natural medicine”, argues:

    “Are you at all aware of how many new bacterial infections and diseases never known in mankind’s history have been caused by manipulations of natural formulas [?] by drug companies hoping to make millions out of quick fix medications?” [emphasis added]

    And this was just a part of the parody – strong work, there, Lars!

    As a microbial ecologist, I’d certainly be interested in knowing how many “…bacterial infections and diseases never known in mankind’s history…” were caused by “…manipulations of natural formulas…”.

    For that matter, I’d be interested in knowing what Lars meant by “manipulations of natural formulas”. It somehow reminded me of “purity of our bodily fluids” (Jack Ripper, Dr. Strangelove).

    Antibiotic resistance may be what Lars is groping for in this phrase, but most (if not all) genes for antibiotic resistance pre-date modern pharmacology. Almost all antibiotic resistance genes originated in environmental bacteria, where they are needed to compete against antibiotic-producing fungi and bacteria.

    In other words, antibiotic resistance is “natural”.

    Prometheus

  115. #115 Travis
    November 16, 2010

    Composer99, that is indeed a sad aspect of these drive by posters. They come by, post and never look back, driving off with a sense of pride that they have fought the good fight and have won. Happily insulated from actually have to justify their points and ignorant of the shredding they have received they never have to consider they may be wrong. Sadly they will remain lost to reality for even longer.

  116. #116 sqlrob
    November 16, 2010

    The kennel tried to sell us a homeopathic “medicine” for making dogs less anxious during thunderstorms and such. She said it really worked, but she had learned to ignore the documented dosage and just give the dog a good squirt.

    I didn’t think placebo worked on dogs, and initially thought some sort of confirmation bias. But, a few minutes later I had an epiphany, and I’m sure it would really work. The “inactive” ingredient? 20% alcohol. I’ll just give my dog some beer, never mind this expensive crap.

  117. #117 Medicien Man
    November 16, 2010

    Well I see Chris, my stlaker is back again and as usual not remembering correctly. So what else is new? What a nut.

    On another note, I prefer Elderberry for a cold anyway. Colloidal silver works ok, but Elderberry is great for the common cold. No colloidal silver will not turn you blue That is a myth that the big pharma worshippers made up to scare people into not buying natural remedies. Dummies.

  118. #118 Chris
    November 16, 2010

    Oh, wow. MM, you are very stupid stupid man.

    Again, how am I am supposed to be a “stalker” when I am a regular commenter here, and you just show up once in a while to drop a reeking load of unmitigated ignorance?

  119. #119 Rob
    November 16, 2010

    No colloidal silver will not turn you blue That is a myth that the big pharma worshippers made up to scare people into not buying natural remedies. Dummies.

    Papa Smurf disagrees

  120. #120 Seb30
    November 16, 2010

    @MM

    Your mom was a smurf and your father smells of elderberries.

    Silver seems to be effective as an antimicrobial, but I think I will wait for proper research to determine safe doses and buy it from someone legally bound to standards of quality. Using a form of silver active on bacteria may be a good start. Apparently, colloidal silver is not.

    @sqlrob

    Actually, placebos have a good chance of working on animals. If they are aware that your are taking care of them, it’s reasonable to expect them to react positively to whatever you are giving them.
    There was a fascinating discussion about this on Science-based medecine here.
    But adding a muscular relaxant to your homeopathic drug would certainly help :-)

  121. #121 Medicein Man
    November 16, 2010

    @ Rob

    “Papa Smurf” of course is blue. That becuase he drinks colloidal silver like it’s regular water. Basically he is consuming gallons instead of teaspoons. Taking two teaspoons of 10 ppm or even 30 ppm colloidal silver daily will NOT turn you blue. Colloidal Silver is know to kill over 400 species of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Can your mercury laced vaccines or your sodium flouride water (mind numbing?) do that? I doubt it.

    @ Chris:

    Give it up, boy. You will never win this. And stop stalking me.

    Nevertheless, “Papa Smurf’s” ONLY side effect is his skin color. He hasn’t had so much as a sniffle in years.

    Keep working, eventually you will find out that you are wrong and I an not.

  122. #122 novalox
    November 16, 2010

    @121

    Using the “Stalking” troll excuse to make a case for your poor arguements isn’t going to work.

    Besides, show us some peer-reviewed evidence that colloidal silver works in humans when ingested.

    I think I’ll be waiting for a long time for a proper response….

  123. #123 Matthew Cline
    November 16, 2010

    @Chris:

    Again, how am I am supposed to be a “stalker” when I am a regular commenter here, and you just show up once in a while to drop a reeking load of unmitigated ignorance?

    Well, obviously he has an Internet restraining order on you, so whenever he comments on a post, you have to stop commenting.

  124. #124 Medicien Man
    November 16, 2010

    Yes it is. So stop stalking.

    Peer reviewed?

    have you learned nothing of this little game? The “peers” who do the reviewing would not dare do any report that made big pharma look bad and make old remedies and natural remedies look good. There is no money for big pharma, politicians, universities, and lawyers for that. There will never be a “peer reveiwed” anything on natural remedies becuase the peer who do the reviewing are scared of losing their positions. Big pharma, washington, and a host of greedy lawyers has them scared out of their wits.

    Is that proper enough for you?

    As far as your evidence goes, why don;t you try it for yourself. If it works, then there is your proof. What better evidence do you need than a first hand account? Can’t get much more evident than that.

    Oh, and just so you all know. You can ban colloidal silver all day long. Many people know how to make it anyway. All you need is a silver coin, a battery or power supply, a transformer, and … well. better not let you in on all out secrets.

    Elderberry works great for cold. If you haven’t tried it, don’t knock it.

  125. #125 Calli Arcale
    November 16, 2010

    Medicine Man:

    “Papa Smurf” of course is blue. That becuase he drinks colloidal silver like it’s regular water.

    So colloidal silver doesn’t turn you blue (that’s a myth) except when it does?

    Colloidal Silver is know to kill over 400 species of bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

    Well, silver is pretty nasty stuff, really. Ever try silver nitrate on a canker sore? It really works. Hurts like a bastard, though. I prefer toughing it out, honestly. It’s a chemical cautery, basically.

    The question isn’t whether or not colloidal silver kills things. It’s whether or not it will kill pathogens in the body when taken orally, and that’s a different kettle of fish altogether.

    Can your mercury laced vaccines or your sodium flouride water (mind numbing?) do that? I doubt it.

    Duh, of course not, they’re not meant to. Vaccines (which mostly do not contain thimerosal, and when they do, contain only a miniscule amount*) usually don’t treat disease. They prevent it by training the immune system to kill pathogens. (In general. There are some oddballs, like the tetanus vaccine, and like the antitoxins which could be considered a sort of vaccine.) Fluoridated water, meanwhile, is intended to encourage recalcification of tooth enamel, not kill anything. (The chloramines in the water are another matter. Those *are* intended to kill things, and are quite effective at it.)

    * Just curious: why do you recognize “the dose makes the poison” when it comes to silver, but not mercury?

  126. #126 Chris
    November 16, 2010

    Matthew Cline:

    Well, obviously he has an Internet restraining order on you, so whenever he comments on a post, you have to stop commenting.

    Probably because I embarrass him and his sorry excuse for “facts.” My favorite is him claiming the H1N1 vaccine paralyzed lots of people. His “evidence” was the story of Desiree Jennings, who did not receive the H1N1 vaccine and was not paralyzed. He also seems to think that web sites selling the stuff he buys have actual evidence that they work (what he linked to when asked what cures there were for the conditions I challenged him to treat — it seems he does not know the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes).

    Oh, and he is here so “often” that he forgets that I lack a Y-chromosome. I have even mentioned that fact to him several times, but he does not understand what that means. And I am not going to tell him!

    I sometimes wonder how he manages to log on to the internet. Much less drive to the library to use their computers.

  127. #127 novalox
    November 16, 2010

    @124

    Whining about being “internet stalking”, when it is none of the sort, isn’t going to win you any friends.

    So is you use of the “big pharma” argument.

    I ask again, where is the peer-reviewed evidence that colloidal silver works in humans when ingested? And no, anecdotes and personal testimonials don’t count.

    And I still wait…

  128. #128 kemist
    November 16, 2010

    Silver seems to be effective as an antimicrobial, but I think I will wait for proper research to determine safe doses and buy it from someone legally bound to standards of quality. Using a form of silver active on bacteria may be a good start. Apparently, colloidal silver is not.

    Like many antimicrobials, it’s active in topical use, not so good in systemic use. In fact silver ointment is already prescribed for topical use, especially on burns.

    Colloidal silver, upon absorption in blood circulation in order to reach the proper site of action – the site of an internal infection – wouldn’t be colloidal anymore. A colloid is a suspension of very small particules, particules that are nevertheless unable to be absorbed in the bloodstream in such a form – to be absorbed, it has to be properly dissolved.

    The active species would be a simple solvated silver ion. I’m quite sure that to reach effective blood concentrations, you would have to ingest a considerable quantity of the stuff – more than enough to turn blue.

  129. #129 Medicien man
    November 16, 2010

    Fluoridated water, meanwhile, is intended to encourage recalcification of tooth enamel, not kill anything. (The chloramines in the water are another matter. Those *are* intended to kill things, and are quite effective at it.)

    —————

    Flouridated water and chlorinated water both cause cancer. Besides, flouride is useless unless you wisht to fry someones’s brains and make them a slave or more cooperative. Flouride will not recalcify your tooth enamel. I am sorry to say that you bought the third biggest lie in human history right behind evolution and global warming.

    The best thing to do is get your own well and filter your own water – without flouride and chlorine.

    I do not ever recall someone dying from silver poisoning. Perhaps it has happened before, but mercury is extremely toxic. What will happen when people start throwing away your eco-nazi light bulbs inot the trash instead of recycling? Lots of mercury in landfills, that’s what! You people really are not the smartest in the world.

    That won;t happen with me though. I have enough regular lights bulbs stockpiles to last two generations. Your eco-nazis can kiss my butt.

    @ Chris:

    You are upset and a little silly at the moment. Stop stalking me. Desiree Jennings got paralyized by one of your death trap flu vaccines. End of story. It doesn;t matter wether it was H1N1 or the regular flu shot. What matters is it was A FLU SHOT in general. You dingleberry.

    I gave you information about your type 1 diabetes over several occasions. You simply chose to ignore it. not my fault. Stop whining and stalking. You whiny stalker.

  130. #130 Chris
    November 16, 2010

    Hey, Seb30, since we are going all off topic around here (and MM annoys me) I need to make a comment on an article I saw in the online Washington Post: UNESCO adds French food to cultural heritage list. Which is something I love to eat, either by cooking it myself or at a certain neighborhood restaurant.

    Though it took a while for a good French bistro to replace the one we used to go to a long time ago. At that tiny place the two sisters were often heard arguing in French in the kitchen. But, alas! The city kind of blew it up. They were doing work under the street, and damaged a gas line… which blew under the building. According to a city employee I knew said there were candlesticks embedded in the ceiling. It was not open at that time, but one of the sisters was in the building and her leg was injured. They never opened another restaurant in the area. Sigh.

    Though I sometimes make a dessert inspired from their menu. It is a crepe with pears cooked in Poire Williams eau de vie with very good chocolate ganache and ice cream. Yum.

    (Yes, I have been to France… I did not like Paris but I love the smaller towns like Dijon, Strasbourg, Epernay and Beaune)

  131. #131 Calli Arcale
    November 16, 2010

    Not only enough to turn you blue but probably enough to do you harm; things that are lethal to such a wide range of pathogens of completely different kingdoms tend to be pretty unforgiving when they encounter mammalian cells as well. There are lots of things that will kill 400+ pathogens, and for the most part, I wouldn’t want to ingest/inhale/inject them. Chlorine, hydrogen peroxide — there are exceptions, of course, like alcohol and vinegar. Those I’ll happily ingest. ;-) (I won’t expect them to do much for a cold, though, except maybe temporarily clear my sinuses from the fumes.)

  132. #132 Chris
    November 16, 2010

    Hey, MM: commercial web sites are not scientific evidence. As you have been told several times, and… guess what? I even mentioned that failing this evening.

    Oh, wow… you are dumber than a rock! Either you are a deliberate Poe, or someone who operates intellectually more than two standard deviations below the mean. Still can’t figure out how you log in. Is your password “12345678″?

  133. #133 Chris
    November 17, 2010

    Also, need I remind you again MM, that Ms. Jennings was not paralyzed. It was also a construct of her mind. She was well and playing with a dog until a film crew showed up.

    Dude, you really have to stop sitting in front of the boob tube. Especially if it is tuned to Fox “News.”

    By the way, a classic quote from MM (who also claims to be “Doctor Smart”, but is just an electronics technician): Technicians make better workers than engineers becuase engineers think too much.

  134. #134 iamnothouse.com
    November 17, 2010

    Okay, its obvious that Medicine Man is just trolling, given how he introduced global warming and evolution as “human delusions”. Let’s just move on…

  135. #135 Seb30
    November 17, 2010

    @ Chris 130

    (sorry, I was busy counting the lightbulbs I will need for the next 50 years)

    Re: French cuisine on the UNESCO heritage list.

    I am on two minds about this. On one hand, I feel proud about it (and I do believe we French came with a good idea or two about food).
    On the other hand, I feel like we are playing into our stereotype. My current government showed in the past a certain tendency toward populism and chauvinism, so having French cuisine on the UNESCO list may be a mixed blessing.
    I also worry about the risk of freezing into stone an idealized view of the French cuisine, which is actually a multicultural patchwork, ever evolving, always borrowing from other countries. We have a number of movies of the ‘worlds collide’ type showing the meeting of people from two opposite ends of France (recently “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis”, much older, “Cuisine au Beurre”…). The latter movie is how about in the north-west, people were typically using butter as cooking fat, while in the south, it’s olive oil. And also pork fat in the north-east (in Alsace’s choucroute), goose fat in the Massif Central (cassoulet)… I will have difficulty coming with a simple, monolithic definition of French culture.
    I guess this could be said for any country with a long history of expansion and immigration. Pretty much any other country, actually.

    Oh well, I’m too much of a purist. Maybe this decision will help preserve our many cuisine styles. If this could boost the French restaurants’ business, I should not be looking into the horse’s mouth. Let’s see that happens.

  136. #136 Todd W.
    November 17, 2010

    @Seb30

    I do believe we French came with a good idea or two about food

    Agreed. I particularly like the culinary innovations of french fries and french toast! (I jest.)

    I also worry about the risk of freezing into stone an idealized view of the French cuisine

    I can just imagine a food-oriented version of the French Academy, doing to food what they once did to language.

  137. #137 Chris
    November 17, 2010

    Seb30, France is a pretty big country, and its regional cuisine are what is great about it. Especially choucroute, which is a way to turn German sauerkraut and sausage into something very special and delicious (and there is no one way of making it, I like it with sausage, hubby wants pork chops in it — so I put both in!).

  138. #138 Scott
    November 17, 2010

    Bah. You have to go southeast from France to get REALLY good food.

  139. #139 Chris
    November 17, 2010

    Scott, last night’s dinner was leftover ham cubed and fried, then added to shell pasta which was coated in cream, butter and Parmesan cheese… with peas. A quick version of Alfredo. It was yummy.

    It helps to know how to cook.

    Speaking of which, I have heard recently of a new cookbook: Cooking for Geeks. (interesting, his blog has a way to hack a slow cooker so will do sous vide cooking, hmmmmm)

  140. #140 Prometheus
    November 17, 2010

    Callie Arcale (#125) states:

    “Fluoridated water, meanwhile, is intended to encourage recalcification of tooth enamel, not kill anything.”

    I’ve read this a lot, but I haven’t been able to find a detailed explanation of how it works. At a chemical level, the fluoride ion substitutes for the hydroxide in the hydroxyapatite (a calcium phosphate mineral) of the enamel. Along with fluoroapatite being harder than hydroxyapatite, it also isn’t nearly as susceptible to dissolution in acid.

    Prometheus

  141. #141 Seb30
    November 17, 2010

    @ Todd

    Well, French fries are actually Belgian in origin, or so I was told when I was a kid. But I don’t mind taking credit :-)

    Wikipedia seems to agree with me, for that this is worth. Note to US readers, Thomas Jefferson wrote a recipe for French fries (apparently from his French cook). Are French fries american, finally?
    Follow on with the biography of Mr Parmentier , it’s a quite interesting. I like the part about him surrounding his potato fields with armed guards, to entice the locals to come and steal his potatoes. Eh, he did lost his job due to his scientific findings, it’s the new Galileo!

    OK, enough thread hijacking, back on topic. Has Oscillothing ever been compared to French fries to cure flu?

  142. #142 Chris
    November 17, 2010

    Well, there are these chairs you can buy that use oscillating rollers to massage your back. Makes the sore muscles from flu feel better.

  143. #143 Calli Arcale
    November 17, 2010

    That won;t happen with me though. I have enough regular lights bulbs stockpiles to last two generations. Your eco-nazis can kiss my butt.

    Nah, I’m no eco-nazi. I like CFLs inherently. I have mixed feelings about the mandate to switch, honestly; I do tend to consider CFLs superior in most situations (not all), but I don’t think they’re enough better to justify a mandate. Not when there are bigger fish to fry if we’re really serious about cutting electricity use or at least mitigating growth of electrical demand.

    It would be challenging indeed to poison oneself with silver. But you’d have to if you really wanted to kill pathogens in your bloodstream. You’ll turn blue BEFORE you get any significant antimicrobial activity from the silver in your bloodstream, which is why I believe you are correct that no one’s died of silver poisoning. But I tend to have a higher standard for my medicines than “it won’t kill me, and probably won’t disfigure me, and it’s something that works as a contact antimicrobial.”

    (BTW, silver really is a good contact antimicrobial. I’m not sure how widely they are used yet, due to the cost, but there’s a company now making intravenous catheters lined with silver to reduce the risk of infection. It works quite well in this application. Some hospitals have looked into silver-plating trays and thing, but this isn’t as practical because of how rapidly silver oxidizes — and of course the risk that one of the janitorial staff could make off with the stuff! But this is a very different application compared to drinking suspensions of the stuff.)

  144. #144 Calli Arcale
    November 17, 2010

    On the topic of strange things seen on store shelves…. I was at the grocery store this morning, in the pharmacy section. They had a surprising selection of unusual remedies, evidently aimed at the rather large Hispanic immigrant population of that particular suburb. It included turpentine, for instance. Also . . . Merthiolate!!! Oddly enough, the Merthiolate declared itself mercury free. In hindsight, I wish I’d taken a picture. Maybe I’ll go back when I’ve got more time; some of the stuff looked very interesting.

  145. #145 Medicien man
    November 17, 2010

    Collidal silver is used to kill bacteria that cuase odor. The company Primos uses collidal silver in their spray that you use one yourself when you go deer hunting. it helps eliminate human odor by killing bacteria.

    Colloidal silver ingested will not harm you. I have yet to see someone be fatally wounded by colloidal silver. It has been used in military hospitals and labs in recent years and it works as a mild anti-biotic. It works well with open wounds, but so does oak tree leaves. Ever heard of Oakin? It is used in Amerigel, the product that our own military uses to treat gun shot wounds and the like. So much for your “natural cures don’t work” theories.

    Collidal silver is like water. The silver binds with the water molecules, hence the term “colloidal”. If the water is not doing you any good, then the silver attached to the water is not either. Water is used to hydrate our bodies. When another elemnet is combined with that water moelcule out odies must use it or destroy it. Never heard of an allergic reaction to colloidal silver before. I am sure it is quite possible. Some people are allergic to gold. Silver should not be so different.

    As of today you can get colloidal silver, colloidal gold, colloidal iodine, colloidal zinc, and other such items for sale. The colloidal way is the best way to take these nutrients – especially iodine and zinc.

    Recently I had some x rays and an MRI done. I was scared of the radiation, but hopefully I took enough zinc, gamma E, iodine, and selenium to counter the effects of the dangerous radiation.

    Chris, give it up son. You embarass yourself.

  146. #146 Chris
    November 17, 2010

    You really don’t know what lacking a Y-chromosome means? Do you? Wow, this is fun. You are mocked because of your limited vocabulary and basic lack of science literacy.

    Also, silver works on surfaces not in vivo. Silver is not a nutrient.

    Oh, and commercial supplement sites are not scientific evidence.

  147. #147 Chris
    November 17, 2010

    I just noticed, MM posted shortly after I commented on another thread. OMG… the fool is stalking me!

    Cue in the mock look of horror and surprise, followed by laughter!

  148. #148 novalox
    November 17, 2010

    @145

    It took you a day to come up with that bad of a response?

    And you still haven’t answered my question.

  149. #149 Sibyl
    November 18, 2010

    @Adam: The Cold-Eeze stuff is called “homeopathic”, but it does contain active ingredients.

    My understanding of the situation is that they are lozenges containing zinc gluconate. On older packaging, that’s exactly what it said: zinc gluconate, (insert number here) mg.

    On newer packaging, it now says “Zincum Gluconicum 2X” which is 1 part per 100 of zinc gluconate. It seems reasonable to assume they kept the tablets exactly the same, but are now calling it “homeopathic” to wiggle in under the homeopathic exemption. Perhaps they couldn’t market it as a dietary supplement?

  150. #150 Calli Arcale
    November 18, 2010

    Medicien man @ 145:

    Collidal silver is used to kill bacteria that cuase odor. The company Primos uses collidal silver in their spray that you use one yourself when you go deer hunting. it helps eliminate human odor by killing bacteria.

    Well, it’ll eliminate the bacteria, but it won’t do much for the odor already produced, or for the actual human odor underlying it. Then again, all a hunter has to do for that is to bathe before going out. It’s not like deer hunting is terribly aerobic, until you make your kill and need to a) track it, b) dress it, and c) haul it back to the vehicle.

    (I’ve not gone deer hunting myself, but have lots of relatives who do. I’m more of a pheasant person myself.)

    Colloidal silver ingested will not harm you. I have yet to see someone be fatally wounded by colloidal silver.

    Like I said, I have no doubt of that whatsoever. It would be very hard to ingest enough to kill you. Also, very hard to ingest enough to do anything useful. It’s mostly just a waste of money.

    It has been used in military hospitals and labs in recent years and it works as a mild anti-biotic.

    “Antiseptic” would be a more accurate term. Yes, it does work, and has been used topically in more than just military hospitals for many years — not just recently. It’s established medicine. That’s not colloidal silver being ingested, though. It’s topical.

    So much for your “natural cures don’t work” theories.

    Oh, I don’t have any such theories. Natural cures most certainly can work. But not everything that people say works actually does, and I like proof. “It won’t kill you” is not sufficient reason for me to take something, and so far, that’s all I’ve ever seen for colloidal silver.

    There are plenty of natural cures in use, ranging from self-medication with caffeine (probably the most widely used natural pharmaceutical, considering the gigantic size of its industry and humanity’s remarkable talent for finding and exploiting the plants that contain it) to more serious stuff. Ethanol for both pain and antiseptic. Atropine (the first anesthetic, used at least as far back as the ancient Greeks and obtained from several plants including mandrake and belladonna) has a number of interesting uses today. Digitalis (foxglove) was considered a poison pretty universally, but today is an important treatment for heart disease. We’ve discussed Taxol (from Pacific Yew) on this blog before. Botulinum, once greatly feared for its astonishing lethality, is now used as a treatment for a number of otherwise impossible-to-treat conditions. The highly popular decongestant pseudephedrine (and its close relative ephedrine) occurs naturally in plants of the ephedra genus, though owing to the difficulty of growing enough to meet demand, it’s manufactured commercially by feeding the right things to some yeast.

    Natural remedies can most certainly work. And they can most certainly fail. They’re like anything else, in that regard.

    Collidal silver is like water. The silver binds with the water molecules, hence the term “colloidal”.

    That’s not exactly true. It’s not actually bound to the water molecules. (If it were, it would be a completely different compound.) There doesn’t actually have to be any special relationship between the substances involved, except that the one substance must be evenly dispersed in the other. They can occur in any of the normal phases (solid/liquid/gas). There’s usually a way to make a colloid out of anything; as you note, silver is hardly unusual for being able to exist in a colloidal preparation.

    Colloids are used in medicine; the easiest examples would be topical lotions or creams or gels. Pretty much any lotion, cream, or gel is a colloid. Milk is a colloid. Clouds are colloids. Sunscreen is a colloid. Foam is a colloid (of air mixed into some sort of polymer).

    When another elemnet is combined with that water moelcule out odies must use it or destroy it.

    Our bodies aren’t quite that discriminating. They’ll use what they’ll use; the rest may be destroyed, eliminated, and/or sequestered in tissues. Silver isn’t easy to excrete, unfortunately, so it tends to get sequestered (hence the “papa smurf” effect).

    Never heard of an allergic reaction to colloidal silver before. I am sure it is quite possible. Some people are allergic to gold. Silver should not be so different.

    I’ve never heard of a gold allergy, but nickel allergy (which isn’t a true allergy, and thus is unfortunately untreatable except by avoidance) is relatively common. My mom has it; she’s so sensitive to nickel that even 14 karat gold is a problem. She can handle 18 karat or better just fine; it’s not the gold that’s the problem. What shocks me is that nobody screens for nickel sensitivity before implanting anything. They just ask, which is a problem because not everybody knows.

    As of today you can get colloidal silver, colloidal gold, colloidal iodine, colloidal zinc, and other such items for sale. The colloidal way is the best way to take these nutrients – especially iodine and zinc.

    Iodine can be taken many ways; my preferred form is fish. ;-) Gold and silver are not nutrients; the body cannot make any use of these heavy metals, and will either secrete or sequester them. Gold is pretty harmless, due to its unusually low reactivity. But it really doesn’t do any good either, except to the bank account of the person selling it. Given the rising price of gold, I’d really think carefully about the motivations of people selling it as food or medicine. It has been used in food for centuries, as a form of conspicuous consumerism. (Goldschlager is a good modern example, though it is not colloidal — they want you to be able to see the gold leaf glittering, since that’s really the point with that drink — to make it pretty.)

    Recently I had some x rays and an MRI done. I was scared of the radiation, but hopefully I took enough zinc, gamma E, iodine, and selenium to counter the effects of the dangerous radiation.

    Actually, supplements (especially the iodine) are mostly helpful in combating exposure to radioactive particles, IIRC, not ionizing electromagnetic radiation such as you get in an x-ray. You’re probably okay as long as you don’t get too many x-rays a year, but I think your caution is sensible — especially if you travel, since the ionizing radiation exposure will just go up with TSA’s new screening requirements.

    MRIs actually do not use ionizing radiation, so you don’t need to worry about those. They’re actually pretty benign, unless you have metal implants, in which case they can be extremely dangerous. Every now and again, you hear a story about some metal object unwisely left in the MRI room when the device was switched on, causing the objects to be slammed violently against the machine. Sometimes there are injuries, though usually it’s a tech and not a patient who suffers. I’ve heard more than one story where a patient on oxygen was taken in for an MRI and nobody considered how dangerous a steel cylinder can be in that sort of a field. (Hospitals really need to have more of a safety mindset, but that’s a rant for another day.)

  151. #151 nscangal
    November 22, 2010

    I’m a little late to this but I can’t help myself:

    Posted by: Lars | November 15, 2010 9:13 PM

    Officially modern medicine is only 170 years old in making, and it was entirely derived from natural herbal remedies and cures that have evolved over the past 10,000 years of documentation.

    The difference is that modern medicine selects the natural remedies that work and leaves the rest.

    How do you think human kind survived over the past 2 million years? I do not recall our ancient relatives nor our grandparents having Target to buy their meds from…

    Really? Well, I don’t recall our ancient relatives having life expectancies in the 80s.

    Next time you decide to post an article regarding medicine, read the ingredients, find out its sources, it’s traditional uses, and try reading some research papers. You will not only learn some history, but realize that it’s use goes back hundreds or thousands of years.

    The problem with that line is that most “natural” remedies are contaminated by hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other bioactive compounds that typically decrease the therapudic index and increase the side-effects of the remedy. By contrast, you could buy a pill that probably has a similar cost to your remedy, that is more pure, safer, and has actually had study to establish its safety and efficacy.

    Don’t forget in western countries before the 1930′s home gardens were considered a families personal pharmacist, and apart from epidemics caused by industrialization or lack of urban planning, a simple cold or cough was easily dealt with using a simple tea right out of the garden.

    And in Western countries before the 1930s, pneumonia killed half the people who got it, polio paralyzed thousands a year, and smallpox was a very real danger. Your point?

    Since that knowledge has now been abandoned most families are at a drug companies mercy over all their health needs. Are you at all aware of how many new bacterial infections and diseases never known in mankind’s history have been caused by manipulations of natural formulas by drug companies hoping to make millions out of quick fix medications? Do you not read about recalls of medications?

    I assume you’re talking about drug-resistant strains of bacteria. That’s a natural evolutionary outcome of the selective pressures applied by antibiotics. If any of those remedies you’re so fond of worked half as well, they’d cause resistance, too.

    As for medication recalls, I fail to see what those have to do with drug-resistant microorganisms, but I’ll just say this: I fail to see how drug recalls are a bad thing. If a natural remedy had some contamination that affected its efficacy (if it had any do begin with), how likely is it that the untrained provider would even recognize that it was contaminated, let alone do anything about it? The medication companies are legally bound to ensure an adequate level of quality in their product and to correct any mistakes they make. Supplement providers are not.

  152. #152 Jack
    November 27, 2010

    Maybe we should have drug stores and pharmacies just sell that: drugs. Drugs that have passed rigorous double-blind studies.

    I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen Walgreens carry copper bracelets, magnetic shoe inserts, and other such crap. A few years ago, I saw homeopathic OTCs on store shelves next to OTCs that actually had active ingredients. The ‘homeopathic’ label was in such small print, I had to look for it.

    I once ironically asked a pharmacist at a party if the copper bracelets worked. She told me “a lot of people swear by them.” At that point, why even go to pharmacy school? All you need is an apron and the ability to make change.

    Regarding homeopathy and Whole Foods – that’s the one reason I don’t shop there (as well as I don’t like to be robbed blind). I much prefer Trader Joes.

    Isn’t it amazing how many people just disregard the scientific method and say “a lot of people swear by it.”? As no one ever heard of coincidence or false causality?