Quackery

Category archives for Quackery

Ever since the $200 million gift by Susan and Henry Samueli to UC-Irvine, I’ve been thinking about the “integration” of quackery into medicine through integrative medicine. The way advocates of quackademic medicine are going to make this “integration” really happen is to start with the medical schools.

Another antivaccine paper bites the dust

Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic are known for producing dubious scientific studies in the service of antivaccine pseudoscience. Last month, they published a paper purporting to show that aluminum adjuvant causes neuroinflammation in mice that was roundly criticized for poor experimental design and manipulated images. Guess what? It’s soon to be retracted.

Epsom salt, like the Earth in The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, is mostly harmless; that is, except in the hands of a naturopath.

Last week, I wrote about Rigvir, a “virotherapy” promoted by the International Virotherapy Center (IVC) in Latvia, which did not like what I had to say. When a representative called me to task for referring to the marketing of Rigvir using patient testimonials as irresponsbile, it prompted me to look at how Ty Bollinger’s The Truth About Cancer series promoted Rigvir through patient testimonials and how the IVC itself uses such testimonials. The word “irresponsible” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Like many advocates of science-based medicine, I was dismayed at the $200 million gift given by Susan and Henry Samueli to the University of California, Irvine in order to vastly expand its integrative medicine offerings. John Weeks, a noted promoter of integrative medicine, was not pleased at how the mainstream press covered this gift, and in particular he was most displeased that skeptics were heavily quoted in the reporting. In response, he launched a spittle-flecked, spelling-challenged broadside against his perceived enemies, full of misinformation and logical fallacies. Naturally, Orac can’t resist applying some not-so-Respectful Insolence to it.

A new analysis reveals that there are antivaccine bots on Twitter. Why am I not surprised?

Last week, I wrote about a truly execrable bit of science by Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic purporting to show that aluminum adjuvants cause brain inflammation, which causes autism. Since then, I’ve learned that, not only is it bad science, but that there are red flags about several of the figures to raise the specter of fraud. This might not be just bad science. It might be fraudulent science. The only way to resolve this would be for the authors to release the original full resolution images of their blots.

Last week, UC-Irvine announced a $200 million gift from Susan and Henry Samueli to create a new integrative medicine center. Since then, UC-Irvine has tried to scrub any evidence of homeopathy use on its website. It didn’t work. Unfortunately, thanks to the Samuelis, homeopathy and other pseudoscience are deeply embedded in UC-Irvine, which has become the new epitome of quackademic medicine.

Recently, the Hope4Cancer Institute, a quack clinic in Mexico has added a treatment known as Rigvir to its other offerings. But what is Rigvir? It turns out that it’s an import from Latvia with a mysterious history. Its proponents claim that it targets cancer specifically. Unfortunately, there is a profound paucity of evidence for its efficacy. The story of Rigvir is the story of an unproven treatment that, because of its origin in a small country, has flown mostly under the radar. Until now, that is.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop is continuing to sell snake oil promoted as the “empowerment” of women. Yes, that even includes a psychic vampire repellent, reiki charged.

Yesterday, the University of California, Irvine announced that Susan and Henry Samueli had donated $200 million to establish integrative medicine quackery there. Is this the shape of medicine to come?

Last week, I wrote about a naturopath imitating the worst of real doctors by running his very own dubious stem cell clinic. He even cosplays an interventional radiologist doing it. Unfortunately, he’s far from alone. There are many more naturopaths going down this road. Even more unfortunately, it is MDs who are showing the way. Basically, naturopaths don’t just cosplay doctors. They cosplay the worst of doctors as well.

Britt Hermes is an ex-naturopath who realized that she had become a quack and had the bravery to quit and study to become a real scientist. Because she is an apostate, the church of naturopathy has a special antipathy reserved for her, which is why a “naturopathic oncologist” named Colleen Huber has engaged in legal thuggery to silence her. Not-a-Dr. Huber has apparently never heard of the Streisand Effect, because a look at her website and her incredibly badly done and incompetent clinical study claiming that her treatments plus eliminating processed sugar results in much better cancer survival would be very embarrassing…to her.

Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas two weeks ago, and the recovery effort will take years. As hundreds of thousands start to try to rebuild their shattered lives and homes, antivaxers have some helpful advice on how to avoid vaccines. That’s because to antivaxers, it’s always about vaccines. Always.

Recently, I came across a news story describing two cancer patients treated by naturopaths in New Zealand. Both died, one almost certainly unnecessarily, the other after enduring more suffering than she likely had to. These tragic cases and others reminded me of why it is so appalling that so many physicians are “integrating” naturopathy into “integrative medicine.” In reality, they are integrating quackery into medicine.

Trolling the antivaccine trolls

Craig Egan is a man with a mission. He’s trolling the antivaccine trolls to promote science, and he’s been very successful at it.

There was a rumbling in the antivaccine underground a week ago about a recent ruling by the Vaccine Court compensating parents of a child who died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In a confused and scientifically highly flawed decision, the Special Master Thomas Gowen didn’t rule that vaccines cause SIDS, but did rule that they contributed to SIDS in this one case. Soon, the message will be that vaccines cause SIDS. They don’t. The Vaccine Court screwed up.

Tooth Fairy science is the study of a phenomenon before having actually demonstrated that the phenomenon actually exists. I can’t think of a better example than trying to construct an elaborate mapping system of body parts and organs to the surface of the external ear for purposes of sticking needles in them to heal and relieve pain (auricular acupuncture). Yet that’s what’s just been published.

American antivaccine activists have contributed to a massive measles outbreak among the Minnesota Somali immigrant community by spreading Andrew Wakefield’s misinformation. In the wake of the harm they’ve caused, they’re not apologetic. They’re doubling down.

In January, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. bragged about having met with President-Elect Donald Trump about chairing a presidential commission on vaccine safety. In the intervening eight months, no commission has materialized, but, if you can believe his account, Kennedy has been meeting with government officials to promote his antivaccine views at the behest of the Trump administration. As long as that continues, pro-science advocates can’t afford to rest easy.

By definition, alternative medicine has not been shown to be effective or has been shown to be ineffective. Thus, alternative medicine is ineffective against cancer and can best be represented as either no treatment at all or potentially harmful treatment. It is thus not surprising that cancer patients who choose alternative medicine have a higher risk of dying from their cancer. A new study confirms this conclusion yet again.

California’s new law that eliminates personal belief exemptions has been a success, increasing vaccine uptake after just one year. That isn’t to say that there aren’t problems. One potential problem is the increasing number of medical exemptions, likely fueled by doctors willing to write letters of support for them based on reasons that are not science-based.

Naturopaths are fake doctors who fancy themselves to be real doctors, so much so that they call themselves “physicians” even when explicitly barred from doing so by law.

In March, it was widely reported that a young woman named Jade Erick had died suddenly of a hypersensitivity reaction while undergoing an infusion of intravenous curcumin ordered by a naturopath named Kim Kelly to treat her eczema. The FDA investigated and found egregious problems with the injectable curcumin used. This tragic incident serves to demonstrate how dangerous a combination naturopaths and dubious compounding pharmacies can be.

Eleven years ago, Abraham Cherrix and his parents chose quackery over science-based medicine to treat his cancer, and Cherrix was one of the earliest cases of teens who chose quackery to treat a life-threatening disease that I discussed in depth. Recently, I learned that Cherrix is still alive. The reason? He finally realized the error of his original decision and underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.