On Monday of this week, Michael Specter published an article in The New Yorker entitled THE OPERATOR: Is the most trusted doctor in America doing more harm than good? In the article, Specter expended considerable verbiage that, as I explained yesterday, was beautiful in how it let Oz reveal through his own words that (1) he is no longer a scientist and (2) how he views science-based medicine as apparently religion and just another way of knowing. Indeed, so off the wall were Oz's utterances in this article that Jeff Bercovici boiled it down, summarizing it as Dr. Oz's Five Wackiest Medical Beliefs. Of course, I've covered many of these before, which I view as Dr. Oz's utter abdication of professional responsibility, including Oz's promotion of the king of alternative medicine quackery, Joe Mercola; a credulous take on faith healing and psychic mediums; as well as all manner of other quackery, which he "integrates" with real medicine to the point that it is very difficult even for knowledgeable lay people—even some physicians—to tell where the science-based medicine ends and the quackery begins.
Perhaps the most amusing thing about the Specter article is its timing, which was utterly perfect. Why do I say that? Well, consider: Oz has credulously embraced nearly every quackery known to human beings, touting it on his show alongside real medicine as though the two were co-equal. Note how I say "almost." As of Monday, it was no longer "almost." For Monday was the day that Oz embraced homeopathy publicly and promoted it on his show in a segment called The Homeopathy Starter Kit. I kid you not. Every time I seem to think that Oz's journey to the Dark Side is complete, I've been proven wrong as Oz delves deeper into quackery than I had thought possible. Now that he's embraced The One Quackery To Rule Them All, is there anything left? I fear we'll see.
But first, here are parts one, two, and three of his paean to homeopathy.
I suppose I shouldn't be, but I was surprised to hear Oz proclaim at the very beginning of his segment that he and his family had been using homeopathy for three generations, as he blathers about how, if you're interested in weaning yourself off of pharmaceutical medications and try a more "natural" approach. So, he tells us, he's developed a homeopathy starter kit just for you! Indeed, Oz tells us, homeopathy "appeals to many because of its gentle nature." No doubt, given that there's no actual medicine in most of them, its having been diluted by numbers far greater than Avogadro's number, meaning that there isn't likely to be a single molecule left. Particularly amusing is how Oz contrasts homeopathy to "Western medicine," given that homeopathy is about as "Western" as any medicine. Does he not remember that Samuel Hahnemann developed homeopathy in Germany over 200 years ago? In any case, Oz proceeds to parrot the "law of similars" (the pseudoscientific claim that "like cures like" is a general principle in medicine) and the "law of infinitesimals" (which claims that the more you dilute something, the stronger it gets), concluding:
Despite long-standing skepticism by the medical community because of lack of evidence more and more people, even some of your own doctors, are intrigued by the effectiveness claims of homeopathic remedies on their patients. Could homeopathy be the gentlest and best medicine for you and your family.
Not surprisingly, Oz introduces a naturopath named Lisa Samet, who according to him has been practicing homeopathy for 20 years, who tells Oz that her practice is made up mainly of people who are "fed up with conventional medicines," such as antibiotics and the like, that "manage symptoms but don't treat the real cause." Yeah, right. Like homeopathy does! Think about it. The central premise of homeopathy is "like cures like." Dr. Oz even admits that. The "like" in this principle refers to symptoms. That's right. Homeopathy is designed to treat the symptoms, not the cause! Yet you will hear homeopaths and naturopaths pontificate endlessly about how "Western medicine" supposedly doesn't treat the causes. This naturopath does that and more, claiming that homeopathy is "holistic," treats the "whole person," and that it treats the root causes of disease. It's utter nonsense, of course, but it's utter nonsense given the imprimatur of Dr. Oz himself. There's even a video of Samet repeating the same quackery, going on about how homeopathy is natural, "treats the cause of disease and not the symptoms," and talking about how succussion (shaking) "liberates the forces" in the remedy that heal. She even spews the "nanoparticle" pseudoscience that homeopathy quacks have been pushing lately, to the alternating fury and mockery of chemists everywhere.
So what's in Oz's homeopathic starter kit? First, he recommends homeopathic belladonna for fever. Why? Because belladonna, undiluted, will make you feel sick and feverish. Not only that, but she recommends a 200C dilution. Remember, each "C" dilution is a 1:100 dilution. Thus, a 200C dilution represents 200 1:100 dilutions or 1:102 x 10200 or 1:10400. Given that the number of atoms in the known universe is thought to be between 1078 and 1082, this is a truly ridiculous level of dilution.
So what's next? Homeopathic phosphorus for coughs. Why? It's not explained. Then there's homeopathic Gelsemium for the flu. But not just any flu. Oh, no. Gelsemium is for the flu in which patients feel so weak that they can't get out of bed, and who feel out of it. Of course, that's pretty much anyone who has a significant case of the flu, which, let's face it, knocks you on your posterior. Finally, there's homeopathic Pulsatilla for sinus infections and Nux Vomica for nausea, indigestion, and bloating and there you have it: Dr. Oz's Homeopathic Starter Kit. Of note, I've written about the utter ridiculousness of Nux Vomica before. There's zero scientific plausibility, basis, or evidence that it (or any other homeopathic remedy) has any specific effect on any illness.
Oz finishes up with a segment in which he proclaims how more and more doctors are being educated in homeopathy and use homeopathic remedies in their practices. Irritatingly, Oz introduces the subject by dismissively brushing aside the skepticism of doctors who don't accept homeopathy by claiming that it's all because we don't yet understand how it works. Unfortunately, that's a load of fetid dingo's kidneys. We fully understand how homeopathy "works." It doesn't. There is no plausible scientific mechanism for it to work, and, consistent with that, the better designed and larger clinical trials to test homeopathic remedies have failed to find any specific effects attributable to the remedies. Basically homeopathic remedies are placebos. No wonder to Oz it's seemingly a big deal that for the first time ever these three homeopathic physicians are "stepping into the spotlight." Personally, I'd be highly embarrassed if I were one of them, but apparently these docs aren't. In fact, according to the breathless narration by Oz, these docs think homeopathy is so successful that they're "integrating" them into their "Western medicine" practice. (Oh, that horrible, not-so-subtly racist characterization that implies that there's something different about the "inscrutable" East whereas we "Western" types are scientific and unfeeling."
The three doctors include Karlene ChinQuee, MD, whose practice is described thusly:
Dr. ChinQuee’s practice specializes in Functional Medicine, weight management, nutrition, hormonal therapy, environmental health, anti-aging/age-management, regenerative medicine, and beauty aesthetics. Dr. ChinQuee’s unique credentials and experience enable her to help both women and men address every aspect of good health in order to lead healthy, happier, and longer lives.
If you look at her website, you'll see she's completely into woo, including functional medicine (for which Mark Hyman is known), bioidentical hormones, and anti-aging medicine. In fact, if you look at the list of services offered, there appears to be no woo that Dr. ChinQuee doesn't embrace. "Detoxification," "energy therapy," acupunture, "biopuncture," functional medicine, nutritional supplements, it's all there. Looking at that list, I'm shocked that she's only now embracing homeopathy. She appears to be a natural for it, an ideal homeopath.
Next up is Albert Levy, MD. Prominently featured on his website are homeopathy consultations. Dr. Levy proclaims homeopathy to be better than anything he's encountered in "conventional medicine," an assertion that reveals him to have what can best be described as seriously questionable judgment. In this, he is not unlike Scott Stoll, MD, the third member of the less-than-dynamic trio trotted out by Dr. Oz to "prove" that homeopathy is being embraced by "Western" doctors. Each one of these disgraces to the MD degree then cheerily chirps about which homeopathic remedy is their favorite, like a model endorsing a soft drink and with about as much thought.
Clearly the winner of this race to the bottom, in terms of sheer pseudoscience, is Dr. ChinQuee. She endorses biopuncture. Longtime readers might remember that I've written about biopuncture before. In fact, it was Dr. Oz whose promotion of biopuncture first brought it to my attention. Basically, biopuncture is homeopathy combined with acupuncture. Basically homeopathic remedies are injected into acupuncture points. Truly, biopuncture is two woos that woo great together! We even get a demonstration, with Dr. ChinQuee chirping even more cheerily than before about how awesome biopuncture is, how it will reduce inflammation (how, she doesn't say), and "improve mobility.
Of course, one thing stands out throughout this entire show, and that's the utter lack of evidence for homeopathy. True, Oz obliquely acknowledges the physical impossibility of homeopathy based on our current understanding of the laws of physics. He doesn't mention that, for homeopathy to "work," several laws of physics and chemistry would have to be not just wrong but spectacularly wrong. Nor does he mention that clinical trials are most consistent with homeopathy having no specific effect, indeed no effect at all above that of placebo. Instead, we get Dr. ChinQuee's demonstration, and, not surprisingly, the patient says that she feels better after receiving the injection of water. Actually, I wonder if it really was a proper homeopathic remedy (i.e., pure water), because injecting water into the tissues tends to hurt. One wonders if this particular homeopathic remedy was diluted in normal saline, one does.
Oz finishes with a "homeopathic remedy" for stress, called the Rescue Remedy. It's apparently made up of five flowers. (Well, actually, it's made of water; it is, after all, a homeopathic remedy.) It turns out that Rescue Remedy is actually a Bach Flower remedy, which is described on its website thusly:
Dr. Edward Bach discovered the Original Bach Flower Remedies which is a system of 38 Flower Remedies that corrects emotional imbalances where negative emotions are replaced with positive.
The Bach Flower Remedies work in conjunction with herbs, homeopathy and medications and are safe for everyone, including children, pregnant women, pets, the elderly and even plants.
The Bach Flower Remedies is a simple system of healing that is easy for anyone to use.
Evidence? Another anecdote, this time by a student who complained of stress but said she felt better after taking Rescue Remedy. This anecdote is even less convincing than the biopuncture anecdote.
After having subjected myself to this latest atrocity against science by Dr. Oz, I now think that he's finally jumped the shark. Actually, he jumped the shark long ago, when he featured Dr. Mercola on his show, but maybe this will be will be a wake-up call in which Oz does something so utterly ridiculous, so devoid of anything resembling science, that perhaps people will start to realize that Dr. Oz is no longer a doctor who cares the least bit about science or even whether a treatment he features on his show works. After all, if he would promote magic water on his show without featuring even a shred of credible evidence that it does what he claims it does, Oz has forfeited any claim to be a credible scientist or science-based physician. In fact, so perfunctory is this show, so reliant on Oz's charisma and appeals to authority coupled with the bandwagon fallacy in lieu of evidence, that I wonder if Oz is even trying anymore. It's like he's phoning it in.
How appropriate that Specter's article was released the same day that Oz let his homeopathy freak flag fly.
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This was showing on every TV in the cafeteria at the hospital I work at.
I have stress reading about this. I think I will eat a flower. Oh, what? That's wrong? Oh well, never mind.
Jumping the shark generally means that the show will get less popular afterwards. Unfortunately, I don't see this as very likely as long as he can feature more ridiculous "therapies" on his show every week. Time-Cube anyone?
From personal experience (so n=1), whenever I ended in bed with the flu, shivering and so tired I could not stay awake, I usually feel better after 1-2 days of rest.
I guess it would also be a good time to give me this Gelsemium, so I can credit it for my recovery, instead of my own natural healing...
"Our secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices"
Rescue Remedy is homeopathy? Oh, fer pete's sake! Everyone I know uses that crap -- I thought it was some herbal tincture or something -- like having a cup of chamomile tea.
Why isn't homeopathic stuff marked as such? For instance, the other day, I was at the drug store looking for a cough syrup for my toddler. Surprise: even kids' cough syrups aren't supposed to be used for the under-4 set. I'm reading all the labels, hoping to find one that will help my poor sleepless kid, and I come across one that says "fine for infants." So I try to see what's in it, because all the others are like "not under 4". It doesn't say "homeopathy" ANYWHERE on the label, nor does it say "200c" or anything like that, but all the ingredients have that "-illia" suffix that set off alarm bells in my head, so I pull out the phone to look it up. Yep: homeopathy. For what it's worth to other unsuspecting non-medical types like me, they often label it with "blahblah-illia, 60x" (was probably even Pulsatillia, as Orac mentioned).
There was also one emblazoned with "HOMEOPATHY" on the box, like it was a frickin' selling point. But it was the sneak attack that got me.
Of course, I also looked up the company: Hylands. Now I know, Hylands IS Homeopathy, but just in case someone else out there didn't... oh, and FWIW, Hylands also got their "homeopathic teething tablets" (designed for the under-1 set) yanked off the market a few years back because they accidentally contained toxic levels of belladonna.
Rage. Serious rage.
(I stuck with steam baths and hot honeyed drinks for the 2 year old.)
"Basically homeopathic remedies are injected into acupuncture points."
Since homeopaths don't believe in that icky reductionist sciency stuff like bacteria causing disease, I would be even more concerned about this than about regular homeopathy.
Sorry, regular acupuncture. No particular concerns about homeopathy since it's just water.
AllieP @5 -- It would seem that your 2-year-old is lucky to have you as a mom. Keep up the good work!
I'm awaiting delivery of our New Yorker with bated breath. Takes a while to get here, out in the sticks.
Waiting with "baited breath" would imply that I'd been following the Diet of Worms.
This is very dangerous advice. If someone gets hurt because of it? He is not operating according to the standards of appropriate medical care. Unfortunately, since his show is not actual medical care of a patient, he gets to skirt around silly things like medical ethics and shields himself from disciplinary action by a medical board (not that they'd likely do anything anyway, given his celebrity status).
Oi, I read too fast, I missed this one. I'm not even sure the dogma behind these two procedures are compatible. What "ancient" recipes could be mixed together? No, better not give anyone any idea.
Instead, let me quote a passage from the novel "The Story of the Stone", from Barry Hughart, which this idea of mixing together unrelated products reminded me of:
Didn't eating flowers work for Ferdinand the Bull?
There are a variety of stories about how to make the perfect martini: they are usually attributed to Churchill or another esteemed, dead drinker.
Pour the gin in the glass and then-
pass the vermouth bottle's cap over it or
look at the bottle of vermouth across the room or
hold up the glass in the general direction of Italy or
allow sunlight to pass through the bottle of vermouth into the bottle of gin ( prior to mixing)...
then there's "shaken not stirred"-
I think you get the picture.
Were these guys promoting homeopathy?
-btw- early versions of both gin and vermouth included herbs such as juniper berries, wormwood, coriander et al
A friend with an Italian-born grandmother said that she used to dose family members who had colds or the flu with some sort of herbal alocoholic drink "created by the monks".
That's where herbal potions and homeopathic mixology belong- in alcoholic beverages and folklore.
Oddly, many alt med folk eschew alcohol because it kills brains cells or suchlike.
herbal ALCOHOLIC drink
He's more woo than man now, twisted and evil. -Obi Wan ZDogg
AllieP @5: You could also try Vicks Vapor Rub (they make a baby version too) rubbed on the chest, with or without steam bath. Mentholatum is similar.
Back in the 1950s, that and hot honey lemonaide were my Mom's response to congestion. I still use them.
I don't know why you people are so down on Gelsemium, it's terrific.
Gelsemium sempervirens (Carolina jessamine) that is - a terrific ornamental vine I used to grow in Texas. And now there's a version that's supposed to be hardy in my northern climate:
The sight of these springtime blooms is most therapeutic. Although to be homeopathically effective, you'd have to cut almost all the buds off before they open.
@AllieP: The X in 60X refers to tenfold dilutions. So now you know that 60X is as reliable a marker of homeopathic remedies as 200C. I don't pretend to understand why they would do 60X rather than 30C, which produces the same amount of dilution, but I also don't understand why anybody who has passed high school chemistry would fall for homeopathy.
Store brand versions of homeopathic remedies also exist. I almost bought one at a Walgreen's in San Francisco--I was about to take it to the checkout register when I spotted the inconspicuous words "homeopathic remedy" on the package (or it may have been on the package of the name-brand equivalent).
I sometimes wonder if a surgeon like Oz- who has seen how much can go spectacularly wrong with the human body and how little control we actually have: we can't fix everything- in his weaker moments, feeling helpless, eventually succumbs to the fantasy that with alt med, we CAN fix everything. It's easy, not messy, and doesn't fail.
TV is his relief from the reality of the surgical suite.
Ferdinand liked to just sit quietly and smellthe flowers.
There's a petition on the White House petition website calling for the administration to "Recognize Acupunturist as Healthcare providers". It's got 7,482 signatures.
I'm wondering if it would be possible to garner the required signatures to force an official response to a petition that called for prohibiting the sale and marketing of any homeopathic remedy for which there is no clinical evidence of efficacy greater than placebo controls.
"...Instead, we get Dr. ChinQuee’s demonstration, and, not surprisingly, the patient says that she feels better after receiving the injection of water. Actually, I wonder if it really was a proper homeopathic remedy (i.e., pure water), because injecting water into the tissues tends to hurt. One wonders if this particular homeopathic remedy was diluted in normal saline, one does...."
That *patient* Thelma who Dr. ChinQuee injected with water or normal saline is on Dr. ChinQuee's office "team"
Holistic Health Counselor, Lifestyle Educator, and expert in weight reduction"
Silly me, thinking that anti-biotics treated the real cause of infections (bacteria).
Technically, it's not, as it isn't based on the "law of similars." Works OK if you drink the whole bottle, but that's only because it's 54 proof.
palindrom: You can read the entire Oz story at the New Yorker website for free. I did yesterday. No need to wait for a physical magazine to arrive.
"No clinical evidence of efficacy greater than placebo controls" is an awfully low bar to pass. Do a small open-label trial, make sure your endpoints are subjective, and bam, there's almost certainly "some" clinical evidence. IOW, it would be ineffectual even if passed.
I don't think there's a simple way to phrase such a law that would actually work. It requires critical analysis of the evidence, which isn't something you can distill concretely into legislation. The necessary approach would be for the law to empower some expert body to approve/block such sale... and for that body to NOT be composed of homeopaths (which it would likely end up being).
Effectively, there isn't much short of actually requiring them to obtain FDA approval as drugs which I would expect to really work. Sad but true.
One of the problems that scientists have is the inclination to be exactly truthful in a way that subtracts from being rhetorically effective. The standard example is the way we say that experiments didn't show any detectable differences etc etc.
To the layman, this is confusing, because it fails to finish the argument, which is that the experiments showed that the substance is useless, has no effect, does nothing for the patient -- it is an ex-remedy, the argument for using it is defunct.
I don't think it's a sin against science and rationality to say outright that homeopathy does nothing. It's fine to point out that a certain number of people think they are better after taking some homeopathic preparation, and at least an equal number, when asked politely at a later time, will admit that they had no relief. But if you are going to point out that homeopathy is no better than placebo, you should be ready to explain placebo. This may involve pointing out to people that pains come and go, even in chronic afflictions, and our desire to feel better coupled with the healer's hand waving allow us a little immediate respite. Even then, we find that the placebo relief, if it exists at all, is transitory at best. If it had any beneficial long term effect, people wouldn't have to keep going back to the faith healers and naturopaths.
For chronic conditions of which there is no scientifically demonstrable relief (see, I'm using the same kind of phrasing -- perhaps I should have said "no cure and no real treatment"), maybe we should back off and let people attempt relief, even if it is only at the level of suggestion -- as long as no objective harm is being done. The problem of course, is determining that what the person has is a chronic condition for which nothing short of strong opiates gives relief.
Afterword: I think that the healing professions forget how financially stressful (and downright abusive) it can be to get anywhere near the process of medical billing. I can see how people who work for a living would want to avoid the system if at all possible. Those of us who are of a more rationalist mindset will endure the testing and the billings to avoid having a colon cancer develop out of a polyp. It's one of those routine modern miracles that we can enjoy this benefit, but the bills keep coming, month after month, for the hospital, the GI doctor, some path lab in another county, and on and on.
Although of French monk origin, was it Chartreuse?
Eric @ 17, how can you not see the difference of 60X and 30C? 60X has double the succussion treatments on the bible. 30C is a shortcut for the lazy.
@ Science Mom:
I don't think so, I would remember that: it was an Italian name that I wasn't familar with - looking at a list of Italian products along these lines doesn't seem to help me recall- or recognise it. At any rate the lady was from Naples.
I suppose saying it had herbs in it and was made by monks made it alright to give to ailing children.
In my own family, all ills were/ are treated with either tea or gin, I swear.
From Michael Specter's article:
It reminds me of Adam Savage's "I reject your reality and substitute my own" - except that Oz is not kidding.
Agreed, Beamup. The only way to properly regulate homeopathic remedies is to treat them like the drugs they pretend they are. The homeopaths like to say their remedies aren't drugs, and are different, but if that is so, why do they put so much effort into hiding the fact that the remedy is homeopathic? Clearly, the term is nothing more than regulatory cover for quackery.
But the FDA has been made so toothless. Want to know a new atrocity committed under the guise of "nutritional supplementation"? Apparently Genetech is selling a "supplement" meant to be an OTC medication for ADD. And reports suggest it might actually be effective for ADD (though I wouldn't trust it personally), because it contains amphetamine-like chemicals. But the FDA says it can't do anything about it. WTF? You'd think at least *that* would get some attention, if the DSHEA is allowing supplement manufacturers to sell controlled substances over the counter. What's next? Herbal poppy extract sold OTC as a nutritional supplement for people suffering chronic pain? The mind boggles.
To repeat myself- for the benefit (?) of those who may have missed it last night:
yesterday's Gary Null Show featured Sayer Ji and a feverish discussion of the popular sceptical movement which includes SBM, Seed, Drs Novella, Barrett and DG and our own esteemed, gracious and glorious host, Orac ( "the host with the most").
Hilarious despite the duo's pressured speech and obvious anxiety.
( starts at about 36 minutes in: see progressive radio network.com/ shows/ Gary Null Show 012913)
What's so "natural" about homeopathic remedies anyway? They didn't grow of trees last I checked.
“The Story of the Stone”, from Barry Hughart
I knew that there are sequels to "Bridge of Birds" but I have not obtained copies.
That *patient* Thelma who Dr. ChinQuee injected with water or normal saline is on Dr. ChinQuee’s office “team”
Sounds like conscious fraud, then, rather than self-deception.
yesterday’s Gary Null Show featured Sayer Ji
It was amusing when Sayer Ji turned up in an earlier comment to defend the Burzynski clinic. Obviously Burzynski is an allopathic doctor with chemotherapy and everything Sayer Ji opposes, but at the same time the code of professional courtesy among fellow-frauds demands that they stick together.
^^ "earlier comment thread".
Doing 200 dilutions rather than 60 actually serves a very useful purpose. If you have a cold and decide to prepare a homeopathic remedy to make it go away, it will take you so long to do 200 dilutions that by the time you're done, you'll feel better. It follows the true basic mechanism of homeopathy (take a remedy and then wait for the illness to go away on its own), but keeps you busier in the mean time.
The Homeopathy Starter Kit.
None of the happy talk of treating the patient as a gestalt rather than as a symptom? Nothing about tailoring the prescription to the patient as a whole?
To the extent that homeopathy can be debased, and stripped of its intellectual pretensions. Oz has debased it. He is marketing the equivalent of the newspaper astrology columns, rather than the astrology that a true believer would follow with natal charts drawn up to the minute of birth.
homeopathy “appeals to many because of its gentle nature.”
Sounds like he accepts that homeopathy has no physical effect.
Certainly if you see the purpose of treatment as separating the customer from their money as gently as possible, the process works most smoothly when it is not complicated by side-effects, such as medications affecting the customer.
Just to clarify a defamatory point. Dr Albert Levy is a top physician with years of experience who practices medicine as an ARTas well as a SCIENCE. He makes it quite clear that he uses SOME homeopathic remedies ALONGSIDE TRADITIONAL medicine. He was asked to pick his favorite one to SHARE with a WIDE audience of interested TV viewers. He chose ARNICA MONTANA which he uses himself as well as recommends to his family and patients for the symptoms he explains clearly - BRUISING and SWELLING. If you have used this you would know that it does indeed speed recovery and ARNICA in this instance is "better than anything else... .encountered in traditional medicine" as he says. (Notice it's Arnica he is speaking about and not homeopathy as a general rule) . Dr Albert Levy does not claim to be a homeopathic doctor, but a Family Physician, trained in surgery, Gynecology, Obstetrics, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Geriatrics and yes, some alternative methods like Homeopathy and Acupuncture. He knows from his extensive experience and knowledge WHEN to prescribe these methods (ie. pregnant women, young children and all those WITHOUT acute symptoms or disease who do not require allopathic medicine). How can this be harmful and how can you claim his judgements are questionable in the medical field? Maybe you feel that a Doctor of his caliber should not have gone on the Dr. Oz Show but why shouldn't a caring,intelligent, reputable and experienced physician be given airtime? Personally, "thou doth protest too much" as Shakespeare would put it nicely, and you have written something without knowing about the professional person. He has more than earned and deserved his MD degree and many of his patients will contest to that. I and several people have found your comments on Dr Levy misinformed, misquoted, disconcerting for someone of your reputation, not too mention defamatory.
I typically stay away from these "comment wars" but it's very frustrating to read a so many comments from people who have, for the most part, clearly done little to no research.
As a former skeptic who has done countless hours of reading on the topic as well as actually *trying* the remedies on myself and my family, I am now convinced enough to pursue the study of homeopathy.
I think that a recent letter from Dr Lionel R Milgrom to UK Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davis (who was branding homeopathy as "rubbish") says it best. To quote him:
"As CMO, you will no doubt be aware that, according to the BMJ , over 50% of conventional medical
procedures funded by the National Health Service (NHS) have little or no basis in science. So, funding these procedures must be even more stupid
than funding homeopathy, especially as they are much more expensive!
But it gets worse. Much is made of the millions spent on homeopathy by the NHS. This too is utterly misleading. Again as CMO, you will be aware that in 2010, the NHS’s drug bill was a staggering £10.2 billion, £2 billion of which was spent dealing with these drugs’ side effects. NHS spending on homeopathy (including infrastructure) was just £12 million – a mere 0.011% of the total £110 billion NHS budget – of which only a miniscule amount, £152,000, was spent on side-effect-free homeopathic medicines [2-4]. Given this vast disparity, why should the NHS stop funding an incredibly cheap therapeutic modality used and trusted by millions of people throughout the United Kingdom, and half a billion people around the world? Oh yes, I remember: it’s all about the science, isn’t it. Well, let’s examine that.
It is disappointing that again as CMO you accept so uncritically the spurious claims of so-called ‘sceptics’ and campaigning organisations, that
there is no scientific basis for homeopathy. I wonder whether you have ever bothered to seriously investigate this for yourself? If you had, then you
would know that, by end of 2010, 156 Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) of homeopathy (on 75 different medical conditions) had been published in peer-reviewed journals. Of these, 41% had a balance of positive evidence, 7% had a balance of negative evidence, and for 52% no conclusions could be drawn either way .
A cursory glance at these statistics might cause supporters of homeopathy to rejoice because the ratio of positive to negative trials is clearly in
homeopathy’s favour. However, the really interesting statistic here is the number of trials for which no conclusions can be drawn; greater than 50%.
Because when you then look at similar statistics for RCTs of conventional medicine, something odd appears.
So, data obtained from an analysis of 1016 systematic reviews of RCTs of conventional medicine, indicate that 44% of the reviews concluded the
interventions studied were likely to be beneficial (positive), 7% concluded that the interventions were likely to be harmful (negative), and 49%
reported that the evidence did not support either benefit or harm (non-conclusive) .
Please take careful note of this, Professor Davis, because obtaining such a similar spread of statistics regardless of the therapeutic modality would
* Homeopathy fairs no better or worse in RCTs than conventional medicine. Therefore, rejecting homeopathy on RCT data is false and biased
as many conventional drugs/procedures should on that basis be similarly rejected but are not.
* There is something fundamentally wrong with the RCT (and those who claim it to be a ‘gold standard’), when around 50% of all RCTs fail to
deliver a clear result . So all that the available scientific evidence suggests is at the very least, there is disagreement over the effects of
homeopathic medicines and how ultra-high dilutions work.
Thus, a less emotive, more objective CMO, would no doubt have concluded, not that homeopathy “is rubbish” but that as with many conventional medical procedures, the scientific evidence so far can only indicate homeopathy is of uncertain efficacy. And even if homeopaths were just ‘peddlers’ of placebos (you are by no means the first, nor unfortunately will you be the last to make such a scurrilous, unfounded accusation), homeopathy would still be far cheaper than Prozac, currently favoured by the NHS and, as I am sure you are well aware, recently shown to be no better than placebo !"
Overall, I would implore people to actually seek out the studies done on homeopathic remedies and, if you really want to prove a point, visit a registered homeopathy and actually try it for yourself - you might find you are surprised! The fact that we don't fully understand *how* it works should not lead to the automatic conclusion that it doesn't work.
@ Linda Vertannes:
Wow. All I said was this:
Note that the three sentences or so about Dr. Levy in the above paragraph are the sum total of what I wrote about him. Indeed, in the context of a 2,000+ word post, I barely mentioned Dr. Levy at all, other than linking to the part of his website that touts homeopathic consultations and questioning his judgment because he has "integrated" homeopathy into his practice and for a particularly dumb thing he said, namely that homeopathy is better than anything he's encountered in "conventional medicine." I do, however, stand by my opinion that any physician who believes in and uses homeopathy is demonstrating seriously questionable medical judgment and a disgrace to the MD degree. Homeopathy is pseudoscience whose precepts violate multiple known laws of physics and chemistry. It's nothing more than water infused with sympathetic magic and wishful thinking.
Again, that is my opinion based on my knowledge of what homeopathy is.
By the fury of her reaction, I have to wonder whether Ms. Vertannes has a Google Alert set up for Dr. Levy and is ready to swoop in to defend him. It's almost as though she has a...personal interest in him. She wouldn't happen to be related to him, would she?
Topical arnica isn't meaningfully homeopathic.
I looked up "Rescue Remedy" several months ago when I heard my friends all effusively praising how well it worked on their pets' behavior problems. Knowing them -- if not animal behavior modification -- I suspected it was going to be something woo. Bach Flower remedy. Uh huh. My suspicions were rewarded.
Placebo does work on animals, though in limited ways. And it sure works on the people who assess how the animals are doing.
Dr. OZ appears to be following the standard spiritual protocol: everything is permitted except criticizing whatever other people have faith in. When I once asked whether any 'alternative medicine' was, or had ever been discovered to be, ineffective, I was told that I was using the wrong paradigm. People are different: not everything works for everyone. You have to keep searching till you find what is right for you. Thus, all alternative medicine works. It's simply a matter of fit. And belief.
Alternative medicine's "paradigm"then is more like evaluating preferences than establishing efficiency. If YOU don't like pickled mushrooms, that's fine. They're not the best dish for you, that's all. Leave them for the people who DO like them. Someone will.
Medicine is viewed like a smorgasbord of divergent tastes. Homeopathy is one dish. Not better; not worse; just different. Sounds like the reasonable sort of stand-off position someone might adopt when they're hell-bent on getting along well with others.
Sarah Reid: "_As a former skeptic_ who has done countless hours of reading on the topic as well as actually *trying* the remedies on myself and my family, I am now convinced enough to pursue the study of homeopathy."
Bzzt! My bullcrap alarm just went off.
If Ms. Reid ever was a true skeptic, she has since had a brain transplant.
You mean like this?
“thou doth protest too much” as Shakespeare would put it nicely,
Perhaps he would have put it, but he didn't.
He believes in the healing powers of magic water, Linda, despite the fact that not only is there no evidence that homeopathy is efficacious but in order for homepathy to work as claimed not only would everything we know about chemistry, biology, human physiology, etc. have to be wrong--it would have to be spectacularly wrong.
What more is needed to raise questions about his judgment in the medical field?
Also, he did agree to appear on Dr. Oz's show to promote homeopathy. Did he not expect criticism? If he didn't, add naivete to his list of shortcomings.
That's an odd construction. Perhaps you should try it like this: "The fact that it sprang from Hahnemann's ass like Athena from Zeus's skull, has no scientific basis, and has no convincing evidence whatever should not lead to the automatic conclusion that 'how it works' is a sensible question."
For the sake of argument, let's assume taht I do go to a registered homeopath, try it for myself, and am surprised--I experience relief of the condition for which I was seeking aid which i attributed to the homeopath's intervention.
You do understand why that would not in any way, shape or form constitute evidence homeopathy is effective, don't you?.
Dr. Levy proclaims homeopathy to be better than anything he’s encountered in “conventional medicine,”
Why does he remain an MD and continue to deal in conventional medicine if he believes homeopathy to be better? He is selling treatment to patients that he believes to be ineffective.
You're all wrong...it must be a *different* Linda Vertannes Levy who is the manager of Dr. Albert Levy's medical practice:
Dangerous Bacon: Being a "skeptic" does not mean that you are not willing to accept the other side of the argument if the evidence is sufficient.
"skep·tic also scep·tic (sk p t k). n. 1. One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions"
See - no brain transplant needed!
I'm actually shocked. Is everyone here actually so closed-minded that you believe that just because we don't fully understand the mechanism by which something works that you should assume it doesn't?
I suspect that one day you may all find yourselves eating crow. I suppose none of us knows for sure - we shall see!
Don't the Christians speak of faith as being ' belief in things unseen', i.e. what is not demonstrated?
So this matter of faith would- as you recognise- be highly personal: some may "see" it, some may not. And its fruits would vary along with individuals' hopes and dreams.
We observe that alt med folk criticise SBM as a religion- this illustrates that they don't really 'get' SBM at all because it should NOT be personal, not individual belief or hope BUT elucidating what is NOT unseen, what can be demonstrated and what can be repeated by others who LACK faith .
SBM goes beyond the personal and would ideally eliminate the infuences of faith, belief and wishes entirely through RCTs, blinding, statistical analyses, independent replication et al.
If your method rests upon belief, the unfaithful will be your undoing. If your method is independent of belief, others' beliefs have no effect: it can be shown no matter what.
alt med relies upon the personal;
science would hope to subtract its influence.
And, it MUST BE a coincidence that the *other* Linda Vetrannes Levy who works as the office manager for Dr. Albert Levy...also is a "producer" for Trend House Productions LLC, which produced this promotion video for Dr. Albert Levy:
Yes indeed, related! An excellent, all-round doctor he is too! I hear this said about him everyday!
Over the dinner table?
one day you may all find yourselves eating crow
Don't even mention it. Someone will start suggesting recipes.
You really don't understand what "begging the question" means, do you?
I used to see an applied kinesiology specialist before I was old enough to have any understanding of what that meant or what was going on. She recommended Rescue Remedy for both myself and my sister.
Guess what? It works. Not because of the homeopathic ingredients; oh, no. It worked because it is very alcoholic. I daresay that much alcohol will calm just about anyone down, even taken by the dropperful.
Sarah and Linda: You both say that you are open minded enough to see the other side. Perhaps you would be kind enough to explain the purpose of the dilutions (surely a molecule of medicine is more effective than none?) and the purpose (and definition) of succussion.
"I hear this said about him everyday!"
When you are in the office with your husband?
Perhaps because he knew the difference between 'doth' and 'dost'.
Just for clarification purposes, while "Rescue Remedy" and other Bach Flower Remedies have similarities to homeopathic remedies (the dilution and succussion), they are not homeopathic remedies. The fact that people are suggesting so and asking for explanations for some of the basic principals and practices of homeopathy is a sure sign that the majority of the people here have not devoted any time at all to doing their own research into the subject.
If you would like to have an informed opinion, I would suggest reading a book or two on Homeopathy. I would suggest "The Impossible Cure" by Amy L. Lansky, PhD as a good place to start. She touches on the scientific studies, the history of homeopathy, case studies, and her own personal story. From there you can find the actually studies she sites to peruse for yourself and/or move on to other reading. Honestly, with just a few hours of your time, if you're an average reader, this *one* book would is excellent resource to acquire the knowledge necessary to actually sound like you at least have some small idea of what you are talking about and are not speaking only on preconceived notions. Don't worry, you don't even have to spend money on it; I initially borrowed it from the library!
Homeopaths are like that promo spot for "Flashpoint', the one where Hugh Dillon is in his Ed Lane costume and pronounces "There's always a solution". I am not recommending the Flashpoint-style solution (a head shot) for homeopathy, but I can think of one for Dr. Ooze that's nearly as devastating. Find one of his heart surgery patients whose surgery didn't work out well. Have him sue Doc Oz AND his reiki practitioner for malpractice. Then we can all sit back and enjoy the spectacle of the two of them hosing each other in court and having to essentially admit that reiki is BS.
"I’m actually shocked. Is everyone here actually so closed-minded that you believe that just because we don’t fully understand the mechanism by which something works that you should assume it doesn’t?
I suspect that one day you may all find yourselves eating crow. I suppose none of us knows for sure – we shall see!""
There's a difference between being open minded and being credulous and naive. There's a saying about not being so open minded that your brain falls out...
It's not that we don't know how it works. That statement assumes that it does work, which it doesn't. It's a good idea to first prove there's really a mystery to be solved before pulling out the deer stalker cap and magnifying glass.
No, the main reasons we believe homeopathy doesn't work are:
A. It can't work; the laws of physics and chemistry tell us there's literally nothing to it. (As in the vast majority of homeopathic remedies contain no trace of the active substance, not a single molecule.
B. Our knowledge of biology, physiology and anatomy also tells. us there's no basis for it to work even if there were residual traces of the original ingredient. There' s no biological basis for the claim that a substance that in detectable amounts causes fever, aches, sore throat, and coughing &/or sneezing will somehow magically attack and destroy the influenza virus or prevent it from causing illness.
C. When well done, double blinded, randomized controlled studies are done, they consistently show homeopathic remedies are no more effective than placebo. Amusingly, they are also often identical to the control given in such experiments: sugar pill.
Really, there's no need to go beyond reason A. It's what makes homeopathy deconstruction one of the easiest slam dunks in all of pseudoscience/CAM.
Sarah - I suggest you read Trick or Treatment by Simon Singh and Dr. Edzard Ernst before you continue embarrassing yourself in public. (http://www.trickortreatment.com/index.html) I don't know if the homeopathic challenge is still open, but why don't you give it a try, since you think this is a good career path for you?
And Mrs Levy, why didn't you reveal your personal relationship to Dr. Levy in your initial comment? You couldn't possibly have wanted to fool us into thinking you were a disinterested observer, could you?
@ Sarah Reid
Please explain, in your own words, how one could expect even one molecule of a substance diluted at 200C to remain in a solution. And please don't point me to a book or website.
Completely OT -- but via Boing Boing, via Ben Goldacre, an 'independent health reporter' has stumbled upon the "Reprogramming Human DNA Using Words and Frequencies" scam (given the RI treatment over five years ago) and parrots it breathlessly:
Oh, puh-leeeeze. Every sCAM-addled altie who shows up here uses some version of that argument. Anyone with a basic understanding of chemistry could tell you why homeopathy can't possibly work the way its supporters claim. For a more detailed explanation, see Karl Withakay's comment at #65.
Moreover, all recent defenses that I'm aware of have relied on the notion that the dilution somehow doesn't actually occur (clathrates, monolayers), rendering one of the core propositions insensible.
Quoting Lionel Milgrom:
It doesn't seem to matter how many times this particular canard is corrected, but I will wearily observe, for the umpteenth time, that the figures from BMJ's Clinical Evidence Milgrom is referring to include alternative treatments. The relevant page on the BMJ website states: " Included within it are many treatments that come under the description of complementary medicine (e.g., acupuncture for low back pain and echinacea for the common cold),".
Krebiozen -- so the statement that over 50% of conventional medical procedures funded by the NHS have little or no basis in science is only true for definitions of "conventional medical procedures" that include "unconventional medical procedures"?
I actually vaguely recall Lansky from my grad school days, but I can't quite pin down what for. In any event, I would instead suggest her blog to promptly get a feel for the same old pseudophysical nonsense and philosophical cluelessness.
"Moreover, all recent defenses that I’m aware of have relied on the notion that the dilution somehow doesn’t actually occur (clathrates, monolayers), rendering one of the core propositions insensible."
Yep, and per those defenses, the specific dilution level becomes essentially meaningless. Such post hoc defenses are like pulling on a thread to fix it and you just end up unraveling the whole mess further.
Again, it’s a good idea to first prove there’s really a mystery to be solved before pulling out the deer stalker cap and magnifying glass or drawing up elaborate explanations for a phenomenon that might not really exist.
Amy Lansky, PhD "cured her son of autism" using homeopathy!!!
lilady@75 - did you read the Psychology Today article cited at the bottom of the Wikipedia page? It's a doozy. Dana Ullman gets quoted on page 2. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200403/the-strange-case-homeopa…
HDB #58: I don't have any recipes for crow, but I do have some medieval ones for blackbirds. Seeing as the introduced blackbird is a major pest here in Australia, I may try them one of these days. Would that be sufficient?
@ Christine (the public servant Christine):
four-and-twenty baked in a pie?
I think you need to re-read what you wrote a few times. And then explain to us how homeopathy has 'sufficient evidence' for its efficacy.
"Homeopathic phosphorus for coughs"
Like heals like. say if you are in a firefight and a WP (white phosphorous) round hits near you. If you breathe that in you are going to cough. Or maybe it is because red phosphorous is associated with match heads and smoking. I can't follow their anti logic but I try.
Sarah and Linda, have you considered saving your patients money by telling them how to make their own homeopathic remedies? Perhaps you can show them this recipe.
Oh, that is hilarious. Ms. Lansky's PhD is in computer science. Also her son was never officially diagnosed. From what I read he was much like my younger son who had a language delay that he grew out of quickly with help from a year of language therapy before kindergarten. (he is a college student who works as a lifeguard/swim teacher).
Thanks for the laughs, Sarah and Linda. It will make the rest of the afternoon brighter as I get back to my dungeon to work.
@Linda Vertannes-Levy: "He [Dr. Albert Levy, her husband] knows from his extensive experience and knowledge WHEN to prescribe these methods [homeopathy] (ie. pregnant women, young children and all those WITHOUT acute symptoms or disease who do not require allopathic medicine)."
Oh, he knows to prescribe homeopathy to the worried well who don't need real medicine. That's a great relief.
It's not that we don't know what homeopathy supposedly does or how it works. It's that we'd like very much to know what your explanation of said function is. It has been my experience that the actual mechanism of action is somewhat fudged in the minds of people who think it is something more than just drops of water on a sugar pill. Believe me, the host of this blog knows and blogs about homeopathy on quite a regular basis. We've done all kinds of research and reading into such things. And we've done our own research, using more sources than a few ardent homeopaths or naturopaths. What I would like to know is, have you?
That *testimonial* from Lansky that appeared in Psychology Today, about *curing her son from autism* is a gem.
Just for you Denice...some recipes...we *know* how you love to cook.
I am reminded once again that one cannot trust that a dish that claims to be woodcock actually is unless it is garnished with the split head of the bird.
Oh, yeah. Two years old is a bit early for a definitive diagnosis of autism. Let's see it starts with:
Which pretty much sounds like most two year olds, especially my younger son. Though he had some repetitive neolinguistic phrases.
Just like my younger son. Though he got a year of speech/language therapy from student clinicians at the local university's speech/hearing clinic (where they train speech/language therapists), and several sessions with a school district therapist (who was his older brother's speech therapist, and still has issues).
There are all sorts of speech and language issues. Which is why it is difficult to diagnose autism so early. The only book I found that had any useful information was Patricia McAleer Hamaguchi's book: Childhood Speech, Language, and Listening Problems (where I learned to seek out the university's speech therapy department).
His main form of communication was poking people with his finger.
That works for me too.
As the Swedish joke goes about the Finn who said nothing until he was 13, perhaps he didn't have anything to say.
Sarah: "The fact that people are suggesting so and asking for explanations for some of the basic principals (sic) and practices of homeopathy is a sure sign that the majority of the people here have not devoted any time at all to doing their own research into the subject."
Nah. We understand the claims of the credulous ninnies who believe in homeopathy as to how it's supposed to work. What would be nice is a believable explanation of how those mechanisms transcend fantasy.
Precisely. This 12-year-old article found that 37% of interventions were supported by RCT and an average of 76% of interventions were supported by some form of compelling evidence. I suspect that number is higher today. This suggests that a large proportion of the 58% of treatments that the BMJ's Clinical Evidence found are "unlikely to be beneficial, likely to be harmful or ineffective, or of unknown effectiveness" are actually sCAM treatments such as acupuncture, herbalism or indeed homeopathy.
As Orac might put it: this apple pie tastes disgusting because it contains a great deal of cow pie (in the American sense of the term).
You know, that looks suspciously like the 'squab' I had at an edgy restaurant a few years back. I wouldn't be at all surprised.
@DW: interestingly, the four-and-twenty blackbirds pie *is* documented. It's from a manuscript probably written by a royal chef and is in a section that could be thought of as "fun things to put in pies." Blackbirds were a delicacy in medieval times because you need a crapload of them to get a substantial mean and they take ages to prepare.
On the subject of Lansky having a PhD in computer science, as an IT professional I would like to apologise for the fact that my profession seems to throw up a lot of cranks and paranoid nutcases.
@Chris: my nephew had delayed speech; in his case, his ears needed draining - he couldn't mimic speech properly because he couldn't hear! After a couple of years of wearing grommets and work with a speech therapist, he's fine.
@Sarah: I'm one of those people who hasn't devoted any time to researching homeopathy, because I have read the papers that showed homeopathy, in properly conducted double-blind trials, produces neglible beneficial results.
I also have Crohn's Disease, and I've known a few people who, for various reasons, stopped their conventional Crohn's medication and tried homeopathy. In all cases, the Crohn's Disease got *worse* not better. So if you don't mind, I'll be paying attention to those anecdotes rather than yours.
When a child is referred to a speech/language pathologist the first person the child visits is an audiologist. Both of my boys had good hearing.
The oldest (who had a history of seizures) went to a special ed. preschool that specialized in speech disorders. It was across the hallway from the deaf/hard of hearing classroom (which it was created from when they kept getting kids who could not talk but could hear). The school also had an audiologist, so those kids had their hearing tested regularly.
The audiologist would call me when my older son had an ear infection. He did eventually get grommets/tubes. It helped him to learn to speak, but he still needed ten years. He still has speech issues.
Sarah: I have a bottle of water that might cure cancer and everything else that ails you. Send me $10,000 Can. and I'll send it to you.
I made it myself. Urine 200C.
Hey Linda, I know how topical arnica cream works!
Nothing to do with the ingredients, it's just that gently rubbing a bruise with cream is soothing and can also help to break down the contusion to be reabsorbed by the body. You could use a completely inert cream for the exact same effect, actually.
Ta da! Mystery over
No sense engaging the woo-crowd too much with that silly physics, chemistry & biology. (Math is hard.)
We understand when and how homeopathy works and what it's good for. Placebo effect. (I'm sure someone must have pointed it put earlier on; I just got here.) Orac knows. We all know. We overlook that the homeopathy crowd does not comprehend placebo. I'm reading R. Barker Bausell's excellent book: Snake Oil Science.
Thanks again to Orac & SBM site for enriching my intellectual life. I think Harriet Hall has a good review of that book, also. This is a wonderful book but the font is dreadful.
I'll read Ernst & Singh next.
Are we exchanging recipes? Because we are all eating & drinking homeopathic crow. Maybe I just read that above.
I've got a *great* recipe for roasted cormorant. :-)
@ Herr Doctor Bimler
Although, now that this thread devolved into recipe swapping :-), the third book has Master Li and an accomplice preparing a feast with some interesting ingredients, at the great disgust of Number 10 Ox...
There were two more books, "The Story of the Stone" and "Eight Skilled Gentlemen", in that order. If you liked "Bridge of Birds", I strongly recommend them. The books can be found on Amazon, including a recent omnibus edition, or on the 'net in pdf form, if you want to try before buying. There is also a short-numbered illustrated edition, which I am dreaming of finding.
Just another point to show how ridicolous Homeopathy is, what the "like cure like" idea is based on nonsense also. Even our master, Orac ( :-)) states that "belladonna, undiluted, will make you feel sick and feverish".
From Wikipedia: "The symptoms of belladonna poisoning include dilated pupils, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, tachycardia, loss of balance, staggering, headache, rash, flushing, severely dry mouth and throat, slurred speech, urinary retention, constipation, confusion, hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions."
Even if the "like cures like" idea was sound (which of course it isnt), what idiot would want to use Belladonna as a remedy based on the actual symptoms it causes?
why is it these quacks always think we know zero aboot their fave snake oil?
Re: treating the symptoms rather than the causes
A lot of modern medicine involves treating the causes of infectious diseases by using substances that kill the causative bacteria or reduce the growth of the causative viruses. We sort of take this for granted, but we shouldn't, and it's all part of science based medicine at this point in history.
This seems to be a fairly obvious refutation of that blather about orthodox medicine treating symptoms rather than causes. I guess the mystics have to pretend that the infection is secondary to the mystical energy imbalances of subluxated blah blah blah. Still, I think it's a useful rejoinder at the social conversation level. The overall point is that SBM is the best way to go when we have the science.
I finally got my flu shot yesterday. I think that one of the great advances in modern medicine is the thin, sharp, disposable needle. Mine went in smoothly and almost painlessly, and I don't seem to be suffering from heavy metal poisoning, a developmental disorder, or even a sore arm. Unlike what I hear on the infomercials, this actually is a way of stimulating the immune system.
Off topic (but can it ever be . . . etc ?) -- I have a colleague who is a bit young to have coronary artery disease, but apparently has some family history and genetics, so she had one of those Xray tests for calcification. So the doctor explains to her that she is in the 97th percentile of calcification for women her age, and he wants her to come back for an angiography (dye injection to see if there is a developing blockage in an artery). She's an otherwise smart person, but a little bit woo minded, and she told me that she'd like to avoid the test because "it's equivalent to 600 chest xrays." I didn't really know what to say, and finally came out with, "So what?" It's a little hard to discuss rationally balancing risk vs risk while walking down the street, so I managed to explain that I'd rather not see her drop dead on the spot. The point I'm making is that this paranoia about radiation and chemicals is like some kind of toxic cloud, and it causes people to avoid doing things that are designed to save their lives.
@ Bob G
I was mulling on this recently, and reflecting on the level of projection/double standard from the alt-med crowd.
It is true that mainstream medicine has a number of treatments which act as symptoms relief rather than targeting the underlying cause, but that doesn't make them bad, because
- either we trust the body's natural healing to do the job, and the treatment is just to give it time to do it, or "merely" to improve the patient's comfort in the meantime (and being functional and autonomous while sick is not a small blessing). As examples (IANAD), hydratation/IV fluids during rotovirus infection, bacteriostatics used instead of bactericids, painkillers, or simply a plaster over a broken limb.
- or targeting the cause is beyond the possible (yet). Until someone comes with a way to regenerate a pancreas, insulin injections will be needed for Type I diabetes.
It's fascinating to listen from a distance to some CAM artist explaining that mainstream medicine doesn't know about natural healing, gives one-size-fits-all treatments, and is generally pill-pushing; and then, switches to explain how you need to drink colloidal silver everyday, or take 5 (or 20) pills of supplements each meal, or visit the reiki master every two weeks if you want to keep your feeble, fragile body somehow healthy.
@ Bob G
I just remembered that XKCD has put together a radiation dose chart.
Not sure if this could help your friend, without a chart of coronary risks so she can compare the two - although it may help put the dose from a chest scan into perspective. It's true it's a big dose, but there are some safety margin.
"I’m actually shocked. Is everyone here actually so closed-minded that you believe that just because we don’t fully understand the mechanism by which something works that you should assume it doesn’t?"
Yes, it's just like what I was telling somebody the other day; just because we don't know the exact reason why a person drops dead when you point a stick at them and say "Avada Kedavra" doesn't mean that we're justified in concluding that Harry Potter is a work of fiction. How closed minded would that be?
I pose to Sarah the question as to why she doesn't think OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) (government health insurance) wouldn't jump at the chance to adopt homeopathy as it is so cheap? Why does she think the NHS in the UK is ridding itself of homeopathy as treatment? Seriously, the Ottawa Civic Hospital just cut 290 jobs due to budget cuts, wouldn't public health such as OHIP want cheaper alternatives? Honeslty, don't be stupid.
Heliantus: "It’s fascinating to listen from a distance to some CAM artist explaining that mainstream medicine doesn’t know about natural healing, gives one-size-fits-all treatments, and is generally pill-pushing; and then, switches to explain how you need to drink colloidal silver everyday, or take 5 (or 20) pills of supplements each meal, or visit the reiki master every two weeks if you want to keep your feeble, fragile body somehow healthy."
Quite a paradox. I am also mystified about how our "naturally healing" body is also unable to expel or break down toxins without pills and enemas, or why it is so rickety that it cannot maintain a normal pH without special foods and supplements.
"I am also mystified about how our “naturally healing” body is also unable to expel or break down toxins without pills and enemas, or why it is so rickety that it cannot maintain a normal pH without special foods and supplements."
Unnatural lifestyle, of course.
Got that cart way, way before your horse here, Sarah. First demonstrate that homeopathy actually works (i.e., achieves results greater than those acheived by placebo treatments) and then we can move on to discuss putative mechanisms of action.
Our hospital is striking a blow for non-closed-mindedness (or something). Just noticed a plaque on the wall in one of the units, quoting Patricia Neal ("A strong positive attitude will work more miracles than any wonder drug"). I can see it now:
"Doctor, this patient is septic. Should we start IV antibiotics?" "Nonsense, a strong positive attitude will work more miracles than any antibiotic."
*a review of the health problems suffered by Neal and her family suggests that they were not quite positive enough.
A miracle by definition is an unexpected success beyond all reasonable expectations. That's not what I'm looking for when I go to a doctor--I'm looking instead to receive treatments for which there's a known, demonstrable real-world probablility of success.
What if the patient is also skeptic?
My favourite herbal concoction is Jaegermeister. I put a shot of it in a tall glass of iced tea. Mmm. Blackbirds and other corvids are off my food list, though. They meet the 'uses tools, don't eat' rule.
No, no, blackbirds (unless you mean some New World blackbird) is a simple thrush, of the Turdidae. Agree about the smartness of the corvids. The hardest part of eating crow is probably catching the little buggers in the first place.
@Strewth: Jaegermeister is one of my personal woo treatments for nasty chest colds. The cough-calming effect lasts about 2-3 hours -- long enough to fall asleep (or continue partying during Oktoberfest, which is how I first discovered its medicinal effects.) I might try it with iced tea next time - with or without lemon?
A .22 works for me. Anything bigger and you won't have much crow left.
Oddly enough, just about an hour ago my tennis instructor, who had his knee repaired** the other day, is requesting that we supply him with
other distilled products ( Glenlivet, Glenfiddich et al) so he can toss his painkillers. Not sure if those have herbs in them though.
** including cadaver spare parts. Really.
@ Denice Walter: Tell your tennis instructor to use ice packs or order a circulating ice water pump applied to the knee. (Daughter had a skiing mishap that resulted in a fracture of the tibial plateau and a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament ** replacement)
** Cadaver ACL from a 12 year old. Really.
It's the meniscus. He didn't get the ice water pump - not sure why- someone else mentioned that.
Lots of ACL work around there, also.
That club has the greatest variety of body part replacements/ repairs- I know a 23 year old with a new knee. It's the "look at my scar" meet-up place.
I remain my pristine, original self.
Knock on wood/ touch wood.
Sarah Reid: I'm late to the party, but those statistics you mention for positive, negative, and inconclusive studies...sigh. Not all those studies are equally good, so the sheer number of "positive" studies is meaningless.
Anyway, those numbers (if they aren't totally made up) woalso't say what you seem to think they do. lots of studies are negative or inconclusive? Well sure! The treatments that don't
get convincing results are then NOT USED. That's kind of the entire point. pint.
Apologies for the gibberish bits in my comment; I'm reading on a cheap tablet with a flaky touchscreen, in part to keep myself from getting too deep into comment threads. It doesn't always work, but it does make it harder to type an entire paragraph without some stray characters sneaking in.
Well, I'm clearly not needed here in the recipe phase of the thread, but in mopping up may I say to our departed, deceitful guests that it's always wise to check out a place before leaping into the comments. Do the denizens of Wooville really think we just mill around here hurling zingers and blindly defending our Pharma Overlords without any sort of reading up?
Linda, using your real name and not telling us you're married to the guy you're defending? You know what? If you'd shown up all fired-up and full of dudgeon to defend your man, we'd have understood. You'd still have been wrong about the science, but it would have seemed so much less skeevy.
As for you, Cartman's mom, with your "I used to be a Skeptic, but . . ." trope. Well, honey, I used to be a homeopathy guzzling, acupuncture getting, spirit channeling, essential oil huffing loon in my thirties, so I took the other route. Trust me, it's all placebo and confirmation bias. The aromatherapy does smell good though. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna make a Bach Flowertini with some leftover flower remedies I found whilst cleaning under the clawfoot (10 years-old) and finish Lawrence Wright's awesome Scientology book.
@ Denice Walter: I *might have* a torn meniscus...but with some PT and some exercises plus a prescription NSAID, I hope to avoid the repair. I told my orthopedist that I would consider an MRI ONLY if I experience unremitting pain and prior to surgery.
I'm hanging on to my unscarred *pristine* body...which I hope will be used for spare parts...someday.
I don't get why you don't want an MRI. You'd at least have some idea whether it was repairable then. (I had to have a partial lateral and medial meniscectomy—not repair—several years ago after a random street beating; I can only find one of the three scars at this remove.)
@ Narad: Why? Because my knee is stable and I manage fine with occasional prescribed NSAIDs (Mobic) and prescribed leg exercises. An MRI would have to be repeated if I am at the point of needing surgery.
Unless I very much miss my guess, the herbal liqueur made by monks and used as a remedy is called Frangelico. It's quite tasty, although I've never used it for anything other than recreational purposes.
Good God, Dr. ChinQuee was my gyno for a very brief period in the late 90s. Not only did she keep me waiting for the two appointments I had with her for about, oh, an hour, but she never apologized for the wait and, instead of reading an old People magazine, I was strongly "encouraged" to look through her myriad photo albums filled with pictures of her patients, her grinning face and notes about how fabulous she was.... Yikes. I still cringe when I think of her.
No, I would have picked up on that- I know what it is.
I think that this wasn't tasty.
I'm guessing it's some form of amaro.
Sadly, even with Orac's excellent arguments and credentials, nothing will convince my friends and acquaintances to stick with evidence/science based medicine for themselves or their animals. People are convinced that acupuncture, homeopathy, rescue remedy and such are good, and I seem to be the only one in a wide circle promoting science ...
Sadly, even with Orac's excellent arguments and credentials, nothing will convince my friends and acquaintances to stick with evidence/science based medicine for themselves or their animals. People are convinced that acupuncture, homeopathy, rescue remedy and such are good, and I seem to be the only one in a wide circle promoting science ...
Dreamer, invite them to a gathering where you promise to serve them "fresh" homeopathic vodka. Then make it in their presence as demonstrated in this video.
You've inspired me to host a homeopathic cocktail party - one I'll actually be able to afford.
I once explained how homeopathy 'works' to a business man: after he stopped laughing, he said that if it were real someone could make billions by creating stronger liquid products by adding water. Whatever costs more than water could be diluted and sold for a lower price at great profit.
That's how we know it doesn't work. Because someone would become very rich by diluting alcoholic beverages, petroleum products, industrial solvents, perfumes.. what have you. And NO ONE has.
(Yes, I know, a certain French company makes lots of euros by selling water labelled 'homeopathic remedies').
Ah, but most of this does not relate to homeopathy's operation upon the Vital Force. What's missing is the homeopathic remedy for alcohol intoxication.
This is only partly off-topic, but it's a Saturday night in my part of the world and things seem a bit slow around RI so I'll take advantage.
For the past few days I've been seeing a banner ad here on RI for something called "Quantum Jumping." (I guess the ad server picked out the word "quantum" in the homeopathy discussion and served up this ad.)
I clicked on it out of curiousity and stumbled into another world of woo. It's a bit like The Secret as it involves visualization to fulfill your dreams.
Warning: the home page has an auto-play video that has no apparent way to stop it or mute it. Turn your speakers off if you don't want to be annoyed. The guy beyond this scam, Burt Goldberg, looks and sounds like a 1970s-era Catskill resort activites coordinator.
I'm told by a rabid Oz fan I know that he recently had a "medical intuitive" named Tony something-or-other on the show. As you can imagine by the title, a "medical intuitive" diagnoses the mysterious ailments that have stymied doctors.
A psychic, in other words.
Even worse, Oz was, or still is running a contest which will award viewers "readings" with this medical intuitive. You have to write in and tell your story (...I've been going to doctors for five years and no one can figure out what's wrong with me....") and the best stories will win readings.
Oz's daughter is now shilling yogourt with Jamie Lee Curtis. She's billed as a "healthy living expert." I looked her up and discovered she not only has written nutrition books but also has her own TV show.
Does everyone who sells his or her soul to the Oprah empire also get passes for their entire family? Phil McGraw's whole family has book deals and TV shows, Oz's wife produces his show and now his daughter is an author and TV star too?
The medical intuitive's name is Tony LeRoy. He was on the show the last week of January.
Dr. Ernst writes about a new, rigourous trial of homeopathy.
It'll be interesting to see how the homeoquack community dismisses this trial, which simply reinforces that it is no better than placebo.
A commenter on that post named martin begins with, "Evidence based medicine: evidence of what? Mainly that it is better than the placebo group."
Um, yeah, pretty much. That's what we want for real medicine. (Then he launches into a paean of praise for the placebo effect.)
That's one of the amusing things about homeopathy: they make these grand sweeping claims, like this one from Jean the homeopath:
But suggest curing babies with whooping cough in the hospital, with TV cameras available to record the miracle, and the homeopath goes silent. Then they point to the few studies that show an effect barely better than the placebo effect as proof that homeopathy really works.
To me it's like the homeopath running into the house shouting, "there's a live triceratops in the back yard!" but when we all say, "Where? Where?" there's no answer. Then when we all go outside and start searching, the homeopath manages to come up with a field mouse and announces triumphantly, "See? See? There are live animals out here!"
Orac, your attacks of Mehmet Oz both under own name and your alias almost border on persecution. I wonder if there is not a bit of jealously of Oz's fame behind this.
Unfortunately, Marg, your comment does not almost border on actual content.
Of course!! Who wouldn't be jealous of looking like an utter fool on nationwide TV?
Marg has apparently not seen the similar criticisms of Oz in science blogs responding to the stories in mainstream magazines (New Yorker, Forbes) that make Oz look like an utter and total quack. Medical intuitives? Psychics? The weekly "miracle" weight loss product he shills? And of course reiki? The entire medical community laughs at Oz. It's not jealousy, it's contempt.
Marg, sweetie, did you write similar angry letters to the New Yorker and Forbes? They treated your hero a lot worse than Orac did.
Marg, when sniping, timing and aim are everything.
Marg, did you ever think that not everyone seeks fame? Or places money as the *ne plus ultra* of accomplishment?
There are aims in life that are more attractive to people who utilise other measures of success.
How happy are you? Are you doing work that is meaningful? What are you contributing to society-at-large? How are you helping to change what you find deleterious in our culture? Sharing our gifts, talents or good fortune with others are important.
That sounds odd for a pharma shill.
Some several thousand comments later and still Marg has not learned that tu quoque is not a valid argument. Or ponied up any evidence that energy healing works.
One wonders why she bothers turning up only to repeat the same boring crap over and over again?
What, Judith got bored taking over your schtick, went away, so now you have to come back again to take up the mantle?
I think Judith realized she better shut up with her ludicrous claims for energy healing after several of us filed complaints against her with Ontario, Toronto and Canadian authorities.
Either that or she got really butthurt we insulted her little money-grubbing scam.
She seemed butthurt on her blog, so I'm going to say butthurt but then again I just skimmed the post so I could be wrong. After so many posts of the same bull from her here, I couldn't bring myself to fully read her blog, this was all the way back in December too so my memory could be a little cloudy.
Marg, if for the sake of argument, we assume that Orac is jealous of Dr. Oz's fame one then has to ask "What's your point?" Every criticism leveled at Dr. Oz remains entirely valid even if motivated by jealousy.
I'm reminded of one time someone accused me of being jealous of John Edwards' psychic powers. Talk about way off the mark. Frankly, I think Marg is projecting her own jealousy onto us. I'm certainly not interested in that level of fame.
It's also astoundingly cynical to assume that just because a person holds a contrary position, they must be lying about their motives and desires. It's not surprising, though. The altie world is built on teaching its followers that outsiders are universally, inhumanly selfish without exception.
I was trying to remember which one of us was responsible for that delicious phrase "contemptible purse-snatcher of science." Thank you.
Still scamming to steal money from vulnerable patients, fraud?
To paraphrase a relative of mine, if malice, self-righteousness and narrow-mindedness hurt, a number of your here would not be able to get up from the floor.
Mirrors are your friend, Marg.
I'm not sure now, but I know it wasn't me. If I had better google fu I could track down the comments, but just finding past threads was too much for me yesterday. Even googling the phrase didn't turn up much more than a couple of hits.
This does not count as evidence that energy healing works. It also repeats many of the tropes we've already countered over the past several months.
Describe yourself much, murderer?
But please, continue to make a fool of yourself. Prove to your marks that all you want is their money, and that you don't give a flying fig about actually helping them at all.
if malice, self-righteousness and narrow-mindedness hurt, a number of your here would not be able to get up from the floor.
I object! That's not malice, self-righteousness OR narrow-mindedness -- it's the beer.
At the risk of being called a tone troll, some of the responses to Marg have been overly harsh.
However, I believe her comment that Orac's critiques of Dr. Oz almost border on persecution sets a rather low bar for persecution. Based on a careful reading of Orac's comments, I can't find that he systematically mistreated Dr. Oz. He (rightly in my view) criticized certain things that Dr. Oz has presented on national TV. He has done so backing what he says with examples and good science. I don't believe that counts as mistreatement. Frankly, given their relative positions, I'm not sure it's possible for Orac to persecute Dr. Oz, regardless of how vituperative he were to get - he simply doesn't have sufficient authority and can't affect Dr. Oz sufficiently to be said to mistreat him.
novalox, I am not a fan of what Marg does either, but to call her a murderer? Too far.
Yes Marg, we are big blue meanies
While you are, as ever, full of something other than evidence
To be honest, I detest her kind, who give false hope, at the same time stealing patient's money, hope, and time.
It may be a bit harsh, but I still think of marg and her ilk as the lowest of the low, predators who steal from those who are at the most vulnerable.
Murderer, no. Negligently homicidal, perhaps. Marg has no idea that what she does is irresponsible and a drain on resources or what paves The Road to Hell. If she's kucky, she'll never have to find out...
Others in her profession however, must know they are grifting with lives. It's as if snake oil sales neither existed, nor is. Any mention is vague and difficult to determine due to the nature of the nostrum.
Because the tool that allows a deaf Mom a cochlear implant to hear her boy say "I love you" for the first time, shows the nature of these nostrums to be entirely imaginative.
I agree with Mephistopheles O'Brien: "At the risk of being called a tone troll, some of the responses to Marg have been overly harsh."
There's no reason to call her a murderer. Reiki won't harm anyone, since it doesn't do anything, and the worried well may feel better for it. We do not know that she discourages real treatment for real illnesses and I believe either she or her friend Judith denied doing so, though I have difficulty searching in the comments so I can't point to the comment.
@novalox: "It may be a bit harsh, but I still think of marg and her ilk as the lowest of the low, predators who steal from those who are at the most vulnerable."
Burzynski is far worse. Marg doesn't seek out dying children to prey upon.
OK, I admit I went overboard with the whole murderer thing. Apologies to all.
I still think that marg's refusal to put up evidence, as well as insisteing that her treatments are as effective as SBM, represents an active willingness to street patients away from treatments that actually work or at the very least, eases a patient's comfort.
I would place burzynski along with marg in that group. At least now we see that the FDA is auditing him, so hopefully, his unethical activities can come to light.
@novalox - having been involved with various government agencies over the years, the wheels definitely do turn very slowly & I'm sure the FDA was waiting for the results of the TMB's case to see if they had to commit the resources to go after Dr. B (or if Texas was going to do it for them).
Getting the audit extended another month probably means they found a lot more than they were expecting and will be following up on whatever improprieties or irregularities they noticed the first time around - I suspect the website alterations were ordered by the FDA, and fingers-crossed, this could be end for the clinic (if the doctors there aren't already running for the hills).
Recall that to marg's mind the single most compelling piece of evidence that energy healing works were Bengston's studies, demonstrating energy healing works exactly as well as no treatment whatsoever.
It's not so much that she refuses to put up evidence as that she doesn't understand what evidence of efficacy would look like if it existed.
Oh that's right: she figured out that her arguments don't hold water and instead of making a better case, nowadays she drops some pearl of non-wisdom and ducks out before it's thrown back in her face.