Vote Dr Kerryn Phelps for ‘Better Health’. No, wait, she supports………Homeopathy?

Better Health! Excellent, let’s vote for Dr Kerryn Phelps. But hold your horses. While most people will think in terms of improved diagnostics and better, safer, less expensive medications and improved accessibility, others such as Dr Phelps have a different agenda. For some people, usually having some financial stake in alternative healthcare, ‘better health’ unfortunately means that they will exploit the current problems/deficiencies in the healthcare system to promote less effective, or even completely ineffective, medications to the general public. One can almost call this their ‘unique selling point’. But when a medication is completely ineffective none of the other issues (diagnostics, cost, safety etc) matters, and yet people such as Dr Phelps continue to promote this. In my humble opinion, a criminal activity, because ineffective treatments cause unnecessary harm and death.

But she is a clever one. As a well-known public figure, she cannot do all of the dirty work herself because she needs to keep her image squeaky clean. So, to get behind the swing of the bat, it is worthwhile to have a look at her collaborators in what I call, an ‘unholy Alliance’, and their dark world of deceit. Dr Phelps is an adjunct at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), headed by Prof Alan Bensoussan. She is also part of the NICMs advisory board and states on her campaign website: “Dr Phelps is committed to teaching the next generation of doctors as Conjoint Professor at University of New South Wales Faculty of Medicine and in the National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University.”

It is during these advisory board meetings, held in the herbal-essence filled back rooms at Western Sydney university, where they come up with their sinister plans of how to integrate ineffective treatments into the healthcare system. Let me put in plain language; ‘how to BS the public’. Let me explain at the hand of homeopathy (a next article will deal with vaccinations and traditional Chinese medicine).

Support for Homeopathy

Homeopaths are an interesting, although completely delusional, bunch of people – but they do have a very good sense of humour. They will for example take a substance, any substance (even imaginary ones), go into a state of delirium during a process called ‘proving’, and dilute the substance away – completely away. During this process they note their ‘symptoms/state of delirium/feelings’ which then becomes the indications, and like magic, the vial containing only solvent suddenly becomes a ‘medicine’. To understand their sense of humour, you just need to read about any ‘proving document’. Take for example the homeopathic remedy prepared from a Black hole. They affix a vial of alcohol to the viewing end of a telescope focused on Cygnus X-1’s location within the Cygnus constellation. After collecting the ‘substance’ they dilute it into oblivion with the delirious homeopaths taking this ‘medicine’ stating that it; “ … felt their teeth were “drawing inward.” So it makes perfectly sense that this homeopathic remedy is suitable to be prescribed for……..??

You also get homeopathic remedies prepared from; Excrementum caninum (yes, dog shit), condoms, colours, musical notes, Berlin wall etc. (Here you can find my top ten list of homeopathic remedies for 2017. If you can top any of these remedies, please let me know – I am busy compiling 2018’s list).  One might now argue that all these examples are on the extremities of homeopathy, and yes sure, but it doesn’t really matter. You can also take any well-known medicinal herb, or even a real medicine such as an antibiotic, but as soon as you ‘prepare’ it according to the homeopathic principles, the medicine disappears which will render even the most effective antibiotic useless. The sad reality is that some homeopaths prescribe their remedies for serious conditions such as malaria and cancer which obviously leads to a lot of unnecessary harm and death.

Sure, the biggest risk is indirect, due to neglecting serious medical conditions, but there are also examples when homeopaths go into such as state delirium that they sometimes manage to get their dilutions wrong. For example; many babies died and hundreds were hospitalised in the US after a toxic substance (deadly nightshade) was not correctly diluted. Clearly homeopathy cannot possibly be included within the ‘Better Health” campaign promise?

So how does Dr Phelps support and exploit this? She operates a number of ‘integrative medicine’ clinics where naturopaths, who are known for their love of homeopathy and anti-vaccination tendencies, are employed. A couple of years ago Dr Phelps made the following comments in an article regarding the funding of homeopathy:

Start of excerpt

Unfairly targeted?

But some doctors suggest homeopathy is being unfairly targeted.

“It smacks of a crusade to me,” says Professor Kerryn Phelps, president of the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association (AIMA), which promotes “the integration of safe, evidence-based complementary medicines and therapies with current mainstream medical practice”.

She does not believe homeopathy is having the kind of impact on private health premiums Harvey fears, and says there are “bigger fish to fry” when it comes to fixing the healthcare system.

Phelps says homeopathy can be easily criticised because it has a relatively small evidence base.

But, she suggests orthodox treatments are not subject to the same level of scrutiny.

“The Journal of the American Medical Association earlier this year produced a meta-analysis of SSRI anti-depressants in mild to moderate depression and found them no better than placebo,” says Phelps, who is Conjoint Professor in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales and a former president of the Australian Medical Association.

“If you are going to exclude treatments that don’t have an evidence base then we have to start looking at pharmaceuticals that don’t have an evidence base, surgical therapies that don’t have an evidence base.”

Matter of evidence

Dr Vicki Kotsirilos, who originally founded AIMA, says she is sympathetic to Harvey’s concerns but rejects some of his conclusions.

“To say that there is no evidence for homeopathy is actually incorrect and unfortunately a lot of people make those statements,” says the Melbourne-based GP, who points to evidence collected by the British Homeopathic Association.

“There have been systematic reviews that have shown that overall homeopathy is not anymore of benefit to placebo or of marginal benefit. But there have been some Cochrane Collaboration reviews that there is a little bit of research available for some therapies.”

She says some of the major studies quoted don’t properly take into account how homeopathy is used.

“When you prescribe homeopathy, it’s often individualised and you won’t use the same homeopathic remedy for one person with a particular disease to another person with the same disease,” says Kotsirilos.

She says homeopathy, and other complementary therapies, are particularly popular among patients who have suffered side-effects from medication, or where surgery is contraindicated.

“Out of all the complementary medicines it is the least understood, with the least amount of research,” says Kotsirilos, who calls for more funding for research.

“We need more research to be able to identify which patients might benefit from homeopathy and in what conditions, bearing in mind that there are people out there who choose to use this and we have to respect their choices.”

End of excerpt

(Vicki Kosirilos is obviously also part of this ‘alliance’ being a member of the NICM’s ‘Research Committee’). A couple of years ago the NHMRC did a thorough study on homeopathy and found it to be, surprise-surprise, ineffective and recommended that the public should not use homeopathy because they are putting their health at risk. This the Alliance cannot have, because it flies in the face of their plans to integrate ineffective remedies. The director of the NICM, Alan Bensoussan published a press release highlighting the ‘methodological flaws’ and that it doesn’t agree with all international reports on homeopathy etc. But it is during these advisory board meetings where they decide how and who should respond to this unfair ‘attack’ on their sinister plans (here you can read the minutes of one of their meetings). This job usually falls in the lap of Carl Gibson, the CEO of Complementary Medicine Australia – their attack dog.

He promptly published that the NHMRC report is “fatally flawed” and ends his press release with the prophetic words “Homeopathy has been around for hundreds of years, and I am sure will be around a lot longer than some of the critics.” Translated it simply means “We (Dr Phelps, the NICM and their whole alliance) do not accept that a complementary medicine is ineffective, and we will do whatever we can to continue to protect, promote and sell it”. They also lodged a complaint at the Commonwealth Ombudsman, claiming that the NHMRC report “…is inaccurate, highly misleading to the public and unjustly damaging to the credibility of the homeopathy sector. It is therefore essential that all published documents relating to the Homeopathy Review are rescinded in their entirety.” (there is some uncertainty about whether this complaint was actually lodged or not).

All that these people need to do is to plant the seed of doubt in the mind of the public, which is enough to ensure that people will continue to buy these ineffective remedies. Dr Phelps will continue to make real healthcare suspect, claim that her ‘medications’ are all natural, safe and evidence-based and that it will also save you a lot of money. But in reality, she and her Alliance does not give a hoot that people, including young children and babies, die because of what they are promoting – for them it is all about money!! (A good example of the type of people you need in such an Alliance is Prof Gregory Kolt. He was even found guilty of fraud; “As a result, the defendant fraudulently obtained a total of $5,864.15 from the Authority over a period of 14 months. When the matter was investigated, the defendant provided false information and documents.”)

A vote for Dr Phelps is a vote to give this unholy Alliance a foot in the federal door. She will provide easier access and opportunities for this Alliance to lobby government ministers in order to integrate their ineffective remedies with conventional healthcare. This, in my view, will be a travesty for the healthcare system. While homeopathy is one of the easier fake medications to debunk, Dr Phelps’s involvement and impact unfortunately gets a lot murkier. In a next article I will focus on vaccinations and how this alliance has infiltrated the World Health Organisation who now promotes, you guessed it, homeopathy and all sorts of other disproven and unproven traditional medicines.

The remarkable medicinal properties of ………. a pregnant women’s head! Why Unis should stand up for science!

Wow, what a way to wake up this morning. I thought giving a child with behavioural problems homeopathic dog saliva was bad, but I think this will top it. When I scrolled through the news this morning I came across this remarkable article. Two men were sentenced after being caught trying to sell a women’s head as medicine.

Two men found guilty of beheading a pregnant woman and trying to sell her body parts for muti have been sentenced to life imprisonment. Former teacher Edward Raatji and his friend Stanley Mohlake sat in silence in a packed Limpopo High Court, as Judge Matsaro Semenya read out their sentences for the murder of Nthabiseng Mojela. Mojela was beheaded in July 2016 in Mapela village, near Mokopane. Raatji, 54, and Mohlake, 34, were arrested for Mojela’s murder, following a tip-off after they advertised to traditional leaders that they had a human head for sale.”

What can I do about it? Unfortunately, not much, but where there is a market for body parts as medicine, there is bound to be people that believes in its medicinal properties. And when people believe, then you are also bound to find people in a position of power that perpetuates the notion that ineffective substances have magical medicinal properties. So, all I can do is to again insist that Universities protect science and not allow pseudoscientists a foot in the door. I’ve written about the ‘Muti’ trade before and called it at the time a ‘’horror movie” where children are being ripped apart, preferably when they are still alive, because that makes the ‘medicine’ stronger. The fact that there is a trade in human body parts as medicine, or for that matter something such as Rhino horn, should be a wake-up call for scientists. And again, when scientists allow pseudoscientists a foot in the door (by keeping quiet about it) this sort of stuff is what you can expect – and it will only get worse. What am I on about? Well, the World Health Organisation (WHO). They should work towards taking the magic out of traditional medicine, educate people about real medicine by convincing governments to provide mass education regarding modern healthcare.

Unfortunately, some universities have allowed pseudoscientists a foot in the door. The result? In 2013 the WHO published its much anticipated “Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023”. This 76-page report, funded by China and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Traditional Medicine in Hong Kong, unfortunately contains very little or no scientific information. No discussion on the trade and use of body parts or the pseudoscientific principles on which these “medicines” are based. No discussion of any science such as promoting education or improving accessibility and cost effectiveness of science based effective medicines. There is seemingly an inability to accept that specific traditional medicines are ineffective and should not be used.

The whole report revolves around the words “integrate” or “integrative”. This is what this WHO strategy calls for – how to better integrate traditional and complementary medicine, which is mainly based on magic, with mainstream conventional medicine, which is based on science. And this goes for homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, TCM – disproven complementary medicines! I can only speak for myself and then only about the influence of those universities where I worked. This is my way of standing up for science.

I believe that the WHO has been infiltrated by pseudoscientists who promotes disproven and unproven medicines to be integrated into mainstream healthcare. It is as if the Australian based National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) hosted at Western Sydney University has written this WHO report.  The agenda of the NICM? Accept millions of dollars from the CAM industry, lobby regulators including the WHO to give blanket support for all T&CMs, integrate pseudoscience with science and by doing this increase the sales figures of the CAM industry. So, did the NICM write or influence this WHO report?

Who do we find in the acknowledgements section? The Canadian naturopath, Michael Smith, an adjunct of the NICM (a tough week for Canada). The NICM would not be the NICM if they didn’t have a finger in the pie in compiling this WHO report and as stated on the NICM’s website “He was one of the primary technical drafters of the WHO Global Strategy for Traditional & Complementary Medicine (2014-2023) and continues to participate in WHO projects, working groups and consultations notably dealing with the regulation and policy setting related to traditional and complementary medicines.”

If you happen to work at WSU please start to ask questions (or for that matter if you work at any university hosting pseudoscientists). The NICM has been linked with illegally importing rhino horn as medicine, they’ve been linked with the tragic slapping therapy death of a 7yo child (what is better; being ripped apart and being used as medicine or being allowed to slowly and painfully die while your parents believe that what they are giving you is an effective treatment, while it’s clearly not). They are pseudoscientists, with global aspirations, excelling at spreading confusion regarding the effectiveness of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine. And they do it for money – they need to be stopped.

Dog saliva as medicine for…..’growling’? Homeopathy – the perfect script for a Black Comedy.

Let’s face it. Homeopaths have an excellent sense of humour and thumbs-up for their superb acting abilities. Because of their truly unique skills-set, some people have suggested that they are not really acting at all, but that they are visitors from a parallel universe. Be as it may, there is something amiss, because very few people from our universe would be able to keep a straight face while explaining to a patient that taking homeopathic dog shit will help against their ‘self-disgust’. Or that a remedy made from condoms will ease their feelings ‘of being restricted’ (cure claustrophobia). Recently there was even a Canadian homeopath, ‘Dr’ Anke Zimmermann, who prescribed dog saliva to a child that growled (behavioural problems). They are a funny bunch, and clearly, they have a thing for dogs, so I just don’t know, I have to go with the parallel universe theorem.

Alternative zoo
A typical zoo in the parallel universe of homeopaths

The list of their weird remedies just goes on and on – it is just out of this world. How about homeopathic remedies made from a Black hole (yes, homeopaths have visited), English sun (apparently the sun actually shines in their England), water diluted in, yes, water or…… here are some weeeeeird things they prescribe as ‘medicine’. This by itself should be enough for Hollywood to at least investigate the possibility of producing a comedy. It would however be best to cast real homeopaths (how about it ‘Dr’ Zimmerman?) because I don’t think any human being will be able to play the part. But then again, maybe Gwyneth Paltrow? or if the producers wants a documentary style comedy, maybe HRH Prince of Wales (but are we sure that they are from our universe?)

Fringe Series 2 Episode 1 - A new Day In An Old Town
Homeopaths also have a thing for cows. Here we witness the celebration after the first successful production of the homeopathic remedy ‘Excrementum vaccinum’. (English: cow dung)

What is homeopathy? Well, it is a hoax that’s been around for about 200 years. You dilute any substance you can think of into oblivion, including imaginary substances, and then you sell it as medicine – simple, (in)effective and highly profitable. Hundreds of years ago the healthcare system was pretty much non-existent and patients admitted to ‘hospital’ were more likely to die than patients who stayed at home. The reason for this? Healthcare was so terrible that your body had to fight the disease as well as the healthcare system, so it was far less risky to just stay at home.

Bloodletting, as a cure all, comes to mind (cause of death of the former American president George Washington) but also the eye watering tendency to drill holes in peoples’ skulls (trepanation) to cure whatever. As the theory goes the possibility exist that during one of these drilling exercises a patient, screaming in anguish, hit the exact note and volume that it ribbed a hole in the fabric that separates our universes. This is seen as day zero when homeopaths entered our universe and started with the practice of giving patients, zero, as medicine. This is also the likely reason why we can buy homeopathic remedies made from various musical notes (day zero is still celebrated in April each year during Homeopathy Awareness Week.)

Because homeopathic remedies contain zero, a sick person only had to fight the disease. Add to this the well-known placebo effect and it is understandable that people actually thought that it was effective. So, at the time the results were good – no, not really, one should rather say the results of ‘conventional healthcare’ was terrible, but nevertheless, this counterintuitive notion gave these visitors a foot in the door.

homeopathic bicycle
A homeopath illustrating how cycling works in their universe.

Now we are 200 years later. The disease model (disease caused by bacteria, viruses, mutations, ect.) antibiotics and other life-saving medicines and surgical interventions have been developed and is continuously being improved. Science has made huge progress and although not perfect, modern healthcare has brought us tremendous benefits whilst homeopathy is still zero – there has been absolutely no progress whatsoever.

But now for the black part of this comedy. The reason why homeopaths are here is unclear. Some suggest that the portal is only one-way and they simply cannot get back while others have proposed that they have a far more sinister agenda. They were send here to destroy our universe. If you think about it, what is the most powerful weapon out there? It’s not a nuke, it is confusion, and spreading confusion is the one thing that homeopaths excel at. For example: in our universe we have a thing called ‘dose-response curve’ – which in plain language means that a bigger quantity of a specific substance will have a bigger biological effect, up to a point where you overdose and die. But they advocate the exact opposite – the smaller the quantity the bigger the effect. It’s like saying the less money I have the richer I am.

cooking
Some suggest that homeopaths are here because cooking is apparently quite difficult in their universe

This implies that the more you dilute a substance the bigger the chance that you might overdose and die, something that has actually been tested when hundreds of people deliberately ‘overdosed’ in protest against politicians and regulators. No biological effect was observed and the call was made to ban these imposters and their ridiculous remedies. But homeopaths are on a mission and they have steadily infiltrated the political elite and the regulators since their arrival 200 years ago.

It is quite easy to see which politicians are from the other side. Politicians saying one thing and doing the exact opposite is in all likelihood from over there. Regulators claiming that they are here to protect the public against fake medicine and then allow these fake medicines to be sold unchecked, have also been infiltrated and are aiding homeopaths to achieve their mission objectives.

Boris
Politicians from the other side are sometimes quite easy to spot.

The results of their mission thus far are that more and more people are turning their backs on evidence-based healthcare (of great concern is the growing number of anti-vaxxers) even though many people got hurt and unfortunately many died – and this is the very black part of this comedy. Politicians and regulators seemingly does not give a hoot and finds it okay when adults die at the hands of homeopaths. But sometimes they do act, but only sometimes, and then only when children got hurt or died.

To test and see if they have also infiltrated our bastions of knowledge a.k.a. universities, I popped an email to the Department of Homeopathy, University of Johannesburg. In theory they should be studying why people from our universe continue to fall for homeopathy and they should advise against using it. So, I asked them for some advice about what to give my 7yo son before we enter a malaria region. The answer from UJ, who also runs a Homeopathic clinic for orphans in Soweto, was that I can buy a remedy at a local pharmacy that contains – nothing! Well, to be honest, I first had to translate because sometimes they still speak in their Alien language. So here are their exact ‘words’:

“Arnica montana D30 Arsenicum alb 6ch, 12ch Cinchona off 6ch, 12ch Eupatorium perf 6ch, 30ch Chininum ars 12ch, 30ch Ferrum met 12ch Malaria off 30ch Ledum palustre 30ch”

Some English in there but for the rest gibberish. Fully translated it simply means ‘nothing’. So clearly UJ has been infiltrated (they also have a chiropractic department).

Another university is Western Sydney University and specifically the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM). I have long known that most people working at the NICM are from somewhere else – they are not from our world (because of their weirdness they’ve won the Bent Spoon award in 2017). But what was quite surprising was that they have actually taken over the whole management of the University. Highlighting the issues at the NICM was met with a ‘we could not care less’ attitude. They even promoted the NICM to become a fully-fledged ‘health institute’ from where they are continuing to spread confusion into the world. They have even managed to infiltrate the World Health Organisation who now recommends homeopathy to be integrated with conventional medicine.

So, there we have it. Homeopaths are everywhere and they have no plans to go back to where they came from. We are stuck with some very funny homeopaths and their hilarious ‘remedies’, but at the same time, also the tragedies that plays out in many homes across the globe. For me a very good script for a black comedy, but I am afraid that stopping this madness will be as difficult as finding a portal and sending these quacks back to their universe.

Superfoods (& most complementary meds). They all come with the same steaming side dish: a hearty helping of bullshit.

A bit of humour to let off some steam, but also to continue to battle the flood of misleading information regarding complementary and alternative medicines (CAM). Because, who wants me to explain how CAM is regulated in Australia? ‘Booooring’, ‘yaaawn’, ‘move on mate’ – I can hear you say. Short answer; no one.  So, how can one get this important, albeit boring, information regarding how we are being misled, to as many people as possible? Well, humour might play an interesting role, because everyone loves a good laugh. But then again, how can anyone squeeze any humour out of such a dreary subject? Luckily, there are some exceptionally gifted people, who can do exactly that. Not only can they give this subject a hilarious spin, they can also get the complicated message across – and hopefully many people will learn from this while enjoying some very good comedy.

And it even gets better, because it is all on youtube. I have listed a couple of videos where the consumer program “The Checkout” looked at various aspects regarding CAM regulation and misleading claims made for specific supplements, including superfoods. Sure, the focus is on Australian issues, but the CAM industry in other countries use very similar techniques  – so these videos are perfect for anyone who wants a good laugh, and learn something while doing so. Below is a short description and the total length of each video.

  1. The Australian Complementary Medicines industry is worth over $1.2 billion a year. But do manufacturers have to prove their products work? Or is a celebrity endorsement enough? Craig Reucassel looks into these questions and more. You can find the video here, length 8:47min. (they were sued for defamation based on this segment).
  2. Pharma Sutra: Seems you can buy anything at a pharmacy these days. But are pharmacists breaking their own code of conduct? You can find the video here, length 7:32 min.
  3. Chlorophyll: Kirsten Drysdale throws stones in the chlorophyll glasshouse. You can find the video here, length 3:20 min.
  4. Nicole Kidman Joins The Checkout + Dodgy Swisse Labelling: Consumer affairs Ambassador Nicole Kidman speaks out for the first time about her Swisse ads. And Craig follows up The Checkout’s first investigation into dodgy labelling of complementary medicines, analysing Swisse’s dodgy reaction to their dodgy products being banned. You can find the video here, length 2:30 min.
  5. Swisse update: Craig looks at Swisse’s push for more self-regulation in the advertising of complementary medicines. You can find the video here, length 3:32 min.
  6. Superfoods: They’re ancient, exotic, jam-packed full of antioxidants, and all come with the same steaming side dish: a hearty helping of bullshit. You can find the video here, length 9:00 min.
  7. Fish Oil: Kirsten Drysdale finds something fishy in the world of omega-3 supplements. You can find the video here, length 9:00 min.
  8. U. Tube: Howdy Partner! A special welcome to the ABC’s new commercial partner, Swisse, with a trip down memory lane! You can find the video here, length 1:27 min.

The patriarch of the supplement company Swisse, who features in many of these videos, did sue the Checkout for defamation after video 1 aired, but the case was eventually settled. And as expected, Swisse just continue to sell their dodgy products, using very dodgy claims. Enjoy the videos, and if it is any good please distribute their links via your network!

What can you do about the flood of misinformation re CAMs?

Well, if you are not a politician, Vice Chancellor or work for the regulators, to be honest, not much. One obvious thing that anyone can easily do, is to stop supporting unproven and disproven complementary, alternative and integrative therapies and medicines, even if it might look like harmless interventions (a balanced diet, exercise and drinking enough water is far more beneficial than all these complementary medicines combined – and it’s a lot cheaper).

Another important thing that anyone can do is to inform yourself, because you, or a member of your extended family or friends, will sometime during your lifetime be confronted with fake medicines or fake medical practitioners. The problem is that these people are so good that they can sell ice to an Eskimo, and hence, they can mislead anyone; your age, level of education etc. does not matter. To be well informed will be your only defence.

A very good source of valuable information, with an Australian focus, is the group called ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ (FSM). They are doing excellent work by providing accurate information regarding healthcare, but they are also doing much more than that. They are trying very hard to persuade Australian universities, politicians and regulators to stop their support of pseudoscientific healthcare systems – to fulfill their gatekeeper role. To join the 1100 concerned academics/healthcare professionals you can add your voice by becoming a friend of FSM or follow them on Twitter (@FriendsOfSciMed) or FaceBook. Their newsletters detailing all of their efforts also comes highly recommended. You can subscribe here.

A second valuable source of information is the website of Prof. Edzard Ernst in the UK. Prof Ernst was the first professor of complementary medicine (now retired), but luckily also happens to be a real scientist. He has many decades of experience, which he now shares via his website. This information is invaluable and deals with specific complementary medicines but also with how people around the globe are being misled by pseudoscientists. He has also written many books written in a style that anyone can understand (info on his website) dealing with this subject – it comes highly recommended. Twitter @EdzardErnst

You can also continue to read about my attempts to explain how the minds of pseudoscientists work, and what they are trying to achieve. Although my focus is on the NICM, many universities around the world have similar Institutes who’s modus operandi is exactly the same as the NICMs. You can follow my blog at (frankvanderkooy.com) or Twitter (@frank_kooy) or connect on LinkedIn. A simple and easy thing to do is to use the ‘Like’ function, because algorithms pick up on the number of likes which leads to the article being made available to a wider audience, and thereby creating more public awareness regarding these issues.

‘Take control of your health’, and we’ll take control of your wealth!

“Take charge of your health by being an informed consumer” or “….empowering patients to take control of their health and wellbeing” etc.

These are very common statements made by proponents of complementary, alternative and integrative medicine (CAIM), and it conveys a very clear message; you should take control of your health! But the question is; what do they really want to achieve with this message? If we look at this superficially, we might think that they refer to a healthy diet, physical exercise and other positive lifestyle changes, but then again, any medical doctor will give you this advice as well.  One might think that being an ‘informed’ consumer is clearly good advice, but then again, why do they continue to provide the public with misleading and false information regarding their CAIM products and therapies? So, it cannot be this either. So, what is it that these people really want to achieve with statements like this?

Well it’s simple, they want more people to buy their disproven and unproven products, and hence they aim to manipulate us, with using statements like this, in doing just that. One of their techniques is what I call, a soup kitchen approach, where they provide some good information for free, in order to lure us into their web of deceit. Because they do not make much money with their ‘good advice’ (e.g. lifestyle changes), they are thus hoping that we will also fall for their false and misleading information regarding the benefits and safety of a huge range of products, that they happen to sell.  To give you a rough idea of the sheer number of ‘products/services’ in their arsenal, please have a look at this table.

So, allow me to translate what they actually want to achieve with their ‘take control’ statement. There are two important aspects; creating distrust in conventional healthcare, and masterfully exploit a very common innate cognitive bias that we all suffer from, in order to increase their sales.

Let’s first look at creating distrust in conventional healthcare. With this message, they are implying that our health is currently in the hands of someone else, and that we should now take it back – it is our right. This is quite misleading. Lifestyle choices is indeed in our hands, but even people with the healthiest lifestyles, still get sick. And when you do get sick, you should go to a qualified medical doctor, get a proper diagnosis and a conventional medicine prescription – if needed (most people do not have the medical knowledge to do this themselves). In this conventional approach, we do not have much control and we put our trust in the hands of trained professionals.  According to the CAIM proponents this is not a good system because you need to be in full control.

So, with their ‘take control’ message they are actually creating distrust in conventional healthcare  with some even going as far as stating that very little of conventional healthcare has been proven to work, or that medicine just treats the symptoms and not the cause, or medicine doesn’t work at all, it is just toxic etc. Clearly, the real message here is that we should not really trust our doctor or conventional medicine, but we should trust ourselves and we should make our own healthcare decisions. The CAIM proponents only provide the ‘options’ that we can choose from, but unfortunately, they are notorious for making false and misleading claims about these ‘options’. And don’t they provide a massive range of products to choose from (and importantly, many pharmacies also benefit from this situation). In Australia, you have a choice of roughly 20 000 CAIM products. In South Africa, it is estimated that there are more than 155 000 products, and I have been informed that none of these products have had their quality, efficacy or safety verified!  But who cares, they want you to trust yourself and to decide which of these products will work for you.

The second aspect is exploiting an innate cognitive bias that we all struggle with. All of us are continuously performing risk-benefit analysis, usually, without us even knowing it.  Everything we do; getting out of bed, driving to work, going for a walk in the park etc. carries a risk and hence we will continuously perform a risk-benefit analysis. The CAIM proponents are skilfully exploiting the fact that we sometimes struggle to get this right, and in some cases, we just get it completely wrong. For example: we are far more likely (up to a thousand times) to downplay or ignore a risk if we perceive to be in control of a situation. A good example: we are far more likely to get into a car (we are in control) than getting into a plane (a trained professional is in control), even though the former is much riskier than the latter. Using false and misleading claims for their products and making their ‘take control’ statements, we are hoodwinked into perceiving that we can be in full control of our health, and hence we are far more likely to ignore the (in)direct risks associated with CAIM products.  And this is where they are really making a killing with their ‘take control’ message. Add to this the distrust that they are creating in trained professionals and conventional medicine, then it is no wonder that more and more people are consulting Dr Google and buying OTC CAIM products.

The CAIM proponents are quite happy with this situation because they can now use the explosive growth in sales figures as ‘evidence’ that their products work – the typical appeal to popularity fallacy (another weapon in their arsenal). So, what is the take home message? With their statement, they are trying to take healthcare out of the hands of professionals and they want to place it in your hands (and you don’t have the medical knowledge), knowing fully well that in such a situation we are much more prone to take a risk by dipping our toes into their disproven and unproven CAIM therapies and products – it is all about money!

But is there anything we can do about this? We are irrational beings, so trying to change or influence human nature is highly unlikely to succeed. The only thing we can do, is to continue to expose how the CAIM industry misleads the public, and hopefully, one day, politicians and regulators will start to impose very tight restrictions on this industry, which frankly speaking, should not have existed in the first place.

VC Barney Glover is standing up for science! (or is that for pseudoscience?)

I would argue, pseudoscience! Because if you do not see the following as pseudoscience, then all hope is lost.

The BlueBoxTM homeopathic remedy kit, produced by Pegasus Homeopathics, contains 28 easy-to-use remedies for the treatment of just about everything, and therefore; “The BlueBox™ is a must have for every home”. Their marketing strategy is focussed on children and on the ease-of-mind of their parents, with Pegasus telling us that it: “Treats the whole family from infants to the elderly; Safe for babies as well as pregnant and breast feeding mums; Readily taken by children, no alcohol or nasty-tasting syrups; Can’t overdose – even if a child swallows the contents of a bottle it’s the same as one dose.” One of the 28 remedies in this kit is called Anti-virabac 200C, described as a; “natural antibiotic, safe for those allergic to penicillin. Indications: A homeopathic ‘antibiotic’ for use in viral and bacterial infections, that is best implemented at the earliest stage of the infection. Safe for use in penicillin-allergic individuals.”

There is a lot wrong with this, but let’s just focus on what this remedy contains. It is a mixture of nine homeopathic remedies, including Belladonna 200C and Gunpowder 30C, with the purpose of the latter being; “Localises the infection preventing deeper penetration into tissues.” The 200C and 30C indicates that these substances have been diluted by a factor of 10400 and 1060 respectively, and consequently neither contain a single molecule of the original substance. This might be a good thing, especially for Belladonna which is a highly poisonous herb, and something that you definitely do not want to give to your children.  Incorrectly diluted Belladonna (in a different homeopathic remedy) has recently been implicated in the deaths of ten infants in the US. As for the Gunpowder 30C, well, some homeopaths are known for diluting the Berlin Wall for the treatment of depression, and a whole host of other conditions, so why not gunpowder?

But let’s step into the mind of a homeopath, and try and explain the logic behind the Gunpowder 30C. Here goes: Gunpowder is used to fire a bullet which will, depending on the entry location,, cause serious harm or death. If you are only wounded, the wound can become infected, the infection might spread throughout your body, and eventually you may die. Using the homeopathic principle of ‘like-cures-like’, it therefore ‘stands to reason’ that when you dilute gunpowder, by a factor of 1060, it will localise and prevent the infection from spreading any further. Because the underlined words look alike, it is irrefutable scientific evidence that Gunpowder 30C is a remarkably effective remedy. I am however only guessing here, but it is clear that the amount of science involved is truly mindboggling (any homeopath reading this, please correct me if I am wrong). A quick search reveals that homeopathic gunpowder is more commonly used for the treatment of septic wounds in people and animals, which I guess, makes more sense in a homeopathic sort of way.

Let’s say that I do not have any scientific background and that I’ve decided to buy the BlueBoxTM. Before coming to this decision, I’ve spoken to a homeopath (a specialist), I’ve discussed it with the extremely helpful people at the pharmacy, I’ve read all the info on the website of Pegasus (the producers), and I’ve even gone as far as to read the lengthy WHO report, which recommends that homeopathy should be integrated with conventional healthcare. All-in-all, it paints a very positive picture and I, and many others, will feel confident in the safety and effectiveness of this product. And hence, I will happily give these remedies to my children. Why not?

But what now if my young child die, due to an infection that I’ve treated with anti-virabac 200C? The infection worsened very quickly, within 48 hours, and upon hospitalisation it was already too late to save his life. At the end of the day, this remedy contains nothing other than the diluent, and will do absolutely nothing against any infection. A fact that is reflected in the Australian NHMRC homeopathy report, where they clearly state that: “People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.” Tragically, this happens quite often, with an unknown number of people dying because they have chosen ineffective homeopathic remedies. Gunpowder 30C for the treatment of infectious diseases and/or septic wounds, really? The number of victims is unknown because the BlueBoxTM, and all other homeopathic remedies, are bought over-the-counter. There is no paper trail and hence no system in place to document ‘adverse events’. So, if you or your child dies, the cause of death will simply read infectious disease or septic wound – and that will probably be the end of it.

Who is to blame for this situation?  The homeopath, pharmacist and all other role players are legally doing what they are doing. They are allowed to sell you water as a treatment for many different medical conditions.  You, on the other hand, as a parent who’s child died because of these  ineffective remedies, can however be taken to court and you might even be send to jail – and this is the ‘Homeopathy Paradox’.

This is also where the important role of Vice Chancellors (VC) come into play. They are instrumental in deciding on what path science will take in a specific country. Their role is becoming more important, especially in light of some politicians nowadays resorting to all kinds of alternative facts.  Take someone like Prof Barney Glover, VC of Western Sydney University (WSU), and also the current Chair of ‘Universities Australia – The Voice of Australia’s Universities’. He has influence over the whole scientific landscape in Australia, and quite recently gave a very good speech at the National Press Club (photo above),  about the necessity and importance for universities to stand up for facts and the truth, because nobody else will.  This is very encouraging but, unfortunately, very misleading.

Prof Glover was notified in 2015, that he should urgently investigate the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), because of their continued (in)direct support of homeopathy and many other disproven complementary medicines. For example: the NICM had a big influence in compiling the WHO report, calling for the better integration of homeopathy (implying that it is an effective healthcare system) with conventional healthcare, and by way of their extended network, has tried to discredit and destroy the NHMRC report on homeopathy. Their incorrect and misleading response to the NHMRC report is now being used by homeopaths, all over the world, to continue to mislead the public regarding the effectiveness of homeopathy.

Unfortunately, neither the VC nor anyone else in WSU’s management has yet taken the very important step of standing up for science. Therefore the VC, and others, were nominated for the Bent Spoon Award in 2016. A nomination that they tried to block, but after independent review, did not manage to do so.  VC’s that do not stand up for science can therefore have a far-reaching impact, such as convincing me, who live on the other side of the world, to buy the BlueBoxTM, which in turn, might lead to my child’s death. Let’s call it the ‘butterfly effect’, with a ‘minor’ act (allowing pseudoscience at their university) on one side of the world, causing a lot of carnage on the other side of the world, or the world over.

(The reason for WSUs refusal to investigate the NICM seems to be as simple as increasing their external income. And it works, because quite recently the controversial supplement company Blackmores donated $10 million, and a year or so ago, the extremely controversial organisation, the Jacka Foundation, donated $4 million. These numbers appear to be enough for WSU to continue to hold their hand of protection over the NICM).

WSU is by no means the only university that has put money before science and ethics. Take for example the University of Johannesburg (UJ) who has a ‘Department of Homeopathy’ (they featured on this Blog before – see for instance  here).  A couple of days ago I emailed the Dept. of Homeopathy, asking for advice regarding homeopathic malaria remedies for my 6yo son before we travel to the Kruger park. They advised me that they do not sell it themselves, but that I should contact a specific pharmacy and ask for….wait for it….a banned herbal remedy and for homeopathic antimalarial drops – the latter, of course, does not contain anything other than solvent. This advice comes straight from a University, and although this issue is still unfolding, I am hopeful to have more luck with UJ’s VC – but I am not holding my breath. So, if you happen to work at any one of these two universities, could you kindly forward this article to your VC? For what it is worth.

(this article was first published on Prof Edzard Ernst’s blog site – you can find it here)

The Homeopathy Paradox. Use it and you could go to jail: defend, promote or sell it and be handsomely rewarded.

You can make it, sell it, teach it, promote it, defend it etc. but if you actually use homeopathic remedies you can go to jail. A tragic example of this was reported a couple of years ago. Parents were sent to jail after their child died because they opted for a homeopathic treatment instead of an evidence based effective treatment. What makes it even more tragic is that the father is (was) a lecturer in Homoepathy. You can teach it but you cannot use it, because it is ineffective and can cause you or your children harm – and this is paradoxical. The sad thing is that this is not an isolated case, there are many more cases – you can find more examples here.

As far as I can tell the father of the deceased received his Masters in Health at Western Sydney University (WSU), and this brings me again to my alma mater. WSU hosts the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) who promotes and defends all types of complementary medicines, including homeopathy. When the well-known and definitive NHMRC report on Homeopathy was released, they quickly published a statement that made this report suspect and they simply defended homeopathy – and they still do. At the time this prompted me to investigate the reasons for releasing this remarkable statement.

It turns out that the NICM is partly sponsored by homeopaths who also promotes all other types of disproven and unproven complementary medicines. They accepted a couple of million dollars from the Jacka Foundation of Natural Therapies and in order to extend this financial relationship, the university management decided to confer an honorary fellowship to the founding member of this foundation. It paid off, because a couple of years later they again donated millions of dollars. And this is a problem. If you, as a university, accept funding from an organisation such as the Jacka Foundation you legitimise whatever these people do and to protect your (future) income you will continue to defend what they do (at the time of accepting the funds the foundation promoted this list of treatments). That the Jacka Foundation links to anti-vaccination proponents and that they themselves promote everything from homeopathy to energy medicine is a dangerous step for any university.  To then go and reward them for it is even worse and makes a laughing stock of the academic system.

But, because the NICM is hosted at a university they cannot always say what they want to say – or at least, they cannot put it on paper. They therefore associate themselves with organisations such as Complementary Medicine Australia (CMA) who can say what they want (they are industry funded). According to the NICMs ‘communication strategy’ they will use the CMA to respond to any negative media reports concerning homeopathy, because it has never occurred to them that they have a responsibility to inform the Australian public that homeopathy doesn’t work. So, in response to the NHMRC report the CMA published their infamous “The NHMRC Review on Homeopathy had Five Fundamental Flaws” (this statement is currently being used all over the world by Homeopaths to continue to defend homeopathy). They basically state that any report indicating that homeopathy doesn’t work, is unacceptable. It ends with the rather aggressive statement that “Homeopathy has been around for hundreds of years, and I am sure will be around a lot longer than some of the critics.”

But the rabbit hole goes deeper. One would expect that an organisation such as the World Health Organisation would at least be able to provide the best scientific and evidence based advice regarding complementary medicines including homeopathy. But they don’t. In their “WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy, 2014-2023” they call for the better integration of homeopathy (and other complementary medicines) with conventional healthcare. This is shocking, but not unexpected especially if you look at who compiled the report. Michael Smith, naturopath and an adjunct of the NICM. This WHO report was, of course, accepted with open arms by the NICM and other complementary medicine proponents.

To put all this in perspective. I am writing this article in a restaurant and about 100 m from me there is a registered homeopathic clinic. In South Africa, homeopaths register with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA) and any complaints, such as homeopathy does not work, should be submitted to this council. Problem is; the executive of the AHPCSA consists of chiropractors, naturopaths, homeopaths etc. Adjacent to the homeopath’s practice is a large pharmacy that has the appearance of a corny, cheap warehouse selling everything you can think of, including a large array of homeopathic products. One product is labelled as “every home should have one” – the Blue Box Homeopathic treatment kit.

Because I visited a game farm a week or so ago and managed to get myself stung by a scorpion, I found the homeopathic remedy for serious bites quite interesting, although shocking. It simply states “bites 30C – serious bites i.e. spider, scorpion, snake, dog bite”. A 30C dilution does not contain anything except the solvent. If you consider the large number of deadly snake species in South Africa, this homeopathic remedy can have deadly consequences, because it is nothing more than a placebo.  The kit also contains deadly nightshade to be given to babies for teething issues, but again in a 30C dilution. Let us just hope that they get their dilutions right otherwise we might end up with a similar incidence as in the US where 10 children tragically died after taking incorrectly diluted  homoepathic teething products containing deadly nightshade.

Can I now go and complain about this, because they are knowingly putting people’s lives at risk (the kit also contains a 200C natural antibiotic) for the sake of making money? I don’t think it will work, considering that I have to lodge my complaint about homeopathy to a homeopath.  As long as loads of money is being pumped into universities, as long as homeopaths wiggle themselves into the regulatory agencies, I fear that the homeopathy paradox will be with us and it might even get worse in future. If you are up against an extremely well organised and highly complex system or dare I say an organised criminal syndicate, then it will take a very long time before any progress will be made.  But, we have to try!