For the sake of your health (and of rhinos), please don’t vote for Dr Kerryn Phelps!

You ‘spineless bitch’! No, this is not what I am calling Dr Phelps, this was just one of the reactions from one of her fervent supporters on my article detailing her support of homeopathy. While homeopathy is quite easy to debunk (in short, it contains nothing), traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is somewhat more complicated because of its sheer size, history, the fact that most medications do indeed contain something and its politically loaded nature. However, TCM’s foundation is build on similar thoroughly debunked notions of manipulating a person’s life force with herbs, (endangered) animal material, needles and apparently via ‘treatments’ such as by slapping yourself. So, let us have a look at the role that Dr Phelps is playing in keeping these, and let’s be honest, quite dangerous ideas alive by using the highly effective smokescreen called ‘integrative medicine’.

The company you keep defines you

As a public figure Dr Phelps is obviously very careful about polishing and protecting her squeaky-clean image and is therefore careful with what she says or write. It is thus far better to look at the company she keeps. Dr Phelps is listed as an adjunct at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) hosted at Western Sydney University (WSU). On her campaign website she states that: ‘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 NICM at WSU.’ She is also a member of the NICMs advisory board which states that “The NICM Board will provide advice to NICM in the advancement of its objectives and priorities….” This is important because their main objective, as advised by Dr Phelps and others, is to integrate ineffective and sometimes dangerous remedies with modern healthcare.

This movement is called ‘integrative medicine’ and Institutes such as the NICM is responsible for expanding this movement (inter)nationally via their catchphrase; “the science of integrative medicine’ (translated; ‘the science of BSing the public’). Dr Phelps also owns her very own ‘integrative medicine’ clinic where she employs a naturopath who also happens to be the vice-president of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society who in turn supports all sorts of quackery (including TCM and homeopathy). Please have a look at their website.

So how do they do it?

The quacks with money

It’s a tightrope act. On the one side you have people such as the esoteric, energy healing, anti-vaccination, homeopathy-loving Judy Jacka. Or people such as the TCM practitioner Dr Ven Tan who the NICM assisted in setting up an integrative medicine clinic (Dr Tan has connections to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) who actively pursues the globalisation of TCM). Another example is the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM – also connected to the CCP) who is now in the process of starting their very own TCM hospital in Sydney in collaboration with the NICM. When you read about what Judy Jacka, Dr Ven Tan and other like-minded people believe and say about complementary, alternative, traditional and integrative medicine, then it is very clear that they believe all remedies and treatments work, because it is based on the manipulation of life forces and energy fields. They see themselves as visionaries with the ability and power to heal by manipulating these ‘forces’. Here you can read about Judy Jacka’s ideas on ‘medicine’ and her stance on vaccinations (scroll down). And here is list of quackery that she supports – this webpage was quickly taken down after I’ve written a letter (here is a shortened version) to the vice chancellor of WSU, Barney Glover, complaining about excepting funding from people such as Judy Jacka, because people, including children, will and unfortunately did die as a result.

Now the NICM wants money, and this is exactly what they get, with Judy Jacka donating $4 million (WSU made her a honorary fellow, with Dr Phelps listed as a spokesperson regarding this donation), Marcus Blackmore donating $10 million (received an honorary doctorate from WSU) and at a time there was talk of $20-30 million from China in order to start the BUCM’s TCM hospital in Sydney (this is kept under wraps but I have some indirect evidence). Many clinics also donate smaller amounts, which the NICM does not always declare in their ‘scientific publications’ – clear scientific misconduct. Here is one example where they again deleted the web-page containing the information once I published about it, but the WSU management simply squashed the whole matter.

In return, all of these, lets be honest, quacks want credibility for themselves as well as the ‘medicine’ and ‘treatments’ that they happen to sell. The NICM is happy to provide this ‘credibility’ in exchange for money.

Those that threaten their plans (a.k.a. ‘spineless bitches’)

On the other side of this tightrope act you have the public, politicians, regulators and some brave scientists, and of course, science itself. One abused concept that they exploit to try and keep these people happy is ‘safety’. They lobbied regulators/politicians with examples of people who got hurt or died as a direct result of TCM with the explicit recommendation that to ensure public safety, TCM has to be regulated. It worked really well, because back in 2000 Victoria was the first to regulate TCM and in 2012 this has gone national, and suddenly TCM became equivalent with other evidence based modern healthcare professions. Since 2012 everything went into overdrive with TCM being included in the Australia-China free trade agreement. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) now excepts TCM ‘terminology’ (blood is cold, lack of yin/yang etc) as valid indications and even the World Health Organisation (WHO) are planning to include TCM as an evidence-based healthcare system (the NICM has a thick finger in the pie with all of these events – please read here, here and here).

But the fact of the matter is that they do not give a hoot about safety. They simply abused the concept in order to achieve their objectives. There are two important aspects regarding safety. 1. direct safety e.g. a specific herb containing a poisonous substance and 2. indirect safety e.g. lack of efficacy with people getting hurt or die because of neglecting a serious medical condition. A tragic example to illustrate this is the 10 babies that died and 400 that were sickened by a homeopathic remedy that was incorrectly diluted and contained high enough levels of deadly nightshade. This is a direct safety issue. But let’s say that the homeopaths did dilute everything away, like they should have, and these babies were given this remedy containing nothing to treat a serious medical conditions, then they might have died of their medical condition because they received no treatment. This is then an indirect safety issue. The NICM only focus on the former to reach their objectives whilst completely ignoring the latter which is by far the biggest killer of the two.

This is also the reason why they want to ‘integrate’ TCM with conventional medicine, because they know it lacks efficacy and is therefore an indirect safety issue. They know just as well as anybody else that these life forces don’t exist, and hence manipulating it with herbs, needles, whatever, simply cannot and do not work on its own.

However, to create public trust they invented, or at least, they are exploiting the notorious A+B vs B clinical trial design in which they split patients into two groups with both groups receiving a treatment that works, for example IVF (B). Then they add something that they know doesn’t work eg herbs, acupuncture (A) to only one group which then becomes the ‘treatment’ group. In effect, they are cleverly measuring the placebo response, in order to convince the ‘spineless bithces’ that there is indeed efficacy (or a level of indirect safety), all the while knowing that there isn’t. And sometimes they still struggle to even measure a reasonable placebo response – here is one excellent example where the Australian tax payer dished out more than $600 000 to measure the placebo response of acupuncture.

Here is a video (in English and German) of a presentation given in Germany by the Director of the NICM, Alan Bensoussan, explaining how they played this extremely successful tightrope act in Australia.  This methodology will now obviously be used by similar institutes in other Western countries.

The impact on the health of people (and rhinos)  

To keep the money rolling in they do however need to show that they truly believe in the magic of TCM and hence have no problem to promote rhino horn as an effective medicine. On their website they even listed an internet site where you can buy rhino horn – again quickly removed after they were notified about it. In their world, rhino horn is excellent to: “Clear heat, subdue Yang and cool blood, relieves fearfulness, detoxifying.” And can thus be used for: “High fever, sun stroke, trauma, mania, convulsion, sore throat, epilepsy, febrile disease, infectious disease, macula, bad skin conditions, subcutaneous bleeding.” They have no problem with this, but it all depends on who they are talking to, and on what side of this divide those people are. To add insult to injury one of the NICM’s business partners was even caught and jailed for having many kilograms of endangered animal parts, including rhino horn, in his possession. And as far as I can tell, they are still working with this TCM practitioner. Result. Three rhinos a day are blasted to smithereens to supply these quacks with their ‘remedies’.

And then Dr Phelps have the audacity to tweet about her opposition to live animal exports “We must bring this cruel trade to an end.” Yes, sure, but what about the slaughter of endangered animals to feed the insatiable TCM industry and their unquenchable thirst for more money? It’s about votes! “Polling confirms live export is a hot issue for voters in critical #Wentworth by-election”

Some, if not all, TCM practitioners are so delusional that they truly believe that they can manipulate ‘life forces’ and because of this, they obviously do not need modern healthcare. It is two opposing systems and their income obviously depends on the public believing in TCM. It is therefore quite common that a TCM practitioner will ‘rubbish’ modern healthcare and convince patients to forego their modern medication and only use TCM. According to Dr Phelps, she cares about the health of refugee children on Nauru and yet have no problem misleading parents, via her funders, to believe that they can cure their young son’s diabetes type 1 with ‘slapping therapy’, which aims to restore the flow of Chi (life force) through meridians. Unfortunately, this boy died because the practitioner told the parents to stop their effective medication. Here is another recent example – same story.

The big problem with the NICM, advised by Dr Phelps, is how they have colluded with the CCP and how they are facilitating the CCPs plans to globalise all of TCM (you can read about this extensive investigation here, here and here).  This includes how they have lobbied regulators (TGA), the WHO, who both now recommends that TCM, without specifying which ‘medicines’ or ‘treatments’, be integrated with modern healthcare – but what they don’t tell you is that they (via one of the NICMs adjuncts, Michael Smith) was one of the primary drafters of the WHO’s recommendations. So, for the first time in the history of the WHO, they will now endorse TCM!!

It’s about money, and they could not care less about your safety. Here is a couple of recent headlines explaining the situation.

$170b Global Chinese medicine market behind University of Western Sydney deal with Beijing

 WHO endorses traditional Chinese medicine. Expect deaths to rise.

State-sponsored quackery. China is ramping up its promotion of its ancient medical arts. That is dangerous for humans as well as rhinos

Their safety net

Intentionally misleading people, including children, who then get hurt or die can obviously get them into serious trouble. This was illustrated by the extradition of the Slapping Therapist from the UK (where another person died) to Australia. He is now in and out of court and quite recently the clinic providing this ‘treatment’ and its director (Dr Ven Tan) have also been sued.  But unfortunately, the people who are actually responsible for creating and exploiting this growing chaos in healthcare, the NICM and ‘Dr’ Phelps, are still getting away with it. It is because they have a safety net. Calling for the ‘integration’ of only ‘evidence-based’ TCM with modern healthcare is in effect their safety net while performing their tightrope act.

All they need to do is to generalise without naming specific remedies or treatments. Create a bit of public suspicion in modern healthcare, call it ‘western medicine’ and feed of anti-western sentiment, hammer on the popularity of complementary medicines, the public’s’ ‘freedom of choice’, the need to ensure safety, the ‘growing body of evidence’ etc. and they know that the public will fall for it, while they continue to make money from this industry – and they will continue to get away with. Even when they are fully aware that children unnecessarily die because of what they are doing.  If anyone asks them about ‘slapping therapy’ they will very quickly claim that they have never supported this specific treatment. They might even call it cruel and inhumane but they know that they have helped this clinic with ‘integrating’ TCM. They are so clever, but morally and ethically bankrupt.

For them the ‘money is in the magic’, and their challenge is to continue with their tightrope act for as long as possible. Unfortunately, they also have the backing of the Vice Chancellor Barney Glover (who is fully aware of all of this) and even the Chancellor, Peter Shergold – and this makes them almost untouchable.

Conclusions

The total extent of the damage that is being done by ‘Dr’ Phelps is impossible to know, but if she wins this election and has influence on government level then the healthcare system is in for a very tough time. If she can mislead young children about the effectiveness of ancient remedies while she knows that it is ineffective, she’ll be able to mislead just about anyone regarding anything. We all know how politics work. ‘if you support our motion, then we will support yours’ And this will be exploited by the NICM once she sets foot in parliament. I can only hope that the ASIO will have a look at her connections, specifically her CCP connections via the NICM and how they are planning to exploit it. It is a strange world we live in when people such as Dr Phelps (and Prof Bensoussan) who should be behind bars actually have a very good chance of getting into parliament.

If you happen to know anyone in Wentworth please forward this info to them. They, at the very least, need to know who they are voting for.

“For a new era of China-South Africa friendship”. Open letter by President Xi Jinping – the story of TCM going global.

The BRICS summit kicks off tomorrow in Johannesburg with leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in attendance, representing roughly half the worlds population. A few days ago President Xi Jinping of China published an open letter in a number of South African newspapers with the title “For a New Era of China-South African Friendship”. (you can read the full letter below.)

But there are a few of comments that I need to make regarding the contents of this letter.

-The letter asks for improved cooperation and friendship between China and South Africa in various sectors such as education, finance, tourism, infrastructure etc. Although the letter in general is quite positive, there are a couple of negative issues that needs to be highlighted. For example; it gives only one specific example of industry ‘collaboration’ indicating that this specific industry is really important to China.

“Traditional Chinese medicine [TCM] companies are actively exploring the South African market, introducing acupuncture, cupping and other traditional Chinese therapies to the South African people as a new option to treat illnesses and keep fit. Chinese volunteers have mobilized Chinese companies and Chinese communities in South Africa to partner with local animal conservation organizations and make their contribution to wildlife protection in Africa. These are all powerful examples of China-South Africa and China-Africa friendship.”

Real collaboration should focus on working together to tackle pressing healthcare problems in both countries (or for that matter, in all five BRICS countries) by promoting modern healthcare, improving accessibility and affordability, funding education and research, etc. and together striving to become world leaders in modern healthcare. We are talking about almost half the worlds population, so what better platform to tackle  global healthcare issues.

So, the above statement is not about collaboration but rather about forcing an ancient and thoroughly debunked healthcare system based on pseudoscientific principles onto Africa (and other BRICS countries) for the sake of expanding the export market of Chinese TCM companies. Apparently, these companies (or the TCM industry) are too big to fail and hence the decision was made not to wind it down over time, but rather to promote and internationalise it – for whatever logic that makes. Adding that there is collaboration in wildlife protection is in my view a bit of a joke, but I guess some people will consider this to be a sincere gesture (well, the dehorned Rhino in our local zoo is funded by the Chinese embassy, for what it’s worth).

A very effective way of making TCM acceptable, or even wanted, in South Africa is by using the strategy of anti-colonialism or even racism (a very clever, but unethical, marketing strategy in SA); “Our peoples forged a deep friendship during our common struggle against imperialism, colonialism and racism.” Indirectly implying that modern healthcare is an invention of the imperialist West and an acceptable alternative therefore is of course TCM. Hence the phrase “… as a new option to treat illnesses and keep fit.” The fact that TCM is by and large ineffective, based on ancient debunked principles, and sometimes extremely dangerous, is obviously not mentioned.

TCM is unfortunately part of how China (or rather the Chinese Communist Party) wants to exert soft power globally and expand its massive TCM industry (currently worth roughly $170 billion). I have written about how they achieved this in Australia and it seems to me that the Australian model (you can read about it here, here and here) will now be implemented in Africa via South Africa. Unfortunately, my efforts in Australia went unnoticed with not a single politician or regulator batting an eyelid in regard to the dangers that TCM poses to global healthcare and wildlife – I might however have been too late to influence the process.

Collaboration between countries works best when there is mutual trust, something that President Xi Jinping also mentions in his letter “We must steadily elevate our political mutual trust to new levels”.  Now, how can you build trust when one country wants to dump fake medicines and treatments on another country? I just don’t see that happening.

We in South Africa do not want to start slapping each other to cure diabetes, or use rhino horn (or start skinning our donkeys, use lion bones etc) to ‘cure’ disease. Because once you start promoting these things as being effective medical treatments, before you know it, we might even start to stick needles into each other to influence the flow of Chi through meridians. This is how a society return to the dark ages of healthcare, and definitely not something that you wish upon your friends, or how you build trust between countries. We would far rather collaborate with China on improving and modernising healthcare in both countries. For what it’s worth, let’s put the wellbeing of society before profits.

Full text of Chinese President Xi’s signed article on South African media

2018/07/22

Chinese President Xi Jinping on July 22 published a signed article titled “For a New Era of China-South Africa Friendship” on three South African newspapers, namely, The Sunday Independent, Sunday Tribune and Weekend Argus, ahead of his state visit to the African country.

The following is the full text of the article:

For a New Era of China-South Africa Friendship

Xi Jinping

President of the People’s Republic of China

It gives me great pleasure to pay my third state visit to the Republic of South Africa and attend the 10th BRICS Summit at the invitation of President Cyril Ramaphosa. I am full of expectations as I am about to set foot again on the beautiful land of South Africa, the rainbow nation standing at the convergence of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, and home to unique and magnificent landscapes, industrious and enterprising people, and colorful and pluralistic cultures.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties between our two countries, but the friendly interactions between our peoples go far beyond that. Our peoples forged a deep friendship during our common struggle against imperialism, colonialism and racism. After the birth of a new South Africa, especially in the past 20 years of diplomatic relations, our two countries have supported and learned from each other in our respective exploration of a development path suited to national conditions. This relationship has stood the test of time and a changing international environment. From a partnership to a strategic partnership, and then to a comprehensive strategic partnership, this relationship has made big strides and demonstrated a strong growth momentum in political trust, economic and trade cooperation, people-to-people exchanges and strategic coordination.

Over the past six years, our two countries have worked closely as co-chairs of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to advance the comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership between China and Africa. Our bilateral ties have thus served as a model for China-Africa relations, for South-South cooperation, and for unity and cooperation among emerging market countries, and offered valuable experience for building an even stronger community with a shared future between China and Africa and a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation.

We enjoy close high-level exchanges and fruitful practical cooperation across the board. Our leaders have, through frequent mutual visits, meetings and other exchanges, provided top-level and strategic guidance for the bilateral ties. China has been South Africa’s largest trading partner for nine years in a row, and South Africa has become China’s largest trading partner in Africa. Two-way trade totaled 39.17 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, more than 20 times the figure at the start of our diplomatic engagement. Preliminary statistics show that China’s direct investment in South Africa has grown by more than 80 times and exceeded 10.2 billion U.S. dollars in cumulative terms, creating tens of thousands of jobs for local communities and giving a strong boost to the South African economy. Many Chinese companies are running successful businesses in South Africa, which is a full testament to our mutually beneficial relationship for common development. South African companies, for their part, are also making great success in China.

In recent years, measures such as hosting the Year of China/South Africa and launching the High-Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism have brought our two peoples even closer with greater mutual understanding and friendship. We have seen expanding cooperation in such areas as education, culture, science and technology, and health, and growing exchanges between our youths and women. South Africa has attracted more Chinese tourists, established sister relations with more Chinese provinces and cities, and opened more Confucius Institutes and classrooms than any other Sub-Saharan country. China has become an increasingly popular destination for South African students and tourists. Traditional Chinese medicine companies are actively exploring the South African market, introducing acupuncture, cupping and other traditional Chinese therapies to the South African people as a new option to treat illnesses and keep fit. Chinese volunteers have mobilized Chinese companies and Chinese communities in South Africa to partner with local animal conservation organizations and make their contribution to wildlife protection in Africa. These are all powerful examples of China-South Africa and China-Africa friendship.

South Africa is now on a new journey of national development. President Ramaphosa has put forth the goals of growing the economy, creating jobs, improving people’s lives and advancing social transformation, thereby ushering South Africa into a new era of hope and confidence. China looks forward to working with South Africa to build on the momentum of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties and strive for faster and greater progress in our comprehensive strategic partnership.

– We must steadily elevate our political mutual trust to new levels. We need to maintain high-level exchanges, strengthen inter-party cooperation and governance experience sharing, continue to provide each other with mutual understanding and support on issues bearing on our respective core interests and major concerns, and stay forever as each other’s reliable good friend, good brother and good partner. I look forward to receiving President Ramaphosa in Beijing in September and co-chairing with him the FOCAC Beijing Summit.

– We must strive for new outcomes in our practical cooperation. We need to promote complementarity between our development strategies, and make full use of bilateral mechanisms, FOCAC, the Belt and Road Initiative, BRICS cooperation, and other platforms to deepen cooperation in key areas such as industries, production capacity, resources and energy, infrastructure, finance, tourism, and digital economy and deliver more benefits to our peoples.

– We must increase communication to add new impetus to our people-to-people exchanges. We need to leverage the role of the High-Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism in enhancing communication between our peoples, expand cooperation in education, culture, science and technology, health, and sports, and promote exchanges between youths, women, think tanks and media outlets. Such measures will bring greater public support for China-South Africa friendship, and make our peoples be more closely connected.

– We must strengthen collaboration and scale new heights in our strategic coordination. We need to support each other in hosting the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit and the 10th BRICS Summit, step up coordination and cooperation within multilateral frameworks including the UN, the G20 and BRICS, and promote the reform of the global governance system in a joint effort to advance the fundamental interests of African and other developing countries, to build a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind, and to contribute wisdom and proposals to solving the world’s most pressing issues.

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the BRICS Summit. Ten years on, BRICS cooperation has achieved remarkable development and gained an ever-growing influence. This year’s summit will be the first one held in the second “Golden Decade” of BRICS cooperation. China will go all out to support South Africa in hosting this event. Under the theme of “BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” we will deepen BRICS strategic partnership, enhance BRICS solidarity and cooperation, and facilitate the inter-connected development of BRICS countries. We are confident that this summit will usher in an even brighter future for BRICS cooperation.

This year celebrates yet another important event, the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela, the inaugural president of the new South Africa. To quote Mr. Mandela, “The African rebirth is now more than an idea. Its seeds are being sown in the regional communities we are busy building and in the continent as a whole.” With unremitting efforts, South Africa and the rest of the African Continent gained a new life in the last century. I am confident that this century will witness the rejuvenation of South Africa and that of the whole African Continent. Let us work together for a new era of China-South Africa friendship.

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.

China Power and Influence! Part 1: TCM and the Aussie Academics who sold their souls!

Is the Chinese Communist party currently exerting an influence on the Australian healthcare system? If so, how did they manage to get a foot in the door? Let’s have a look!

recent investigation by the award winning investigative journalism program, ‘Four Corners’, revealed that Chinese billionaires, with links to the Chinese communist party, have made substantial donations to various Australian politicians. Donations usually come with strings attached, and hence, there is some anxiety that this could have an impact on the Australian autonomy and international relations with historic partners (similar to Russia’s meddling with the US elections). The program also featured China’s influence at various academic campuses across Australia.

This prompted me to conduct my own investigation focusing on China’s influence, via these Chinese billionaires, on the Australian healthcare system. It is well known that China wants to internationalise their ancient, ineffective and dangerous traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Australia could have, for example, decided to play a leading role and aid China in modernising their healthcare system in exchange for improved free trade arrangements – or anything that could have been mutually beneficial.  Unfortunately, a couple of Australian academics decided otherwise and made it extremely easy for China to obtain a strong foothold, with their TCM, in the Australian healthcare system.

This article will detail specifics regarding how these academics managed to get the job done, whilst a second article will describe how specific Australian politicians made all of this a walk in the park for China (all supporting documentation is available on request).  Please skip the next section if you understand TCM, but for those who don’t, below is some background information.

What is TCM and why is it so dangerous?

Imagine a healthcare system where no disease can be diagnosed and where the treatments on offer are mainly ineffective, while some are even outright dangerous. This is TCM in a nutshell; misdiagnosis by default and ineffective/dangerous treatments.  It is no wonder that many scientists are extremely concerned about the promotion and legitimisation, especially via universities, of TCM in Australia and around the world. A recent article in the Economist sums it up well; “State-sponsored quackery. China is ramping up its promotion of its ancient medical arts. That is dangerous for humans as well as rhinos”

To understand the issue at hand, here is one example;

The TCM nature of rhino horn is “salty, sour and cold” and hence its actions are to “clear heat, subdue Yang and cool blood, relieves fearfulness, detoxifying.” Rhino horn is therefore a treatment for “high fever, sun stroke, trauma, mania, convulsion, sore throat, epilepsy, febrile disease, infectious disease, macula, bad skin conditions, subcutaneous bleeding.” (rhino horn is in fact being promoted as medicine at Western Sydney University, but I believe for dementia. One of their collaborators was even sent to prison for importing rhino horn into Australia).

Some of these above mentioned conditions can be life-threatening, if left untreated. Because everybody knows that rhino horn is not an effective medicine for anything, prescribing and using it as a medicine, is equivalent to providing no treatment for these conditions. And this is indeed why TCM is dangerous for people, not even to speak about the needless slaughter of rhinos.

saddest-rhino-photo-yet-oscap-645x
It took this rhino calf a number of days to find its mother. Unfortunately the poachers got hold of her first -and all of this in order to fuel the insatiable and growing TCM market.

In TCM, disease is seen as an imbalance of a non-existent life-force (Chi) that flows through non-existent meridians, and in this pre-scientific world, bacteria, viruses, etc. do not exist.  By slapping yourself, or inserting needles (acupuncture), or taking herbs, or animal matter, your Chi will be ‘restored’ and you will be ‘cured’ of whatever ailment you might suffer from. Because TCM is a believe-based system, every treatment (and there are thousands) is believed to be effective for its intended purpose. This becomes very dangerous when this believe is so strong that they will advise patients to stop their conventional treatments, and rely solely on TCM. That this danger is real, was recently illustrated by the tragic death of a 6yo boy suffering from type-1 diabetes.

The fact that some herbs (very few) do contain beneficial compounds is, in effect, negated by the fact that TCM practitioners cannot correctly diagnose any medical condition. To try and ‘solve’ this problem, they will therefore prescribe a combination of up to 20 different herbs, because by doing this, it improves their chances of getting lucky! Most TCM proponents are fully aware of these problems, and therefore their current approach is to ‘integrate’ all of TCM with conventional diagnostics and treatments. They do this in order to continue to make money but also to promote TCM as ‘effective’ by piggy-backing on the successes of evidence-based modern healthcare.

So, yes, it is all about money with China trying to expand its $170 billion TCM industry by legitimising it in other countries. In Australia it turned out to be a very easy task, just ask the four blokes in the photo below. They have been warned, repeatedly, about the dangers of TCM, but apparently the big motivator, money, speaks louder than words.  So, this is where the Australian academics comes into play (more info regarding TCM can be found here and here).

Alan Benoussan Barney glover
FLTR: Proff. Alan Bensoussan (WSU), Barney Glover (WSU), Xu Anlong (BUCM) and Peter Shergold (WSU). Lobbying for political support of TCM at parliament house, Canberra (their trip paid for by the Aus public)

The Australian academics

One of the key players in Australia is Prof Alan Bensoussan, Director of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), Western Sydney University (WSU). He completed a degree in physics and then, for some unknown reason, decided to continue with TCM. He studied at the Nanjing University of TCM in 1985/86, and this is where he was ‘converted’ or ‘recruited’ by the Chinese communist party.  And because Alan, like most people, cannot admit to have made a mistake, decided to continue down this path of pseudoscience. Once you are trapped, you are in it for life. And not only that, he became one of the biggest lobbyists of TCM in Australia. This is, of course, one way of ignoring your mistakes – you stubbornly continue to tell yourself, and everybody else, that you are right, even in the face of the most compelling scientific evidence! For Alan, TCM is an effective and safe healthcare system! Unfortunately, after 30 years of trying, he is not able to show that science was wrong about TCM, and hence, he still does not have anything to show for it (without cheating and misleading, that is).

But whatever happened, he became one of the biggest drivers of TCM in Australia. Since his return from China he has worked tirelessly to legitimise TCM with his main approach being; that the safety of patients will be assured by regulating TCM, and, that TCM should be ‘integrated’ within conventional healthcare. The fact that TCM is mainly ineffective and by regulating fake medicine, it can only lead to well-regulated fake medicine, didn’t bother him –  it simply doesn’t fit his delusion. Intense lobbying for many years resulted in TCM becoming a registered healthcare profession in Victoria in 2000, and Australia wide in 2012. Being ‘registered’, in this case, simply means that you must have a ‘real’ degree in fake medicine before you can practice fake medicine – how this will assure the safety of patients is beyond me! This was, however, a crucial turning point. Registering TCM as a ‘healthcare profession’ gave it an Australian government stamp of approval, and after this victory for TCM, everything went into top gear. Alan received a prestigious award for his intense lobbying in 2013 in the Great Hall of the People, Beijing China. This award was also celebrated at WSU and was attended by Eric Roozendaal, CEO of the Yuhu group (more about the YuHu group a bit later on).

Other prominent Australian academics are Prof Charlie Xue from RMIT university who runs an accredited (again a government stamp of approval!) course in TCM and chairs the ‘Chinese Medicine Board of Australia’. He is therefore in charge of registering TCM practitioners, and he has also received millions from China to promote TCM in Australia (see under current grants). The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) also provides accredited courses in TCM and has accepted millions in gifts from Chinese businessmen – donations and gifts always comes with strings attached.

The Chinese businessman

The Yuhu group is owned by Chinese billionaire, Huang Xiangmo, who featured prominently in the ABC’s Four Corners investigation. Huang Xiangmo is the president of the ‘Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China’ – an organisation considered to be the vanguard of lobbying for the Chinese communist party in Australia. It turns out that they do not only influence Australian politics, but also the healthcare system. The Yuhu group has ‘committed’ a $10 million donation to Alan Bensoussan for the internationalisation of TCM in Australia. This large donation was eventually withdrawn by Yuhu, due to WSU’s inability to get the necessary paper work done in time (maybe too many bureaucrats working at WSU?). Huang Xiangmo did eventually donate $3.5 million, to establish the Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture at WSU. Alan is named as a key researcher which demonstrates that TCM is considered to be part of Chinese ‘arts and culture’ and not an evidence-based healthcare system.

Huang Xiangmo
Mr Huang Xiangmo, seated, before signing the $3.5 million agreement. Prof Glover, left, is looking on in greedy anticipation, mumbling ‘sign it, sign it, sign it….’

In the NICMs latest newsletter (under ‘Message from Director’) they thank their generous sponsors, which includes Josephine and Gary Lam. Unfortunately the value of these donations are not publicly available, but, Josephine Lam has donated substantial amounts of money to WSU/NICM before. She is also currently acting as a ‘specialist advisor‘ to the Vice Chancellor, Barney Glover (he has also accompanied Alan to China to lobby for support of their Australian TCM facilities). The Lam’s are part of the ‘Australian China Economic, Trade and Culture Association’, with Gary Lam being the Chairman and Josephine a Honorary Advisor.  Huang Xiangmo, of the Yuhu group is also a patron of this organisation.

Dr Ven Tan, who is the ‘Standing Deputy Chairman’ in this organisation, and the founder of ‘Tasly Healthpac’ is an important role player, claiming that; ‘Through his own practice he has come to realize the limitation of conventional Western medicine and to worship the merit of Traditional Chinese Medicine’. The photo below depicts the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Chinese and Australian governments ‘aimed at promoting TCM in Australia through a collaborative initiative’. (Alan Bensoussan is on the far left and Ven Tan third from the left.) So, again we have a Chinese ‘cultural’ organisation that wants to promote TCM in Australia.

Ven Tan Photo

Another separate MoU was signed between Tasly and the NICM (Alan Bensoussan is the director of the NICM) in 2011, which states that the NICM will provide “assistance in the development of an Integrative Care Model: to assist the Tasly Healthpac Centre of Excellence in Integrative medicine so that its structure aims to integrate TCM and western medical diagnostics and treatments in an integrated, patient centred way.” Some might now recall that the tragic ‘slapping therapy’ death of a 6yo boy recently occurred at Tasly Healthpac.  This illustrates what happens when your objective is to ‘integrate’ fake treatments with evidence-based treatments.

The NICM’s gifts register indicates that a huge amount of effort goes into cosying up to Chinese politicians, businessmen and (TCM) academics. There are documents demonstrating that they are actively targeting and engaging with specific Chinese businessman (Huang Xiangmo, Chau Chak Wing, etc) known to have links with the Chinese communist party. WSU even planned to provide scholarships to the children of Chinese consular staff members. The response from the Chinese consulate was, of course, a very big thank you to Alan Bensoussan and Barney Glover, for their hard work in legitimising TCM in Australia. To think that all their visits to China, the hosting of Chinese delegates, the huge amount of time it takes to lobby all of these role-players (in China and Australia), even the gifts are partially paid for by the Australian public. So, what do the Australian public get in return for their investment? The promotion and integration of a dangerous fake healthcare system. And this brings me to the Australia-China Free Trade Agreement.

Barney Glover FTA
Prof Barney Glover, right, after signing the agreement. Obviously smiling, because this means a lot of money.

Australia-China Free Trade Agreement

Alan has managed to get TCM included at the signing of the free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and China (called a ‘tragedy‘ by an eminent Australian scientist – I tend to agree!). This inclusion will allow WSU and the Chinese government managed ‘Beijing University of Chinese Medicine’ (BUCM), to be used as vehicles for the communist party’s agenda to exert its influence via TCM on the Australian healthcare system. And all of this facilitated by Alan for which he is handsomely rewarded by the Chinese government. The inclusion of TCM in the FTA has paid off, and has resulted in a TCM hospital that is currently being established in Westmead, Sydney – opening in 2018. The BUCM will operate this ‘integrative’ TCM facility and it will be based on a similar 80-bed hospital which the BUCM is already operating in Germany. According to documents, this facility will be commercial (run by the BUCM) and the NICM will co-occupy this space to further their (or the Chinese communists party’s) agenda regarding the continued legitimisation and internationalisation of TCM.

Conclusions

In short; Alan Bensoussan, Barney Glover, and others, are colluding with the Chinese communist party, and as such, is making it extremely easy for them to exert their (not so soft) power in Australia. TCM is part and parcel of the international influence that China wants to exert. It is unfortunate that China, who has made rapid advances in science and technology, decided to stick with TCM and not on collaboration with Australia regarding modern evidence-based healthcare. It is even more unfortunate that these Australian universities decided to sell their souls for the sake of Chinese money. The $170 billion TCM industry therefore seems to be the main motivator for both WSU and the Chinese government and not improved health outcomes for Australians. The saying ‘give them an inch and they’ll take a mile’ comes to mind, and I have to ask; where will it all end?

It is interesting to note that serious medical conditions e.g. cancer, are being targeted by the NICM in order to legitimise ineffective TCM. In the NICMs own words “… the press/media would be reluctant to take a negative line on initiatives that are targeted at oncology…” This sentence says it all.

My next article will provide more details on the FTA and the Australian politicians (especially Andrew Robb and Jullian Skinner) who were successfully lobbied by Alan, and who made all of this possible. All this information has been sent to WSU, about 2 months ago, but as usual, there seems to be no interest in the adverse impact that their actions will have on science, on education and on the health of the public (and the poor rhinos, of course).

(The ‘controversial’ book ‘Silent Invasion: China’s influence in Australia’ by Prof Clive Hamilton is also worth a read)

‘And the Bent Spoon Award goes to…?’ The NICM nominated for the second year running!!

Reminiscent of Voldemort about to cast an evil spell, Prof Barney Glover (photo BL – resemblance is striking) is showing a packed auditorium his outstretched hand above which the mystical ‘life force’ or Chi hovers. Because no one, not even Barney, can see anything floating above his hand, Prof Alan Bensoussan (photo BR) comes to the rescue by explaining that if everyone just play along, and make as if they can see Chi, then they all stand to make a lot of money. His strenuous expression indicates that it is a hard sell, but he also knows that the money factor and quality of showmanship, usually attracts a crowd and also wins out over common sense. The photo on top is from Voldemort, the villain from the Harry Potter movies.  The reason why these three men looks so serious (excl. Voldemort because he is an actor, oh no, wait, all three are actors) is because they know damn well that what they are doing is ‘magic’. So, we are entering an era where all three these characters are real, or scientists should start to stand up for science!

In order to expose these ‘magicians’ and to create public awareness regarding their trickery, the Australian Skeptics Inc. annually presents the Bent Spoon Award for the top pseudoscientist of the year. It is in effect the Oscars for pseudoscientists, because both reward outstanding acting abilities. This year there are a number of nominees including the controversial National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) hosted at Western Sydney University (WSU). Below is the full nomination:

Nominee: National Institute of Complementary Medicine and Western Sydney University

Nominated by: Australian Skeptics and others

Date: 20/09/2017

For continuing to promote unsupported and debunked ‘medical’ treatments, despite promises late last year, in response to a 2016 Bent Spoon nomination, that they are “intending to revise our website … and hope to address some of these issues you have raised”. It still promotes the following treatments under the Complementary Medicine banner: acupuncture, chiropractic, aromatherapy, naturopathy, spiritual healing, crystal therapy, reflexology, ‘energy therapies’ (reiki, qigong, electromagnetic field therapy), TCM, Ayurvedic medicine, anthroposophical medicine, healing touch, Rolfing, Feldenkrais, Alexander technique, and homeopathy. Secondly, NICM and UWS are nominated for planning to establish an on-campus TCM clinic for the general public.

Hopefully this year they will walk away with this coveted award, which is bestowed upon “the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudo-scientific piffle.” In 2016, the NICM tried for some reason, but in vain, to remove their nomination, but their attempts backfired somewhat. You can read about their sorry attempts here. It is also notable that the 2016 nomination was done by one person, whilst the 2017 nomination was done by a group of people, indicating that more and more people are coming around to the fact that the NICM/WSU are indeed misleading the public.

Key people in this year’s nomination is again the director of the NICM, Prof Alan Bensoussan, and the Vice-Chancellor of WSU, Prof Barney Glover. Between these two men, they earn roughly $1.2 million AUD per year, dished out by the Australian public. In return for these vast sums of money, the Australian public are being misled into believing that all of the above therapies are useful, effective and safe. This is obviously not true as you can see in my previous article which dealt with the involvement of the NICM and WSU in the tragic case of the 6yo boy who died after attending a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) based ‘slapping therapy’ workshop in Sydney. By slapping yourself you supposedly influence the flow of Chi through meridians and hence you will be cured of disease. Unfortunately, this boy suffered from diabetes and because many people belief that Chi is real, he was taken off his medication during the workshop – a life-threatening scenario. Clearly the ‘treatments’ that the NICM promote is not only ineffective, but it can also be quite dangerous.

But let us look at Alan Bensoussan. As a registered acupuncturist and herbal Chinese medicine man, he obviously falls within the category of delusional ‘healthcare’ practitioners. Because his livelihood depends on it, he will continue his unwavering support of debunked treatments, even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that these ‘treatments’ simply does not work. Ineffective treatments is quite dangerous, not only to people, but to wildlife as well. In his delusional world, all TCM therapies are effective and hence he will happily go to court to act as a character witness for his business partner (another TCM practitioner) who was send to jail for importing Rhino horn, and other endangered animal material, into Australia. This was followed by promoting rhino horn as a life-saving medicine in a thesis, approved by Alan and WSU (2012). And quite recently (2017) the NICM even had a link on their website where consumers could find information regarding the life-saving properties of rhino horn, and I guess they could even buy it online (link has since been removed).  Everything works in his delusional world.

There are many more examples such as his continued support for debunked treatments such as homeopathy, acupuncture etc. but this award is not only for supporting these treatments, it is also the way in which they mislead the public. For example: they fail to declare their many  conflicts of interest on many of their research papers (scientific misconduct), they design their experiments in such a way that it almost always gives a positive result (A+B vs B trial design), and even if the result is negative they will promote it as a big positive on WSU’s news site, or on social media (scientific misconduct and intentionally misleading the public). They even misled the Australian Research Council (info obtained after 2.5 years under a Freedom of Information request) who gave them a ranking of five, which stands for ‘research quality well above world standard’ in their ‘Excellence of Research for Australia’ program.  With this fraudulently obtained ranking, they lobby, but also mislead; UK royalty, ministers, regulators, foreign governments (specifically China) etc. in order to invest more money in the NICM.

But they also use this ranking to try and crush any negative reports, such as their 2016 Bent Spoon nomination – and this is where the excellent acting comes into play. Here is an excerpt from Alan’s letter to the Australian Skeptics “NICM conducts itself with the highest degree of integrity, ethics, scientific enquiry and social responsibility. Our research is independent, peer-reviewed, and is published in highly reputable, world-leading journals. NICM has been evaluated by Australia’s leading scientists under the Excellence in Research for Australia scheme and received the highest ranking of 5 for two consecutive periods, representing research that is deemed well above world standard.” None of this is true, and yet they can write these things without blushing. Their acting ability is so good, that they do not only fool the public, they actually have the acting ability to fool themselves. Any actor that can immerse themselves into a role to a point where they become the character deserves an Oscar, or in this case a bent spoon.

As for Prof Barney Glover. Well, he was warned about all of this, by myself and others, that by supporting the modus operandi of the NICM and hence these debunked treatments, including TCM, people will needlessly get hurt or even die (the Slapping therapy is a case in point). Unfortunately, Barney and the rest of WSU management decided to ignore all of these warnings and is fully supportive, and protects, the NICM at a cost of >$2 million AUD per year. I guess if you can’t beat them, join them; so, Barney has been actively involved in lobbying the Australian public that Chi exists and he has opened the door for China to use Australians as guinea pigs for their unproven and disproven TCM therapies.  It is well known that China wants to internationalise TCM, and via Alan and Barney the Australian public will now have to bear the brunt of ineffective therapies. Here is an excellent article in the ‘Economist’, explaining the dangers of doing just this – the title says it all; “State-funded Quackery. China is ramping up its promotion of its ancient medical arts. That is dangerous for humans as well as rhinos.”

Armed with this knowledge, Barney visited China on a number of occasions and together with Alan managed to get TCM in the Free Trade Agreement signed between China and Australia. This has given the impetus for Chinese companies to export more of their disproven and unproven ‘medicines’ to Australia, and it forms the cornerstone of a new TCM facility that will be built in Sydney. This facility will be co-managed by the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM) and because it needs to be profitable within a couple of years, implies that it will be operated like a commercial clinic or hospital.  In the NICM’s own words during a industry sponsors meeting, the NICM will “lead the modernisation and integration of Chinese Medicine in the West through the
development of an effective Integrative Medicine Facility or TCM Hospital.” The BUCM has managed to start a similar 81-bed ‘hospital’ in Germany and this will likely be the model on which the Sydney facility will be based. So much for ‘evidence-based’ treatments, where evidence that a treatment does more good than harm comes first, before you start selling it to the public. But in their delusional world, all of TCM, and for that matter all of complementary medicine, works – so why should they provide any evidence?  You only have to belief that it works, and that is it!

At the heart of all of this, as usual, is money. The millions that Barney, Alan and the NICM cost the Australian public has to be recovered somehow, and hence these two men decided to destroy science, scientific education and put the public’s health at risk by allowing WSU to become the ‘scientific’ façade of a very dubious, and dangerous, complementary medicine industry. In exchange, they are handsomely rewarded with very big donations towards their ‘research efforts’, or rather, promotional research. Here they received $10 million from Blackmores, here is $4 million from the highly controversial Jacka Foundation (links with anti-vaccination activists), not to mention the millions from other complementary medicine companies, including Chinese companies and investors.

The list of misleading and false claims and statements constantly flowing from the NICM is unfortunately so long that it will require a series of books to be written in order to cover everything. It is however, quite remarkable, how similar their modus operandi is to the notorious gangster, Al Capone, who also had a ‘good guy’ public image, but beneath the surface had a somewhat more  sinister nature.  But the sad thing is that nobody can seemingly do anything about this. As long as they are in a position of power and they manage to bring in this kind of money; rules, ethics and morals simply do not apply anymore. As further evidence of their extremely good acting abilities, here is the title of Voldemort’s, oh sorry,  Barney’s speech given at the National Press club (photo) “universities must stand up for facts and the truth – if we don’t, who will?” This is acting at its best, and in my view, deserving of the Bent Spoon award.

Unfortunately, if you fall for their trickery and you get hurt, then you will be all alone. The bureaucracy involved is extremely complex so the best thing to do is prevention. Stop believing that Chi is real, because it simply does not exist. Stop buying their products or using their treatments, and inform yourself and your family and friends about how these people play their sick game and what the dangers are regarding these ‘treatments’. ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ provides valuable healthcare information as well as the website of Prof Edzard Ernst, where he discusses everything complementary medicine (what works and what doesn’t). If you are interested in receiving automatic updates regarding the NICM and what they are up to, you can always follow my BlogTwitter or connect on LinkedIn. Will keep you posted regarding the outcome of the 2017 Bent Spoon awards, and please, ‘Like’ and share this article – options below.

The NICM’s business partner sent to jail for importing Rhino horn into Australia!

In the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) world all ‘treatments’ are effective, including rhino horn and other endangered animals, as opposed to the modern scientific world in which very few, if any, of these TCM modalities are effective. However, the main aim of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) is to ‘integrate’ all of these pseudoscientific healthcare systems (TCM, acupuncture, homeopathy etc.) with modern evidence-based healthcare. This is very worrying to say the least. I can also confidently predict that this drive to ‘integrate’ these two opposing worlds will sooner or later be reflected in a new name (again) for the NICM.

Because of the NICM’s true belief in the pseudoscientific basis of TCM (or maybe the prospect of tapping into the $170 billion TCM market), Western Sydney University approved a thesis in 2008, where rhino horn was being promoted as “remarkably” better for the treatment of vascular dementia as compared to a control group. The critique that I had on this thesis, was that they should have given this aspect a critical scientific appraisal, which they completely failed to do. I thus labelled this thesis as nothing more than promoting Rhino horn as effective medicine, and hence, they are contributing to the sharp rise in rhino poaching. The supervisors of this thesis might claim that it was a simple oversight or that the external reviewers failed to pick up on this issue. Or they might even claim that they did not know about the controversy surrounding the use of Rhino horn. But I strongly doubt this. This is a simple example of their true (make)belief in the magical medicinal powers of rhino horn and all other TCM therapies.

So I dug a bit deeper and found the proceedings of a symposium held in Sydney in 1997, with the title “healthy people, healthy wildlife”. This symposium dealt exclusively with the use of endangered species as medicine in TCM. The supervisor of the above mentioned thesis was also present and gave a presentation; “Responsible use of TCM”. Below is a couple of excerpts from the proceedings (you can find the full proceedings here).

Start of excerpts;

“I have been using Traditional Chinese Medicine regularly for several years. There have been many times when the wisdom of Traditional Chinese medicine has helped me recover from a physical complaint and I know just how beneficial the results can be” (page 4)

RHINOCEROS HORN (XI JIAO) (page 9-10)

XI JIAO is the horn of the Rhinoceros unicornis L or R. sondicus Desmarest, or R. sumatrienses (Fischer) Cuvier (Rhinocerotidae)

TCM nature: Salty, sour and cold

Actions: Clear heat, subdue Yang and cool blood, relieves fearfulness, detoxifying.

Indication and application: High fever, sun stroke, trauma, mania, convulsion, sore throat, epilepsy, febrile disease, infectious disease, macula, bad skin conditions, subcutaneous bleeding.

Substitute

As the horns from rhinoceros, antelope and Buffalo (SHUI NIU JIAO) shared similar chemical compositions and amino acids, especially keratin, it has been proved that buffalo’s horn used as a clinical substitute for rhinoceros’ horn and antelope’s horn is therapeutically effective.

Alan Bensoussan’s presentation (page 23-29)

“At a recent conference in Hong Kong there was opportunity for practitioners and traders to express concerns related to the use of endangered species. It is worthwhile looking at these comments briefly. Some sentiments that I have heard expressed in Australia are also reflected in the comments of a TCM academic in Hong Kong: “The dilemma faced by TCM users, however, could only be better appreciated if we can step into their shoes and then make judgements if we ourselves or our beloved ones are suffering from ailments that modern medicine offers little or no help whereas products from these animals may offer relief”.

“It is important to table these views because herein lie the resistance to comply with the law, and to continue to sacrifice a constantly diminishing resource. It defies all logic. Even if we adopt the crudest perspective of some human right to continuously exploit natural resources, in this case if the medicine is valuable and in diminishing supply, the resource needs protecting. And in this sense alone the profession needs to do the utmost within its capabilities to cease all use of endangered species, and utilise alternative products, or farmed or cultivated species, at least until such time as the supply of the medicine is stable. “

Honk Kong TCM retailer

“According to CITES the trade of tigers, etc is prohibited and those TCM practitioners who use such medicines to treat and save peoples’s lives, pharmacies and traders of such medicinal resources are liable to punishment. Such international convention protects animals but harms human beings, makes animals more worthy than mankind, and degrades mankind as if they were lower than animals. It is questionable that whether such kind of rules worth existing”

“… the rights of human beings of using such resources to maintain their health, treat their diseases and sustain their survival, are ignored. The people who formulate such kind of rules are indeed ignoring human rights.”

Hong Kong TCM practitioners:

“People, however, should not work towards wildlife protection but neglect the protection of human lives.”

On rhino horn: “Reasonable application should therefore be allowed and it is inappropriate to ban the medicine entirely,” “The normal traffic of species for medical use should be set strictly aside from profit-deriving business trade.”

Singapore Chinese Doctors association

“TCM practitioners are working for the good health care for all mankind. It is not fair to treat us like profiteers or put the law on us.”

End of excerpts.

“TCM nature: Salty, sour and cold. Actions: Clear heat, subdue Yang and cool blood, relieves fearfulness, detoxifying” – clearly TCM is a pseudoscience, and clearly, the NICM truly belief in all of it!

Although this conference discussed the use of substitutes in place of endangered animals, and the use of the latter is quite clearly rejected, there seems to be strong resistance coming from TCM practitioners and retailers. They truly belief that Rhino horn is an effective, life saving medicine and that it cannot really be substituted by anything else – and so does Alan Bensoussan.  Replacing rhino horn with any other horn would be equivalent to admitting that it doesn’t really work – and this is unacceptable in the TCM world. Granted, they all agree that endangered animals need to be protected, but there is however one important aspect that you will not find in the symposium proceedings. And that is the extremely important question that most members of the public would ask; ‘are any of these endangered animal parts truly effective for the treatment of any disease?’.

As a scientist you might add ‘where is the scientific evidence that rhino horn is a life saving medicine for the treatment of infectious diseases etc?’ or ‘what is the mechanism of action of rhino horn and specifically keratin?’ etc. etc. Surely, these aspects should at least be discussed and TCM practitioners should be educated accordingly? In general, you first need to provide scientific evidence and then only can you go and sell your medicine!

These questions aren’t even being asked, mentioned or discussed and this again proves that in the TCM world everything is active. It is a given!  The person who dares to question the effectiveness of a specific TCM modality, in effect, questions the pseudoscientific principles of TCM. The implication of this, especially for the NICM, will be that they weaken or even lose the opportunity to tap into the $170 billion TCM market. This market only exists for the true believers and thus the NICM will not risk being exposed as a semi-or non-believer. Asking these type of questions makes you suspect! In the TCM world (and the NICMs world) rhino horn is thus seen and promoted as a life saving medicine for the treatment of just about anything, from sunstroke to infectious diseases!

So why didn’t the NICM add one or two sentences in the thesis published in 2008 about the use of the excepted substitutes in place of rhino horn? Because it is too risky! They run the risk that TCM practitioners might see them as implying that rhino horn is ineffective and that it can or should be replaced by your fingernails. One can argue that the symposium was held 20 years ago, and that the NICM has since changed their tune, but unfortunately this doesn’t happen with pseudoscientists. One tell-tale sign of a pseudoscience is its inability to progress.

The NICM also seems to be putting their money where their mouths are. They don’t only discuss and write about rhino horn as medicine, they also seems to be involved in importing it into Australia! They will obviously not do the dirty work themselves, but leaves that to one of their business partners who where luckily caught red-handed and who was sent to jail. The director of the NICM, Alan Bensoussan was of course in court to act as a character witness for his business partner.  An excerpt below;

“Character witnesses – including Alan Bensoussan, director of the Centre for Complementary Medicine Research at the University of Western Sydney – told the court Yu was “absolutely exceptional”. “There are very few clinicians of his ilk in Australia,” Professor Bensoussan said of his friend and sometime business associate of 20 years.” “He [the barrister] said Yu had tried to pull the wool over officials’ eyes.”

And again, we have a person linked to the NICM who tried to BS officials. One would think that Alan as a ‘honest scientist’ would try his best to explain to Mr Yu that TCM is based on pre-scientific ideas and that it is a belief-based healthcare system, and as such, is dangerous not only for people but also for (endangered) animals (they are currently skinning donkeys alive in Africa for the TCM market) – but, no, this will apparently never happen because the NICM and Mr Yu is still working together.

At the end of the day this has nothing to do with science but, as usual, it has everything to do with money. And the NICMs perseverance is starting to pay off! In the last year or two the NICM has received in excess of $15 million dollars with the most notable single donation from the well-known Australian complementary medicine company, Blackmores.  Because Blackmores also want to tap into the $170 billion TCM market it paid the NICM on a consultancy basis to assist in their ‘Blackmores TCM Development Program’. Problem is, the only way to tap into the TCM market is to be a true believers, and that includes supporting the notion that rhino horn has remarkable life saving medicinal properties. Wouldn’t it be nice if a large company like Blackmores make a small donation towards the rhino conservation effort? After all, it is quite dangerous and expensive, some might say futile, to keep all the poachers at bay who feeds the pseudoscientific TCM market that the NICM, WSU and Blackmores supports, promotes, and wants to exploit!

What can you do about all of this?

The bureaucracy involved is extremely complex, so the best thing to do is to stop using their products and treatments – e.g. prevention. Inform yourself and your family and friends about how these people play their game and what the dangers are, regarding these ‘treatments’. ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ provides valuable healthcare information as well as the website of Prof Edzard Ernst, where he discusses everything complementary medicine (what works and what doesn’t). If you are interested in receiving automatic updates regarding the NICM and what they are up to, you can always follow my Blog,  Twitter or connect on LinkedIn. I have also started a FaceBook page where I regularly post contents regarding the NICM, and complementary medicine in general (@CompleMedQuacks).

Will keep you posted regarding the outcome of the 2017 Bent Spoon awards (the NICM has again been nominated), and please, ‘Like’ and share this article via FaceBook etc. – see options below.

Endangered animals as homeopathic medicine for the treatment of loneliness. A new approach to save the Rhino.

Sometimes you can find the most amazing things on internet. And this is one of those things. My previous article reported on the sharp increase in Rhino poaching, partly caused by the increased need for raw materials in order to fuel the pseudoscientific TCM market, and the role that Western Sydney University might be playing in all of this. You can find it here. But how to solve the Rhino poaching crises? Well, help is coming from an unexpected corner.

I asked myself a simple question; do Western pseudoscientific healthcare systems (e.g. homeopathy) also use endangered animals in their “medicine”? Why not? Using their groundbreaking principle of ‘like-cures-like’ they diluted pieces of the Berlin wall, which made people depressed, to infinity and made “medicine” for the treatment of, you guessed it, depression. So why not use endangered animals? One can argue that these animals are becoming lonelier and lonelier, as they are being hunted to extinction, so maybe a good opportunity to develop a homeopathic medicine for the treatment of loneliness!

Therefore, to solve the Rhino poaching problem look no further than the ancient pseudoscientific Western healthcare system called homeopathy. Believe it or not, just as TCM is growing in popularity in Western countries, so is homeopathy growing in popularity in Asian countries, especially in India. Below is a description of a wonderful new book where the solution to Rhino poaching is eloquently described. Apply the homeopathic principles of diluting a single rhino horn into oblivion in order to save the Rhino – problem solved! Hence, one horn would be enough to supply the whole world of this much needed ‘medicine’ –  indefinitely. And you only have to kill one Rhino instead of the current 1200 per year!!

Start of book description:

“It is with great joy that I welcome the arrival of this groundbreaking book about one of the world’s premier healing traditions, Practical Homeopathy by my colleague Prof. Steve An Xue and his assistants.

The comparative introduction of homeopathy to China via the lens of classical Chinese medicine is a natural one, for the following compelling reasons:

  1. Chinese medicine and homeopathy share similar philosophies, such as the belief in the healing power of nature, and the resonance between macrocosm and microcosm (tian ren heyi)
  2. Both systems employ sophisticated methods of pattern differentiation (bianzheng); centering them around the individual and the signs and symptoms s/he presents, in contrast to the modern focus on diagnosing disease (bianbing)
  3. Both are centered around the concept of energy medicine, rather than the more matter oriented concepts of modern medicine such as anatomy and biochemistry
  4. Both are highly practical, and reflect the four principles that the Qing dynasty physician Wang Qingren once proposed as the hallmark of true medicine for the Chinese people: it must be easily available, affordable, and effective at the same time.
  5. Both abide by the guiding principle of safety: “first, do no harm” (as the beginning of a naturopathic medicine physician oath goes). Many progressive European and American mothers have a homeopathy first aid kit at home, often supplemented with Chinese herbal cold/flu remedies (i.e., Yin Qiao San) and herbs for external injuries (i.e., Yunnan Baiyao).

As a type of “energy” medicine, the field of homeopathy is not without controversy in the context of Western medical discussions. However, similar to the process wherein Chinese medicine was able to stand the test of modern science, the clinical efficacy of homeopathic medicine has been validated by a host of clinical research during the last 30 years. Furthermore, just like educated Chinese felt drawn to the profession of traditional scholar-physician, it were especially the brighter minds among Western doctors who were captivated by the theory and practice of homeopathy. It appears that the endeavor of discerning the laws of nature by way of cohesive pattern differentiation has been found to be both aesthetically pleasing and intellectually stimulating by illuminated minds in East and West.

As a much younger medical science that does not have the same extensive theoretical underpinning as classical Chinese medicine, homeopathy can surely benefit from a comparison with the traditional knowledge systems of China. On the other hand, the clinical practice of homeopathy reflects the core principles of Chinese medicine in the most radical way—a way that is progressively being forgotten in China itself—and thus can potentially reinvigorate the future path of Chinese medicine. By witnessing the often astonishing clinical results of homeopathy and understanding that the power of this modality is intimately connected to the same principles that Chinese medicine was once founded upon, Chinese medicine practitioners in the age of East-West Integration Medicine (zhongxiyi jiehe) can hopefully be inspired to take a fresh look at the most ancient and most fundamental theoretical principles of their own profession.

As Prof. Xue will explain in detail in this concise volume, it is one of the prime characteristics of homeopathy that its remedies are most powerful when administered in high potencies, when an herbal remedy has been diluted to the point that no trace of matter can be detected in the tincture or pellet anymore. This is a most dramatic manifestation of the traditional Chinese concept that consciousness governs energy, and energy governs matter. Homeopathy, in essence, administers the energetic and spiritual essence of a plant or mineral or animal substance to affect a patient’s physical and emotional health. Furthermore, it is a typical feature of homeopathy that it will only work when the remedy and the individual patterns of the patient are a complete match. This trait realizes the core belief of Chinese and other ancient medical systems that nature and the body express itself in a consistent pattern language. If that pattern language can be correctly deciphered—an art that is progressively eroding—every disease pattern can be neutralized by a corresponding pattern in the natural world.

In addition, the integration of homeopathy into the deep spectrum of natural healing modalities in China holds the following promises:

  1. The power of strong acting natural compounds can be harnessed safely. Few traditional physicians have the knowledge and confidence anymore to prescribe toxic ingredients such as arsenic (peishuang), realgar (xionghuang), aconite (fuzi), (badou) and (qiyeyizhihua). Homeopathy can deliver the energetic pattern of these ingredients without the toxicity that resides in the chemistry of these substances.
  2. Chinese herbs tend to be prescribed at ever increasing dosages, causing extinction and availability problems. Through the dilution method of homeopathy, rare or valuable ingredients such as rhino horn (xijiao) or bear gallbladder (xiongdan) can be used inexpensively without threatening natural resources. America’s largest laboratory for the production of homeopathic remedies, Hahnemann Labs, for instance, recently made an exceedingly rare fungus that grows only on 1% of 1,000 year old coffins and is used successfully in Southern Chinese folk medicine for the easing of pain from bone metastases into a homeopathic remedy—making it available for generations of practitioners to use.
  3. The marriage of Chinese cosmology and homeopathic prescribing has unlimited potential. To give an example: On the organ clock of Chinese medicine, the shaoyang gallbladder system is located in the position of midnight and the 11th lunar month of the year, a point that traditional Chinese science has marked with the earthly branch Zi, or the corresponding animal symbol of the Rat. Based on this uniquely Chinese insight, an accomplished American homeopath I know often uses the homeopathic remedy Rat’s Blood for certain manifestations of shaoyang disorder, and achieves excellent results.
  4. While the materia medica of Chinese medicine represents a science that features unprecedented detail in comparison to other natural healing systems, homeopathy can further enhance this knowledge base by its unique descriptions of how a substance’s therapeutic effect changes at different potencies–what happens when a mother tincture of an herb is diluted 6 times, versus 30 times, versus 200 times, versus 1000 times.
  5. The recent development of electronic homeopathy, utilizing digitized vibrations of human tissues, pathogens, and pollutants, has made it possible to diagnose and treat certain diseases in a quick and minimally invasive manner. This method can help to treat most specifically while a simultaneous Chinese medicine treatment can treat the more general and systemic reasons for disease, for instance by neutralizing a certain virus directly while Chinese herbs address the “toxicity” of the body’s terrain.

Finally, I would like to repeat my strong conviction in the creative genius of the Chinese people, which I have already mentioned in the preface to Prof. Xue’s previous book.

Due to the symbol-oriented nature of homeopathy—originally a key feature of Eastern thinking—many of the world’s best homeopaths are already of Eastern descent. Greece, and especially India has boasted a vital homeopathic tradition for years, featuring many master practitioners and specialty hospitals. For a variety of complex reasons, possibly including the presence of a native healing tradition of sheer inexhaustible depth, the clinical master science of homeopathy has not yet made inroads into China. I trust, however, that the time is ripe to see the combination of China’s human resources and the clinical genius of the Chinese mind thrive to give birth to some of the worlds greatest homeopaths, benefiting both the health of the Chinese people and the world.”

End of book description

To list all the things that are completely wrong/misleading/misguided here would take me a lifetime. But a negative multiplied by a negative gives a positive. In this case multiplying the nothingness of homeopathy with the decimation of the rhino population at the hands of TCM practitioners, equals the survival of the Rhino. But then again, how many people will die because of homeopathy or the believe that Rhino horn is an ‘effective’ medicine? Well, that number will remain the same.