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 NICM’s undeclared conflicts of interests. Is there some ministerial interest in this? An update.

‘Competing interests: The authors declare that they have no competing interests

-‘Conflict of interest: There are no known conflicts of interest and no competing financial relationships exist.’

-‘Competing interests: The authors of this article do not have any financial and personal relationships with other people or organisations that could inappropriately influence their work.’

Three examples (of the many that do exist) where no Conflicts of Interests (COI) were declared. In my previous post, it was made clear that being involved as consultants, with a ‘for profit’ organisation who donated a substantial amount of money to the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), is a clear COI. Something that has to be declared and yet this is intentionally not being done. You can read about it here.

This COI information was send to three journal editors where the NICM published some of their acupuncture papers. It was also send to the Director of the acupuncture clinics to ask for clarification regarding the NICM’s role and any (financial) benefits coming from this – past and present. And to find an answer to a relatively simple question; is there anyone working at Western Sydney University (WSU), who hosts the NICM, that understands the problem at hand (pseudoscience being promoted and protected at WSU and the subsequent detrimental impact on science and on society) and who are willing to do something about this? The only way to find out is to ask. Therefore, this COI information was also send to about 1500 employees of WSU to ask for their opinions.

So, what happened since?

Only one journal responded, first by telling me that the info has been passed on to their ‘production team’, and a second message; that this matter is being investigated and the outcome of the investigation will be passed on to me – and hopefully the NICM and WSU. No response has yet been received from the two other journals and as for the Director of the acupuncture clinics – no response from either the director, who was send this information twice, nor from the clinics general email address.

That leaves us with the employees of WSU – but first a bit of stats. The number of views that a particular post generates is logged, as well as the country where these views originates from. Another interesting aspect is when you send this large number of emails, approximately 10-20% will immediately bounce back with an automatic out of office reply. Using these two parameters it is possible to see if the emails have actually been send and how many people (you don’t know their identities) have actually read it – or at least clicked on the article link. So, you can make a rough estimate of the number of people at WSU who have accessed your article. So, of the roughly 1500 emails (of the 4000 that I have), about 300 unique visitors viewed, on average, two articles each. The remaining 2500 emails could not be send because the out of office responses suddenly and completely dried up and the number of views from Australia flattened out. And this can only mean one thing; my email address has been blocked. This has happened before but at least a couple of hundred WSU employees have seen this information. So, the question is; did anyone respond?

A grand total of five people responded whereas four of the responses was a simple ‘please remove me from this email list’. The remaining response contained useful and thoughtful comments on this particular issue. Thus, there is at least one person, of those who have accessed this information, that was prepared to give this issue some thought. Is there anyone else out there at WSU who has some thoughts on this matter?

Great, so one might argue that it is mainly silence as usual with not that many people appearing to care much about this or all other issues raised in this blog. But there is some good news. Some journalists made contact, granted not solely because of this COI issue, but rather because of the bigger issues facing Australia regarding complementary medicine. Hopefully this will lead to something happening. But then there is a potential humdinger. Normally one would not expect the minister of health to just send you a letter out of the blue and yet this happened. Again, granted I have send all ministers of health letters regarding the NICM’s modus operandi, but that was almost a year ago – at the time some replied but most did not. So, what is going on here? Why now?

Any politician will be (or should be) concerned if the government dished out more than $600 000 to conduct another controversial acupuncture study. This particular study was even called a ‘wacky waste of cash’ in the media when it was announced. If it now turns out that this study, and most other acupuncture studies conducted at the NICM, has serious COI issues, then this has the potential to make headlines (there is a lot of taxpayers’ money involved).

And if that happens, then it is usually the minister of health that will be grilled. Hence, a simple way of avoiding this would be to say that the matter is under investigation, or that they are still gathering more info or that the matter has been deferred to a different department who can, or should be able to, better deal with this issue – importantly, this needs to be done before it makes headlines. But, the good news is that they might actually be investigating this matter. Hopefully, the investigation will not be limited to this COI issue but the whole modus operandi of the NICM and WSU and the subsequent impact on science, scientific education and the impact on society. Only time will tell.

So, no concrete progress yet, but the ball is starting to role. Let’s see if anything happens in the next week or so.

The NICM and the missing $5 million. Where did it go?

Now you see it and now you don’t. Where is the $5 million donation that the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) received from the controversial supplement company Blackmores? And for that matter, where are the two separate $300 000 donations received from the very same company? A number of weeks ago it was listed on Western Sydney University’s (WSU) researcher portal, under Prof Alan Bensoussan’s projects, but now it has been deleted. Maybe because we have written an article about this controversial issue a while ago? It puts us in a spot of bother because the said article had to be updated to clarify that this information has now been deleted from WSU’s website.

The only remaining donation from Blackmores is their scholarship funding program to the value of $330 000. The likely reason why this hasn’t been deleted is because these scholarships were reported on in the news, and once that happens it is always difficult to get rid of the information (and yes, scholarship funding is somewhat different than a fist full of cash to be spend on refining your techniques of how to hoodwink people). The same goes for the $500 000 received from the extremely controversial Jacka Foundation of Natural Therapies – this was also in the news and hence it is still listed. But this is also the reason why neither the NICM nor WSU published a press release proudly telling the world about one of the biggest ‘industry’ donations ever received by WSU – once it is in the news it is difficult to get rid of the information.

Clearly the NICM and WSU doesn’t want a public outcry similar to what happened after La Trobe university accepted millions of dollars from Swisse Wellness and more recently when the University of Sydney accepted money from Blackmores to establish a chair in complementary medicine. These two events did indeed cause a stir and there were even commentary and concerns coming from as far as the UK. No, this is not what WSU wants, so they simply delete this information and hope that no one would notice (they actually hoped that no one would notice that it was listed in the first place).

Apparently, they have learned from the mistakes made by other universities – or did they? If they did they would not have accepted this money, so no, the only thing that they have learned was to keep this information quiet – to fly under the radar, something that the other universities did not do. So, they decided not to be transparent and publicly defend their dubious decision, but at least they can now continue to mislead the public in peace and quiet without anyone noticing – or so they think (if any journalist reads this, please ask WSU what the hell they are doing – they are becoming an embarrassment for Australian science).

But the question remains – where did the money go? Maybe Blackmores decided to pull out? Unlikely, because the contract has been signed making it difficult to pull out without facing some sort of penalty. Did WSU and the NICM suddenly grew a conscience and decided to put science and the well-being of the public first?  Well, a leopard never changes its spots so this is never going to happen. The NICM will never part with a single dollar, so the money is likely still there but they have just hidden it somewhere.

Maybe it is hidden under the name of a different researcher at the NICM? Unlikely, the more money you bring in as an individual researcher relates directly to the number of gold stars you get on your forehead from the Vice Chancellor – and Alan loves his gold stars. So, looking under the names of different NICM researchers did not yield any information, as expected. Maybe they moved it from ‘projects’ to ‘consultancy’? – nope, no luck there either.

Thankfully, there is a thing called screenshots. If it wasn’t for these screenshots, that you can find here and here, nobody would have known about this $5 million funding. Searching the WSU website using the project reference number (P00023564) gave one result where this project is described. The only problem is that there is no mention of the value of the project. The same goes for the $300 000 donations. All these projects are there but none include the monetary value of the projects. The millions of dollars from Blackmores therefore remains to be hidden out of sight and this is of course done intentionally – they simply do not want the public to know about this. Strange, isn’t it?

You have to ask yourself why this is. What are they so afraid of? Well, if you read the other articles on this blog site you will see what they are afraid of. They are intentionally misleading the public, causing harm and even death, for the sake of money and they want nobody to know about this. And hence they will gladly accept the money from Blackmores as long as nobody to knows about it. If the public finds out they might receive unwanted attention which might lead some people asking probing questions that neither the NICM nor WSU wants to answer.

So, what will be their next move? It does indeed look a bit suspicious when a university delete information, especially if its information regarding millions of dollars received from a controversial company. Will they now list these projects again after this article is published? Let’s see what happens.

Money, not evidence based science, makes the world go round. The CM industry partnering with media outlets – the logical next step?

A $2.9 million donation here, a $2 million there and for good measure an extra $5 million here. And just to make sure that Western Sydney University (WSU) understand who pulls the shots, add a couple of $300 000 cheques into the mix. This is the kind of funding that the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) received in the last couple of years from the complementary medicine (CM) industry. What does the NICM have to do in return? As an “independent” research institute they have to protect the CM industry with their lives and they have to provide “scientific evidence” for these companies’ products, which in turn will be used as a marketing tool. Our magical products “have been scientifically validated” or “scientifically tested” or “clinically proven” etc. What does the WSU get in return for hosting the NICM? They add the ~ $10 million under the umbrella term “industry income” and they list all the “scientific” publications under the umbrella term “scientific outputs” and so they climb the international world rankings – their only objective. Capitalism at its best, and truly a win-win situation for all.

But wait. What about the poor suckers who buy these products? There used to be a thing called consumer protection and there used to be a time when universities protected their independence because they are state funded enterprises serving the public. Clearly that time is from a bygone era and the notion that water has magical healing properties or that rhino horn is a lifesaving medicine is making a comeback, especially at WSU. And this in 2016. The problem with protecting (masterfully done by the NICM) the evil practices of homeopaths (if you can look a sick child in the eyes and sell them water as medicine, then I am content to call you evil) or to promote rhino horn as lifesaving medicine, is quite severe. The former gives credibility to the homeopathic industry and hence they will not only prescribe water for the treatment of minor or self-limiting conditions such as headaches, but because their products “work”, they will also prescribe it for life threatening conditions such as malaria and HIV. The impact on society? People die! The latter gives credibility to the pseudoscientific principles of traditional Chinese medicine. The impact? A hell of a lot of rhinos die!

It might be a win-win situation for the CM industry and WSU, but it is clearly causing a lot of misery, death and destruction for the public and wildlife alike. But can it get any worse? Unfortunately, it can. Most rogue nations (Nazis, North Korea etc.) are in full control of the media whereas democratic governments have some influence, but far less so. In democratic nations the problem is usually that big business runs the mass media and they pull the shots and decide what is fact and what is fiction. The influence of big business  in the media can be so extreme that they can determine where and with whom the next war will be. By controlling the media, just imagine what they can do to protect and promote their business interests.

It therefore stands to reason that the CM industry in Australia, who is reportedly worth $3.5 billion/annum, and who is already in control of a number of cash strapped universities, will now take the next step and buy their way into controlling or influencing the media. Because most of their products are pretty much useless, and some are quite dangerous, focusing on marketing seems to be their main goal and the logical, if not only, way to go – true to the capitalistic dream of ever increasing profits while ignoring the real cost to society. The target of their mass (misleading) marketing is not only Australia – with its small population- but specifically the massive Asian markets who is currently their fastest growth region. To achieve their goal there seems to be no better way than to “partner” with the international arm of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). A recent article reports the following:

“ABC International’s media service Australia Plus (A+) this week announced partnerships with Monash University, the Victorian State Government and Swisse Wellness. These ‘Foundation Partners’ receive branding and advertising opportunities across all Australia Plus platforms.”

“The brands will have exclusive advertising rights to reach 190 million people across Asia who can access online and television channels broadcast by Australia Plus.”

This article was published yesterday and unfortunately do not give specifics on the amount of money involved in this deal – but now that they have bought their way into the ABC we will probably never get to know this.

It is however interesting to note that the $15 million CM industry funding that La Trobe university accepted, received a huge amount of media attention early in 2014. The $1.3 million funding accepted by Sydney University, early in 2015, also made headlines and it was discussed for a number of days in the media. In July 2015, the CM industry donated $2 million to WSU and it barely made it into the newspapers, and then only in early 2016, six months later – let alone that it was being discussed in the media. The recent $5 million donation hasn’t even made it into any newspaper. Clearly there is a trend here, although a number of factors might play a role.

-The first three donations were publicised on the news sites of the respective universities, whereas the last donation wasn’t (hush hush, let’s keep it quiet – I wonder why?).

-WSU is the minion university amongst these three universities and it is big news when a prestigious university falls for the CM industry, but not so much when a minion university is involved (maybe the reason why the CM industry decided to target WSU?).

-That the CM industry floods universities with millions of dollars is just not newsworthy anymore.

-Or maybe, just maybe, media outlets find themselves in a similar position than most universities – desperate for cash. And this is mainly due to the ever decreasing circulation numbers, stiff competition and subsequent loss of income from advertisements. Partnering with other industries, never mind who, therefore seems to be the way to go – even if you have to (further) sacrifice your independence. Can this explain the above mentioned trend? So when will we see the tobacco industry making a comeback? They sell their products legally, so why not?

Can we expect a “win-win” situation being created between media outlets and the CM industry, similar to the CM industry’s partnership with WSU? I think this is the future, so Blackmores, if any of you are reading this, this should  be your next strategic move – partner with a media outlet. The big loser, as usual, will be the public – but in this case not only the Australian public, but also the Asian public.

What can you do about all of this?

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

Western Sydney University promoting Rhino horn as medicine: Has this contributed to the exponential rise in Rhino poaching?

Something happened in 2008. Something, or a number of things, triggered an exponential rise in the number of rhinos being killed in South Africa. Poaching numbers remained quite low, and was stable for a decade, with only 13 being killed in 2007. But then suddenly, the number jumped to 83 in 2008, followed by an exponential increase every year, reaching a staggering total of 1 175 in 2015 – one Rhino poached every six hours. To explain this will be difficult and, in all likelihood, will be due to a number of factors or events coinciding in 2008. Maybe the global financial crises had something to do with it – people tend to turn to ‘commodities’ in times of financial uncertainty (rhino horn is apparently worth around $60 000/kg). Maybe there was a sudden increase in the popularity of rhino horn as a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in Asian countries. Or maybe effective conservation/anti-poaching efforts of the Indian Rhino in Nepal and India started to pay off and this led to a shift in focus to the African Rhino which inadvertently took its place in TCM – or all of the above factors and much more.

Another possible contributing factor, which I will discuss here, is the growing acceptance of TCM in western countries! For example: Phynova recently advertised a new product as the first traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) being registered in the UK. By directing customers to a separate site for more information regarding their product they ‘accidentally’ linked to a site which ‘advertised’ rhino horn (this link has since been removed). Another example is Western Sydney University, Australia who accepted and published a thesis in 2008, in which they described the current use of Rhino horn as a highly effective medicine, just like you would describe any real medicine. Surely this will have an impact!

But first a bit of background, so please bear with me. There are two ‘opposing’ aspects regarding TCM that most members of the public do not seem to understand well. Not their fault, because the TCM lobby groups are spending a huge amount of effort to keep the lines between these two aspects as blurred as possible. The first aspect is the underlying pseudoscientific TCM principles; the yin and yang and the vitalistic “energy” flow through “meridians” and much more. Scientists have relegated this to the pseudosciences, just like bloodletting, which was seen as a cure-all hundreds of years ago. Unfortunately, the pseudoscientific TCM principles are still with us and based on these principles almost every single TCM modality works! From acupuncture to herbs to animal matter (including rhino horn) – everything is efficacious, safe and cost effective. Evidence for this is that close to a 100% of clinical trials done on TCM in China give positive results. Strange isn’t it! People in China should thus no die of any disease – they have ‘effective’ medicine for everything! This is the world of TCM in a nutshell.

The second aspect of TCM is the application of the modern scientific method to test which of the thousands of TCM modalities are really active, which ones are useless and which ones are dangerous. Decades of investigation have come up empty-handed with one or two exceptions. One notable exception is Artemisia annua which contain a single compound that is highly effective for the treatment of malaria, and once identified and intensely studied, it was taken up into conventional medicine – not the herb, but the compound. If you investigate all the plants in the world you are bound to find some compounds that can be used as medicine – it has nothing to do with TCM principles and it can most definitely not be used as evidence that the TCM principles are correct or that it based on science.

These two aspects are therefore quite different.

In the TCM world just about everything works, but it is not backed up by science. It is a huge industry ($170 billion) and it creates employment for many – something that makes politicians smile. In the modern scientific world, almost nothing in TCM works, and hence it is not profitable at all – you have to investigate thousands of herbs (very expensive) in order to find one useful compound.

Many TCM practitioners and researchers are avidly trying to combine the positives of these two worlds. They focus mainly on the money and employment aspect of the TCM world and try and combine this with the modern scientific approach. They tend to focus on the one example where modern science discovered a useful compound (artemisinin) in the medicinal plant Artemisia annua, which was also coincidently used as an herb in TCM – as evidence that TCM works! Here are some examples:

“To stigmatise all traditional medicine would be unfair. After all, a Chinese medicine practitioner last year won a Nobel prize.” No, a Chinese scientist using the modern scientific method identified artemisinin after testing hundreds or even thousands of different herbs.

This year, Chinese medicine practitioners will be registered in Australia. ….. Chinese herbal medicine is administered routinely in hospitals for many chronic diseases. …… This has led to recognising herbs such as Artemisia as a proven anti-malarial ……” No, the compound artemisinin is a proven anti-malarial!

There has been enormous progress in the last 20 years or so. I am sure you are familiar with the use of one of the Chinese herbs in managing resistant malaria.” No, very little progress and no, the compound artemisinin!

So this is a game that is being played with the simple intention to blur the lines between these two aspects regarding TCM – but the real reason might simply be “A new research-led Chinese medicine clinic in Sydney, better patient outcomes and the potential for Australia to tap into the $170 billion global traditional Chinese medicine market”

Prof Alan Bensoussan the director of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) and registered in Australia as a TCM and acupuncture practitioner is a champion in blurring this line. Alan has been instrumental in lobbying the Australian regulatory agency that a long tradition of use is all you need to be able to register new products. He was also influential in establishing the Chinese medicine practitioner registry in Australia, in 2012, and thereby legitimising TCM in Australia. He has been actively chipping away at the resistance that the Australian public have against these pseudoscientific healthcare systems such as TCM – one can argue that he has done so quite successfully because they are expanding their operations into the Westmead precinct of Sydney with a new TCM clinic/hospital.

Enough background; so what does all of this have to do with Rhino horn? (and for that matter other endangered species). We have to remember that in the TCM world just about everything works and that includes rhino horn! Searching Western Sydney University’s theses portal for Xijiao (Chinese for Rhino horn) I found a thesis published in 2008 from the NICM and co-supervised by Alan; “Development of an evidence-based Chinese herbal medicine for the management of vascular dementia”

On page 45-46: “Recently, with fast developing science and technologies being applied in the pharmaceutical manufacturing area, more and more herbs or herbal mixtures have been extracted or made into medicinal injections. These have not only largely facilitated improved application to patients, but also increased the therapeutic effectiveness and accordingly reduced the therapeutic courses …… lists the most common Chinese herbal medicine injections used for the treatment of VaD. “

“Xing Nao Jing Injection (for clearing heat toxin and opening brain, removing phlegm) contains ….. Rhinoceros unicornis (Xijiao), …… Moschus berezovskii (Shexiang), …..”

“…. Xing Nao Jing injection has been widely applied in China for stroke and vascular dementia. …. After 1-month treatment intervention, they found the scores in the treatment group increased remarkably, as compared with the control group …… “

They list two endangered species; the Rhino and the Chinese forest musk deer (Moschus berezovskii). But what is truly worrying is that they don’t even mention the endangered status or at least recommend that the non-endangered substitutes, which do exist in the TCM world, should be used instead – or maybe use fingernails as a substitute? It is not discussed at all. Clearly they are stating that using these endangered animals are way more effective than western medicine (the control group) for the treatment of vascular dementia!  This is deplorable to say the least. Statements like this fuels the decimation of this species.  But this shows that they truly believe and support the underlying pseudoscientific principles of TCM – they have to, their ability to tap into the TCM market depends on it!

But is this now really promoting Rhino horn as medicine? Well, the definition of promoting something is; “support or actively encourage (a cause, venture, etc.); further the progress of.” – so I would say, yes. As a scientist you are entitled to discuss historic believes, such as that most people once believed that the earth was flat. But make sure to also state that modern science has shown beyond any doubt that the earth is not flat. If it is stated that the earth is flat without saying that this is incorrect then you would be promoting that idea – and believe it or not, even in 2016, you can find a flat earth society! The same goes for Rhino horn and this is exactly what they have done here. But then again they live in a world where all TCM modalities are effective!

How to solve this problem of growing acceptance of TCM in western countries?  A simple step could be that people like Alan publicly denounce the underlying pseudoscientific TCM principles and make the ‘difficult’ switch to real science! Admittedly, he will have to part with lots of money from the CM industry and his Chinese partners, and maybe not built his new TCM hospital! But for some reason I strongly doubt that this will happen. The NICM have successfully applied a very thin, but beautiful, veneer of political correctness and modernity over the surface of complementary medicine. Anyone who cares to look underneath this veneer will find a rotten ancient pseudoscientific TCM world – in this case the promotion and the use of endangered animals.

After reading chapter two of this thesis one cannot believe that this is from an Australian University and paid for by the Australian taxpayer! The main question though: Can I directly link this thesis with the increase in rhino poaching? This will be very difficult, if not impossible to do. But that is not the problem. Promoting the pseudoscientific principles of TCM in Australia will inevitably enlarge the export market for TCM, and hence, will lead to an increased need for raw materials, including Rhino horn. That Rhino horn has been a banned substance since the 1980’s clearly does not seem to have any impact looking at the poaching statistics.

The fact that the NICM has been linked with rhino horn ‘importers’ in Australia, should clarify the NICMs true view on rhino horn and its magical medicinal properties. In 2006 Yu Long Yu (Sydney, Australia) was sentenced after a large amount of endangered animal material, including Rhino horn, tiger etc, was found in his possession. Because Mr Yu was (is) a business partner of Alan Bensoussan (director of the NICM), Alan was in court to defend his good friend: “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.”

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 as such, is dangerous not only for people but also for (endangered) animals. But I guess that would be way too much to expect from the NICM.

What can you do about this?

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 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 complementary medicines combined – and it’s a lot cheaper). These people use the sales figures and the number of practitioner visits as evidence of ‘efficacy’, and they use these numbers to lobby politicians, regulators etc. and hence the problem will not only stay with us, it will get bigger.

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 medicine 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.

To inform yourself you can continue to read about my attempts to explain how science is being abused by following my blog at (frankvanderkooy.com) or on 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 and that means that the article will be made available to more people.

Another 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 join the 1100 scientists and 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 their efforts with universities, regulators and politicians also comes highly recommended. You can subscribe here. And again, use the ‘Like’ function because it actually does mean something.

And then, finally, the website of Prof. Edzard Ernst in the UK. Prof Ernst was the first professor of complementary medicine and 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 (info on his website) dealing with this subject – it comes highly recommended. Twitter @EdzardErnst

Rhino poaching and the Australian National Institute of Complementary Medicine – is there a link?

It is always interesting to link what the Australian based National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) say or do with international events that seemingly doesn’t have anything to do with them – or at least that is what most people would think. What does the Western Sydney University based NICM have to do with Rhino poaching in South Africa??

First a bit of background, so please bear with me. Recently, the first Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) product was registered in the UK by a company called Phynova. It contains a TCM herbal ingredient and it is sold for “Joint and Muscle Relief” – you can read the press releases here and here and a more critical appraisal here. What struck me as odd was that this product was clearly being advertised as the first TCM product to be sold in the UK. This basically means that the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has given credibility and legitimacy to the underlying pseudoscientific principles of TCM, for example; the yin/yang, six excesses (wind, cold, fire/heat etc.), five phases (fire, earth, metal etc.), vital energy that flows through meridians etc.

These TCM principles have been relegated to the pseudosciences and even some Chinese scholars promote the abolishment of TCM, and labels it as nothing more than a valuable export product for China! Does this now mean that all herbs used in TCM is pretty much useless? No, there are indeed some herbs, admittedly very few, that have been shown to be quite valuable (e.g. Artemisia annua).

Phynova could have chosen to register and market their new product merely under the name of the herb that it contains. This, at least, might have given their product slightly more scientific credibility – depending on if it contains useful compounds or not. Hence, it was a choice between these two issues; support for the underlying pseudoscientific TCM principles or support for the scientific approach that a specific herb might contain useful compounds. Phynova has chosen the former and hence this product is marketed under the TCM banner for the sake of market size and profits.

This, of course, is great news for TCM practitioners worldwide including Prof Alan Bensoussan the director of the NICM and registered in Australia as a TCM and acupuncture practitioner. They will now claim that the body of evidence and hence the acceptance of TCM in the West is growing, knowing pretty well that it has a lot more to do with lobbying than with science! Alan has been instrumental in lobbying the Australian regulatory agency, the TGA, that a long tradition of use is all you need to register a product – who cares about efficacy!

He has also been chipping away at the resistance that the Australian public might have against these pseudoscientific healthcare systems, such as TCM, by publicly misleading them that TCM principles is based on real science – which it is not! You can read about it here, here and here. He is also planning to expand into the Westmead precinct of Sydney with a new TCM clinic/hospital – thus, Alan has big plans for TCM in Australia and he is a staunch believer and advocate of the TCM principles (maybe the global $170 billion TCM market has something to do with this?).

Enough background; so what does all of this have to do with Rhino horn? (and for that matter other endangered species). Well, Rhino horn “…. is bitter, sour, and salty in flavor and cold in nature. Vital functions are removing heat to cool blood, relieve internal heat, and arresting convulsion.”  This is the type of language that you hear from TCM practitioners such as Alan, companies such as Phynova and also the MHRA who has now given credibility and legitimacy to these TCM principles. Where did I get this information regarding Rhino horn? Well, from Phynova – or at least indirectly!

On Phynova’s website there was a link that directed the potential customer to a website providing scientific information regarding the herb in their new product – fair enough (accessed on 13/07/2016 – this link from Phynova’s site has since been removed). Shockingly, and probably also the reason why this link has been removed so quickly, was the information provided in the sidebar under the heading “New Herbs and Remedies.” There you find Rhinoceros horn! Yes, it is listed as a “herb” and yes the accompanying image is that of elephant tusks! Oh Boy!

If Phynova is that sloppy with doing research I have to wonder how much real scientific research has gone into their new product. Did they even read the “scientific” information regarding their herb on this website? Clearly not! Or maybe their research was more focused on the packaging, marketing and sales of this ‘amazing’ new product.

Even though it is claimed on this website that Rhino horn does not have any medicinal value – the fact that it is listed and that they provide recipes of how to prepare and use it tells me a different story (please scroll down to the comments section of the website). For example, they state “Even though now it is not used as a medicine any more. Knowing a bit more about the medical facts about rhinos can be good for you.” Here again we have the familiar issue plaguing the complementary medicine industry – what they say and what they actually mean or do is two different things! You be the judge.

And Alan Bensoussan at the NICM? The following section comes straight from a PhD thesis (on page 45) supervised by the NICM uner the leadership of  Alan Bensoussan and approved by Western Sydney University in 2008 (my highlights in bold and explanation of abbreviations in brackets)

“These have not only largely facilitated improved application to patients, but also increased the therapeutic effectiveness and accordingly reduced the therapeutic courses. Following on Table 2.4 lists the most common Chinese herbal medicine injections used for the treatment of VaD (Vascular Dementia).

Table 2.4 Chinese herbal medicine injections for VaD

CHM injection Functions Compositions
Xing Nao Jing Injection Clearing heat toxin

and opening brain,

removing phlegm

Gallbaldder stone of Bos taurus domesticus (Niuhuang), Curcuma aromatica (Yujin), Rhinoceros unicornis (Xijiao), Coptis chinensis (Huanglian), Scutellaria baicalensis (Huangqin), Gardenia jasminoides (Shanzhi), Cinnabar (Zhusha), (Xionghuang), Moschus berezovskii (Shexiang), Pteria martensii (Zhenzhu)

Xing Nao Jing Injection
Based on the classic formula “An Gong Niu Huang Wan”, Xing Nao Jing injection has been widely applied in China for stroke and vascular dementia. Wang et al (2000) observed the therapeutic effect of Xing Nao Jing Injection treatment on vascular dementia and the affect on HDL  (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein). 76 cases of VaD in patients were randomly allocated into two groups: Xing Nao Jing Injection treatment group (n=39) and western medicine control group (n=37). MMSE (Mini Mental State Examination) and content of HDL and LDL were assessed or observed before and after treatment. After 1-month treatment intervention, they found the scores of MMSE in the treatment group increased remarkably, as compared with the control group (p<0.05). The HDL elevated and LDL decreased in the treatment group (Wang et al, 2000).”

They only list two endangered species; the Rhino and the Chinese forest musk deer (Moschus berezovskii), but what is worrying is that they don’t even mention the endangered status or at least recommend that the non-endangered substitutes should be used instead. Clearly they are marketing these endangered species as way more effective than western medicine (their control group) for the treatment of vascular dementia! I have to admit that this thesis is rather confusing and that it will need an in-depth investigation – my next blog post will deal with this thesis and any other similar theses I can find from the NICM, dealing with endangered species.  

The problem with Rhino horn is relatively simple. The more Rhino’s killed the more expensive the horn becomes which leads to more rhinos being killed – there seems to be no solution! That Rhino horn is claimed, as above, to be highly active against Vascular Dementia is to say the least, deplorable. Statements like this fuels the decimation of this species. But we have to try and do something. A simple step could be that people like Prof Alan Bensoussan publicly denounce the underlying pseudoscientific TCM principles and make the “difficult” switch to real science! Admittedly, he will have to part with a bit of money from the CM industry and his Chinese partners, and maybe not built his new TCM hospital – but whatever he can do to save the Rhino, right?

The NICM have successfully applied a very thin, but beautiful, veneer of political correctness and modernity over the surface of complementary medicine, focusing on TCM, by ticking the box that they are against the use of endangered species, and by using real scientific terminology incorrectly in order to convince the public of the medicinal value of TCM in a “modern” package. Anyone who cares to look underneath this veneer will find the rotten ancient pseudoscientific TCM world – including the use of endangered species. Just look at how active Rhino horn is for vascular dementia!! Read chapter two of the above mentioned thesis and you cannot believe that this is from an Australian University and paid for by the Australian taxpayer! Unfortunately rhino horn is just the tip of the iceberg, they continue to defend and promote almost all complementary medicines such as homeopathy and acupuncture as well by using the same techniques.

Another piece of evidence that the use of Rhino horn in TCM is indeed alive and well comes from poaching statistics. Over the last number of years there has been an exponential rise in poaching in South Africa with 2015 topping out at 1 175 as compared to only 13 rhinos killed in 2007. Not even to mention the hundreds of human lives lost attempting to either poach or protect the rhinos. Maybe theses, such as the ones supervised by the NICM and approved by WSU in 2008, has partly led to this exponential increase in poaching stats?

Companies such as Phynova should register their product as a herb and market it as such based on real scientific results, and not advertise it under the TCM banner. The TCM banner encompasses the whole pseudoscientific TCM healthcare system including the use of Rhino horn and other endangered species.

The regulatory authorities, lobbied endlessly by the CM industry and people like Alan, should refuse to register products under the TCM banner and should only register the specific herb after real evidence of efficacy and safety have been provided – preferably clinical trial results. The Phynova product was registered solely based on a long tradition of use without any clinical trials backing up their claims!

By now, I know that very few people care. I’ve been told many times – this is how the world works, get used to it and move on. I am okay with the idea that apparently most Aussies do not mind being misled by other Aussies – seemingly an Aussie thing as Alan once told me “but everyone is doing it”.  If most Aussies want to fall for TCM, and even use their own tax dollars to sponsor it (NICM receives $2 million/annum) –  be my guest, but please keep these issues within Australian borders and leave the Rhinos alone. But that is not going to happen – supporting and advocating the TCM principles in Australia by people such as Alan Bensoussan creates a global ripple effect with Rhino poaching being one of the many detrimental results. I give it 5-10 years and that will be the end of Rhinos – which animals will they target then?

 

Comments received on this post from reddit/r/ChineseMedicine. 

[–]Fogsmasher 5 points 3 days ago

Ok, so you hate Chinese medicine/acupuncture. What exactly are you trying to accomplish here?

[–]zeissbickham 3 points 3 days ago

Because it’s easier to shit on things and blame others than take actionable initiatives like supporting education of the populace a la Yao Ming.

The West isn’t where your problem is, OP. It’s a billion plus people not knowing that their actions are having consequences in far flung regions of the world that they know nothing about. You’re barking up the wrong tree if you’re trying to guilt trip people here on this sub – we already know about species on the brink of extinction. Your keyboard slacktivism is duly noted, however.

[–]Fogsmasher 2 points 3 days ago

Nah, he’s got some bug up his ass about TCM in general. Check out other posts in his blog and it’s full of circular logic about how TCM is bullshit and can’t possibly work so therefore we shouldn’t do research. If there is research that says something works then it’s crap research because everyone knows the basis for TCM is impossible.

[–]zeissbickham 3 points 3 days ago

I’ll take your word for it – sounds like a waste of time. As does shitposting on random subs, which is a waste of Frank’s time. So be it.

Thanks for the reply.