American Cancer Society Journal Promotes Quackery

This article will no doubt shock some, especially in Port Townsend. Some thoughts first to help put context to it.

Dr. Stephen Barrett has been a tireless advocate for exposing fraud and quackery in the medical field. I have read his newsletter for years and have never found myself at odds with his opinions. I’m reposting this here not because I necessarily agree with his opinion on the ACS running this article, but because he points out some very valid questions. While I have witnessed cancer patients, including terminally ill ones, having alternative treatments and “feeling better” none of them that I witnessed ever changed the outcome from terminal to remission. And unfortunately, some of the people promoting these “therapies” are making very good money from promoting them. It is sad but true.

I personally agree with Dr. Barrett’s thoughts that if the therapy ‘makes the patient feel better’ and is not a burden on their families financial situation, then there seems to be no ‘harm’ done. But all too often these are presented as cures.

With that said, here’s the analysis by Dr. Barrett. I am underling what I believe are the key thoughts here.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has published the Society for Integrative Oncology’s Clinical practice guidelines on the evidence-based use of integrative therapies during and after breast cancer treatment in the May/June 2017 issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The monograph, whose co-authors include three naturopaths and an acupuncturist, states that its “recommendations” should not be regarded as the standard of care but are warranted as “viable but not singular options for the management of a specific symptom or side effect.” (In other words, they have no effect on the course of cancer but might help some patients feel better.) The “therapies” include acetyl-l-carnitine; acupuncture; acupressure; aloe vera; ginger; ginseng; glutamine; guarana; healing touch; hyaluronic acid cream; hypnosis; laser therapy; manual lymphatic drainage and compression bandaging; massage; meditation; mistletoe; music therapy; reflexology; relaxation techniques; qigong; stress management; soy; and yoga.


In 2014, in response to an earlier edition of the guidelines, David Gorski, M.D., Ph.D., noted:

Treatments that are truly effective and safe do not need the training wheels of a title like “alternative,” “complementary,” or “integrative.” They will stand on their own to scientific testing and should not be used until they have.

The real purpose of the guidelines is to use an ostensibly critical analysis buying into the false dichotomy of “integrative oncology” in order to rebrand potentially science-based modalities as “alternative” or “integrative” and to provide ammunition for advocates of “integrative oncology” to start “integrating” quackery with science-based medicine. [Gorski D. Selling “integrative oncology” as a monograph in JNCI. Science-Based Medicine, Dec 1, 2014]

pH Miracle author pleads guilty to practicing medicine without a license

Since Mr. Young was on “Coast to Coast” he likely has some audience here in Jefferson County. I know people tell me they listen to this show frequently.

Robert O. Young expected to do more jail time

Robert O. Young, author of The pH Miracle, has pleaded guilty to two more counts of practicing medicine without a license. In 2014, he was charged with multiple counts of grand theft and conspiring to practice medicine without a license. The San Diego District Attorney’s press release stated that Young accepted patients, including some who were terminally ill, and temporarily housed them at his pH Miracle Center. The charges alleged that Young and associates broke the law when they went beyond advocating dietary changes and administered intravenous treatments to patients, some of whom were terminally ill. In 2016, following a 2-month trial, he was convicted of two counts of practicing medicine without a license. During the trial, Deputy District Attorney Gina Darvas portrayed Young as a charlatan who preyed on the sick and vulnerable—including dying cancer patients—and duped them with bogus science. A few weeks after the trial ended, Darvas announced that Young would be re-tried on the charges for which the jury was unable to reach a verdict. In 2017, faced with this possibility, Young pleaded guilty to two more counts of practicing medicine without a license. The plea agreement calls for a 44-month sentence, some of which has already been served. [Diehl P. Sentencing delayed for pH Miracle author. San Diego Union-Tribune, May 1, 2017] Young, who for many years has represented himself as “Dr. Young,” has a “Ph.D.” from Clayton College of Natural Health, a non-accredited correspondence school that closed in 2010 after Alabama began requiring that all private, degree granting, schools be accredited by a recognized agency or be a candidate for accreditation. [Barrett S. Clayton College of Natural Health: Be wary of the school and its graduates. Quackwatch, Jan 8, 2015] The central premise of Young’s approach—which lacks scientific support—is that health depends primarily on proper balance between an alkaline and acid cellular environment that can be optimized by dietary modification and taking supplements. [Barrett S. A critical look at “Dr.” Robert Young’s theories and credentials. Quackwatch, May 5, 2017]

Death by naturopathic curcumin (tumeric) injection confirmed

This story also implicates Bastyr University in Seattle. Follow the Forbes article as the source. Read the following link to get the full story. It is quite damning of the practice of injecting curcumin.

The San Diego Medical Examiner has confirmed that 30-year-old Jade Erick was killed by an intravenous turmeric solution administered by a California naturopath whom she had consulted for treatment of eczema. [Hermes BM. Confirmed: Licensed naturopathic doctor gave lethal ‘turmeric’ injection. Forbes, April 10, 2017] The naturopath, Kim Kelly, had advocated the use of intravenous curcumin for “any type of inflammatory condition, whether it be arthritis, autoimmune conditions, Alzheimer’s or dementia” and claimed that “promising effects have been observed in patients with various pro-inflammatory diseases.” Curcumin is a constituent of turmeric, which is useful as a spice but has not been proven safe and effective for the treatment of any health problem. [Nelson KM. The essential medicinal chemistry of curcumin. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 60:1620-1637, 2017]

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brittmariehermes/2017/04/10/confirmed-licensed-naturopathic-doctor-gave-lethal-turmeric-injection/#6e5fd5a66326

…But he must not be aware that curcumin and its metabolic byproducts are related to cardiotoxicity as they inhibit certain potassium channels in cardiac tissue, which can stop the heart

The Vitamin D Craze- Truth and Fiction

The New York Times has an excellent article outlining the current Vitamin D craze, it’s roots and it’s myths. I have discussed this with a medical professional, who mentions that for people with certain diseases, like osteoporosis or kidney disease, a real deficit in Vitamin D is possible. But for most people, it’s just not an issue. And because the craze has insurance companies declining to cover the testing in many cases, these patients with real need are getting their tests turned down by the companies. As the NY Times article points out, the wide scale studies are not backing up the medical professionals who set this whole fad in motion.

 

State passes law giving credence to reflexology and somatic education

The Washington State legislature has updated it’s RCW 18.108 to reflect state credence of the massage techniques of reflexology and somatic education. Both these methods have no basis in proven scientific methods of treatment, and are considered by some in the medical profession to be nothing more than fake medicine. It is disheartening to see the State legislature taking steps to legitimize these massage techniques that come with little or no proof of their ability to treat patients other than that the industry has come up with educational programs to train people in these techniques. While there seems to be nothing more than hearsay to validate their techniques, the legislature abrogates it’s duty to protect the public from non-scientifically valid procedures, and work towards giving these techniques and their practitioners a cloak of medical respectability.

According to information on Quackwatch.com, the leading source for tracking non-scientific health claims in the US:

Many proponents claim that foot reflexology can cleanse the body of toxins, increase circulation, assist in weight loss, and improve the health of organs throughout the body. Others have reported success in treating earaches, anemia, bedwetting, bronchitis, convulsions in an infant, hemorrhoids, hiccups, deafness, hair loss, emphysema, prostate trouble, heart disease, overactive thyroid gland, kidney stones, liver trouble, rectal prolapse, undescended testicles, intestinal paralysis, cataracts, and hydrocephalus (a condition in which an excess of fluid surrounding the brain can cause pressure that damages the brain). Some claim to “balance energy and enhance healing elsewhere in the body.” [2] One practitioner has even claimed to have lengthened a leg that was an inch shorter than the other. There is no scientific support for these assertions.

Reflexology was introduced into the United States in 1913 by William H. Fitzgerald, M.D. (1872-1942), an ear, nose, and throat specialist who called it “zone therapy.” Eunice D. Ingham (1899-1974) further developed reflexology in the 1930s and 1940s, concentrating on the feet [3] Mildred Carter, a former student of Ingham, subsequently promoted foot reflexology as a miraculous health method [4-6]. A 1993 mailing from her publisher stated:

Not only does new Body Reflexology let you cure the worst illnesses safely and permanently, it can even work to reverse the aging process, Carter says. Say goodbye to age lines, dry skin, brown spots, blemishes—with Body Reflexology you can actually give yourself an at-home facelift with no discomfort or disfiguring surgery [7].

You can read the whole overview by Dr. Barrett along with research studies that have been done that conclude that reflexology has no legitimate scientific standing.

http://quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/reflex.html

Dr. Barrett’s conclusion: “Reflexology is based on an absurd theory and has not been demonstrated to influence the course of any illness. Done gently, reflexology is a form of foot massage that may help people relax temporarily. Whether that is worth $35 to $100 per session or is more effective than ordinary (noncommercial) foot massage is a matter of individual choice. Claims that reflexology is effective for diagnosing or treating disease should be ignored. Such claims could lead to delay of necessary medical care or to unnecessary medical testing of people who are worried about reflexology findings.”

Also from Dr. Barrett’s web site, the definition of “Somatic Therapy” that the state is tacitly supporting:

somatic therapy (somatic disciplines, somatic methods, somatics, somatic techniques, somatic therapies): Field that encompasses aikido, the Alexander Technique, applied kinesiology, Arica, Aston-Patterning, Awareness Through Movement, bioenergetics, Body-Mind Centering®, “Capoeria,” “Continuum,” CranioSacral Therapy, Eutony, Focusing, Functional Integration, Hakomi, Hellerwork, judo, karate, kundalini yoga, kung fu, “Lomi” (see “lomi-lomi” and “Lomi work”), “Oki yoga” (see “Oki-Do”), Process-Oriented Psychotherapy (process psychology), rebirthing, reflexology, Resonant Kinesiology, Rolfing, “Rosen work” (see “Rosen Method”), “sensory awareness,” SHEN, somasynthesis, tai chi, Touch for Health, Trager, “Trans Fiber,” yoga therapy, and Zero Balancing. “Subtle-energy elements” are a commonality of somatic therapies. Thomas Hanna, founder of the journal Somatics, coined the word “somatics.”

While I have no doubt that some of these techniques, such as Capoeria, Akidido, etc. are good exercise and lead to relaxation, by turning these into some kind of pseudo medical technique leads to people thinking it’s a treatment for a disease or condition that should be treated with proven medical techniques. It’s disappointing to see the Washington State Legislature give validity to these marketing tactics for these  techniques.

We can hope the Governor chooses to not sign this update to the RCW.

Dubious claims abound on Canadian naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, and homeopathy clinic Web sites-Consumer Health Digest

The little regulated world of ‘natural healing’ runs the gamut from sincere and useful low tech solutions to health problems to a wide range of dubious if not downright fraudulent claims and practices. While the study was Canadian in scope, it can be assumed that these same findings would be replicated in the US. This wide ranging study of 10 major Canadian cities found the following.
 

A survey of 392 naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, and homeopathy clinic Web sites has found that unsupportable claims for the management of asthma and allergy are widespread. [Murdoch B and others. Selling falsehoods? A cross-sectional study of Canadian naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic, and acupuncture clinic website claims relating to allergy and asthma] The investigators concluded: 

  • The majority of the clinics studied claim they can either diagnose or treat both allergy/sensitivity and asthma.
  • Naturopathic clinic websites have the highest rates of advertising at least one of diagnosis, treatment, or efficacy for allergy or sensitivity (85%) and asthma (64%), followed by acupuncturists (68% and 53%, respectively), homeopaths (60% and 54%) and chiropractors (33% and 38%).
  • The majority of the advertised interventions lack evidence of efficacy, and some are potentially harmful.
  • Food-specific IgG testing was commonly advertised, despite the fact that the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has recommended not to use this test due to the absence of a body of research supporting it.
  • Live blood analysisvega/electrodiagnostic testing, intravenous vitamin C, probiotics, homeopathic allergy remedies, and several other tests and treatments offered all lack substantial scientific evidence of efficacy.
  • Some of the proposed treatments—such as ionic foot bath detoxification—are so absurd that they lack even the most basic scientific plausibility.
  • A policy response may be warranted in order to safeguard the public interest.

Studies of this type are important because when legislators consider whether to license nonstandard practitioners, they seldom know what these practitioners claim to do.

Reported on Consumer Health Digest. Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

The study itself can be found at: Murdoch B, Carr S, Caulfield T. Selling falsehoods? A crosssectional study of Canadian naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture clinic website claims relating to allergy and asthma. BMJ Open 2016;6:e014028. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016- 014028

Discredited anti-vaccine advocate addresses chiropractic group -Forbes

Since we have a journal in Port Townsend that has supported the anti-vaccine movement, it’s worth touching on this interesting article. I cannot understand why chiropractors, who work hard to legitimize their practice, are supporting the leading advocate of anti-vaccinations. One of our key goals in Jefferson County according to the Public Health Department is to raise the levels of vaccinations, which have fallen precipitously over the last decade as people like Wakefield have put forward ideas that have been discredited by science.

Forbes has reported that Andrew Wakefield, who lost his medical license for unprofessional conduct related to vaccine research, was a keynote speaker at the International Chiropractors Association’s Annual Conference on Chiropractic and Pediatrics in Maui. [Lee BY. Are chiropractors backing the anti-vaccine movement? Forbes, Dec 10, 2016] Noting that Wakefield was unable to provide scientific evidence to support his anti-vaccination claims, the report’s author asks whether having him as a speaker is the best way for a professional association and a conference to gain scientific legitimacy. The article is also skeptical about chiropractors in general.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2016/12/10/are-chiropractors-backing-the-anti-vaccine-movement/#2492313e5db6