Quack Aids Remedies

The Prevalence of HIV disease has continued to increase across the African continent and is a major public health concern due to cultural attitudes to sexuality and a degree of poverty which precludes effective pharmacological interventions. A quack Nigerian surgeon has been charging patients US$1000-1500 for a course of his vaccine which he claims has successfully treated 900 patients for HIV/AIDS. The Nigerian Academy of Sciences deemed the vaccine “untested and potentially dangerous”. The Surgeon’s response has been to allege that “he has been the victim of a conspiracy by transnational pharmaceutical companies, in league with the Nigerian Health Ministry, to steal his ‘wonder vaccine’….” This is the familiar paranoid conspiracy theories of the quack.

HIV/AIDS disease has continued to attract the same sort of quack attention as has terminal cancer, which is not surprising given that both progress to a fatal conclusion. Desperate people are given false hope as well as being robbed of their remaining wealth, which is siphoned away into the pockets of charlatans instead of passing to the descendants of the unfortunate victims. Using the late Petr Skrabanek’s rules (demarcation of the absurd) I would not even bother to test this AIDS “vaccine” and predict with complete confidence that should someone conduct a test the preparation will be found to be worthless.
Lancet Vol 356 August 5 2000 p 493

Acupuncture wins BMA approval

Like homeopathy practitioners, acupuncturists are irrepressible and in a neat example of Bellman’s fallacy (repetition leads to recognition) have prevailed long enough that they now have the imprimatur of none less than the British Medical Association. The full report is available at the BMA website (www.bma.org.uk) but seems to have been largely motivated by the fact that acupuncture is both widely requested and safe. I wonder if the BMA visited www.quackwatch.com or any of the other skeptical websites.

The study claimed that greater use of acupuncture could save the National Health Service “millions of pounds each year”. There was a call for minimum standards of training. As you will recall from Conference 1998, I modestly set the training standard by showing that a one hour training session was adequate for any lay audience. It may be necessary to gild the lily somewhat by devoting more time and training for a credulous medical audience. (BMJ Vol 321 1 July 2000 p11)

Perhaps this would be the time to share with you my memories of my acupuncture training course, during which the trainer demonstrated a popular alternative medical technique known as kinesthesiology. A patient with an allergy to tomatoes was shown to have reduced muscle strength when exposed to the alleged allergen. The test was an attempt by the examiner to separate the patient’s apposed index finger and thumb. The next step was to have the patient hold a packet containing a vial of depomedrol, a steroid. This was meant to show that the reduced muscle strength would be countered by the contact with this potent steroid. Unfortunately one of the other observers had mischievously removed the steroid vial from the packet and once the “patient improvement” had been triumphantly demonstrated he revealed his subterfuge. The trainer was unfazed and quick as a flash claimed that the improvement was maintained owing to “homeopathic residues on the packet”. It was at this point, as I gazed at the bovine and credulous faces of my fellow course members, that I became a confirmed skeptic.

Canadian Idyll

While recently in Canada for a military conference I suffered a recurring nightmare that I would arrive home to find a peremptory missive from our editor demanding a contribution for the next issue. (I did.) I was therefore relieved to find a supplement in the Vancouver Sun of Nov 16th 2000 outlining a “health show” and decided this must be worth a few column inches. I will summarise a few key points. Naturopathy/Naturopathic medicine diverges from allopathic medicine (translation: ordinary “scientific” medicine as practised by JC Welch) only “at that point where professionals in common possession of scientific facts conscientiously disagree on how best to use their shared knowledge in treating patients”. Before scoffing, I caution readers to be aware that “there is a common assumption that naturopathic treatments are placebos”.

Not surprisingly, there is a wealth of research carried out at Naturopathic Colleges showing that naturopathic remedies are very effective. You can choose from “Khamut”, a wheat grown from grain recovered from Tutankhamen’s tomb, Light therapy which uses biostimulation to promote efficient cell function, and “Trilovin” – the natural sex formula of the Ancient Greeks.

As a keen scientist I decided to administer some of this product to my wife and I am amazed to report that she has increased pain tolerance, enhancement of the immune system, improved mood and a sense of well being, reduced cholesterol and blood pressure and can now play tennis and ride a bike, but for some reason I’m tired and seem to have a constant headache.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

When I was at school 30 years ago I recall widespread concern that global cooling was going to lead to a new ice age. Now it’s global warming! I do not however, recall my fellow students exhibiting the behaviour alleged by those suffering from ADHD. I have long been suspicious that this is a fad disorder created by doctors in order to explain the exuberant but normal behaviour of some children. I will therefore conclude by quoting in full from the Guardian Weekly Vol 163/20 “Notes and Queries” column.

At school in the 40s I cannot remember pupils being hyperactive, disruptive or showing symptoms similar to ADHD. Is its growth due to a lack of discipline, or to pollution, radiation, junk food, etc.? There are always fashions in mental illnesses. In Freud’s day conversion hysteria was popular. Now it is rarely found. In Sydney, where I was working as an educational psychologist, any child with a behavioural or learning disability was likely to be labeled as autistic. Since then this diagnosis has come to be used much more discriminatingly.

Nowadays the psychiatric profession, supported by the drug companies, readily creates fashions in diagnosis. The committee that decides on the contents of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association needs only to ascertain that a group of psychiatrists agrees that a mental disorder exists to include this disorder in the manual. Another committee could reliably agree that the moon is made of green cheese. There have always been children who do not behave in the ways in which adults around them want. A few of these children have actual brain dysfunction. Many more, living under conditions that they find stressful, are constantly distracted by anxiety, and so are hyperactive and disruptive. Other children have parents and teachers who cannot tolerate the exuberant behaviour of ordinary children. The popularity of the recently created mental disorder ADHD means that many children are diagnosed as ADHD and prescribed Ritalin or other similarly potentially addictive drugs. These drugs’ long-term effects on a developing brain are yet to be discovered.

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