WDDTY – make your voice heard

There seems to be no limit to the amount of pseudoscience, alternative therapy bollocks, infiltrating itself into the minds of many unsuspecting souls.  But we can do something about it.  As members of a critical thinking, evidence-based community, we have the ability to explain, expose and execute bad science.  Working alone often feels like you’re chipping away at a wall of quackery with an acupuncture needle but if we work together – to focus our ‘natural energy’ – we can make an impact.

With that in mind, I am trying to rally our collective voice, and help stop the widespread distribution of a magazine called ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’.

What’s the problem?

WDDTY is a magazine that claims it ‘provides health information to change people’s lives for the better’, but in reality it promotes the use of unproven alternative medicine, often as a replacement for conventional medicine.  Josephine Jones has provided a meticulous account of articles from WDDTY that are controversial and misleading.  Looking through the list it is clear that the editors are happy to impart their questionable wisdom on a variety of topics including cancer, depression, allergies, vaccination, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, arthritis etc. etc…Andy Lewis at The Quackometer has also just initiated a call to action which contains more information on the dangers of WDDTY.

This is wrong.  Telling people not to take proven preventative drugs for malaria, but instead take some homeopathic sugar pill is wrong.  Telling people that vitamin C is as good as chemotherapy but without the side effects is wrong.  Claiming all manner of potions, vegetables and inner energy can replace rigorously tested evidence-based medicine is wrong.

I have previously highlighted some of the ways that WDDTY abuse scientific evidence through using irrelevant citations, crap trials, cherry-picking stats with no context, paraphrasing text from articles and a lot of the time just speaking out-right bullshit.

This is wrong.  Abusing scientific data is wrong.  Misrepresenting the results and conclusions of a study is wrong.  Using references from quack journals that are not accepted in the wider scientific community is definitely wrong.

What to do about it?

I have already worked with Sense About Science to create a letter for their ‘Ask for Evidence’ campaign, which was sent to Bryan Hubbard at WDDTY, asking for evidence for some of the claims made in an article.  I contacted Bryan twice without any response and now feel that being more tactical could be better.  Taking advice from Simon Singh, Alan Henness and the hordes of other skeptics that have duly noted WDDTY, it was clear that the next mode of action would be to make complaints to stockists in an attempt to have it removed from the shelves.  So below is a template of a short letter that everyone can use/edit/personalise to send/email to any of the stockists.  Thanks to the work of Apoptoticus, there are strong indications that Tesco are open and willing to act if enough voices are heard.  The more complaints they get, the more likely we are to get a result.

The letter:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to express my concern over your stocking of a magazine called ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ (WDDTY).  I have found that WDDTY publishes misleading, unsubstantiated and often dangerous health information on a variety of serious medical conditions.

[Insert personal story – why this affects you and what your personal perspective is – are you a loyal customer, patient, doctor, scientist, nurse etc.]

WDDTY consistently push the use of unproven and disproven alternative treatments over evidence-based conventional medicine.  This has included the promotion of quackery while criticising rigorously tested treatments for conditions such as asthma, inflammatory diseases, cancer, dementia, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  The editors also advise the public to abandon preventative treatments for diseases such as malaria, and instead promote the use of unsubstantiated homeopathic and alternative ‘natural’ therapies.

You state yourself that one of your three big ambitions is to improve health by “helping and encouraging customers to live healthier lives”.  Surely, avoiding exposure to dangerous health information would reflect this policy.  You also claim that you “want to be the most trusted retailer in the world” and want to “demonstrate that our products are safe”.  Selling untrustworthy and dangerous health advice to your consumers does not appear to meet these claims.

As a leading retailer with consumer influence I would hope you agree that presenting information such as this in the mainstream could lead to people making ill-informed decisions about their health.  You have the ability and the responsibility to ensure that the public are not exposed to unbalanced and dangerous health advice, and by considering the removal of WDDTY from your shelves, are showing that you care for your customers.

I look forward to hearing your response.

Send email to:

Customer.service@tesco.co.uk

If you send an email please leave a comment below so we can track the numbers and please spread the word!

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27 thoughts on “WDDTY – make your voice heard

  1. Pingback: WDDTY: My Master List | Josephine Jones

    • I have received a response from Tesco – very efficient – but it was more of an effort to fob you off, pointing out the disclaimer on page 3, I responded with the following thaks to advice from Simon Singh

      “Is Tesco Management entirely happy with selling a magazine that contains dangerous and erroneous health advice notwithstanding the disclaimer on page 3?”

      Paul

      • It sounds like the standard Tesco response. Good work following it up, they do reply quickly I’ll give them that. They sent me a similar response so I replied with:

        I don’t see how not stocking a magazine selling unproven treatments for serious conditions could be construed as censorship. Tesco must realise that if they stock this magazine then they suggest to customers that it contains trustworthy information – by shear fact that the customer trusts in Tesco.

        The abuse and misuse of real scientific evidence is rife in WDDTY, an offence that affects the whole community of taxpayers who funded the research, scientists that dedicate themselves to the research and the clinicians that use that research to treat patients. I feel that this is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed by Tesco because magazines such as WDDTY rely on your continued support. Take that away and we can prevent vulnerable people being misled on serious health issues.

  2. I have sent two e-mails to Tesco, the first response I received was generic, and they merely said it is not Tesco’s responsibility to ask as a moral guidance. The second said they were sorry that I was not happy with their response, but that they could not do anything more to help.

  3. I had the standard response from Tesco, in which they said they are not in the habit of appointing themselves as ‘censors or moral guardians’. However, I remembered hearing they had recently forced a few lads’ mags to change their covers because some customers were offended by them. As a result, I’ve just responded with the below email; feel free to copy any of it for your own responses (if you deem it worthy!).

    Dear ,

    Thank you for your response, but I’m afraid I do not feel it is satisfactory.

    You claim to not be ‘censors or moral guardians’ and yet only recently you applied pressure to the publishers of three magazines to make fundamental changes because a group of your customers were offended, on moral grounds, by their covers (I refer to ‘Zoo’, ‘Nuts’ and ‘Front’).

    I, and many other people, are offended by not just the covers but the entire content of ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’. Are you really happy to sell a magazine that is filled with dangerous health advice which, if followed, could even lead to customers’ deaths? A small liability statement does nothing more than keep the lawyers off the backs of the publishers; very rarely will an average reader even glance at it and to suggest that it is enough to counteract the insidious advice throughout the whole of the rest of the magazine is naïve at best.

    It seems to me that the only reason to continue selling the magazine is profit.

    I look forward to your response.

  4. I have emailed them. My additional paragraph is below.
    “I am a scientist and am often used a source of advice and information for a lot of my friends. I have an old friend who has been taken in by this magazine (partly due to the authority given to it by its unearned position on high street shelves), and as a result I have had to have many, very emotional, conversations with this friend in an effort to stop her from harming herself and her child by following the dangerous advice in this self proclaimed “journal”. By selling this magazine you are hurting your customers.”

  5. Pingback: What Doctors Don’t Tell You | Milomitu

  6. Got back the same response as everyone else so replied with this:

    “Dear Sarah Thorne,

    I see you’ve sent the standard response everyone gets. I will restate the key point of my original complaint. A friend of mine is risking the health of herself and her child by following the inaccurate, unsupported claims in this rag of a magazine. You give this magazine credence by placing it on your shelves. Their disclaimer might just about cover them legally but it does not morally absolve you and them of the harm caused to your customers if they follow this advice. Some of their articles suggest taking vitamin C instead of HIV treatment. Their advertisers are losing advertising standards agency adjudications left, right and centre for misleading claims. By legitimizing this magazine you make a clear statement that the health and well-being of your customers is of no concern to you. I hope you simply don’t realise what you are doing but if this is so, and you do, then you should be ashamed.

    Joshua Warner”

      • Now got this one back.
        “Dear Joshua

        I am sorry you are unhappy with the response you have received.

        I’d like to assure you that your comments are very important to us and they have been fully noted.

        However, I am sorry to say that there’s nothing further that I can add to what had been said in our previous email.

        Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

        Kind regards

        Sarah Thorne
        Tesco Customer Service”

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  11. You know, theoretically, one could take advantage of Tesco’s refund policy which states, “If any of our products fall below the high standard you’d expect, please bring them back within 28 days, together with your receipt and we will happily refund or exchange the item.” So one could, for example, purchase a copy of WDDTY, and decide for oneself if it meets the “high standard you’d expect” from a purported medical publication; if it did not, one could take it back for a full refund. If enough people did so, Tesco might then see this as a sales issue, and it would no longer be a choice between profit and people; it would be common sense to just pull it.

    Of course, I wouldn’t advise people who have preconceived notions of the magazine’s quality do this. That would be just plain wrong, and possibly fraud.

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