In reply to Michael Fitzpatrick

In a recent article on Spiked, the author Dr Michael Fitzpatrick took to ‘slamming the campaign to ban a wacky health mag from shops’.  Fitzpatrick takes considerable dislike to my blog posts in his article, and although attempts to fairly discredit my view, fails to fully understand the context of what I wrote.

First off, Spiked editorial have made the mistake of throwing a sub-heading on the story claiming we are trying to ‘ban’ WDDTY.  This is simply not the case – what we are asking is for supermarkets to take responsibility for the content they choose to sell.  Yes, you could argue that there are much worse things on sale when it comes to damaging public health, such as tobacco and alcohol, but that isn’t the point.  This campaign calls upon supermarkets to be more vigilant over false and misleading health claims.  It is not a call to ban the magazine.

Fitzpatrick says that I have ‘accused the alternative-health magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You of misusing scientific evidence and language and of providing ill-informed advice about breast cancer in a feature about the film star Angelina Jolie, who recently underwent a double mastectomy’.  I don’t think I have accused them of this, I have proven, through analysing their references that the claims they make are incorrect, ill-informed and dangerously misleading.  Fitzpatrick points out that WDDTY is not a scientific journal and by accusing them of being ‘unscientific is like accusing the Beano of lacking literary merit’.  From this statement I can assume that Fitzpatrick has not recently followed the WDDTY press releases where they repeatedly claim that (1) they report on scientific evidence and (2) they have researchers that check for accuracy and validity of their claims.  If this is the case then they would be more scientific then journalists and editors from other media outlets and thus, believe that they have scientific credibility to back up their articles.  It has been shown on many occasions that this is not the case.  It is commonplace for WDDTY to use references that don’t back up what they are claiming and misinterpret or misuse statistics.  I have also shown how they have just made up quotes from researchers without their knowledge.  This makes WDDTY more dangerous than a sensationalist health piece in a newspaper because they are attempting to appear scientific and be a trusted source on what they report.

Fitzpatrick has a point regarding the misuse of scientific evidence elsewhere and I agree wholeheartedly that more needs to be done across the board to change the way evidence is presented, disseminated and accessed.  But how does that mean that this campaign is worthless?  It’s not his business where I, or others, choose to focus our attention.  Some would say that the misuse of scientific evidence isn’t important at all but instead we should all focus our attention on world hunger and global warming.  Does that make standing up for evidence a waste of time?  I don’t think so.

His final remark is to say that I believe that ‘the general public and readers of supermarket magazines are mere passive dupes of propaganda who need the protection of an enlightened elite’.  This isn’t true at all.  The points I make always refer to the fact that WDDTY give their claims credibility by referencing scientific publications.  This is misleading to everyone because unless you take the time to check each reference you will assume that the author has been honest.  WDDTY are far from honest when it comes to references and so by me taking the time to present where the flaws are in their references means other don’t have to.  Anyone can do this (within limit due to paywalls etc.) and I have never suggested that questioning the evidence is beyond anyone.

I disagree with Fitzpatrick over the fact that asking supermarkets to stop stocking WDDTY is a bad idea.  Supermarkets are one of the most trusted retailers and as a result have a duty to protect their customers.  Selling magazines such as WDDTY actively promotes dangerous and misleading health advice and gives it undue credibility.  No one has asked WDDTY to stop selling their magazine.  If anything has been learned from this is that loyal followers of the magazine will always buy it and they would still be able to.

Sick as a dog – another worthless advert in WDDTY

So I was just casually scanning over the most recent (November) issue of WDDTY – yes that issue with the atrocious homeopathy and cancer article – when my eyes glanced over an advert for:

‘Apocaps –The world’s first all-natural apoptogen formula’

Now I have to admit, when I see the prefix ‘apop’, I automatically think of apoptosis, the process of programmed cell death that plays such a vital role in many aspects of an organism’s development.  On closer inspection it’s clear that the product in question is selling something about apoptosis – something that got my interest having previously spent time in the lab researching that very mechanism.  So let’s see what kind of bullshit the team at ‘Functional Nutriments’ have concocted for this ‘world’s first’.

The product itself appears to be a pill made up of ‘natural’ chemicals for kick-starting apoptosis in dogs.  Now I don’t know about dogs, but as a human I would not be convinced by someone wanting to kick off apoptosis in my cells by feeding me a pill.  Sounds like a quick way to end up in the hospital.

The special ‘apoptosis formula’ (I have to keep putting these things in quotations because I just don’t understand what they mean) is a powerful nutraceutical supplement designed by Dr Demian Dressler.  A quick Google search on Dressler reveals that he once thought of himself as a conventional veterinarian but know considers himself a full spectrum veterinarian, combining the best of conventional medicine with nutraceuticals, supplements, diet and body-mind medicine.  He is co-founder of Functional Nutriments and the inventor of Apopcaps.

But what are Apopcaps? The advert doesn’t really give you any information as to what the product is or does – a common theme amongst adverts of quackery.  I had to log on to their wonderful website to find out more information.  I always find the ‘About’ section of these websites the best for finding bullshit.  Here’s what they have to say about Apopcaps:

‘Apocaps was created as dog lovers began asking for a simpler, easier way to give apoptogens to their dogs.’

Really?! What the fuck are apoptogens? I’ve never used the word before and a quick Google search reveals that apoptogen is only ever used in conjunction with Apocaps.  So without knowing what they are how does one know that they need a simpler and easier way to give them to their dogs?

‘The challenge was to find a combination of the most important – luteolin, apigenin, silymarin and curcumin and other key ingredients – in a formula that is absorbed by the body.’ here are four alleged apoptogens.  Two flavonoids (luteolin and apigenin), milk thistle extract (silymarin) and a curcuminoid (curcumin).  I know from experience that luteolin and apigenin have been shown to induce apoptosis in the lab.  But so have many other things.  So how much evidence is there that these chemicals could induce apoptosis in dogs?  I’ll answer that in due course, for now let’s continue with the spiel.

‘Because luteolin, apigenin, curcumin and silymarin are all natural substances, the body’s digestive and elimination systems could potentially use up or eliminate these apoptogens before they reach the bloodstream. We didn’t want that to happen.’

This statement hints at a complete misunderstanding of mammalian physiology.  I eat a lot of natural substances every day, if I spent all that energy digesting food only to shit and piss the best bits out, I’d be very unhappy.  Nutrient absorption in the gut is very effective.  It’s evolved that way over thousands of years so we can spend energy doing other things like riding bikes or blogging about stupid pseudoscience.

‘The patent-pending proprietary “Trojan Horse” formula used to create Apocaps “tricks” the body into circulating the apoptogens throughout the bloodstream.’

This sounds exciting but my sceptic radar detects bullshit.  I couldn’t find a shred of evidence for their ‘Trojan Horse’ formula or how it would work.

After looking at the entire website for Apocaps, I still could not find one statement that actually said what the product was for or for what conditions it should be given.  I mean do you go into Dr Dressler’s clinic with your dog and he says:

“Yes, it looks like your dog has low levels of natural apoptosis; let’s boost this back up with Apocaps.  Don’t worry the active ingredients easily get into your dog’s circulation where they can have an effect on the whole body”.

Even if Apocaps worked, how would increasing apoptosis across your dog’s body help with anything?! It sounds like the least targeted form of chemotherapy ever made.  So back to my earlier question – is there any evidence that the four key ingredients have any effect on apoptosis in dogs?

The answer is no.

PubMed search for ‘Luteolin’ AND ‘dog’ – 8 papers, none on apoptosis

PubMed search for ‘Apigenin’ AND ‘dog’ – 11 papers, none on apoptosis

PubMed search for ‘silymarin’ AND ‘dog’ – 39 papers, none on apoptosis

PubMed search for ‘curcumin’ and ‘dog’ – 23 papers, none on apoptosis




Trolled by WDDTY?!

On October 31st – WDDTY released the November issue of their magazine.  As expected, it was a ‘cancer special’, carrying the front page head line ‘New Light on Cancer’.  The apparent ‘new light’ may refer to an article about homeopathy titled ‘Like Water for Chemo’.  This article was written by Bryan Hubbard, the co-editor of WDDTY who refused to answer my emails when I questioned him about the accuracy and truthfulness in his writings.  The way Bryan writes in this article is actually quite amusing.  It reads like he knows it’s a load of bullshit but is desperate to draw out any minute piece of evidence he can find to make it all sound plausible.

Let’s begin.

“Doctors call it “nonsense on stilts”, and professors of medicine have been bullying government and health authorities to stop offering it on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), while scientists say it is implausible, if not impossible, as it breaks every law of science they know.”

Why do these people always say that as soon as anything negative is said about their profession it’s ‘bullying’?  Accept criticism, learn from it and improve.  I will probably never understand why this is but the number of people banned from fair and open discussion on WDDTY Facebook page speaks volumes.  Anyway, yes, it is nonsense on stilts, it is implausible, it is impossible and it does break every law of science we know.  Spot on.

“Homeopathy is everyone’s favourite whipping boy, and if it does clear up a snuffly cold or minor headache, it’s all due to the placebo effect: it’s just mind over matter, and people merely think it’s making them better. Any active ingredient in a homeopathic remedy is diluted sometimes thousands of times, so any effect must be entirely in someone’s imagination.”

Thanks Bryan – I could not have worded it better myself.

“That makes perfect sense, assuming our understanding of physics and human biology is complete. But judging by how it is used in India—where doctors routinely use it even for life-threatening diseases like cancer—we perhaps have a little way to go yet.”

We still have a lot to learn about physics and human biology, but not so much that it would reverse our entire understanding of everything we’ve ever known about the universe.

“The Indian doctors have found an unlikely ally in the US government’s National Cancer Institute, which has been so impressed by the way cancer patients have responded to homeopathic remedies that they want to see more research carried out.”

Were they though? Are they? I have heard WDDTY spill this so many times, yet never read anything that suggests the NCI are interested.  Search for ‘Homeopathy’ on the NCI website and it’ll link you to the NCCAM page where the first thing it says is “There is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition.”

“Everyday miracles are carried out at several homeopathic clinics in Kolkata (Calcutta) in India, and it was there that American researchers went to see the work for themselves. One member of the research team, Dr Moshe Frenkel, who was at the time working at the MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) in Houston, was astounded by what he witnessed. “I saw things there that I couldn’t explain. Tumours shrank with nothing else other than homeopathic remedies. X-rays had shown there had been a lesion on the lung and a year after taking the remedy it had shrunk or disappeared.” Still sceptical, or perhaps fearing he was the victim of a medical variant on the Indian rope trick, Dr Frenkel went back to his laboratory at MDACC and decided to test the homeopathic remedies on a culture of breast cancer cells. The protocols were as rigorous as they are for when Frenkel and his researchers test a new chemotherapy drug.”

Dr Frenkel is well known to be an avid supporter of not only homeopathy but many other quack alternative treatments through his group Interactive Oncology Consultants.  So you have to accept that his quoted opinions are bias.  The study WDDTY is referring to has been covered before in March 2012 and I spoke a little about it here.

“Eight scientists from MDACC tested four remedies—Carcinosin 30C, Conium maculatum 3C, Phytolacca decandra 200C and Thuja occidentalis 30C—on two human breast-cancer cell lines. Around 5,000 cells were exposed to the remedies and to a placebo—the solvent without the active ingredients of the remedies—for periods of between one and four days. The experiment was repeated three times. Two of the remedies—Carcinosin and Phytolacca—achieved as much as an 80 per cent response, indicating they had caused apoptosis, or programmed cell death. By comparison, the placebo solvent achieved only a 30 per cent reduction, suggesting that the homeopathic effect was more than twice that of a placebo.”

The methodology and results from this study have been heavily criticised before by others.  Essentially, the study is not well carried out.  There has been no statistical analysis of the data carried out.  Therefore ANY conclusions drawn in the paper cannot be backed up with data.  It is complete lunacy that the paper made it through peer-review.  Then there is the problem I raised before regarding the controls.  Your control should not be killing 30% of your cell.  If that’s the case you have a major problem.

And please WDDTY – stop saying that the control is a placebo.  THEY ARE CELLS IN A DISH.  It’s a VEHICLE CONTROL not a PLACEBO.  AHHHGGGHH.

“Not believing the results, his colleagues insisted on an immediate second trial and in a different laboratory—and the same results came back”

Where are these results? Where is the paper?

“If you come to a different conclusion, why not publish a paper saying it doesn’t work.” That was several years ago and still no paper has appeared.”

This is because no research lab wants to waste tax payers’ money on it and a similar study was conducted earlier in 2006 and showed the complete opposite.

As I read on, I came to realise that this article IS the article from March 2012!  Nearly word for word.  I am confused.  I thought there was going to be some revealing new evidence into the efficacy of homeopathy that was going to wake up the sceptics.  Just another lie from the charming people at WDDTY I suppose.  You can read more of my de-bunk from the March 2012 article here so I don’t have to write it all again.

Did I just get trolled by Lynne McTaggart?

WDDTY – Tesco choose profit over people

As always if you need to know more about WDDTY click here.

If you have been following the WDDTY saga over the last couple of months you will be aware that calls have been made for supermarkets to stop selling the magazine.  This is not an attempt to ban WDDTY, or infringe on freedom of speech, but rather to ask large chain supermarkets to act responsibly with the products they choose to sell to their customers.  We have witnessed supermarkets making effort to remove offensive lads mags and insulting Halloween costumes from sale – so why not dangerous health advice?

So far Waitrose have been the only supermarket to step up – announcing in early October that they would not be selling WDDTY due to public concerns.  Admitted, a lot of attention had been focused on Tesco to make the first move, something driven by both the fact that they are the largest supermarket stockists and that they had a rather appalling way of dealing with customer complaints.

The initial call for people to complain generated a lot of activity but common sense couldn’t seem to find its way past the ‘copy and paste’ wall erected by Tesco customer service.  I decided the next step was to try and bypass customer service and contact Philip Clarke (Tesco CEO) directly.  So I sent him an email titled ‘concerns over public health’ – outlining the extent of the campaign, why it was happening, why it is important that Tesco listen to concerns and asking for a meeting to be able to discuss the issues.  Within 24 hours I received a reply from CEO offices confirming “I am currently looking into your concerns and will contact you again shortly”.

I proceeded to send further emails in the coming weeks updating my CEO office contact on events such as WDDTY being found actively promoted in a Tesco in Hull and when Waitrose announced they would no longer stock the magazine.  Each email got me a response apologising that it was taking so long but that they were looking into my concerns.  I was optimistic that Tesco were indeed taking matters seriously.  Then I received this:

“Thanks for your patience whilst we have been reviewing the details of your complaint.

I am sorry to say that our position on this matter has not changed. Whilst we have given the matter our full consideration, there are no plans to stop the sale of the What Doctor’s Don’t Tell You in our stores.

Although we cannot be held responsible for the editorial content, we do stock this publication as there is demand for it and by not stocking the magazine, we would be removing the choice of a legally produced product.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to share your views with us and I am sorry for the disappointment my response will cause you.”

And here is the important bit – “we do stock this publication as there is demand for it”

Tesco choose profit over public health.  The fact that they are not willing to discuss concerns formally is insulting and only further highlights their motivation.  Even high-lighting how hypocritical and contradictory they are behaving towards their corporate values is not enough to make them turn their back on what I can only assume is a small profit driven by WDDTY.  Tesco are currently running a campaign with Unicef and Pampers called 1 pack = 3 vaccineson one hand helping to secure tetanus vaccinations in the developing world and on the other selling lies from an aggressively anti-vaccine magazine.

This is unacceptable behaviour from a company that lists one of its three big ambitions in society is to ‘Improve health’ by ‘Helping and encouraging our colleagues and customers to live healthier lives’.  I don’t see how selling medical treatments that have no evidence and actively promoting them above conventional medicine fits into this ambition.  The deeper into their policy you go the more contradictory it gets:

“We can create a store environment that encourages and promotes healthier choices”


“By working with leading health research organisations we will see how we can support vital medical    research”


“We’re profiling our products against clear health criteria”


Essentially, Tesco have made a big mistake.  They have opted for profit over public health and by doing so have damaged their reputation.

Please re-blog, tweet and spread the word to raise awareness.

WDDTY – no evidence for their cancer claims

The last few weeks have been an eye-opener.  We have witnessed Lynne McTaggart slowly crumble under the weight of evidence brought against her by rational thinkers.  The self-proclaimed champion of free-speech has silenced debate on Facebook by deleting any comments that bring criticism to the toilet paper she calls a magazine.  The claim has always been that those banished from the spiritual realm of WDDTY – were so because of abusive behaviour.  Everyone knows that this is not the case, but in fact bans were dealt out for posting real evidence of fallacy in their claims.


I was personally banned for explaining to WDDTY supporter, Julia Barac, that WDDTY are not justified in the way they present the evidence.  Julia commented at one point that she believes what WDDTY publish because they reference scientific journals to support their claims.  I very politely pointed out that you shouldn’t be fooled and until you examine the evidence provided you can’t be sure that anything they have written is true.  As you can see in the screenshot of our conversation, Julia asked me to provide a couple of examples.  So I did – and a few minutes later found myself banned from commenting and all my comments deleted.

It would seem that trying to bring a rational argument – one supported by evidence – to WDDTY supporters is a sin.  I really want to emphasise to people like Julia just how poorly the writers at WDDTY are at presenting the evidence.  It may be an impossible task but hopefully by collating a large number of examples someone reading might have that ‘moment of clarity’ and see beyond the propaganda presented by Lynne and WDDTY.  Below is a comprehensive review of WDDTY publications on cancer and the editorial mistakes made in presenting the evidence.

16th October 2013 – Resveratrol in red wine helps beat cancer

This news article cites the scientific paper Fang et al. J Surg Res. 2013.

“If you’re having radiation therapy for your cancer, drink a glass of red wine first. Apparently, it makes the treatment more effective…”

This is already a gross misrepresentation of not only what the reference shows but what the body of evidence on resveratrol also shows.  First off, there have been no clinical trials investigating the benefits of resveratrol to radiotherapy, so to jump straight to the idea that you should drink a glass of red wine before radiotherapy is absurd.  Secondly, the referenced paper is a pre-clinical laboratory study using cells in a dish, a good starting point for any medical research but not evidence of clinical efficacy.

“right now, the researchers say there isn’t enough evidence for people to ditch conventional therapy in favour of resveratrol, but perhaps that may change when more data is collected”.

They researchers don’t say this at all.  They never suggest that resveratrol could replace conventional therapy in the future but suggest that ‘resveratrol may have a potential role as a radiation sensitizer for melanoma treatment’.  There is a big difference here – a radiosensitiser is a synergistic treatment used to improve the efficacy of conventional radiotherapy – not replace it.  The WDDTY article is only 150 words, and in that brief chatter, they have managed to cock up explaining a very simple piece of basic research.

 30th September 2013 – Sunscreens can trigger skin cancer, scientists confirm

This news article cites the scientific paper Turci et al. Chem Res Toxicol. 2013

In this example, the headline itself is a complete fabrication.  (1) There is no evidence that sunscreen causes skin cancer. (2) The referenced paper does not ‘confirm’ that sunscreens can trigger skin cancer.

“Titanium dioxide (Ti02) triggers a series of toxic effects—including skin cancer—when it is exposed to ultraviolet light, which is in the sun’s rays”.

This isn’t true – there is no evidence linking titanium dioxide in sunscreen to skin cancer.

Furthermore, at no point in the cited article do the authors mention that sunscreen could cause skin cancer.  What their paper shows is how UV light reacts with titanium dioxide to generate free radicals and modify lipid bilayers of cells in the stratum corneum.  To jump from this to ‘sunscreens can trigger skin cancer’ is absurd.  To state that scientists have now confirmed this when they haven’t is absurd.

30th July 2013 – ‘Safe’ HPV vaccine kills up to 1,700 young girls

We all know WDDTY’s stance on vaccination but claims like this are not only wrong but could potentially put people at risk of cervical cancer.  In this article they reference the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on HPV vaccination in the US (July 26, 2013).

This figure of 1,70,0 is actually 1,674, and more importantly is not the number of girls killed by the HPV vaccine.  The VAERS collects all the data on vaccine safety and collates ‘serious adverse events’ into one group, which includes hospitalisation, permanent disability, life-threatening illness or death – none of which have to be attributable to the vaccine itself but rather have occurred post vaccination.  So 1,700 is already an exaggeration because (1) it isn’t the number of deaths and (2) the deaths are not evidence that the vaccine was responsible.

Interestingly, when you look at the VAERS statistical report on HPV vaccine safety, you find that out of 12,424 adverse event reports there were a total of 32 deaths.  Out of these 32 deaths – 14 occurred after HPV vaccination alone.  And out of the reported deaths that had significant coronary reports – 4 were unexplained, 2 caused by diabetic ketoacidosis, 1 caused by prescription drug abuse, 1 case of amyotropic lateral sclerosis, 1 case of meningoencephalitis, a case of viral sepsis, 3 cases of pulmonary embolism, 6 cardiac related deaths and 2 due to idiopathic seizure disorder.

“Astonishingly, US health regulators say there are “no serious safety concerns” over the HPV vaccine. Instead, their concerns focus on the low uptake of the vaccine”.

I think it is clear why US health regulators are saying this – and I wouldn’t say it was astonishing.  It is too early to know the effects of HPV vaccination on cervical cancer cases, but if it goes the way other vaccines have gone, then I’d consider it dangerous to promote anti-HPV vaccine views based on no evidence.

20th May 2013 – Did Angelina get the right medical advice?

This article is from a longer feature which I have previously dissected in full.  It’s riddled with errors.

13th March 2013 – Bitter melon juice stops cancer’s growth

“Bitter melon juice seems to interfere with the growth of pancreatic cancer, researchers have discovered after they tested it on hundreds of patients across Asia”.

This isn’t true – there has never been a clinical trial of bitter melon juice for pancreatic cancer.  The evidence suggests that it has therapeutic potential in laboratory and mice studies but no in-human trials have ever been conducted.

28th January 2013 – Chemotherapy helps cancer tumours grow, say researchers

“Chemotherapy isn’t only useless against cancer—it even encourages the tumour to grow, researchers have discovered”.

This is a classic WDDTY statement about the apparent ineffectiveness of chemotherapy.  It is of course absolute bullshit and anyone with a rational mind would know that chemotherapy is in some cases the best treatment available.  The next bit is good because it suggests that chemo ‘even encourages the tumour to grow’.  The study they reference is Sun et al. Nat Med 2012.  The paper deals with understanding the mechanisms behind acquired drug resistance in prostate cancer patients – a major problem in clinical treatment.  They show that cyclic administration increases expression of the protein WNT16B via DNA damage pathways, which promotes a resistant phenotype within the tumour environment.  This is not ‘encouraging the tumour to grow’ but is an effect driven by selection of resistant clones as they adapt to therapeutic intervention.  This does not make chemotherapy useless – it means that new drugs need to be developed or combination therapies designed that circumvent resistance.

“They (the researchers) say that chemotherapy is “completely worthless” and that cancer sufferers would do better by avoiding the drugs altogether”.

Do I need to say anything about this ‘quote’?  What they actually conclude is: ‘We conclude that approaches targeting constituents of the tumour microenvironment in conjunction with conventional cancer therapeutics may enhance treatment responses’.

While I was writing this one I realised that Sun et al. were probably unaware that they had been quoted saying these things so I sent the lead author an email to find out.  Here is the response I got:

 It is very, very unfortunate that these groups routinely misquote scientific studies. The paper says nothing of the sort. The objective of the study was to identify resistance mechanisms to cancer therapeutics and to target them to make standard therapies more effective.

 Our study has been misquoted and misinterpreted—I believe on purpose—by several of these groups. However, I have not wanted to expend a lot of effort trying to correct this, unless asked directly, as it only adds visibility to their claims.

 However, your group and others are certainly more than welcome to go on the offensive and I would be more than happy to provide you with a quote or statement.

March 2012 Much more than placebo: Homeopathy reverses cancer

This is a diabolical piece of journalism on the supposed efficacy of homeopathy for cancer treatment.  Rational thinkers are aware that there is no evidence to support the efficacy of homeopathy for any medical condition – especially for the treatment of cancer.  WDDTY do not hold back in this article either and in my opinion straddle the clauses of the Cancer Act 1939.

The opening paragraph states: “studies paid for by the US government are showing that homeopathy could be our best defence against cancer. Several homeopathic remedies are as effective as powerful chemotherapy, according to clinical trials, and thousands of cancer cases are being reversed by homeopathy alone.

No reference to what US government funded study they are suggesting but no one yet has published a study proving that homeopathy is effective against cancer.  They also claim (with no reference) that homeopathy has been shown to be as effective as chemotherapy according to clinical trials.  I couldn’t find any clinical trials to support this and it is not my responsibility to find evidence for such extraordinary claims.  Same applies to the ‘thousands of cancer cases reversed by homeopathy alone’ claim.

“in one review of the work at the Prasanta Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation, 21,888 patients with malignant tumours were treated only with homeopathy—they had neither chemotherapy nor radiotherapy—between 1990 and 2005. Clinical reports reveal that the tumours completely regressed in 19 per cent—or 4158—of cases, and stabilized or improved in a further 21 per cent (4596) of patients”.

WDDTY don’t really reference very well here and I couldn’t find the review they were speaking of.  The only Banjeri paper from 2008 was this one – a case study evaluation of 4 patients.  So there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to back up any of this statement and this is without taking into account the bias introduced by a review carried out by the person running the homeopathic clinic.

“The foundation’s homeopathic therapy—the Banerji Protocol—has been independently tested under laboratory conditions, and two of the remedies used, Carcinosin and Phytolacca, were found to be as effective against breast cancer cells as the chemotherapy drug Taxol”.

The reference they supplied has not been independently tested under laboratory conditions.  Prasanta Banerji is last author on the paper yet no conflict of interest is declared.  I couldn’t find any other papers that verify these results from an independent lab.  The only other relevant paper in PubMed was from 2006 and contradicts the evidence from Banerji’s paper.

“Another clinic in Kolkata, the Advanced Homeopathic Healthcare Centre, claims similar levels of success with its cancer patients and, although well documented, they have not been subjected to the same level of scientific validation as the Prasanta Banerji Foundation”

 No reference to these other clinical studies.

“Two of the remedies—Carcinosin and Phytolacca—achieved up to an 80-per-cent response, indicating that they caused apoptosis, or cell death. By comparison, the placebo solvent achieved only a 30-per-cent reduction, suggesting that the effect was more than twice that of the placebo”

This was a description of the lab study conducted with Banerji that has not been independently verified.  Bias aside, I would be very concerned that the solvent control achieved a 30% reduction; a suitable control should really have no effect in a well-controlled lab study.  This also cannot be described as a placebo effect.  Cells in a dish are not affected by the placebo effect.

There’s a whole section under ‘the other clinic’ which contains no references and just a load of anecdotal evidence – not convincing.

This whole article leans on the view that homeopathy is not only effective against cancer, but that it is better than conventional treatments.  Yet they provide no evidence to back up these extraordinary claims.  Without any evidence why would anyone believe that homeopathy works?  More importantly – pushing homeopathy as an alternative to conventional cancer treatment is unethical and dangerous.  This is why the Cancer Act was created and I do believe that publishing material such as this breaches that act.


WDDTY – They say they have a ‘qualified researcher’; but do they really?

Discussions on WDDTY’s Facebook page are apparently meant to be a fair and open place for debate.  However I, as have others, have found ourselves banned from commenting because of debasing and abusive comments.  In my case this is simply not true.  My ban came in response to a claim made by WDDTY that they have a qualified researcher who checks all their references and statistics before they publish.  I posted on their Facebook that if they did indeed have a researcher, why was there so many things wrong in their Angelina Jolie piece – an article that I found to be riddled with referencing errors.  Their retort was to ban me and delete my comments – an action some people would take this as admission of guilt.


In the midst of all the Facebook patter I noticed WDDTY made a statement about how ‘prescribed drugs are now one of the biggest killers in the west’.  I’d heard similar claims from WDDTY before and remembered an article that they had published recently claiming that medicine is one of the biggest killers in the US.  The article appeared in the September 2013 issue and is solely based on the National Vital Statistics Report (2012, vol. 61).  They quote some pretty incredulous numbers in the article – but as they have a ‘qualified researcher’ on board I thought “surely they must be right”.  I mean anyone publishing health information would want to make sure that they get their figures right – especially when they want to make claims like medicine kills more than smoking, wouldn’t they?


WRONG.  In fact they have made such a mess of the NVS report I can’t believe for a second that anyone with half a brain even looked at it.  Let me begin:

The first point worth noting is that volume 61 of the NVS report contains 9 sections.  I am going to assume (because WDDTY don’t specify) that the one they got data from was number 6 – Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2011.  The reason for this is because they say:

“America’s DOH and Human Services classifies all deaths in the US every year: in 2011 – the most recent year available…”

This is true – great job ‘qualified researcher’.

Next they say there were a total of 2.53 million deaths in the US in 2011.  It’s actually 2.51 (to 2 d.p.) but I’ll cut them some slack.


They say that the biggest killer was heart disease (596,339 deaths), followed by cancer (575,313 deaths).  Also true.  Wow this person is doing a great job so far…

This is where it gets good (or bad).  They say that:

“Adverse drug reactions account for 106,000 deaths”


This number has been plucked straight out of the air.  Adverse (medical) drug reactions are classified under the NVS codes Y40-Y59.  Within the NVS report for 2011 these codes are grouped under ‘Complications of medical and surgical care’ along with codes Y60-84 and Y88.  Deaths under this category total 2,580 – not 106,000.  In fact, totalling all adverse drug reaction (Y40-59) from 1999-2006, only accounts for 2341 deaths in an 8 year period.

They also claim that 98,000 people are killed by doctors.  This is clearly wrong because these deaths also fit in the 2,580 accounted for under ‘complications of medical and surgical care’.

Their conclusion then is to add 106,000 and 98,000 to get a total of 204,000 deaths by adverse drug reaction or medical error – making it the third biggest killer in the US (around 8% of total deaths) after heart disease and cancer.  In fact they account for 2,580 deaths or 0.1% of total deaths.

So by making up numbers, the ‘researcher’ at WDDTY has over-stated the number of deaths by a (approx.) whopping 100 times.  Maybe WDDTY will be good enough to explain where these numbers have come from because as far as I can tell they have been manufactured to propagate the idea that medicine and pharma are out to get everyone.

WDDTY – a review of the media coverage

The campaign to have leading retailers remove ‘What Doctor’s Don’t Tell You’ from their shelves hit an unprecedented high today when Tom Whipple at The Times printed an article highlighting a ‘Call to ban journal over health scares’.

The Times may have been a little over zealous with the headline, a matter I want to clear up before continuing.  We are not asking for the magazine to be ‘banned’, but rather asking the big retailers (Tesco, Sainsburys, ASDA, WhSmith, Waitrose..) to stop putting it on their shelves.  These are two very different actions; calling to ban the magazine may be considered an infringement on the editors freedom of speech, whereas asking for it not to be stocked where I buy my food is a request for retailers to uphold their ethical and moral policies.  When the information being peddled is dangerous, misleading and against evidence-based medicine, retailers have a duty to protect their customers from being exposed to it.


The Times article was brief but had an instant impact.  Tracey Brown, Director of Sense about Science commented:

“If a magazine was called How to harm yourself and your friends, we wouldn’t expect to see it on supermarket shelves”

Simon Singh said:

“What worries me is mainstream retail outlets selling this and giving it undue credibility”

Tom Hayes from the online HIV magazine, Beyond Positive stated:

“So if people find a way to put off taking medicine – if they see an article in a glossy magazine sold in WH Smith – that is tempting.  Left unchecked though, HIV will result in death”

This article was also picked up by The Wright Stuff on Channel 5, where the line between free speech and supplying controversial health advice was discussed.  I can’t say the discussion panel was particularly robust (actress Susie Amy, comedian Steve Furst and actress Kelly Shirley) but at least there was some exposure.  It was clear that the panel had not ever read the magazine properly because they kept stating that ‘they talk about cases where alternative medicine has worked’ and ‘they give hope’ and ‘not as dangerous as sensationalist newspapers’.  If they had read the atrocious articles in the magazine carefully they would see that WDDTY mislead their readers into believing that there is evidence for their claims, when there isn’t.  They do not give hope but rather deceive and give false hope – something alluded to by Matthew Wright.

The popular radio show by James O’Brien on ‘London’s Biggest Conversation’ 97.3FM did a long feature asking for callers to submit their views on What Doctor’s Don’t Tell You. Advocates for alternative medicine were quick to shout off about anecdotal evidence and efficacy claims, which have been shown time and time again to have no merit.  One caller was eventually reduced to the classic quack argument that everyone outside of ‘their world’ was funded by Big Pharma.

There was a great deal of support against the magazine on the show from medical doctors and researchers – angry that a publication such as WDDTY is undermining the hard work they put in to improve public health.  One caller stated that magazines such as WDDTY are responsible for ‘causing illness and death’ and that they ‘prey on the vulnerable’.   The nature of the oppositions claims seemed to infuriate James who was clearly trying his hardest to avoid a back and forth argument with little success.  He wrapped up the discussion with the sentiment: “It may be the 21st Century, but they are still selling snake oil”.

WDDTY were swift to respond to the media accusations, which was strange as they WDDTYnever responded to my or others call for evidence and explanation.  Their first response was to issue a press release attempting to debunk the claims made in The Times article.  They then issued an email asking people to ‘Subscribe before we’re banned’, a desperate attempt to cast the lifeboats before the HMS Quack sinks under the weight of scientific evidence.

On Wednesday 2nd October, Dean Burnett blogging on the Guardian website, parodied the magazine following the media fallout with a comical take on the potential demise of WDDTY.

The 3rd of October saw Dr Margaret McCartney – who has clashed with Lynne McTaggart in the past – take to BBC Radio 5 Live to comment on the current call to have WDDTY removed from supermarket shelves.  She made some good statements to reiterate that whereas medicine is criticised by evidence, WDDTY misinterpret and misrepresent scientific findings, while professing to be all about the evidence.  And this is the danger – people are led to believe that what is written on the pages is accurate and true because they reference peer-reviewed papers from good scientific journals.  However, what the writers really do is quote-mine and omit to supply the full story.

So I guess the real question now is; will they listen?  Will the retailers accept their responsibility as trusted corporations to protect their customers from dangerous, possibly illegal publications?  They acted on lad’s mags and they acted on offensive costumes so why not act on a magazine that is so offensive it has the potential to cause serious harm to the public.

WDDTY – preparing to breach the Cancer Act?

Cancer.  The Big ‘C’.  A life-changer.  The fear of cancer is one that lingers inside all of us – a mental condition attributed to what we hear in the press, our own personal experiences and the thought of an unseen parasite leeching our body of metabolites to satisfy its own insatiable greed.  It’s a big killer and a disease that defines how you live your life from the moment of diagnosis.  All I know is that if I get cancer, I want to be treated by medical doctors, using evidence based drugs to best treat my cancer.  I definitely would not allow a ‘qualified practitioner’ to give me a sugar pill – proven to be at best no better than a placebo – just because they said it magically remembers chemicals diluted 10 to the power of minus fuckery.  I am of course talking about homeopathy.

811918294I’m writing this post because on October 31st the outrageous quack-fest that is ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ will be running an issue on homeopathy and cancer.  I’m sure that you are as excited as me to find out what incomprehensible bigotry towards evidence based medicine they have ready to spew onto the glossy pages being stocked at all your favourite retailers.  But we don’t have to wait – WDDTY have already blessed us with the ‘knowledge’ that homeopathy can treat and even cure cancer.

Their website carries a story titled “Much more than placebo: Homeopathy reverses cancer”.  I can’t read the full text because I am not willing to pay for access but in the quality snippet that’s free there are a fistful of claims such as “homeopathy could be our best defence against cancer” and “Several homeopathic remedies are as effective as powerful chemotherapy, according to clinical trials, and thousands of cancer cases are being reversed by homeopathy alone”.  This is of course utter nonsense.  There is no evidence that homeopathy is better than chemotherapy and it’s definitely not true that homeopathy ‘reverses’ cancer.  If this were the case then drinking water would be the ultimate cure.

WDDTY have also published articles claiming “Homeopathy has a ‘clinically relevant’ effect way beyond placebo” to cancer patients – a claim that was swiftly debunked by the Quackometer and by commentators on the original BMC publication that WDDTY cited.  Lynne Mctaggart – the abomination behind WDDTY – also likes to spill anecdotal evidence that homeopathy is all you need to beat cancer and treat your ‘will to live’.

Homeopaths will always come up with trials and studies showing ‘positive’ results and cite genuine articles ‘proving’ that homeopathy works.  The problem is that the studies are often not transparent and confounding factors are never taken into account.  When you hear someone say ‘look at this trial, the government carried it out, it shows homeopathy cures cancer’ just ask yourself: ‘if this is true – why was there no large-scale follow up trial and why is cancer still the leading cause of death worldwide’.

I have stated before that dealing out advice on medical problems, especially those that are as serious as cancer, with unproven and disproven treatments that have no evidence base is wrong.  It’s extremely harmful information that is targeted at those most vulnerable – cancer patients that are clinging on to the hope of a miracle cure.  It is because of this that the UK government implemented the Cancer Act 1939, which aims to protect the public from quack scam-artists selling false hope.

The Cancer Act states that ‘No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement containing an offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment’.  It will be very interesting to see what WDDTY publishes at the end of October regarding homeopathy and cancer.  I for one will be reading intently with the aforementioned statement pinned firmly to the front page.


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:

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