Global Warming is an issue far from settled – Part 2

The Mail on Sunday (Feb 5th 2017) ran the headline ‘How world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data’. The paper claims that the ‘world’s leading source of climate data (America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) rushed to publish a landmark paper that exaggerated global warming and was timed to influence the historic Paris agreement on climate change’. The NOAA report stated that there had been no pause in Global warming – as UN scientists claimed in 2013 – between 1998 and 2015 and that global temperatures had been rising faster than expected.

A ‘whistleblower, Dr. John Bates, a top NOAA scientist claims that the data was never subjected to the NOAA’s rigorous internal evaluation process which he himself had devised.

The ‘pause’ in global warming being refuted led this ‘landmark paper’ to be called the ‘Pausebuster’.

In our recent article about Global warming being a hoax, we argued these key points:

1. The many ‘expert scientists’ had changed the dialogue in the late 1990s from Global Warming to Climate change, as there had been a glitch in the global warming data starting around 1998.
2. There is little doubt that we have Climate Change, but it was ever thus. We live on a piece of molten rock which hurtles, spinning, through space. How much of ‘Climate change’ is man-made (fossil fuels, plastic bags etc.) and how much is ‘natural’ (earth quakes, volcanic eruptions, El Nino etc.)? A number of people wrote to us, adding the effect of sunspots which have apparently been pronounced in the past decade or so and even ‘Chem trails’ where high altitude spraying is trying to change/control weather patterns.
3. There is a resurgence in the recent claims for global warming, but a number of expert measurements, (we mentioned two from space), disagree. We also mentioned that a former economics professor from Sonoma, Jamal Munshi, who specializes in statistics and who gains no financial benefits from the personal work he does, was puzzled because on analysis of the first thousand temperature measuring points around the world, he had found NASA’s data to be consistently too high. Several writers attempted to discredit him personally but that is just nastiness.
4. We received 5 ‘complaints’ and 8 ‘agreements’. The complaints almost always used the ‘fact’ that 97% of the World’s experts agreed on global warming and that fossil fuels were totally the cause. When asked, Professor Munshi himself provided the data FOR the fossil fuel cause; See: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v459/n7248/abs/nature08047.html
and why it was WRONG; See:
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2853163

Others pointed out to us, the existence of the UN paper. Published by UN expert climate change scientists, it claimed that the growth in global warming had slowed greatly after 1998, yet CO2 levels had continued their upward trend, thus questioning the supposed link.

We note that the Mail on Sunday claims that:

1. NOAA’s 2015 ‘Pausebuster’ paper was based on two new sets of data – one measuring land temperatures and the other, sea temperatures.
2. Both were flawed and the NOAA is currently replacing the sea temperature data. Revised data will show lower temperatures and a slower rate of warming. (The inaccurate data presented to World leaders had been collected from ships, which are known to give higher readings than isolated buoys, which will now provide the data).
3. The Land temperature data was collated with ‘unstable’ software and has never been officially verified.
4. The actual NOAA paper – underpinning Pausebuster – has still to be published. It is now agreed by the NOAA that the rushed presentation of it, contained flaws and inaccurate data.

Based on this rushed and inaccurate paper, the British Government – just one of many – has agreed to pay 320 billion pounds out of our economy by 2030.

Fake News

Already we note that articles countering the above claims have appeared, most usually attempting also to discredit Dr. Bates, and the journalist, David Rose, and dubbing this ‘Fake News’. It is standard skeptic practice to discredit the messenger.

Skeptics are not sceptics. Sceptics are free thinking independent people who use data to question the status quo. Skeptics often have vested interests.

‘Fake News’ was originally used to highlight the manipulation of the Mass Media by the Clinton campaign.

However, it is a now a term being used by mainstream media and institutions with any article voicing a different opinion to conventional wisdom. For example, an article claiming that chemotherapy drugs do not cure or are an expensive waste of money might be dubbed ‘Fake news’, as would one which pointed out the dangers of vaccines. That the world spun around the sun would have been dubbed ‘Fake News’ in Galileo’s day.

Ref: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4192182/World-leaders-duped-manipulated-global-warming-data.html

Please see Junk Science? Number 99 for Part 1.

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FDA counters Skeptic claims on Homeopathy

It is now time to be completely confused about homeopathy.

Having been bored to tears by the skeptic propaganda on homeopathy (It doesn’t work; Ineffective treatments; false hope; just sugar solution; no active ingredient because it is so diluted etc. etc. yawn), and while the Australian Government were saying it was ineffective, we’ve seen the Swiss Government give it the thumbs up, it seems Big Pharma may be trying a different tack to stop a growing threat to its business.

The FDA has now announced that homeopathy is so effective it could be dangerous and so must be regulated. On 19th March the FDA published a safety alert on Asthma Homeopathic medications (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm439014.htm)

And it is URGENT – a meeting in three weeks (anytime now) and a decision!

Part of the argument is that companies produced and sold homeopathic remedies and that was OK when there were just a few homeopaths in America. But now there are many, it is getting out of control and lots of people are being prescribed these dangerous treatments. No, seriously. See http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/ComplianceManuals/CompliancePolicyGuidanceManual/ucm074360.htm

How could the skeptics get it so wrong?

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Is Wikipedia misleading the public on health?

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, contains errors in nine out of 10 of its health entries, and should be treated with caution, say scientists in the USA.

The research covered in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association stated that ‘Most Wikipedia articles representing the 10 most costly medical conditions in the United States contain many errors when checked against standard peer-reviewed sources. Caution should be used when using Wikipedia to answer questions regarding patient care’.

But then, the whole area of ‘volunteers’ ‘editing’ articles has been fraught with allegations of bullying, offensive comment to contributor writers and is, anyway, clearly open to bias and even misuse and abuse by people with agendas such as skeptics or pharmaceutical companies.

A spokesman for Wikipedia UK stated to the BBC that “Wikipedia can be edited by anybody, but many volunteers from the medical profession check the pages for inaccuracies”. Well, that’s all right then. And, of course, none of these volunteers have any links whatsoever to Pharmaceutical companies.

Entries for some areas of health such as Complementary and Integrative Medicine, even though written by scientists of competence, are known to have been sabotaged and altered by people with such agendas. This has received a great deal of negative comment on the Internet.

The American researchers in the study compared entries on Wikipedia on conditions such as heart disease, lung cancer, depression and diabetes with peer-reviewed medical research.

They said most articles in Wikipedia contained “many errors”.

Lead author Dr Robert Hasty, of the Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine in North Carolina, said: “While Wikipedia is a convenient tool for conducting research, from a public health standpoint, patients should not use it as a primary resource because those articles do not go through the same peer-review process as medical journals.”

Yet, often when patients search for a health topic, Wikipedia is in the top two or three headings listed – it is the sixth most popular Internet site in the world. It is incorrectly read by many people with health problems as if it is some sort of consumer bible.

There are now even ‘clones’ of Wikipedia, like the Skeptic ‘gutter rag’ RationalWiki, which can feature totally subjective ‘articles’ using repeated 4 letter words and claims so wild they border on the false and defamatory. Readers looking for health information might easily mistake these clone sites for the real thing, making their quest for health even more difficult. It’s becoming a mess.

Wikimedia UK, its British arm, said it was “crucial that people with health concerns spoke to their GP first “.

Worryingly, Wikipedia UK claim that about 70% of physicians and medical students use the website.

Stevie Benton, at Wikimedia UK, said there were a “number of initiatives” in place to help improve the articles, “especially in relation to health and medicine”.

He said the charity had a project to bring together volunteer Wikipedia editors with a medical knowledge to identify articles that need improvement, find credible sources and make entries more “accurate and more readable”. Presumably this team will include practitioners in complementary medicine too. We can only hope. We can’t have the bias and errors being judged by more of the same, surely?

A couple of years ago it was announced that help was at hand – Wikipedia would be working with Cancer Research UK to review cancer-related articles by clinical researchers and writers to keep them accurate and up-to-date.

This may help with the accuracy, but it’s hard to know how that endorsement is going to make the Internet claims of bias go away.

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Questionable research, inaccurate conclusions, poor taste

Professor David Colquhoun of UCL has formally apologised to Chris Woollams for suggesting that he made money from his work for the charity CANCERactive. The apology will run on Professor Colquhoun’s homepage of the site ‘DC’s Improbable Science’, and will be communicated electronically to all his followers. This apology has avoided a libel case against Colquhoun with significant potential costs and damages.

‘In the worst possible taste’

Chairman of the CANCERactive Trustees, Larry Brooks, said that any inference that Chris Woollams was making money from the death of his own daughter, Catherine, ‘beggars belief’, was ‘simply atrocious’ and ‘in the worst possible taste’.‘Chris’ daughter Catherine died from a brain tumour; no orthodox medicine cures this disease. But Chris and Catherine discovered a lot of natural compounds and treatments that could prolong her life. Catherine wanted a magazine in Hospitals that told people their options; Chris was asked by Doctors at St Thomas’ Hospital to write down what he had found out. Chris and Catherine founded icon; he wrote a bestselling book; the charity is ten years old and has a Medical Board of Oncologists and Doctors overseeing content. 3600 pages of possible causes, orthodox therapies and complementary and alternative options. Over 1.3 million people came to the site this year and the hits are growing all the time. A dozen or more Oncologists have written articles for us in the last few months – it’s all a tribute to Chris and Catherine’s efforts.

Chris’ own philanthropy, plus the profits from all of his books, writings and speeches, make a significant contribution to the charity, the magazine icon and the website for CANCERactive. Chris works tirelessly for no financial reward. While patients praise him for his efforts and generosity, ‘Skeptics’ like Colquhoun make crass and ridiculous accusations. In my view UCL should now give some serious thought to the future employment of Colquhoun. Is this really the sort of individual who should be setting standards for the young at our Universities?’

Chris was forced to threaten a libel action after Colquhoun posted the second of two potentially defamatory blogs on his ‘DC’s Improbable Science’ website. In 2006 he had suggested Chris had set up the CANCERactive site for personal gain but removed the offending comments when Chris explained he had set up the Charity in memory of his daughter. Chris explained then that he originally funded the site to the tune of 150,000 pounds so that all people with cancer might benefit. Colquhoun even replied at the time that he ‘did not have that sort of money’.

Repeated inaccuracy

The new attacks came after Charity patron Janice Day had pointed out numerous inaccuracies in the original DC’s Improbable Science blog. Rather than correct the inaccuracies, Colquhoun, a known ‘Skeptic’, chose to attack the charity again calling some of its claims ‘absurd’, and then referred his readers to the website of an “independent consultant” (who writes under an assumed name), whom Colquhoun lauded as being “very interesting” having supposedly looked into Chris’ business affairs. As a result Colquhoun suggested that Charity law preventing use of charities for private gain was being broken, which, if true would of course put the charity’s charitable status at risk. Despite Chris then detailing, yet again, that he had never taken a penny from the charity but made significant annual donations to it (which were a matter of public record), that a former ‘sister company’, Health Issues, was still in his debt, and that the ‘research’ into his business affairs was nothing of the sort, Colquhoun chose to run Chris’ comments but continued with his own wild claims. Chris threatened to sue for libel. Colquhoun appointed lawyers, the whole blog was removed immediately and he has now apologised to Chris.

Is this what we should expect from a Professor of Science at UCL?

Of the settlement, Chris Woollams said ‘Frankly, can anybody now trust a word this man says when he seems prepared just to quote any old bit of ‘research’ from someone with no relevant qualifications, takes no steps (so far as I know) to check its accuracy, including the most basic step of asking me to comment before publication and worse, uses it to draw completely ludicrous and inaccurate conclusions? Then when his mistakes are pointed out – as could have been confirmed if he had made proper enquiries – he continues to blindly run the original accusations!

In this instance he has been uncovered and had to apologise. But in other areas outside his expertise of pharmacology (the study of drugs) – like nutrition and oncology where he frequently pontificates – how can anyone now believe his claims there hold any credibility either? The use, and even praise of this type of ‘research’, extrapolated to draw false conclusions which he persists with even though his errors are pointed out to him – is this what we should expect from a Professor of Science?

But then isn’t this example true of almost all the skeptics? A cocktail of computer programmers, journalists, geologists with the occasional physics degree thrown in, all ‘judging’ the merits of nutrition, complementary and alternative therapies when they have neither qualification nor research expertise in the specialist field. Some even ‘advise patients’ through their websites and blogs. Many attack complementary therapies and therapists, often in a deliberate and concerted effort. When Colquhoun stood accused, several rushed, unthinkingly, to his defence, proclaiming that I was trying to stop a scientific debate through the law courts. They all missed the truth – but can they read accurately? Tweets gushed between Colquhoun, Simon Singh, Josephine Jones, Guy Chapman and others. One asked if the recipient could find inaccuracy in the CANCERactive website. Oh dear. So some then started writing verbose and inaccurate drivel about CANCERactive with others even contributing to Colquhoun’s defence costs on ‘Just Giving’! One wrote that she ‘didn’t always agree with what he said but she defended his right to say it!’ His right to inaccurately suggest a father was profiting from his own daughter’s death? This was never a debate about science but about decency. Shame on you all.

Skeptics proclaim they are somehow ‘protecting patients’ when in reality, many patients have now wised up to their misleading and potentially life-shortening and even life-threatening antics with ignorant claims against nutrition and complementary therapies. The American Cancer Society 2012 research report (now endorsed by the NCI in America) talks of an ‘explosion’ in research into complementary therapies since 2006, and the spokesperson talked of ‘overwhelming’ evidence that complementary therapies such as diet, exercise and weight control could increase survival times and even prevent a cancer returning. Is this really the sort of knowledge we should be keeping from people with cancer? When will Skeptics wise up to the potential harm they are doing?

Colquhoun’s apology is sadly yet more evidence of the misleading and vacuous opinions of skeptics at large’.

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Stop Drugs Killing People for Profits!

It’s been a torrid couple of years for the drugs companies. For example, there was the Vioxx scandal, where an estimated 47,000 people lost their lives thanks to a drug; then in certain American states ‘polypharmacy’ (taking a cocktail of legally prescribed medicines) actually topped the ‘Cause of death’ charts above cancer and heart disease; next there was the revelation that in the New York Presbyterian Hospital 28 per cent of hospital admissions concerned older people falling ill from their drug cocktails; this comes hot on the heels of a seven-fold increase in deaths from taking cocktails of prescribed medicines with high profile stars like Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson included; then there was the report from the Poison Control Centers about the high levels of deaths from prescribed medicines (but interestingly none from taking vitamins or herbs) and recently we have had the $3 billion payment by Glaxo Smith Klein for various fraudulent practices, where the lawmakers attention was drawn by ‘whistleblowers’ who used to work for the company. Next up it could be Merck facing a similar scenario.

 Phew!

But do we have figures on deaths from Polypharmacy in the UK and Europe? Or large fines for similar fraudulent practices by drugs companies in the UK and Europe? Indeed, do we have the same level of vigilance? Surely these ‘dodgy’ practices, and levels of illnesses caused by drugs cannot be confined to America?

But there’s a bigger point: When do the pharmaceutical companies start putting people before profits and rather dubious and fraudulent practices? When do we get more responsible commentary – homeopathy is criticised by UK Skeptics in articles because as one claimed… “it wastes 4 million pounds that could be spent on safe and proven drugs”. Er…. Safe, by whose standards? Not the standards of Vioxx or Thalidomide, or even those of the thousands of people falling ill and dying from cocktails of drugs that have never been tested in such combinations with each other, surely?

While 10 billion dollars have been paid by drugs companies in ‘fines’ in the USA in recent years, nothing has yet happened in a similar vein in Europe or the UK. But we all use the same ‘safe and proven’ drugs.

 Avaaz is the world’s largest and most effective online campaigning community for change and they have launched a petition to try and establish some of the American controls in the UK and Europe. Read more, and sign the petition at:  https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Stop_Drug_Companies_Killing_for_Profits/?aqvhhab

 As George Bernard Shaw said, ‘Everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it.’ Now’s the time to look at drugs and pharmaceutical company practices in Europe and do something about it!

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Scepticism and the natural medicine skeptics: not even distantly related

We think it’s about time to reclaim the word ‘sceptic’ from the anti-natural medicine skeptic movement – and yes, the difference in spelling is entirely deliberate! As we’ll see, they are two entirely different things.

Doubt versus dogma

We were very interested in a recent episode of the morning discussion show ‘In Our Time’, on the UK’s BBC Radio 4, entitled simply ‘Scepticism’. The programme, hosted by writer and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, traced the history of the proud philosophical tradition of scepticism, which has its roots in the ancient Greece of Plato and Socrates.

At its core, classical scepticism is the belief that it may be impossible to know anything with absolute certainty – that all beliefs and dogmas are equally subject to doubt and questioning. Doubt, and not negative assertion of the ‘such-and-such cannot possibly be correct’ type, is the true sceptic’s watchword. As such, philosophical scepticism has much in common with, and indeed has greatly influenced, the ideal of the modern scientific method: to objectively question the world around us, while realising that there can be no absolute ‘truth’ – only a balance of probabilities.

Sceptical paradoxes

Here’s an interesting situation thrown up by ‘true scepticism’. Sceptics have had great fun demonstrating that the dogmas of religion are unsupportable. And yet, taken to its logical conclusion, the sceptical rejection of all human reason can create the tranquillity through which many believe God can work; Michel de Montaigne, a noted sceptical thinker, concluded that, “After scepticism, man is like a blank tablet, upon which the finger of God can carve whatever word He wants”.

Bringing this line of thought up-to-date, the modern sceptical paradox is that a philosophy based on questioning all sides of a particular argument now finds itself harnessed to the ‘anti-natural’ cause. Such skeptics, typified by organisations such as Sense About Science, appear to find themselves firmly in a pro-GM, pro-mainstream medicine, anti-natural healthcare position. For a start, if scepticism leads us to question all sides of an argument – to reject the intrinsic ‘rightness’ of any position – how can the skeptics be so loudly pro-mainstream medicine and against all the alternatives? What scientific data are they using to support the very dubious view that genetically modified (GM) crops will resolve world hunger? Strictly speaking, it should be impossible for sceptics to describe themselves as ‘pro-science’ or ‘pro-technology’, since that clearly associates them with a belief in the correctness of modern science – an utterly non-sceptical position!

Not only that, but while philosophical scepticism has had enormous influence on the modern scientific process, the modern skeptic turns his or her back on the scientific method by ignoring centuries of human experience – and the clinical experience being gathered every day by practitioners – as ‘anecdote’. Only randomised, controlled trials in human subjects will do to prove any treatment approach worthy of consideration. So, it seems that the ‘pro-science’ ‘skeptics’ are actually in some respects ‘anti-science’, and they’re certainly not sceptics. Their position is effectively a form of intellectual fraud — and that’s being kind.

Descent into thuggery

Chris Woollams runs the charity CANCERactive, which provides information on both mainstream and non-mainstream cancer therapies – a the latter being a red flag for many skeptics, including Professor David Colquhoun of University College London. Colquhoun wrote a piece on his blog accusing Woollams of illegally profiting from CANCERactive. When Woollams protested that this was entirely untrue, Colquhoun admitted as much on his blog – but without removing the offending article! In the meantime, Colquhoun rallied skeptic friends via Twitter, to pen their own poisonous articles against CANCERactive, and Woollams. (Woollams founded the charity because his daughter had died from a brain tumour. He is yet – after 9 years- to take a penny from the charity and even donates all the considerable profits from his books and speeches to the charity.) Colquhoun only removed his defamatory post upon legal advice, presumably that he was guilty of libelling Woollams.

Bitter fruits

When the fruits of the skeptic movement are intellectual fraud, thuggery and empty character assassination, can society be expected to take the movement’s views seriously?

Perhaps today’s ‘anti-natural’ pseudo-skepticism will one day be condensed into a short chapter — of academic interest only — in scepticism’s rich history.

Call to action

Share this article widely with those you feel may have been swayed by skeptics who hold themselves out to be objective, but in reality are using a form of pseudo-scepticism to impart a dogma that supports the status quo.  This may be through the over-use of prescription drugs or childhood vaccination in healthcare, or the notion that GM crops are required to alleviate poverty and hunger in developing countries

If you consider yourself a sceptic, and can, hand on heart, say that your sceptical deliberations rely on the open-minded principles of enquiry on which the great philosophical tradition of true scepticism is founded — congratulations! However, if you are purporting to use skepticism to demonstrate that natural solutions to healthcare or agriculture are worthless, you may wish to re-examine if skepticism is an appropriate term to describe your method.  Have you, for example, become wittingly or unwittingly involved in what Martin Walker calls ‘corporate science’?

Let’s remember that an open and questioning mind is one of the greatest gifts a human being has.

The Alliance for Natural Health: http://www.anh-europe.org/

CANCERactive: www.canceractive.com

 

 

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Junk Science Number 15 (revised) : The 1939 Cancer Advertising Act is being regularly abused

Decent, honest, truthful

I spent 22 years of my life in Advertising; 14 years at the very top, both running other people’s Advertising agencies and Communication groups and then my own. With every TV commercial created, approval was sought from the Advertising Standards Authority at script stage and again in advance of first airing. Any claim had to be justified in advance. Press control was a little less formal but this has been tightened up over the years. Messages such as ‘Guinness is good for you’, ‘a Mars a day helps you work rest and play’ and ‘Maltesers, with the less fattening centre’ all bit the dust as the justification of claims became more stringent. Every advertiser had to prove their claim was correct.

Of course this is a totally proper goal for any advertiser, be they purveyors of cars, washing machines, drugs or vitamins. In a professional advertising agency, this is firmly established in stone.

Unfortunately, advertising is no longer confined to TV and press and with the newer media many advertisers do not use professional advertising agencies. Radio, skywriting, posters and now ‘new media’ like the internet all seek to persuade you to do something. And that is what advertising is: The provision of information in a way relevant to you and your needs/lifestyle so that you change your attitudes, and take action. That action might be anything from visiting a Renault dealership, to buying a pint of Heineken, to taking sensible steps to ensure you do not develop AIDS. The biggest advertiser in Britain is not a car company or a beer, it is the Government.

Creating advertising is rather like managing a football team or running a Government: Every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks they could do it just as well. So for 22 years I struggled (along with my agency teams) with advertisers who wanted to say on TV that they made ‘authentic German beer’ when it was brewed in Mortlake; or that ‘nothing worked faster than their analgesic’, when all the new brands, in fact, did!

‘Decent, honest, truthful’ were the three watch words.

 A World Wide Issue

When Catherine, my 22 year old daughter developed her brain tumour, she was told she had, at most, 6 months to live. The drugs did not cure; the orthodox offerings could not save her life. So we set out to find alternatives.

Both Catherine and I had science degrees (Chemistry and Biochemistry respectively) and to our surprise we found so much research and information in other countries about brain tumours and what compounds and treatments may help. Now, some of you may know that there exists a blood/brain barrier designed to keep nasties out of the brain. Not surprisingly, a big problem for drugs is getting across this barrier. Not surprisingly too, is the fact that a number of natural compounds do get across this barrier as one of their properties can be to nourish the brain.

The issue was simple: Why wasn’t anyone in the UK telling us about natural compounds that had shown promise in research?

Of course, the World Wide Web is also a mine field of dodgy explosives – it was staggering. Shark cartilage, B-17, coral calcium and more. Did you know they each cure cancer? I can assure you they don’t.

All over the web there are advertisements for everything from allicin to zeolite. Every week to this day someone sends me an e mail which starts, ‘Have you heard of…’, or, ‘Why don’t you cover this amazing new cancer cure …….’

There is little or no regulation on health claims on the web, and the majority of this starts in the USA, whether it be chiropractors (I was treated once in Barbados and, as with Sharon Stone, he nearly killed me), or coral calcium. In my opinion there is no reason why the purveyors of health services, be they practitioners or supplements should not conform to best advertising practices. But they don’t. For this reason I applaud some of the things the Nightingale Collaboration are trying to do. (I covered them 6 months ago in an e-news.) But I think they have their work cut out. How do you stop a UK chiropractor when it is essentially an American health concept and various exaggerated claims can be found on an adjacent site? How do you stop the over-claims of the UK sellers of shark cartilage when the compound and argument originated in the USA? How do you police the World Wide Web, but just in the UK?

Game Playing

But then, ‘mischievous imps’ play games. It must, for example, be galling for MacMillan Cancer Support who a few years back ‘took over’ Cancer Backup, to find the old web site www.cancerbackup.com (not org) covers a multitude of links, some of which offer cosmetic surgery, and others ‘Innovative cancer treatments that may extend your life’ (Champions Oncology Inc – offering those well known cancer treatments called ‘tumor grafts’). 

But there is a further complication in the UK: The 1939 Advertising Act. This was originally designed to stop the purveyors of potions, over-claiming their wares in a sensitive area called cancer.

The law is still on the statute books but is blatantly out of date. Herceptin, Temozolomide and Tamoxifen were unheard of in 1939, and many vitamins had not even been named. In some cases research on compounds such as vitamin K, resveratrol and curcumin is even now still in its infancy and benefits in the fight against cancer are only just becoming clear.

The law covers the paid-for advertising of cancer treatments and treaters. This is also a confused area. At the CANCERactive 2004 Cancer Prevention Conference, Professor Tony Howell of Christies, Manchester confused many people in the room by saying that once you have had breast cancer, medicine now had the weapons to prevent it returning and promptly listed a variety of drugs! One man’s treatment is another man’s prevention, it seems.

Double Standards

In 1939 there was only just Television and certainly no Television Advertising. Today, in the USA you can advertise drugs on TV. In the UK you can advertise some drugs (like cough mixtures) and some vitamins (as long as you don’t make any efficacy claims apart from the usual blah about pregnant women and children). You can advertise that something treats a hay fever (even though the key ingredient might affect your DNA) but you cannot advertise that something might treat cancer even though MD Anderson in Texas might be using it right now to do just that. It’s a mess.

The law says basically (yes, I know 4 of my immediate family were/are lawyers but I write to be understood) that you cannot advertise to Joe Public that anything in whole or in part can be used as a cancer treatment. And also (to stop the potion sellers), no one can claim that they treat cancer.

Clearly, this UK law is being broken all over the place; and it is encouraging mischief and double standards.

A) Doctors: In 1939 there were just ‘Doctors’ – no distinction between GP’s and oncologists. But now it seems OK for an oncologist to tell you he treats cancer by definition of his title and also to send you across the car park to the hospital nutritionist and Tai Chi teacher. But a GP who has specialised in helping cancer patients for 25 years and has the same counselors, dieticians, yoga teachers and whatever on staff cannot even have a leaflet telling you of his experience or his personal, independent clinic. We can’t have a two-tier law. Either they both break the law, or neither does.

B) Complementary Centres: And what about complementary cancer centres – some independent, others run by existing cancer hospitals – Maggie’s, The Butterfly, The Rainbow, The Haven, Penny Brohn? They can talk about cancer support. But don’t yoga classes reduce cortisol levels and isn’t there a recent US study that shows people who go for ‘Stress management’ survive twice as long? One lady’s support is another lady’s treatment. Some support centres even talk about advice and treatment. Are they breaking the law?

C) Charities? Cancer Research UK, MacMillan/Cancer Backup, Breast Cancer Care, CANCERactive and so on all have web sections entitled ‘Treatment’. Ah, but we are not advertising, we are merely informing. No one is paying for any communicated message – or are they? We wrote to Cancer Research asking if they received royalties for all the hard work they put in to the development of new drugs. Sure enough, they hand over the idea and drugs companies take the drug through Clinical Trials and on to market. When that happens, came the reply, is we receive a royalty which goes into a special fund to be used for more CRUK work. I’m not against CRUK, they do a fine job. But if they communicate the benefits of a drug on their web site and in Press Releases and then receive money, isn’t there a danger that this could be construed as funded communication, however it is wrapped up?

D) Treatments: Next, this 1939 law makes no differentiation between a drug, a synthetic supplement or a natural compound nor of research standards, which anyway have changed considerably.

To some people there is only one proof of efficacy, and that is a double blind, placebo controlled, Clinical Trial. But this ‘stringency’ is used selectively. If every treatment had to go through it, 90 per cent of all drugs currently on the market would have to be withdrawn.

A lack of such a Clinical Trial will see some people criticising any claims for curcumin or any diet therapy as potential cancer treatments.

Yet Hospitals in America are using curcumin in the treatment of colorectal cancer. There are currently no Clinical Trials for Virotherapy or Dendritic Cell Therapy either, but MD Anderson and Dukes openly tell of their use and anecdotal ‘research’ successes.

So are we to conclude that anecdotal evidence is fine as an evidence for an ‘alternative’ treatment if you are a Hospital, but not if you are anybody else? So if UCL talk of Photodynamic Therapy as a potential treatment, that’s OK, but if a Doctor specialising in cancer at his UK Private Clinic does the same, he is a quack and breaking the 1939 Act?

Helping the cancer patient?

E) The curbing of knowledge and information: Joe Public can, of course, go to the Internet. He/she can find out that there is research from Memorial Sloane-Kettering showing curcumin reduces cellular inflammation; or from H. Lee Moffitt that sodium bicarbonate reduces metastases. They can find out about mistletoe therapy, photodynamic therapy and hyperthermia and where to go in America or Germany to receive treatment.

But, under the 1939 Cancer Advertising Act, it is illegal for a Doctor in the UK to say he has specialised in treating cancer for 20 years and that he too offers hyperthermia (which actually has good Clinical Trials to support it), mistletoe treatment or PDT (a therapy that Cancer Tsar Mike Richards is now putting some force behind). Worse, ‘mischievous elves’, sometimes claiming to work with The Nightingale Collaboration, are running round ‘tipping off’ Trading Standards to chase these UK Doctors and practitioners and telling them not to tell anybody that they treat cancer or have anything that might improve the immune system, or slow down metastases.

How does this help a 70 year old Londoner with breast cancer, who has been told by her UK oncologist that he has nothing more that can help her?

F) Increasing patient costs: Of course, she and her buddies can still read the American Hospital, German and Swiss Clinic websites and may try to raise the money to head off abroad for Photo Dynamic Therapy, when she could have got it cheaper and just as good just down the road – if only she had known!

G) Funding overseas Centres: The net result of that can mean that American Hospitals, German and Swiss Clinics simply generate more funds and grow their presence. Ring up a US Cancer Hospital and ask about PDT or Virotherapy; they will tell you all and invite you over – it is big money for them. Make no mistake. These ‘authoritative’ web sites are advertisements for ‘Alternative’ Cancer Treatments’ and big money is made by Americans, Germans and the rest.

Isn’t there a danger of merely increasing the costs of our lady being treated and, indirectly, helping the business at these overseas cancer centres grow at the expense of the cancer industry in the UK?

 Back to double standards – are these self-styled ‘Health Vigilantes’ next going to stop the American Hospitals web sites running in the UK? There is a new law planned in America which allows the US Government to turn off web sites which conflict with ‘Official’ Goverenment views on Healthcare (think fluoridation, vaccination, GM Foods). So in the interest of fairness, are these self-styled ‘health vigilantes’ going to lobby David Cameron to turn off all US web sites that ‘advertise’ that they treat cancer with alternative treatments that have no Clinical Trials behind them? Then where do you draw the line. Is someone going to tell UCL or Christies that they can’t offer virotherapy as a last resort?

H) Personal Choice: The UK is out of step; The NHS openly states that it wants patients to have more choice but here is a law actually restricting choice by actively limiting advertising treatments and independent cancer centres in the UK. In America Doctors can set up ‘Integrative cancer centres’; there’s one in every town. 37 per cent of mainstream hospitals already have the phrase ‘Treating Mind, body and soul’ in their mission statements and the likes of MD Anderson conclude from their research that vitamin C improves the performance of bladder cancer drugs and astragalus improves the performance of radiotherapy. Sloan-Kettering has Clinical Trials on several natural compounds, Harvard on acupuncture and Presbyterian New York on Meditation cutting blood loss if used prior to surgery. The National Cancer Institute has 36 pages covering Energy Therapies on its web site; the American Cancer Society has just issued a report reviewing more than 100 research studies since 2006 and concluded that there is ‘overwhelming’ evidence that three complementary therapies in particular can result in ‘longer survival’ and the cancer not returning.

But what do cancer patients find in the UK? Answer – an ever more myopic ‘orthodoxy’ where surgery, radiotherapy and drugs are increasingly the norm, little learning from overseas research is encouraged and indeed most is actually ignored.

Back in the 1990s the American Government brought in the National Institute of Complementary Health to provide funds to properly study complementary and new therapies. At the same time they banned subjective claims about ‘Integrative’ or ‘Complementary’ medicine. Skeptics cannot simply say ‘It’s all a load of rubbish’ or ‘There’s no evidence’. They’ve been driven underground and also hit by law suits when they libel or get their facts wrong.

 Health freedom is now understood to be allowing the patient access to sensible potential treatments in a localised environment, whilst (of course) taking action against the real quacks. 

More and more US Doctors are encouraged to ‘Think Integrative’ – there are now medical degrees in Integrative Medicine.In the UK, you simply cannot have an Integrative Cancer Centre. Doesn’t this just make Joe’s fight against cancer harder? Doesn’t it just restrict personal choice.  

Some people choose to be vegetarians; some people choose not to have treatments that burn, cut or damage their immune systems when trying to fight off cancer. This outdated law – and its one-sided enfocement – actually stops them exerting their right to choose non-invasive therapies in the UK. Many patients would dearly love to talk to an independent doctor who could devote time to discussing possible causes and non-invasive treatments, or complementary therapies that could increase survival times, but this law stops Doctors and Clinics telling people they exist.

 I) Curbing Medical width: The law also makes it far less likely that ‘Integrative’ or ‘Holistic’ medicine will ever grow in the UK – who would want to spend seven years learning medicine and complementary therapies if they could not tell patients exactly what they could do for them?

Of course ‘orthodoxy’ loves this thought. It helps the drugs companies and the oncologist control the whole process.

J) Curbing possible increases in survival times: Survival times in America are considerably better than in the UK. Do you think that all their open-mindedness has nothing to do with that? Do you think that a UK oncologist who pooh-poohs his patient’s attempts at changing her diet is helping? Or articles in the BMJ by leading oncology Professors that ‘changing your diet doesn’t make a jot of difference to your survival outcome’ actually help? Especially when they are not true and the American Cancer Society is talking about an ‘explosion of research’ over the last 5 years showing that complementary therapies like diet ‘increase survival times and can stop cancer returning’.

K) The most flagrant breach of the law? But there is one area in which the 1939 Cancer Advertising Act is flagrantly broken. The 1939 Act stated that the only ‘advertising’ allowed was from pharmaceutical companies directly to doctors. In my former life as an advertising man, I worked on two pharmaceutical companies’ businesses. You may ask yourself why, when the 1939 Act was in place at the time, did they need an advertising agency? No, you don’t really need me to answer. Nowadays they have all manner of professional Communications companies working for them – from lobbyists to PR agencies.

I am now a part-time journalist, just like the guys at the Daily Mail and the other newspapers. We regularly receive PR releases from Pharmaceutical Companies about new drugs. It is clearly paid for communication to people who are not doctors.

Worse, when the scientists have finished their research report it is handed over to the Pharmaceutical Company who funded the research. The marketing, communication, PR people then massage the results to produce a Press Release and Doctor Sales Aids that will communicate the benefits in the best possible light, whilst limiting communication of less flattering matters like side-effects. Those will be contained in the full research report out more than 6 weeks later. 

But how many journalists wait the six weeks? No, they work straight from the PR release and get the ‘Great new life saving Drug’ story out urgently, today. Only a few months ago I received a press release direct from a drugs company talking of a ‘Wonder Drug’ in the headline; and I am not a Doctor. Nor are at least 95 per cent of ‘health’ journalists.Then there is the pressure sale: When Herceptin was first launched in the UK, NICE decided it was not worth the cost for certain patients; the same logic applied a couple of years later to four new kidney drugs. Within days a member of the public with breast cancer, or someone with kidney cancer was telling their story in the press and saying how bad/sad it was that NICE was denying them these ‘life saving drugs’. Do you really believe a journalist went scouting round the country and found the lady in Wigan? 

Do you think that when a cancer charity issues a press release they are not influenced one jot by their involvement with the drug companies? Only a few years ago, investigative journalists from the Times found ‘slush fund payments’ (their words) to certain charities by drugs companies and posed the question, ‘How unbiased is their advice?’The drug companies and their communication agencies can be in flagrant breach of the 1939 Act. Are the ‘health vigilantes’ worried about this in their aim to protect the patient?  Are they going to move to stop this breach of the law too? 

Overhaul this outdated law 

The 1939 Cancer Advertising Act should be completely overhauled. At the moment it is standing in the way of developing the most effective cancer care services for patients in the UK. It is standing in the way of increased knowledge and choice for patients. And it is in danger of inhibiting cancer treatment in the UK whilst being abused in a way that restricts patient choice and self-empowerment. It may well help fund overseas clinics and it is being one-sidedly enforced to protect  drug company profits.It also stops any challenge to current medical thinking, which is hardly in the interests of developing improvements in medicine or patient survival.

Meanwhle leave the policing part to the ASA. Admittedly they might need some more funding and more people. But ‘Decent, Honest, Truthful as a rule is just as applicable to an internet ad from a herbal supplier as it is to Guiness or Ford.

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