Archive for the ‘Medical Quackery’ Category

Challenging Boots

August 12, 2008

Majikthyse has challenged Boots to reconcile their lofty claims of corporate and social responsibility with their willingness to deceive their customers through the sale of quackery.

These Boots were made for walking……

As to be expected, Boots responded in their usual way, which was to evade his sensible and honest questions. Now, it’s quite normal for companies to issue rather wishy-washy answers, when called on sensitive issues. Most of us work for a company, and anyone working with the public will know that it’s not always possible to give a direct answer. The thing is, Boots are not an ordinary company.

If a company is honest and describes their goal as being “To make oddles of money!”, it’s fair to expect that they won’t be focussing much on the ethical side. If on the other hand, a company claims “..We aim to reflect integrity and stewardship in everything we do.”, then you would expect a certain level of moral responsibility. That quote is from the Boots Corporate Social Responsibility policy. How much integrity is there in selling useless alternative medicine products?

Ultimately it’s the choice of the consumer, but should a trusted high-street chemist be selling these things alongside real medicine. In my local branch, the fake medicine sits directly opposite real medicine. As well as the usual homeopathy crap, they’re selling the infamous Silent Knight Ring – a ring that supposedly defies all known medical knowledge by curing snoring. How would we feel if Dixons, a major electrical retailer, sold DVD players that claimed to provide Dolby Stereo, yet were just providing regular stereo output?

Pay a visit to your local Boots, have a look at their alternative products, and then ask yourself if you really want to give money to company with the moral integrity of wild west snake-oil salesman?

The Guardian has recent coverage of Boot’s ongoing journey in to quack medicine:

Boots accused of selling quack medicines

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The fatal power of alternative medicine

March 10, 2007

‘Alternative’ medicine has too often been afforded a status it does not deserve. Consider the following terms

Alternative medicine
Complementary medicine

Alternative medicine is the original name for pseudo-scientific junk like homeopathy. The word alternative suggests that it is something else to try instead of the regular choice. This is dangerous since it suggests that the alternative treatment is actually something you can use instead of the orthodox treatments. This is why the word alternative has fallen out of favour since it has a habit of getting people killed when they forsake conventional treatment for voodoo.

Complementary is a safer word to use since it doesn’t exclude the use of conventional medicine. This is more sustainable since patients can take both convention medicine and complementary medicine yet still get better. Of course, when they get better they can attribute their recovery to rosemary rather than the conventional remedy that their doctor prescribed.

Gambia is unfortunate but their misfortune helps me illustrate a point. Have you noticed that complementary practitioners don’t like being measured? They believe that their cures can’t be tested by conventional methods.

In Gambia, there is a healer who finds himself in the same situation. He claims to have a cure for AIDS yet he is widely derided. When asked to provide an sample of his remedy, his response was “Not in a million years”.

This is the president of Gambia who believes that he can cure AIDS on Thursdays.

In principle he is little different to those practising homeopathy in the west. We have an advantage though, we have education and a functioning health-system. This is why homeopaths tend to moderate their claims since they can be proven wrong when their patients die. In Gambia, they do not have this safety net. People are desperate and will clutch at any straws they are offered.

President Jammeh is falsely claiming to cure AIDS. By doing this, he condemns people to death since he requires them to give up their conventional drugs as part of his treatment regime. As well as the original victims, he leaves more open to infection since his patients believe themselves to be cured and so resume normal sex-lives – thus opening more to infection.

Compare Jammeh to your homeopath. I’m sure neither wish you harm but if Jammeh can take good intentions and use them to cause so much death and misery, ask yourself whether your homeopath would do the same under similar circumstances.

Radiation shields for your face

March 2, 2007

I am worried because my skin is constantly exposed to electromagnetic waves. I don’t want to live in a faraday cage, what can I do?

There is an answer:

Clarin’s Expertise 3P

Clarins have produced a spray that you can just ‘spritz’ on your skin to protect it from pollution and ‘artificial electromagnetic waves’. I’m assuming that natural electromagnetic waves are perfectly healthy, it’s just artificial stuff that’s bad for us.

This is bullshit of the highest order. This spray cannot specifically block ‘artificial electromagnetic waves’, in fact based on the ingredients they listed, this product cannot provide any significant protection from EM radiation. You’d get a similar level of protection if you wore a jumper – i.e. not very much at all.

I’ve sent the following message to Clarins.

Hi,

The following product claims to be able to protect the skin from ‘Artificial Electromagnetic Waves’.

http://uk.clarins.com/main.cfm?prodID=826

This is a very broad claim. Can you answer the following questions please?

1) Which frequencies are blocked by this product? How does the product differentiate between artificial and natural waves. Would this product protect against the EM radiation from a UV lamp while allowing natural UV radiation from the sun to pass through?

2) How was this product or its ingredients tested? Since none of the listed ingredients in its ‘magentic defence’ have a history of protecting against EM radiation.

Since the ingredients listed on the page seem to have no known application in EM shielding, can you provide a link to some reputable research that backs up your claims?

Thanks in advance,

Sean.

Boots on the radio

February 6, 2007

There’s an interesting BBC Radio show discussing the Snoring remedies being peddled by Boots.

Click here to listen. You’ll need RealPlayer installed.

David Colquhoun is among the contributors to the show.

Although my site isn’t mentioned by name, they did quote from the text of the piss-poor response I received from Boots when I asked for evidence of the fantastical claims they make for their homeopathic snoring remedy.

During the show, you’ll hear that I’m not the only one to be brushed-off by Boots.

Boots abuse your trust

December 3, 2006

I wrote an earlier article discussing Boots and their whoring of useless homeopathic treatments.

I stumbled across this company social responsibility report for Boots, complete with an explanation of their Trust Boots slogan. The text is as follows:

As you may have noticed, that’s the tagline which in 2005 we adopted as the sign-off to all our advertising. But it’s much more than just a slogan. It’s a concise statement of our entire corporate strategy. Our aim is to make Boots the world’s best health and beauty retailer, and we’re 100% clear that the unique trust in which we are held provides the key to achieving this. Which means, of course, that those two words are also the rationale for all our CSR activities. Everything we do that builds trust is good for our business; anything which could compromise it, a risk we can’t afford to take. What did we do to build trust in 2005/06? How far did we succeed in delivering on the promises we made in our first CSR report, last year?

Trust Boots to provide straight answers.

So, how does this text compare with the reality of how Boots conducts itself? Here are some examples.

1) Boots are selling medical products based on homeopathy, an idea that is overwhelmingly recognised by the scientific and medical community as a placebo at best.

2) They are advertising a homeopathic snoring remedy, claiming it is ‘Effective in reducing snoring for 4 out of 5 users’, yet they refuse to explain how they determined this. I wrote to Boots asking them to disclose the research carried out but they response was ‘I am unable to provide you with details of Boots research information as this is commercially sensitive’. Hardly a straight answer.

I would suggest that you read the company report linked earlier in this article. You will find gems such as quote from their Chief Executive.

‘After all, why would anyone trust us to advise them on, say, how to manage their child’s asthma if they had seen Boots being a bad neighbour in the local community, or showing disregard for the health of the environment?’

A very good question. Why should someone Trust Boots when they are willing to disregard the health of their customers by selling products that are based on wishful thinking instead of proper medical science?

So, where will this take Boots. I predict that within the next 10 years, you will visit the pharmacy department to find a trained pharmacist, a homeopathic doctor, an iridologist and a priest. The priest will be selling prayers to aid customers in their recovery.

Sore feet? I prescribe 2 hail mary’s. Would you like me to pray for you now or would you prefer to order them over the Internet?

Boots should not be trusted. They are making bold claims regards corporate responsibility while at the same time selling quackery to the gullible. When questioned, they duck reasonable requests for information and hide behind piss-poor excuses. Of course, all of what they do is legal – yet this doesn’t mean it’s right. Do not Trust Boots.

Please consider contacting Boots to ask them exactly how they test the efficacy of their homeopathic products.

The following links are interesting reading regards Boots and their peddling of quack cures.

Badscience – Homeopathy Packaging And Flu
randi.org – THESE BOOTS ARE NOT FOR TALKING
randi.org – BOOTS AGAIN
DC’s IMPROBABLE SCIENCE page – Boots the Chemists -miseducation

The final link is particularly interesting. It mentions a Boots slideshow that the author describes as an insult to human intelligence. I agree completely.

Healing your pets over the telephone

October 24, 2006

This is a little beauty.

Holistic vet

Echoing similar claims made by medical quacks, it seems that these vets are getting in on the action. Seems that you don’t need to drag rover to the vet to have him diagnosed. Just follow these steps taken from the site.

On the day of the appointment, have your small animal inside an all metal cage (or in a plastic crate with aluminum foil on the floor and running out the front under the door). After providing your credit card information, we begin the exam. You will place the telephone on the metal cage or the aluminum foil in front of the crate, and we do the rest.

Yep, just place the phone on the metal and it somehow allows the vet to diagnose the ills of your pet. Makes sense if you’re 4, retarded or simply prefer to ignore those annoying laws of physics.

They describe their techniques ascomplimentary. This normally means that you should use this alongside conventional (i.e. scientifically tested) medicine/therapies. I don’t know how much they charge but I will offer their customers a bargain.

Send your credit card numbers and I will write the name of your pet on my Wall Of Health. My wall of health uses a previously unknown form of energy to encourage good health in your pet. Also, it will increase your chances of winning lotteries. I think the energy will probably make your feet smell better. I will do all of this for half the price that these holistic vets are charging.

Boots paying me a visit?

October 10, 2006

This is an odd thing. I noticed a strange referrer in the stats for this site so investigated.

A visitor came from http://vroomfondel.co.uk/boots/bc2/login.php. The page is called “Netrank Brand Cleansing” and it presents a login window but I can’t get any further. I googled the domain to see what it was about. I found this article.

Deep Thought Re: Boots.

I can’t confirm or dispproved what he writes there but he comments about companies that are employed to visit blogs on behalf of their clients and try to undo damage done by negative blogs and their visitors. This practice is called info-cleansing.

I doubt it will have any impact on Boots. They are happy to continue selling ‘medical’ products that are as scientific as prayer. People who have commented regards Natwest Bank have also received visits from these people.

Trust Boots to continue selling homoeopathic snake oil

September 2, 2006

I know I keep coming back to bash Boots but it’s become something of a hobby for me. If you’re over 30 and you live in the UK, you’ll recall how Boots has been perceived and that’s why their voyage in to voodoo is so frustrating. Imagine what it would be like if you walked past a Mosque and saw Richard Dawkins kneeling in prayer.

Boots, the respected UK chain of chemists continues to take money from people who trust them to provide effective medical treatments.

Here’s an example. I’ve no idea what Boots Rhus Tox. 30c Pillules is or what it does but I know one thing for certain. It simply cannot a significant amount of it’s active ingredient.

The product is described as 30c. This tells us how much it’s been diluted. Let’s work this out.

Each c represents a 1:100 dilution. Imagine you have 100 litres of water. We add 1 litre of black dye to it. We shake the solution and then take 1 litre from this solution and mix it with 100 litres of water. The process is carried out 30 times. Expecting to find a molecule of the dye would be like tossing a wine cork in to Lake Erie, return a week a later, drink a cup of the lake water and expecting to taste a hint of Chardonay.

Imagine filling up a bath with water, pouring in a can of coke, scooping up a cup full, refilling the bath and pouring that cup in. Repeat this 30 times and would any sane person claim that what they have at the end is super-potent coke? Well, this is what homoeopathy claims and this is what Boots is selling.

You could argue that Boots are simply selling what their customers want. Well this is true. You could say the same thing about a witchdoctor who travels from village to village offering useless mumbo jumbo in exchange for a goat or two.

Tomorrow is bite my tongue day

June 15, 2006

A group of ‘alternative medicine’ practioners have been invited in to the office tomorrow to give a demonstration of their amazing powers. Among these we have Aromatherapists and even Iridology.

To try to counteract this medical-fraud of the highest order, maybe I can see if the company will allow me to set-up a projector and show episodes of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit series. That should be enough to remove the negative chakras left behind by this band of frauds and lunatics.

The 21st Century.. You really would not believe we’re actually in it if people are still willing to buy-in to this crap.

The doctors fight back

May 23, 2006

The voice of reason – in the form of a group of doctors in the UK is challenging NHS spending on ‘complementary medicines’.

Prince Charles, a long-time fan of homeopathy and other alternative therapies and so an expert in medical treatment had the following to say.

“Many of today’s complementary therapies are rooted in ancient traditions that intuitively understood the need to maintain balance and harmony with our minds, bodies and the natural world.”

“Much of this knowledge, often based on oral traditions, is sadly being lost, yet orthodox medicine has so much to learn from it.”

The ‘ancient’ connection is often thrown up to explain why things must be valid. Religions are a classic example of this – it’s lasted this long so there must be something in it.
Unfortunately this doesn’t hold water. Many of the compounds used in conventional medical treatment are indeed based on natural remedies. Aspirin is a good example as is quinine. There is one important thing that separates aspirin from homeopathy though – aspirin has been tested and found to be effective.

Let’s look at some treatments.

Homeopathy – was invented in the 18th century (hardly wisdom of the ancients) by Samuel Hahnemann. It’s based entirely on sympathetic magic – the idea that like can cure like. If you’ve heard the expression “The hair of the dog that bit you” then you will find homeopathy easy to understand. To this day there is no scientific evidence to prove that it’s effective. Certain things like the laws of biology and even the laws of physics get in the way.

Acupunture is a traditional Chinese medical treatment. Acupuncture may actually have benefits but it certainly doesn’t work in the way that the ancient masters tell us it does.

Reiki is yet another therapy that relies on mystical energies that can’t be measured through scientific means. It’s claimed that this is an ancient practice but it seems to have appeared during the 20th century by a monk who claims to have rediscovered ancient wisdom.

Although conventional medicine does indeed have something to learn from traditional remedies, I doubt that reiki or homeopathy will be teaching doctors anything. The only lesson I can see is that doctors should try to spend more time with their patients to give them a little emotional boost.

More to the point, why should the NHS be spending money on these unproven treatments when they could be using that money to help people using properly tested medicines?

I’ll finish with these comments from proponents of alternative medicine.

Dr Peter Fisher, of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, described the letter as an attempt to introduce a form of “medical apartheid” into the NHS.

Terry Cullen, chairman of the British Complementary Medicine Association, said: “It’s very frustrating that senior responsible people dismiss complementary medicine for the sole reason that it doesn’t have the definitive scientific proof that other drugs have.

I think both these gentlemen share the same basic misunderstanding of what medicine is. Doctors are scientists and their treatments are based on science. That doesn’t mean that medicine starts and stops with chemicals proven to effect change in the body. A simple reassuring talk can work wonders as can a sugar pill. The important thing is that the doctor have a sound medical basis for the treatment, not a series of testimonials and metaphysical bullshit.