Quacks spread false hope and endanger people’s lives

Posted 26 April 2016

This article, Quacks spread false hope and endanger people’s lives, by Professor George Claassen, was published online (25 April 2016) at Bhekisisa, Centre for Health Journalism. Prof Claasen is an important and vocal voice against pseudoscience.

Professor George Claassen is director of the Centre for Science and Technology Mass Communication (Censcom), at Stellenbosch University. He is the author of a book on quackery in Africa, Quacks, Tricksters and Scamsters: How a nonsense detector can save your life, which will be published later this year.

Some extracts:

[quote]”Why do apparently irrational beliefs claim so many strong and vocal adherents? Why, when these beliefs are demonstrably false, is it often impossible to shift the mind-sets of the believers?[/quote] [quote]The action against a professional health practitioner who prescribed prayer as a solution – without any scientific evidence that it can work and beyond the boundaries of her… Read the rest

The “It Worked for Me” Gimmick

Posted 22 April 2016

[quote]It is almost inevitable that whenever we post an article critical of the claims being made for a particular treatment, alternative philosophy, or alternative profession, someone in the comments will counter a careful examination of published scientific evidence with an anecdote. Their arguments boils down to, “It worked for me, so all of your scientific evidence and plausibility is irrelevant.” Both components of this argument are invalid. Even if we grant that a treatment worked for one individual, that does not counter the (carefully observed) experience of all the subjects in the clinical trials. They count too – I would argue they count more because we can verify all the important aspects of their story.[/quote]

This article by by Steven Novella published on April 20, 2016 on Science-Based Medicine, examines the value of the claim, ‘but it worked for me’.

He concludes:

[quote]It is hard… Read the rest

USN linked to company promoting sport supplements in children

Posted 21 April 2016

Readers of CamCheck will be aware that USN and owner, Albe Geldenhuys is suing Dr Harris Steinman for R2 million Rand for the latter calling into question the questionable actions of USN/Geldenhuys.

The journalist, Elaine Swanepoel, has drawn attention in the recent Afrikaans Sunday newspaper, Die Rapport, to USN targeting and marketing to sport supplements to children. Bizarrely, according to the report: “Yet says Albe Geldenhuys, head of USN, to Die Rapport, that primary school children should not under any circumstances be using supplements”.

SportmaxThe claim is made that “The range of products have been tested by the MCC (Medical (sic) Control Council) and are manufactured in Gauteng”. However, the MCC does NOT test products! The product, ToneMax, contains Garcinia cambogia, an ingredient never tested in children, and associated with reports of liver failure!

The mere fact that this product contains Garcinia, an ingredient Read the rest

FTC Charges Five ‘Natural’ Products Firms Over Claims

Posted 18 April 2016

This article by Serena Ng, reports in The Wall Street Journal on the USA Federal Trade Commission charging five ‘natural’ products firms over false claims:

Agency says companies falsely promoted shampoos, lotions, sunscreens containing synthetic ingredients

The Federal Trade Commission sounded a warning to consumer products companies that claim their goods are completely natural, after bringing charges Tuesday against five sellers of skin-care and hair-care products.

The agency, which enforces federal truth-in-advertising laws, said the five companies falsely promoted their shampoos, skin lotions or sunscreens as being “all natural” or “100% natural,” when the products contained some synthetic ingredients.

Continue reading at The Wall Street Journal

Read the rest

Do these natural products work?

Posted 15 April 2016

Remedy or Ripoff?, originally broadcast October 31, 2014, is a documentary produced by CBC Marketplace (“Canada’s consumer watchdog reveals what Canadians need to know to protect themselves, their families and money from slick scams and misleading marketing claims. A team of experienced investigative journalists put the products and services Canadians use every day to the test and hold companies and government to account”)

This episode check out four natural products to see if the science lives up to the hype. It also examines ‘detoxing’.

Read the rest

Liver failure and transplant needed after supplement use

Posted 06 April 2016

According to a new report, a 26-year-old otherwise healthy Australian man required a liver transplantation following the use of two dietary supplements. The patient had taken a whey protein powder containing green tea and many other ingredients, as well as a weight loss supplement containing 70% Garcinia cambogia for one week. Analytic testing did not identify any contaminants.

In 2009, there were at least 40 cases of liver injury in the U.S. following the use of Hydroxycut weight loss products. The formulation of Hydroxycut products varied, but most of those associated with liver problems contained Garcinia cambogia and green tea. The Norwegian food safety authority has also issued a warning about green tea extract supplements following multiple reports of liver damage.

Smith RJ, Bertilone C, Robertson AG. Fulminant liver failure and transplantation after use of dietary supplements. Med J Aust. 2016 Jan 18;204(1):30-2… Read the rest

ASA ruling: Chrome Shop, Pharmafreak and Anabolic Freak

Posted 12 April 2016

Chrome ShopA consumer lodged a complaint against Chrome Shop’s advertising on www.chromeshop.co.za as well as the actual product packaging. The advertising and packaging promotes a product range called “Pharmafreak ” and more particularly, a product called “Anabolic Freak”. It contains, inter alia, claims that the product can boost testosterone levels (not unlike USN’s unsubstantiated claims for similar products). The complainant explained that the studies relied on (with the exception of one) were not done on humans, and can therefore not be used as proof that the product would deliver the same results in humans.

The ASA evaluated the evidence supplied by the advertiser and “the respondent has not submitted any arguments to negate the complaint, and has not provided any alternative interpretation for its claims”.

Read the rest

Study pans long-term antibiotic therapy for “chronic Lyme disease”

Posted 11 April 2016

Another study has confirmed the futility of long-term antibiotic therapy for people with symptoms attributed to “chronic Lyme disease.” This study involved 252 patients who received 2 weeks of standard antibiotic treatment followed by 12 weeks in which they received either doxycycline, another antibiotic, or a placebo. The three groups demonstrated no significant differences in outcome. [1]

An accompanying editorial concluded: “Patients with subjective, vexing symptoms attributed to Lyme disease should not anticipate that even longer courses of antibiotics will produce relief, a finding that is in concert with results from previous trials.” [2]


  1. Berende A and others. Randomized trial of longer-term therapy for symptoms attributed to Lyme disease. New England Journal of Medicine 2016;374:1277-1288.
  2. Melia TM, Auwaerter PG. Time for a different approach to Lyme disease and long-term symptoms. New England Journal of Medicine 2016;374:1277-1288.
[Source: Consumer Health Digest #16-13, April 10,  … Read the rest

Warning on buying unregulated slimming preparations

Posted 11 April 2016

In terms of Regulation 48C published in November 2013, “complementary medicines falling in Category D and in the pharmacological classification 32.3 (Slimming preparations) and pharmacological classifications 7.1, 21.7 (Male sex hormones), pharmacological classification 21.8 (Female sex hormones) and pharmacological classification 21.9 (androgen-oestrogen combinations) claiming sexual stimulation and sexual dysfunction available for sale in the Republic on the date on which it comes into operation shall be subjected to registration within 24 months of the date of this publication.” That deadline therefore expired in November 2015. Those products for which a complete application for registration has not been submitted should now be removed from the market.

The Australian Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) has issued a warning which applies everywhere, not just in Australia.

Read the rest

DNA of endangered Snow Leopard and Tiger found in Chinese medicines

Posted 11 April 2016

A recent article from the Journal of Forensic Science Medicine highlights the role Traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) play in the illegal trade of endangered and threatened wildlife species. Recent testing revealed that 50% of 26 TCM products contained undeclared plant or animal DNA, included DNA of the endangered snow leopard and possibly tiger. Also, 50% of the products contained an undeclared pharmaceutical agent, including warfarin, dexamethasone, and others. The article noted that while some products may be contaminated inadvertently, it is unlikely that an endangered species would be added to a product by accident. While this illegal use certainly has environmental implications, it also poses a direct health risk for humans. In 2009, there was a report of a man who died suddenly after taking the TCM product Chan Su, which contains extracts from a species of toad.


Byard RW. Traditional medicines and species … Read the rest