Stellenbosch: International Summit on Quackery & Pseudoscience

Posted 24 July 2017

Stellenbosch University hosts first international summit to counter quackery, pseudoscience and fake news in healthcare.

The dangers of pseudoscience and quackery in healthcare will come under scrutiny later this year at a ground-breaking international summit in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Numerous high-profile health and science communication experts will gather at the International Summit on Quackery and Pseudoscience to explore how science communication efforts by the media, scientists, health regulators and governments can counter the impact of pseudoscience and advance the use of evidence-based healthcare practices.

The summit will be held from 20-21 November at the University of Stellenbosch (SU). It will be jointly hosted by the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care (CEBHC) of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), and the Centre for Science and Technology Mass Communication (CENSCOM) of the postgraduate Department of Journalism at SU.

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NHS to stop paying for homeopathy, certain supplements, and many OTC drugs

Posted 24 July 2017

NHS England has announced plans to stop paying for prescriptions for treatments that it considers “ineffective, over-priced and low value.” A formal public consultation has been launched on proposed guidelines.
[Items which should not routinely be prescribed in primary care: A Consultation on guidance for CCGs. NHS England, July 21, 2017]

The list includes homeopathic products, glucosamine, chondroitin, herbal products, lutein, certain antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids (some uses), gluten-free foods, and more than 3,200 nonprescription drugs.  
[NHS England launches action plan to drive out wasteful and ineffective drug prescriptions, saving NHS over £190 million a year
. NHS England news release, July 21, 2017] 

Public comments are welcome until October 21.

Source: Consumer Health Digest #17-29, July 23, 2017

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The trouble with genetic testing

Posted 19 July 2017

We have been highly critical of DNA testing as a means for creating weight-loss diets, arguing that some of the genes occur at very low prevalence in certain population groups, or not at all, or may be influenced by other triggers or environmental factors. In spite of the lack of evidence for the accuracy or benefit for these DNA based diets, the companies continue to market these products duping consumers.

In this newspaper article, titled, ‘We are all mutants now’: the trouble with genetic testing With so many unknowns in our DNA, using genetics in medical testing doesn’t always bring the answers – sometimes it brings only doubt, written by Carrie Arnold and published in The Guardian, she addresses the accuracy of DNA testing for other conditions.

She writes: To get a better handle on all the variation in humans, scientists are going to need Read the rest

Are diets just placebos?

Posted 14 July 2017

A question that is often asked: why do some people (few) lose weight even if the weight-loss product is a scam?

For example, if we claim that Herbex products have no evidence to back up their claim to be effective in weight-loss, and indeed, as we argue, there is no proof the ingredients contribute to weight-loss and particularly at the dose being used.

We have attributed this to the placebo effect, i.e., someone taking a pill psychologically changes the way he/she eats. There are many studies demonstrating how people have lost weight, even large amounts, even though they were getting an inert substance.

In an article in Slate, the science writer Erik Vance, asks the question: Are diets just placebos?

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The weird power of the placebo effect, explained

Posted 11 July 2017

Yes, the placebo effect is all in your mind. And it’s real.

Over the last several years, doctors noticed a mystifying trend: Fewer and fewer new pain drugs were getting through double-blind placebo control trials, the gold standard for testing a drug’s effectiveness. 

In these trials, neither doctors nor patients know who is on the active drug and who is taking an inert pill. At the end of the trial, the two groups are compared. If those who actually took the drug report significantly greater improvement than those on placebo, then it’s worth prescribing.

When researchers started looking closely at pain-drug clinical trials, they found that an average of 27 percent of patients in 1996 reported pain reduction from a new drug compared to placebo. In 2013, it was 9 percent.

What this showed was not that the drugs

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Fighter faces tough bout against supplement maker

Posted 10 July 2017

This is a real disgusting story, if the reporter is correct.

Demarte “The Wolf” Pena was suspended for using steroids, resulting in him being dumped by the sport supplement company (Biogen) for which he worked as brand ambassador. It turns out that he tested positive from steroids present in a Biogen product which he was using. In addition, there have been a number of ASA rulings against unsubstantiated claims being made for product, which Biogen continues to do in spite of the rulings.

“Biogen marketing manager Brandon Fairweather said Testoforte was not part of the company’s sport supplement range and that it was “not unusual” for products containing complex botanical materials, especially those designed to support healthy testosterone, to give rise to “a trace finding of steroidal precursors”.”

If this was true, then the product automatically becomes a Schedule 5 Category A drug!

Biogen, stop spinning Read the rest

SAIDS Advisory on the herbal supplement ‘BIOGEN TESTOFORTE’

Posted 07 July 2017

An advisory from the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS), released yesterday.

[Response from Dischem/Biogen in a Times Live article]

Independent laboratory [1] analysis of the herbal supplement ‘BIOGEN TESTOFORTE’ revealed the presence of the following anabolic steroids, not listed on the product label: 4-Androstene-3,17-dione, 5alpha-Androstanedione and 5beta-Androstanedione.

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Biogen Testoforte found to contain ‘roids’

Posted 07 July 2017

This article in Times Live, reports that Biogen Testoforte was found by the SA Doping Control Laboratory to contain steroids, and reported in a South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport SAIDS release.

It is incredible the ‘spin’ that Dischem/Biogen are putting on the findings.

For example: ““It is not unusual for products containing complex botanical materials – especially those designed to support healthy testosterone – to give rise to a trace finding of steroidal precursors in laboratory tests‚” Epstein said.

NO, no, no! This is NOT what the lab has demonstrated.

“The product remains on sale in Dis-Chem stores‚ but an extra warning had been added “as a precautionary measure” to products containing Tribulus Terrestris‚ Epstein said.”

This is not acceptable. This is akin to saying because your breakfast cereal has been found to have cocaine in addition, instead of removing the product, Read the rest

Another study slams red yeast rice pills

Posted 05 July 2017

A study of 28 brands of R supplements has found that the amount of the supposed active ingredient (monacolin K) varied widely from product to product and two products contained none.
Reference: Cohen P and others. Variability in strength of red yeast rice supplements purchased from mainstream retailers. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, June 23, 2017

The purified version of monacolin K is lovastatin, the active ingredient in the cholesterol-lowering drug Mevacor. Statin drugs are very useful, but they are not suitable for self-medication because optimal cholesterol-control should be tailored to individual risk factors and be medically monitored. The FDA has ordered at least ten companies to stop marketing red yeast rice products for cholesterol control. However, if no drug claims are made, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 permits their sale as “dietary supplements.” In 2010, a study of 12 red … Read the rest

Medical journal takes aim at natural remedies

Posted 04 July 2017

Health Canada can ‘recall a bag of chips but doesn’t have the power to recall a natural health product’

By Michael Smee, CBC News

An editorial in Monday’s Canadian Medical Association Journal is calling on the federal government to crack down on natural health products, which the author argues are poorly tested and can do patients more harm than good, compared to conventional medicines.

“They simply have to show that someone, somewhere once used this as therapy for something,” Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, the journal’s deputy editor, told CBC Toronto.

The editorial urges Health Canada to stop makers of natural health products from claiming that the products are remedies, because they are not as rigorously tested as conventional, over-the-counter drugs.

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