Son of Snake Oil

I may need to  start a new series

First some history. I have a gym membership, and I spend some time on the treadmill. The treadmills come equipped with cable TV, and you can punch in the channel you want. I was strolling and scanning CNN when they went to a commercial break. The first thing that caught my attention was this.

Some call me skeptical, and some call me cynical, but I’m cool with that. No surprise ,the first thing that popped into my mind was the F-word. No, it’s not the word you’re thinking of, but it’s a word you do not use when describing somebody’s business if you don’t want to get sued.

So I watched the ad, and I figured it would show up on YouTube back home, and here it is. Follow the link to watch.

Listening, I caught the correct pronunciation, and it’s re-VI-tive. You purchase one of these things—easy payment terms are offered—and you crank it up and put your feet on it—don’t know if you’re supposed to stand on it—and it sends electrical impulses into your legs, causing your muscles to contract and not, and the result is supposed to be less pain. Assuming you had pain to begin with.

Here’s a guy using it sitting down. The claim is you only need one session a day.

See the image at the top. This is “clinically proven.” Do we know what that means? They don’t elaborate. They do mention—see image number 2 above—the device is “FDA Cleared.” I wondered about that. They have an ad site on the Web, and there is additional language:

FDA Cleared: Giving you peace of mind

OK, not much. Another site was more informative:

What Does “FDA Cleared” Mean?

According to the organization, FDA cleared means that a device has been submitted to the FDA along with a 510(k) premarket notification, showing that it is “substantially equivalent to a device that is already legally marketed for the same use.”

In other words, “FDA cleared” does not mean that the FDA has approved the device, that they’ve confirmed it works as advertised, or that they’ve even tried it in the first place.

The Food and Drug Administration explains more on their site: From there I snooped further and pulled up this document. I have a copy in case this link ever goes stale, and the critical wording is this:

Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Document Control Center – WO66-G609
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002

􀆏 John J. Smith, MD, JD
Regulatory Counsel
Hogan Lovells US LLP
Columbia Square 555 13th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Re: K143207
Trade/Device Name: Revitive IX (OTC)
Regulation Number: 21 CFR 890.5850
Regulation Name: Powered Muscle Stimulator
Regulatory Class: Class II
Product Code: NGX, NUH
Dated: November 7, 2014
Received: November 7, 2014

Dear Dr. Smith,
We have reviewed your Section 510(k) premarket notification of intent to market the device referenced above and have determined the device is substantially equivalent (for the indications for use stated in the enclosure) to legally marketed predicate devices marketed in interstate commerce prior to May 28, 1976, the enactment date of the Medical Device Amendments, or to devices that have been reclassified in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (Act) that do not require approval of a premarket approval application (PMA). You may, therefore, market the device, subject to the general controls provisions of the Act. The general controls provisions of the Act include requirements for annual registration, listing of devices, good manufacturing practice, labeling, and prohibitions against misbranding and adulteration. Please note: CDRH does not evaluate information related to contract liability warranties. We remind you, however, that device labeling must be truthful and not misleading.
If your device is classified (see above) into either class II (Special Controls) or class III (PMA), it may be subject to additional controls. Existing major regulations affecting your device can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Parts 800 to 898. In addition, FDA may publish further announcements concerning your device in the Federal Register.
Please be advised that FDA’s issuance of a substantial equivalence determination does not mean that FDA has made a determination that your device complies with other requirements of the Act or any Federal statutes and regulations administered by other Federal agencies. You must comply with all the Act’s requirements, including, but not limited to: registration and listing (21 CFR Part 807); labeling (21 CFR Part 801); medical device reporting (reporting of medical device-related adverse events) (21 CFR 803); good manufacturing practice requirements as set forth in the quality systems (QS) regulation (21 CFR Part 820); and if applicable, the electronic product radiation control provisions (Sections 531-542 of the Act); 21 CFR 1000-1050.
If you desire specific advice for your device on our labeling regulation (21 CFR Part 801), please contact the Division of Industry and Consumer Education at its toll-free number (800) 638-2041 or (301) 796-7100 or at its Internet address
http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ResourcesforYou/Industry/default.htm. Also, please note the regulation entitled, “Misbranding by reference to premarket notification” (21 CFR Part 807.97). For questions regarding the reporting of adverse events under the MDR regulation (21 CFR Part 803), please go to

http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/ReportaProblem/default.htm

for the CDRH’s Office of Surveillance and Biometrics/Division of Postmarket Surveillance.
You may obtain other general information on your responsibilities under the Act from the Division of Industry and Consumer Education at its toll-free number (800) 638-2041 or (301) 796-7100 or at its Internet address

http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ResourcesforYou/Industry/default.htm.

Sincerely yours,
Carlos L. Peña, PhD, MS
Director
Division of Neurological
and Physical Medicine Devices
Office of Device Evaluation
Center for Devices and Radiological Health

I have omitted some uninteresting stuff to leave room for the uninteresting stuff I did not omit. I am sure you are as impressed at the thoroughness of our government agencies as I was upon going through this very professionally-prepared document.

Final analysis: the FDA has not tested this device, and it goes without saying they are not vouching for its effectiveness. Buy it if you wish. Use it if you with. Complain or don’t complain. Some have (excerpts):

15 Consumer Reviews for Revitive (2.7 on a scale of 1 to 5)

Got scammed by these guys

I tried to place an order yesterday, May 16th, at 3:49 AM and their associate said my order did not go through. I told her to hold while I call Discover and she agreed. I get through to Discover and they said she put two charges on my card for $394. She did not hold one minute to hear this. I called back several times to speak to supervisors and other associates on phone, and now they give me the run around that they do not see my name in their system nor phone number. Two charges pending on my credit card are sure showing up for $394. I have contacted to inform them of their scamming associates. Never will I attempt to do business with this company!

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

Swollen leg and ankle.

  • By David Wardley,
  • Auckland, New Zealand,
  • May 12, 2018
  • Verified Reviewer

Swollen right leg and ankle for nearly three years and getting worse. Arthritic right foot too. Leg scan last week showed no clots. Compression socks helped a but slow progress. After only three days of Revitive use while watching the 6 o’clock news, leg calf and ankle is back to normal size, foot is much better too, and pain is gone. Believe it!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend [gave it 5 stars]

Disappointment

I don’t know if you can say it’s a fake or scam, but it’s not any good if you have much pain. It may help tired feet and legs, but it’s worthless when it comes to diabetic pain. I think it’s way overpriced, and I’d never buy one thinking it was going to help, believe me, I have one built in. I know they will never print this because they know it’s the truth, I’ve been typing this just for fun I guess, but I tried. Good luck, I hope it helps you more than it did me.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend [gave it 1 star]

It may not be the snake oil of legend, but it could pass for the son of snake oil.

Advertisements

Dying to Believe

Number 108 in a series

Homeopathy has stalked the human population for over 220 years, leaving disappointment and death in its wake. In The BMJ Pascal Delaunay and others write under the naive title “Homoeopathy may not be effective in preventing malaria.”

editor—The homoeopathic principle that like should be cured with like is not always advisable,1 as illustrated in this case report.

A 40 year old woman took two holidays a year in tropical countries. After experiencing digestive disorders with conventional prophylactic drugs she decided to seek medical advice from a homoeopath for her forthcoming holiday in Togo. Two homeopathic drugs were prescribed: Ledum palustre 5 CH (Boiron, Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, France) as one granule daily and Malaria officinalis 4 CH (Schmidt-Nagel, Meyrin, Switzerland) as a single dose on the day before departure.

Ledum palustre 5 CH can be purchased in any French pharmacy and is usually taken to prevent insect bites or to reduce allergic reactions and pruritus. Malaria officinalis 4 CH is unavailable in France and therefore was bought by mail order. The preparation is taken “against malaria” as the doctor or patient sees fit. It is made from “African swamp water containing impurities, algae and plants as well as mosquito slough, larvae and eggs.” Furthermore, “the manufacturer, who has performed no clinical trials on this drug, declines all responsibility regarding its use.” No instructions are supplied, and the destination of the journey and duration of the stay are not taken into account.

Five days after returning to France with a fever (39°C), the patient sought medical advice from her homoeopath. Results of a blood smear test for malaria parasites were negative; haemoglobin concentration was 13.9 g/l and platelet count 160 000 per mm3. She took homoeopathic drugs with vitamins, and a few days later antibiotic treatment was started. Ten days after the first medical visit she felt worse. Her temperature had risen to 41°C and her haemoglobin concentration was 10.6 g/l and platelet count 66 000 per mm3. She was admitted to hospital, where she was investigated for bacterial infection but not malaria. Four days later she was admitted with neurological disorders to the intensive care unit at this hospital. An emergency search for malaria showed the presence of Plasmodium falciparum (parasitaemia 7%). For two months she received intensive care for multiple organ system failure due to P falciparum.

My own experience is that homeopathy is immensely popular in France, where there seem to be shops touting homéopathie on every street. The most notorious exponent of homeopathy in the late 20th century was Jacques Benveniste, who late in life came to propose that powers of homeopathy could be transmitted over the Internet.

Dying to Believe

Number 107 in a series

The depth of human folly seems to have no limits, and five hundred years of enlightenment have been for naught. Unsubstantiated belief remains the deadly sinkhole it always was:

Infection alert after dying Ebola patients taken to Congo prayer meeting

Fortunately for this country, our highest elected officials have grown past false belief. Wait! Never mind.

Dying to Believe

Number 106 in a series

A page on the What’s the Harm site is devoted to deaths related to homeopathy. A case in point is the death of Charles Levy:

Only one case that has come before the Arizona Board of Homeopathic Medical Examiners during the past five years has involved the death of a patient, but that 2001 decision to clear the doctor is still a contentious subject.

The board dismissed a complaint against Dr. Gabriel Cousens, a licensed homeopath who practices holistic medicine and runs a spa called the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia. The complaint alleged that an elderly patient died of a gas gangrene infection developed after Cousens repeatedly injected him with “bovine adrenal fluid” as a treatment for fatigue.

The family of the patient, Charles Levy of New York, sued Cousens for malpractice in Pima County Superior Court. The case was headed to trial when Cousens settled for an undisclosed amount of money paid to the family.

What a homeopathic practitioner is doing using an active medication is not clear. Homeopathy canonically involves dilution of active ingredients beyond the vanishing point. Either way, false belief has produced another death.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – number 105 in a series

Even in 21st century America, Jesus continues to take innocent lives. Most recently:

Jonathan Foster, 35, and Grace Foster, 34, also were convicted Friday in Berks County court of child endangerment in the November 2016 death of daughter Ella Grace in Upper Tulpehocken Township.

The parents of a 2-year-old Pennsylvania girl who died of pneumonia have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter after prosecutors said they declined to seek medical care for the child on religious grounds.

Jonathan Foster, 35, and Grace Foster, 34, also were convicted Friday in Berks County court of child endangerment in the November 2016 death of daughter Ella Grace in Upper Tulpehocken Township, The Reading Eagle reported.

This is not some Mississippi River Delta town, tucked away in a stand of yellow pines. Reading, PA, is the county seat, located a short drive north of Philadelphia. The child’s parents, who were trusted to ensure her development into a healthy adult, attributed her death to “God’s will,” meaning Jesus. May Jesus have mercy on their souls.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – number 104 in a series

Patients may die, but belief in phony cures has a life never ending.

How is it that in 2018 cancer Stanislaw Burzynski is still preying on desperate cancer patients? (Update)

May 3, 2018

A couple of days ago, I wondered how on earth cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski could still be operating as usual, luring the families of desperate cancer patients like an 11-year-old girl with medulloblastoma named Demi Knight. She is from Louth in Lincolnshire in the UK, and the false hope peddled by Burzynski led her family to launch a fundraising campaign to come up with £150,000 to pay for Burzynski’s “miracle cure” that isn’t known as antineoplastons (ANPs).

The family’s effort was aided and abetted by the UK press, specifically Rebecca Curley from The Sun, who did a story entitled RACE AGAINST TIME: Demi Knight’s desperate bid to raise £150k for US treatment after being struck down with brain cancer at 11 , Phoebe Southworth of The Daily Mail, whose story was entitled Devastated mother has race against time to raise £150,000 to take her 11-year-old daughter with cancer to America for potentially life-saving treatment, and James Silcocks of the Louth Leader, whose story is entitled ‘I will never give up on my daughter’: Louth family’s plea for £150,000 life-saving treatment. The stories are virtually indistinguishable from each other. All three portray the plight of Demi and the efforts of her mother Mel Knight to save her life as a human interest story in which the family is fighting against all odds to raise enough money to travel to Houston and be treated by Stanislaw Burzynski. In all three stories, the Burzynski Clinic is portrayed as Demi’s last hope for survival, rather than the quack cancer clinic that it is. In all three stories, an unnamed child with brain cancer who supposedly went to the Burzynski Clinic and survived is credulously repeated. In all three stories, link to the Knights’ GoFundMe page and Facebook page are included.

An update discloses the family has managed to raise £25,000, and they are awaiting their visas to allow them to travel to Texas. This is from a blogger who writes under the name Orac. He has this to  add:

And if that’s still not enough, Bob Blaskiewicz has chronicled many, many more stories of Burzynski’s preying on cancer patients. Through it all, I keep seeing horrible news stories about Burzynski, chock full of false balance.

Full disclosure: Bob Blaskiewicz is a Facebook “friend.”

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – number 103 in a series

Here is something to get this started:

Zicam is a branded series of products marketed for cold and allergy relief whose original formulations included the element zinc. The Zicam name is derived from a portmanteau of the words “zinc” and “ICAM-1” (the receptor to which a rhinovirus binds in order to infect cells). It is labelled as an “unapproved homeopathic” product.

And here’s the story:

Lisa Weatherington, a 50-year-old Army medical officer who lives in Bowie, is one of the 340 plaintiffs. Her case illustrates the difficulties inherent in determining what role, if any, Zicam played in her anosmia.

Weatherington said she used Zicam once two years ago to treat a burgeoning cold at the suggestion of her husband who said it worked for him. Seconds after spraying it, she recalled, she felt an intensely painful burning.

In early January 2004, Weatherington said, she realized she could no longer smell or taste anything. She said she called Matrixx to report the problem and was told the company had never heard of this problem — although the first report of ansomia after Zicam use appeared in a medical journal in 2000 and the first lawsuit was filed in October 2003. Matrixx declined to comment on her case citing the pending litigation.

Several doctors have told Weatherington she probably will never regain her sense of smell. Her superiors have told her the problem could hamper her military career because it will prevent her deployment to places where she would need to detect poisonous fumes.

“I love food and I used to love to cook for my family, ” said Weatherington who adds that she has gotten sick from eating spoiled shrimp she coudn’t smell. “Sometimes I just feel like crying.”

Robert I. Henkin, a neurologist who directs the Taste and Smell Clinic in Northwest Washington, said there’s no way to know for sure whether Weatherington, whom he is treating, lost her sense of smell because of a virus or because she used Zicam.

Does anybody want to take bets on that last statement?

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – number 101 in a series

Belief is strong. Death is forever.

Herbalist charged in death of diabetic boy treated with oils

POSTED 3:28 PM, MARCH 7, 2018, BY 

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles prosecutors have charged an herbalist in the 2014 death of a diabetic 13-year-old boy he treated with oils.

City Attorney Mike Feuer said Wednesday that Timothy Morrow practiced medicine without a license and committed child abuse causing death.

The image was previously used in an issue of The North Texas Skeptic.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – number 100 in a series

Most regrettably, we are carrying this travesty forward into yet another year.

 As Willie Hughes walked around the weathered plots and mounds of dirt at Peaceful Valley Cemetery, he remembered family that died too young and his brother Steven, who was born with spina bifida.

Steven never saw a doctor or physical therapist or used a wheelchair. He crawled around on his forearms and died of pneumonia at age 3.

“I remember his was the first body that I saw and touched. It was traumatic for a 4½ -year-old to see his little brother in a coffin. I can’t tell you how many dead bodies I’ve seen,” said Hughes, a Boise truck driver who grew up in the Followers of Christ church.

If you think Jesus saves, you need to visit places like Idaho.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 99 in a series

When alternative medicine does not kill outright, it gives believers the opportunity to die with less dignity.

3-Bromopyruvate (3BP) has been hailed by some researchers as a potential breakthrough in cancer treatment, but there is no concrete clinical human trial data to support these claims beyond anecdotal evidence. Scientists have stated that the drug should not be administered to any patients except in carefully controlled experimental conditions.

German police took action on 4 August after two patients from the Netherlands and one from Belgium died following treatment at the Biological Cancer Centre in Brüggen, Germany. Police from each region have urged other patients treated at the centre to contact local health authorities, with at least 26 doing so.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 98 in a series

Jesus welcomes you into his loving arms, for all eternity:

Pastor Gets 99 Years In Prison After Starving Child To Death During Exorcism

Should they all be so blessed.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 97 in a series

Homeopathy, the treatment that involves no treatment, does not kill directly. It kills through neglect. Here is a story from Australia:

The latest case to come to media attention comes from down under – Penelope Dingle from Perth Australia, according to local news reports, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003. Her doctors gave her a good chance of survival with standard therapy – surgery to remove the cancer, and chemotherapy to mop up any loose cells and reduce the risk of recurrence. It is not a pleasant prospect, but with modern care it’s not too bad, and it buys in many cases a greatly improved quality and duration of life. Penelope Dingle, however, chose to refuse all science-based treatment and opted instead for a regimen of diet and homeopathic treatment.

This is a case of an adult making the decision to die. Instances involving children are not only horrendous but also criminal.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 96 in a series

Coffee Enemas. Really? Regular or decaf?

The Gerson Therapy strikes again. This from 20 years back:

Now Charles backs coffee cure for cancer

Angry doctors warn of dangers as Prince of Wales lends support to controversial alternative treatment. Health Editor Jo Revill reports
The mind of Bonnie Prince Charlie is frequently trotted out to illustrate the decline of a royal family. His fascination with things cranky is well appreciated. The above item is from The Guardian. It continues:

Prince Charles has never made a secret of his love affair with alternative medicine. Now he has infuriated the medical profession by backing a controversial cancer treatment which involves taking daily coffee enemas and drinking litres of fruit juice instead of using drugs. Charles gave an enthusiastic endorsement last week to the Gerson Therapy, which eschews chemotherapy in favour of 13 fruit juices a day, coffee enemas and weekly injections of vitamins.

Cancer specialists have told The Observer that there is no scientific basis for the theory and that it can be dangerous because patients who are seriously ill often come off their normal treatment to try something unproven which may leave them badly dehydrated.

One of Charlotte Gerson’s patients was Lady Baldwin:
Another of Charles’s associates, the hereditary peer and crossbencher Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, went to the Tijuana clinic in 1996 when his wife Sally was seriously ill with breast cancer. She spent eight weeks at the clinic, followed by another two years of using the regime at home. Her disease recurred and she died three years ago.
When Jesus is not around, there is always quack medicine ready to step up to the plate.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 95 in a series

I came aware of the “Gerson protocol” in 1992 when Charlotte Gerson brought her medical show to Dallas. In the July issue of the newsletter of the North Texas Skeptics we published a story about my encounter, and I subsequently mentioned it in a post on this site:

Charlotte Gerson proposed such a cure over 20 years ago, and we had a look at her views back then:

Max Gerson seems to have been a very self-reliant man. At an early age he found he could cure his own migraine headaches by controlling his diet, and as a medical doctor he found diet to be a cure for a multitude of other complaints. The list is impressive. According to the flier distributed by the Gerson Institute, the Gerson Therapy can cure or prevent: cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, arthritis and “other diseases of civilization that kill and cripple us.” Just wait until the AMA hears about this.

Max’s daughter, Charlotte Gerson, is living proof of the effectiveness of the Therapy. At age seventy, she looks the picture of perfect health. Slim and vigorous and very neat looking with white hair and wearing white sandals and slacks with a blue blouse and a string of pearls. She looks the way you would like your grandmother to look (or the way you would hope your wife looks at that age). You would never believe that 58 years ago her father cured her of “incurable” bone tuberculosis. Indeed, the only sign of malady she exhibited (that could not be attributed to seventy years) was a “Band-Aid” patch on the middle finger of her right hand.

More recently I wondered whether this sham was still in business, and I found this;

The Gerson protocol, cancer, and the death of Jess Ainscough, a.k.a. “The Wellness Warrior”

David Gorski on March 2, 2015

Less than four days ago, a young Australian woman died of a very rare type of cancer. Most of my American and probably many of my European readers have never heard of her, but in Australia she had become quite famous over the last seven years as a major proponent of “natural health.” Her name was Jess Ainscough, but, like a certain American woman who has become famous for promoting dubious science, she was better known by her “brand” name. That brand name was The Wellness Warrior.

I first encountered Ms. Ainscough about a year and a half ago and have been intermittently following her career ever since. I’ve even blogged about her three or four times during that period over at my not-so-super-secret other blog. However, for whatever reason, even though it was my intent to write about her here on Science-Based Medicine, I never got around to it. Her death prodded me to write now, because her tale is a cautionary one important enough that I believe there should be something written here about it. Given that, those of you who follow my cubical other self will find some of this post repetitive. However, think of it as the first opportunity I’ve had to tell the story from beginning to end, along with a major deconstruction of the Gerson protocol. (Yes, unfortunately the Gerson protocol figures heavily in this story.) It’s a story that has led to the deaths of at least two people, and whose harm to others is impossible to quantify, given that the reach of The Wellness Warrior was long, at least in Australia.

Apparently the plague lives on. Back in 1992 I had this to say:

Max Gerson seems to have been a very self-reliant man. At an early age he found he could cure his own migraine headaches by controlling his diet, and as a medical doctor he found diet to be a cure for a multitude of other complaints. The list is impressive. According to the flier distributed by the Gerson Institute, the Gerson Therapy can cure or prevent: cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, arthritis and “other diseases of civilization that kill and cripple us.” Just wait until the AMA hears about this.

Max’s daughter, Charlotte Gerson, is living proof of the effectiveness of the Therapy. At age seventy, she looks the picture of perfect health. Slim and vigorous and very neat looking with white hair and wearing white sandals and slacks with a blue blouse and a string of pearls. She looks the way you would like your grandmother to look (or the way you would hope your wife looks at that age). You would never believe that 58 years ago her father cured her of “incurable” bone tuberculosis. Indeed, the only sign of malady she exhibited (that could not be attributed to seventy years) was a “Band-Aid” patch on the middle finger of her right hand.

Charlotte Gerson was looking good 26 years ago, and apparently as of last year she was still going strong.

Happy 95th Birthday Charlotte!

As for Jess Ainscough, not so much.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 94

Conventional treatments for cancer are not always successful. However, declining science-based treatment and resorting to alternative remedies will multiply a patient’s risk of early death. An item in Medscape highlights the numbers.

‘Alternative Medicine’ for Cancer Ups Death Risk

Nick Mulcahy August 11, 2017

It’s rare but it happens: a patient with a curable cancer rejects conventional medicine and initially chooses to receive only alternative treatments.

Now researchers from the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Connecticut, find that this choice is associated with a 2.5-fold higher risk for death compared with conventional cancer treatment (CCT)

The team had to comb through 10 years (2004-2013) of records in the National Cancer Database to find 280 early-stage cancer patients (with either breast, prostate, lung, or colorectal disease) whose treatment was coded as “other-unproven: cancer treatment administered by non-medical personnel.”

Read the complete article to get the story.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 93

Homeopathy is based on the principle that less is more—that is, the more dilute the medication the more potent it is. Faith in this absurd conjecture continues to result in serious injury and even death from lack of treatment.

NINE-MONTH-OLD Gloria Thomas was in such distress that her crying alarmed some passengers on a plane trip from India to Sydney.

She had been overseas for two months receiving medical treatment, and homeopathic medication from an uncle for severe eczema.

But in that time she missed two appointments which separate doctors had made for her at specialist dermatologists.

In May 2002, less than 10 days after her return, she was admitted to the Children’s Hospital at Randwick severely malnourished and with infections to the skin and eyes.

She had died within three days of sepsis (bacterial infections) which had caused bleeding in her lungs and airways.

Additionally:

Her father, Thomas Sam, who practised and taught homeopathy, had applied homeopathic remedies to try to cure Gloria’s eczema since she was diagnosed with it when aged about four months, he said.

The above was posted to Respectful Insolence by Orac.

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent’s posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 92

Homeopathic remedies are supposed to be devoid of active ingredients, due the the extreme dilution employed in their preparation. That does not prevent products labeled as homeopathic from being deadly.

10 children die after taking homeopathic teething pills

The US Food and Drug Administration is also looking into 400 adverse events related to the tablets

Rachael Revesz New York 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating the deaths of 10 children and 400 adverse events surrounding the use of homeopathic teething pills.

The FDA warned that teething children should stop using the treatment, and to go to a doctor if the child exhibits symptoms such as seizures, difficulty in breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating, or agitation – similar symptoms displayed over the last six years.

This report from Independent relates further that “A safety alert for the tablets was first issued in 2010,” and also that an ingredient in the tablets was belladonna. Belladonna is also known as “deadly nightshade.” All natural, of course.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 91

No names given, but the numbers are frightening:

Herbal supplement Kratom blamed for 36 deaths

Kratom, a plant grown naturally in countries including Thailand and Malaysia, is widely sold in smoke shops and other locations as a powder that can be used in tea to slow the effects of opioid withdrawal.

Citing 36 deaths, the Food and Drug Administration chief will warn consumers today not to use the herbal supplement kratom to ease opioid withdrawal and announce plans to step its regulatory oversight to combat the opioid epidemic.

The FDA public health advisory on kratom follows the Drug Enforcement Administration’s reversal or at least delay of plans to classify kratom as a controlled substance on the same level as heroin and LSD. Gottlieb says the FDA plans to work with the DEA to determine how kratom should be classified.

And, yes, it has been confirmed. Kratom is 100% natural.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same – 90

Really, not only Jesus:

TEHRAN — The founder of a mystical, New Age version of Shiite Islam was sentenced to death by an Iranian court after losing an appeal, his lawyer said on Monday.

However, the religious mystic, Mohammad Ali Taheri, who was convicted on charges of founding a cult, is entitled to another appeal, the lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, said. An earlier death sentence for blasphemy against the 61-year old Mr. Taheri was overturned in 2014 by an appeals court.

In recent weeks, dozens of Mr. Taheri’s followers have been arrested across the country, especially around the central Iranian city of Isfahan.

But opponents of the spiritual leader say his conviction has nothing to do with proselytizing for a cult, saying he has had “illegitimate” sexual relations with women.

“He has committed sodomy,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, a hard-line political analyst. Sodomy, if testified to by at least four separate witnesses, also carries the death sentence in Iran. His followers deny the accusations.

Around 2005, Mr. Taheri, a researcher in alternative medicines, founded a group called Circle of Mysticism, focused on faith-based healings and their understandings of the universe. Initially, Mr. Taheri’s teachings were tolerated by Iran’s religious establishment, which is quite restrictive about alternative versions of its understanding of Shiite Islam. He was allowed to give public speeches and publish books, and attracted a following across the country.

Presented as part of an effort to make Duck Dynasty appear normal.

Not So Sacred Visions

The following originally ran in The Dallas Morning News on 27 March 2005. It is also posted in The North Texas Skeptic for April 2005 at http://www.ntskeptics.org/2005/2005april/april2005.htm#visions.


In 1429 a French teenager convinced church scholars and the future Charles VII that God had commanded her to drive the English from France. That Jeanne d’Arc actually spoke to God – or even that God exists – may be debatable, but the consequences are not.

A French army under her leadership turned the tide against the English in the Hundred Years War, and history was changed forever. While the French may have had reason to embrace the Maid of Orleans’ claim of divine guidance, the English were less than amused. They laid hands on her and burned her at the stake after a 14-month trial for heresy and witchcraft.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, in which we have abandoned the burning of witches, but our credulity is still being stretched by claims of heavenly conversations and miraculous visions. How then are we to take stories such as that of six young schoolchildren who reported an apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1981 near Medjugorje in what was then Yugoslavia? And what of the supposed miracles that have become associated with this and similar places such as Lourdes, Fatima and the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe near Mexico City?

For the faithful, apparently, little coaxing is necessary. Thousands visit these sites every year for spiritual inspiration and to seek miraculous cures. The pope has visited the Guadalupe shrine four times, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated every 12th of December.

But did these miraculous sightings and dialogues with God actually occur, or are they the result of self-delusion or even deliberate deception? In one scheme of things it may not matter. The historical result is the same as if they did happen. These days the British pound isn’t recognized on the Champs-Elysees, and the poor in spirit and body still flock to the shrines. No other proof is needed.

Except, there are some for whom the truth is not a sometime thing. For these people “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” This is the mantra of “rational skeptics,” some of whom are even organized. We skeptics want you to carry rationality to its logical conclusion and give weight to the least convoluted explanation. It’s an idea elaborated by William of Occam way back even before my time, and it’s called “Occam’s razor.”

In the case of miraculous sightings we may ask you which is simpler to believe: That a woman who has been dead for nearly 2,000 years has now become visible to a selected few individuals and only to them, or that these are just made-up stories, born of either design or an overwhelming need to believe. And not really true. Not true in the same sense as “I did not have sexual relations with that woman…”

So, what if these stories are not true? Does it make a difference in the course of history? And why do skeptics even give them a second warming? Besides, doesn’t trampling on these sacred toes amount to religion-bashing?

To answer the last, let me tell you what rational skepticism is not. It is not anti-religion. We skeptics don’t want to tell people how to manage their souls. However, we do insist that the physical realm needs to be approached through critical study and reason. We maintain that wishful thinking does not translate into reality. The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan is noted for saying, “Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

Whether you, as a devout person, would be offended by this stance depends on your approach to religion and how seriously you consider the consequences of mistaken belief. If you need to hang your faith on fake miracles, you may be overlooking the moral benefits of your religion’s teachings. Maybe your faith can benefit from skepticism on your own part.

Outside of that, skeptics take up these issues partly because they object to the outrageous abuses perpetrated on behalf of the shrines. Confusing belief in miracles for religious faith, the gullible are induced to place reliance on magic above common sense. Tragically, real people with real medical problems every year abandon helpful medications and prosthetics at these sites under the delusion they have been healed.

Maybe a moral compass will be found among the abandoned items as well.

[John Blanton is a member of The North Texas Skeptics (www.ntskeptics.org), an organization devoted to the rational and scientific investigation of paranormal claims. His e-mail address is skeptic75287@yahoo.com.]