Remission

For the last time, before I get any more stupid comments suggesting some ridiculous quacky cure…

Unless you are a gastroenterologist/immunologist or some expert on Crohn’s, I don’t care what cured your friend when you suggested it to them, I will not use your cure/treatment.

This includes:

  • Squatting
  • Herbs
  • Unproven treatments
  • Cutting out dairy
  • Actually, cutting out anything from my diet

The main reason for this is because I’m on a treatment that is working.

I am in remission.

I like my milk. I like my food. They do not cause me any Crohn’s-y issues.

None. Nada. Zilch. Nothing.

Therefore, cutting them out of my diet would be pointlessly cruel to myself. I don’t need to cut them out, therefore I won’t.

I don’t go round trusting any ol’ person. If I want any serious advice on my Crohn’s or treatments for it, I will go to my doctor. Not the internet.

Kthxbi.

Ambiguity over alternative medicine funding in Wales

On the 1st of December 2010, I sent Freedom of Information Act requests to all seven of the Local Health Boards in Wales;

  • Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
  • Cwm Taf Local Health Board
  • Aneurin Bevan Local Health Board
  • Hywel Dda Local Health Board
  • Powys Teaching Local Health Board
  • Betsi Cadwaladr Local Health Board
  • Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board

I posed these questions to them:

“Does your Health Board fund the use of any complementary or alternative medicine?”

and

“Please provide me with details of which complementary or alternative medicines you fund. How much is spent on them per annum?”

Of these seven health boards, three provided me with concrete information about whether they funded complementary/alternative medicines and if so, how much was spent on them. Aneurin Bevan Local Health Board released detailed information about which CAMs they funded and how much was spent on them. I shall come back to them later.

Two of the health boards, Powys Teaching LHB and Cwm Taf LHB, told me “[This health board] does not fund the use of any complementary or alternative medicines.”

The remaining four health boards were a little more ambiguous with their responses. Repeatedly, I was informed that information about the funding was not held by the health board.

Betsi Cadwaladr LHB responded by saying “Unfortunately we do not hold this information as the Health Board does not fund or provide complementary of alternative medicine.” Hywel Dda LHB were similarly ambiguous in their response – “I regret to inform you that the information you requested is not held by this organisation. The Health Board does not support the prescribing of complementary/alternative medicines.”

On the face, this might seem like a good thing – they’re not funding or don’t support the prescribing of these unproven therapies. However, upon re-reading of these responses, both responses start; the information simply isn’t held by the health boards. Therefore, there could quite easily be funding for CAM therapies that they just don’t know about. I would have liked to have thought that the health boards know exactly what their money is being spent on.

Back to Aneurin Bevan LHB, who provided me with detailed information on which therapies they fund. They did inform me that whilst they do not have formal agreements in place for specific funding of complementary or alternative medicines, GPs “may prescribe any medication under their terms of service that have been approved by the Department of Health. They also told me that it “is not possible to identify all alternative medicines prescribed by GPs due to the way in which the prescribing data is captured.” However, they undertook an analysis of information that they did have. Here is that information:

Nutritional Supplements

Glucosamine preparations – £121,000

Melatonin – £37,000

VSL #3 Probiotic Food Supplement – £4,000

Homeopathic preparations

Abrotanum Oral Drops – £156

“Herbals”

Nytol Herbal Tablets – £121

Kalms Herbal Sedative – £7

St. John’s Wort – £41

In total, £162,325 is being wasted on treatments with little or no evidence base to support their use.

Glucosamine supplements have been studied to no positive avail. A BMJ meta-analysis of 10 trials concluded “Compared with placebo, glucosamine, chondroitin, and their combination do not reduce joint pain or have an impact on narrowing of joint space. Health authorities and health insurers should not cover the costs of these preparations, and new prescriptions to patients who have not received treatment should be discouraged.”

Evidence for St. John’s Wort is ambiguous. The Cochrane Collaboration reviewed the evidence for it and concluded “Overall, the St. John’s wort extracts tested in the trials were superior to placebo, similarly effective as standard antidepressants, and had fewer side effects than standard antidepressants. However, findings were more favourable to St. John’s wort extracts in studies from German-speaking countries where these products have a long tradition and are often prescribed by physicians, while in studies from other countries St. John’s wort extracts seemed less effective.” So there could be a cultural bias leading to more positive results for it.

The final two health boards in Wales are Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board. Both fund complementary and alternative medicines, but neither provided me with details about how much money is spent on them, even after clarification from myself.

Cardiff and Vale UHB provide “limited complementary therapy modalities … for example Acupuncture as part of physiotherapy management to provide pain relief and massage techniques in the mental health service.” However, because this is provided as a package of care as opposed to stand alone therapies and no dedicated funding is provided, they cannot provide me with any details about funding.

Abertawe Bro Morgannwyg UHB informed me that they provide acupuncture and “this is provided within the physiotherapy service. This is part of the whole package of treatment following assessment by the physiotherapists. There are no separate acupuncture clinics and referrals for acupuncture alone are not accepted. Therefore as stated in our original response there is no ‘dedicated funding’ for complementary therapies and therefore we would not hold separate financial information for this.”

To conclude, it appears that the main problem with the health boards is the way in which prescribing data is captured. Aneurin Bevan LHB said it themselves – “It is not possible to identify all alternative medicines prescribed by GPs due to the way in which the prescribing data is captured.” Perhaps there needs to be a new method of capturing prescription data, to ensure that this information doesn’t fall through the cracks as it appears to be doing now.

Consumers in Cardiff stage homeopathic ‘overdose’

Consumer rights activists across Cardiff have today announced their intention to take a mass homeopathic ‘overdose’ next month, as part of a major global protest against the alternative remedies.

Protesters in Cardiff will swallow entire bottles of homeopathic pills on February 5th 2011, in a bid to raise public awareness of the fact that homeopathic ‘remedies’ are ineffective – putting pressure on pharmacists and healthcare providers to ensure that products sold as medical treatments actually work. They will also be demonstrating the homeopathic dilution process.

Dean Burnett, co-founder of Cardiff Skeptics said “Consumer choice is all well and good, but the public deserves to know that what they’re buying isn’t genuine medicine but expensive bits of sugar that have probably come into contact with a trace amount of water that’s been hit with a book”

Jane Goldman added “I wholeheartedly support the 10:23 campaign. People deserve to be given reliable, impartial information with which they can make informed decisions about how they wish to spend their money and tackle illness, and I applaud the commitment of the campaigners to making that information widely available.”

Stephen Fry, who also supports The 10:23 Campaign, said “Homeopathy is wonderful for those who enjoy water. Which I do. Nothing nicer than a glass! Boots selling homeopathic pills is fine, but only if they have a sign saying “Contains no active ingredients” or “Proven to be Pointless””

The demonstration is being organised by Rhys Morgan of Cardiff Skeptics as part of the 10:23 Campaign [1] – a global protest against the homeopathic remedies originating in the United Kingdom. Similar events will be taking place in dozens of countries around the world, with protests announced in Germany, Hungary, Australia and Canada.

Michael Marshall, co-ordinator of the international campaign, said: “We intend to show that there is a growing feeling around the world that enough time and money has been wasted on homeopathic remedies.

In the two hundred years these treatments have existed, there has never been anything to suggest they work – and because they’re nothing but sugar and water, they couldn’t possibly do the things homeopaths claim they can do.

Tens of billions of pounds are spent every year around the world on these ineffective remedies, and when told what they really are, and how they’re made, most people are shocked these useless treatments are still able to be sold to an unsuspecting public”.

The 10:23 Campaign launched a year ago in the UK, with almost 400 protestors taking part in ‘overdose’ events across the country following an admission by Britain’s leading pharmacy that the pills are only sold because consumers will buy them, not because they are effective[2].  The campaign is named after ‘Avogadro’s Number’ [3] – a scientific constant which can be used to show homeopathic potions contain no active ingredients.

Though some would argue dispensing sugar pills may seem harmless, the endorsement of homeopathic potions by pharmacists and healthcare providers has grave consequences.  As well as undermining public trust in medicine and medical advice, patients with serious conditions can avoid seeking medical attention in the belief that homeopathy can treat their condition. An investigation by the BBC in January 2011 revealed that homeopaths were willing to give travellers ineffective homeopathic ‘preparations’ to use in place of real anti-malarial drugs [4], as well as ineffective homeopathic alternatives to vaccinations [5].

The 10:23 Campaign is organising protests in more than twenty three cities across ten counties on February 5th, 2011.

Notes for editors:

[1] The 10:23 Campaign is a network of skeptical groups which aims to raise awareness of the reality of homeopathy – how we know it doesn’t work and why it is important that patients should be given the right information to allow them to make an informed decision about their health.  http://www.1023.org.uk/
[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1230925/Boots-sells-homeopathic-remedies-theyre-popular-work.html
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avogadro_constant
[4] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9341713.stm
[5] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11280578

Local contact: Rhys Morgan / thewelshboyo@gmail.com / +44 7765 429 450
International contact: Michael Marshall / contact@1023.org.uk / +44 7841 134 309

Biology modules

So, I did two of my biology exams today.

B1 exam was fantastic. It even had a question about a drug trial comparing simvastatin, pravastatin and placebo. As I read through it though, I noticed one possible flaw in the study – it was only single blind. Also, a flaw in the question – it was too short and only worth three marks. :(

I think I am going to have to resit my B2 exam though. I focused my revision a bit too much on the B1 syllabus. Also, some of the questions weren’t even similar to past papers. Also, I find that it’s a lot less interesting than B1 or B3.

Well, that was my morning. Next up… chemistry 1 and 2 on Monday!

A Poem about Calcium Carbonate

As promised on Twitter, here is my calcium carbonate poem.

This was not a task for English, but for chemistry instead.
This might prove to some that I am not an airhead! ;)

Tums

Calcium carbonate 500mgs
Plus glucose, fruit flavours and a couple of Es.
Packed into round tablets, they look quite a treat.
Rolled into a tube, all ready to eat.

Calcium supplement if you are deficient,
Antacid if your stomach’s a bit too efficient
at acid production. It can be quite a pain.
Acid reflux, or heartburn can be calmed down again.

The name of the product you should definitely choose
Is Tums. You’ve really got nothing to lose!
Buy them at a pharmacy, a pack of 75.
Without acid reflux, you’ll feel alive!

Constipation and nausea are minor side effects,
But think of the oesophagus that it protects!
Suitable for children aged over six,
Be sure to speak to any relevant medics.

Sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline

(Note: Poem not sponsored by GSK!)

To Judge Judy

To introduce this post, I accused a commenter on the Bleachgate blogpost of being an ‘alternative medicine’ apologist in a private email. They posted this as a comment and emailed me back to say that I was confused about who hadn’t made their mind up about MMS.
This was my response.
I want to post it because I feel it also highlights just why I want to deal with MMS.

To Judge Judy
First, I accused you of being an alternative medicine apologist because you used one of their prime tactics, attacking conventional medicine.
Secondly, you’ve not made up your mind on MMS? Fair enough.
However, consider this: no clinical evidence exists for it, only anecdotes. Also, toxicity studies show that ClO2 (MMS), in doses lower than Jim recommends, is a neurotoxin and a thyroid toxin. These both are worrying. The fact that Jim sells MMS, or at least used to, and now instead makes money from others with his book, DVDs, courses and royalties from other MMS suppliers, then lies and says he makes no money from MMS, is even more worrying, especially since we’re talking about what is supposedly a medicine. A pseudo medicine that is being targeted specifically at those most vulnerable, those with cancer, AIDS and other life threatening, horrible illnesses. Even worse, it’s targeted at those with chronic illnesses, those with the most potential to suffer from the long term damaging effects of it.
All this, without a shred of evidence that it works.
Perhaps now you see my worry and desire to sort this out ASAP?
– Rhys

Rodial Ltd.

Today, I called Rodial Ltd. to ask if they had any scientific evidence for their product, Boob job.

As you may know, Rodial have sued a prominent British plastic surgeon, Dalia Nield, for saying that it’s highly unlikely that the £125-a-bottle cream would increase breast size. You can read more on this here. This is another example of our highly flawed libel laws being used to stifle scientific discourse and debate.

Scientific debates cause us to go and research things to find out exactly what is and isn’t true. Without it, we learn nothing. If people sue simply because someone disagrees with them or highlights the lack of evidence for their claims, we learn nothing.

It is right to question people making claims of any kind – scientific or otherwise.

In the case of Rodial. Ltd, they make claims about increasing breast size without providing a shred of evidence. I know this because as stated earlier, I phoned them up to ask for the evidence. They told me that they had done trials, but were not willing to produce this evidence to me because I was a member of the public. I leave you, the reader, to decide exactly what that suggests.

They also asked for my contact details. I don’t see the reasoning for that once they’d told me that they had no evidence that they were willing to provide me.

As a result of this phone call and my disgust at Rodial’s disregard for the scientific process including verification of evidence and debate and their abuse of our disgusting libel laws, I reported them to Trading Standards for making ‘unverifiable and sensational claims without providing scientific evidence to justify these claims’. We wouldn’t let pharmaceutical companies get away with it, so why let Rodial Ltd?

So, I pose the question to you, dear reader, what are you going to do about Rodial Ltd. and their sensational, unjustifiable claims?

P.S. Carmen has reminded me to add a link to the Libel Reform website!