New warning labels for junk alt-med vaccines

The alt-med crowd is notoriously anti-vaccine despite the high level of safety of vaccines – even despite how many lives vaccines save every year. Real medicine being so effective against what were once devastating, wide-spread diseases just doesn’t fit the alt-med narrative. Yet does that stop them from peddling their own ‘vaccines’? Of course not. And would you believe it? Their vaccines aren’t even effective:

Health Canada is cracking down on the sale of so-called homeopathic vaccines that are falsely promoted by some naturopaths and homeopaths as safer and more effective than traditional vaccines.

The department has altered the document that outlines how homeopathic vaccines should be used, saying they must now contain the following warning: “This product is not intended to be an alternative to vaccination.” The document, called a product monograph, was updated June 24, one month after The Globe and Mail published a story outlining the concerns with homeopathic vaccines.

“We’re very glad … they’ve taken this step,” said Jamie Williams, executive director of Bad Science Watch, a Canadian advocacy organization that led a campaign against homeopathic vaccines. “We feel that it will be a help to consumers who might not have been getting the full information to make a more informed health choice before this.”

But what’s in these so-called vaccines, you ask? Well, ultimately nothing. But they made sure to take a gross path to that nothing:

Homeopathic vaccines, also known as nosodes, are made from infected saliva, feces or other material. The substance is mixed with alcohol and diluted until it is harmless, according to the homeopathic and naturopathic practitioners who sell the products. They say nosodes produce an immune response and that research shows it protects as well, if not better, than traditional vaccines.

In other words, they disinfect some feces or spit before essentially filtering it back to water. Anyone looking to imbibe this malarkey would be better off spitting into their Brita water filter and drinking the purified water that comes out. At least then they would have a water filter in addition to having wasted their time. And as for what research shows? It’s a lie. People who promote this sort of quackery cite poorly done studies with a tiny number of participants; the studies are never replicated and they never appear in any journal with any dignity. It’s all agenda-driven drivel that, in the end, makes the homeopath a butt-load of undue money. Take this advice from Jamie Williams, executive director of Bad Science Watch:

“Do not listen to somebody in a health store who’s trying to sell you $30 worth of sugar pills,” he said.

Christopher Maloney wants to appear on FTSOS

That’s the only reasonable conclusion. After all, I have explicitly told him if shuts up, slinks away, only hurts people in silence, then I won’t be forced to post about him. But not only can he not do any of these things, he has to even make sure he directly references me.

Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor said…
Dear Wendy Pollack,

Terribly sorry to see that you’ve been Pharyngulaed by the esteemed PZ Myers (made himself famous by destroying the Catholic host) and his zombie horde.

Having had them attack me, I can say with complete sincerity that they haven’t an open mind among them.

One local follower had the gall to compare his own sightseeing tour of Tanzania with your humanitarian work, as if he contributed anything to anyone while he was there.

Keep up the great work!

At least he used the qualifier “naturopathic” so as not to fool anyone into thinking he was actually useful for doing anything medically meaningful.

But let’s get to the bulk of the post. Maloney is writing to Wendy Pollack, a quack who is bringing woo to Tanzania. As with most woo artists, she wants to hide from criticism. Maloney did the same thing by sending PZ a cease and desist notice. (That notice becomes all the more hilarious given that Maloney is the one that keeps talking about PZ; the quack brings it on himself.) It isn’t surprising that one outed quack would feel bad for a fellow outed quack. And at this point, I can’t say the continued lying is surprising either. Notice where Maloney says the local follower (that’s me!) compared Pollack’s “humanitarian” efforts to sightseeing. Here is what I actually said:

The area [Pollack] will specifically be visiting is the Kilimanjaro region. I’ve been all through it. It’s composed of rampant poverty. The medical “facilities” consist of small shacks of basic medicine, most of which can be found in the first half of aisle 14 at your local Rite-Aid. I made sure to purchase evacuation insurance before departing because I wasn’t about to find my way into a Tanzanian hospital if anything happened; I never needed it, but seeing that part of the country only confirmed that I had made a good purchase.

I didn’t compare Pollack’s “humanitarian” efforts to the sightseeing I did. The amazing group and amazing guides and amazing porters I had were far too good for me to compare to trash like her.

No, the point is obvious: Tanzania is desperately poor and desperately needs medical help. Real medical help. I doubt Pollack has any idea just how bad it is there. Hell, until I live in squalor and abject poverty and see members of my family die at age 50, there is no way I can really grasp the situation. But to tease the Tanzanian people with woo? To taunt them with pure fucking quackery? I fully grasp what an awful, awful person it takes to do something like that.

Anyway. Let me say it again because honestly – honestly, honestly – I hate making these posts: If Maloney ever wants to regain his web presence so that he may once again better give people fake medicine, he has to stop practically contacting me. Don’t give me a reason to post.

Update: I almost forgot. PZ’s fame comes from his flowing beard, not the cracker incident.

Wendy Pollack the liar

I wrote about a quack by the name of Wendy Pollack almost two weeks ago. She has gone over to Tanzania in order to tell people with serious illnesses lies about the efficacy of homeopathic ‘medicine’. She is going to do no good.

But I wasn’t the only one who mentioned this quack. PZ made a post about her first. This resulted in a number of people going to her website and leaving comments. To my surprise, at least on one of her posts, many of the Pharyngulites were generally, dare I say…respectful. (Or at least as respectful as those of us on the side of science can be when faced with blatant anti-science nonsense.) Most granted that Pollack had good intentions – and I’m positive she does – but they all lamented the fact that she wasn’t going to help anyone. If anything, her presence will cause harm because people will believe they’ve actually been helped; good feelings are nice, but they’ve never cured HIV. One person even offered directions on how to contribute to people using real medicine. (Go here for a version of that post.)

But Pollack is a quack. And as any regular FTSOS reader knows all too well, alt-med quacks aren’t especially interested in open discussion. Take a look at the comment section of one of Pollack’s posts. Currently there are 4 comments. There used to be at least 20. The quack went through and deleted every bit of criticism (including the directions on how to make worthwhile contributions). Anything pro-malarkey, however, was left. Take a look at this post:

Gail said…
The human body and spirit has a remarkable ability to heal itself.Homeopathic meds facilitate this. I have first hand experience of being cured twice from conditions that conventional meds could not cure. In one I suffered for over 20 years & it was cured in days.As for the naysayers on this blog,don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

February 8, 2011 6:59 AM

Strange how someone would mention “naysayers” on a blog that doesn’t feature an ounce of criticism, no?

But maybe that isn’t good enough. After all, this is just based upon what I’m claiming to remember combined with some circumstantial evidence from a random person on the Internet. I could just be making it up, really. And I would agree with you. I need better evidence than just my word and plausibility. I need something like Google cache.

Gabe Ortiz said…
If you would research homeopathy with a truly open mind, you would understand that it does not work. A homeopath nearly killed my sister by treating her with ineffective, useless fake medicine when she needed real medical attention. This is exactly what you will be doing to these poor people. Your misguided intent WILL kill people, and you will have to live with that for the rest of your life. Please, reconsider.

February 2, 2011 9:00 AM

and

laura said…
I know you believe in what you do,but there is no evidence that homeopathy works.

One day,you will realise this,and you conscience will weigh very heavily on you. i feel sorry for you,i would not like to look back on my life and see how much harm i had caused others by my unsubstantiated beliefs …sad

February 2, 2011 2:14 PM

and

Just zis Guy, you know? said…
Hey, homeopaths for health! So, are you pooling your takings from peddling psychotherapy to the credulous and sending some doctors down there? Oh, no, wait, you’re going on a jolly and handing out sugar pills to sick people. Well that’s a bit of a bummer for them, still, I am sure you will show real empathy when they die of medically preventable (but homeopathically unpreventable) diseases like cholera, typhoid and malaria.

February 2, 2011 3:49 PM

Do your own Google search to find the cached pages and compare them to Pollack’s scrubbed versions. It’s almost fun to see how poorly these types of people react when challenged.

But I guess I’m not surprised that a quack would try and destroy the criticism on her site. I’m just frightened to know the other facts she’s going to try and hide while she’s “treating” people over in Tanzania.

If evolution worked like homeopathy

via xkcd

Homeopathic fertility treatment

Via NewEnglandBob via xkcd.

Major blow for homeopathic ‘medicine’

Doctors in the UK have called for a ban on homeopathic medicine, the cessation of the NHS paying for it, and they have demanded that over-the-counter homeopathic medicine be labelled as having no proven worth.

Dr Tom Dolphin, from the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said that he had previously described homeopathy as witchcraft but now wanted to apologise to witches for making the link.

“Homeopathy is not witchcraft, it is nonsense on stilts,” he said.

“It is pernicious nonsense that feeds into a rising wave of irrationality which threatens to overwhelm the hard-won gains of the Enlightenment and the scientific method.

“We risk, as a society, slipping back into a state of magical thinking when made-up science passes for rational discourse and wishing for something to be true passes for proof.”

I love the unapologetic tone.

Dilbert

Thank you for this, Dilbert.

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