A New Science Forum

November 25, 2019 at 11:41 pm (Activism, Alternative Medicine, Anti-Vaccination, Bad Science, Evidence, Good Science, Homeopathy, Vaccines) (, , , , , , , )

Excitingly, a new science forum Scrutable is here.

There’s a SCEINCE forum (officially known as the Nerd Lab) for discussion of, well, science – click here for breathless discussions of the latest research or to share your horror at the latest pronouncements from anti-vaccine commentators.

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There’s a second serious forum for Heavy Shit (AKA Weighty Matters) which contains serious topics for serious people. Click here if you’re seriously interested in such serious discussions. Srsly.

Discussion Forum, Politics, Environment, News, Business







You are also permitted to have fun, but only in the designated zones. No puns.

Oh, and one last thing: you might want to read the rules and abide by them.

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WHO TCM Strategy

February 27, 2014 at 2:27 am (Alternative Medicine) (, , )

The World Health Organisation has published this document: PDF. It’s their traditional medicine strategy for 2014-23. Here’s just one of the things that raised an eyebrow or two: Read the rest of this entry »

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An Aspirin Article From WDDTY

January 16, 2014 at 12:25 am (Alternative Medicine) (, )

Here is an online news story from What Doctors Don’t Tell You… and here [PDF] is their source. I’ve previously written about WDDTY’s reporting of a paper by DeStefano et al. This isn’t quite as bad, but there are a couple of mistakes in what is a very short article. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is WDDTY Magazine Anti-Fluoride?

October 15, 2013 at 12:28 am (Alternative Medicine) (, , , )

Well, on the basis of this report on their website it would seem so. They do seem to focus on the negative aspects… Read the rest of this entry »

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What Doctor’s Don’t Tell You and the HPV Vaccine

October 4, 2012 at 3:39 pm (Alternative Medicine, Anti-Vaccination) (, , , , , , , )

The magazine What Doctor’s Don’t Tell You (WDDTY), who have apparently threatened Simon Singh with legal action, are at the centre of a row over the content of their magazine and its appearance on the shelves of several major retailers. Blogger JQH gave his views on the magazine’s content here and Andy Lewis of the Quackometer blog asked the question should WHSmith stock the magazine. (Josephine Jones has now gathered a list of blogs covering the complaints and legal threat here.) I decided to take a look at the WDDTY article on the HPV vaccine. I was not impressed.

Warning: some of the quotes in this blog post may contain misinformation. Please carefully evaluate what you read.

On page 29, the article by Lynne McTaggart claims that the vaccine is “a dubious, untested, ineffective and highly dangerous solution” to the problem of cervical cancer.

A CDC page describes a number of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies of Gardasil. It seems to me that to describe the vaccine, without any qualifiers, as “untested” is misleading.You can find further studies of Gardasil on Pubmed, including systematic reviews. Like this one, for example. The article later claims, in large text, that “Gardasil was never tested in young teenaged women”. This is number 10 in a list of 14 ‘facts’. Here is the full text of a paper that looked at HPV vaccination in young people. They didn’t use the same outcomes as the previous trials referred to but they did test the immunogenicity and safety of the vaccine in over 500 girls aged 10-15. It’s worth noting that none of the serious adverse events suffered by participants was linked to the vaccine. Gardasil may not have been tested in the manner that McTaggart would like it to have been, but it most certainly is not “untested”.

The CDC’s section on efficacy describes the vaccine as having “a high efficacy for prevention of vaccine HPV type HPV 6-, 11-, 16-, and 18-related persistent infection, vaccine type-related CIN, CIN 2/3, and external genital lesions (genital warts, VIN and VaIN)” in participants receiving three doses of the vaccine who had no protocol violations and had not previously been infected with HPV. It seems that Gardasil does in fact do what it is claimed to do – prevent HPV infection and the abnormal growth of squamous cells on the surface of the cervix. In this, it is effective.

McTaggart uses VAERS data to support her suggestion that the vaccine is dangerous. Sorry, “highly dangerous”. Here’s what the VAERS website says about interpreting data:

When evaluating data from VAERS, it is important to note that for any reported event, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established. Reports of all possible associations between vaccines and adverse events (possible side effects) are filed in VAERS. Therefore, VAERS collects data on any adverse event following vaccination, be it coincidental or truly caused by a vaccine. The report of an adverse event to VAERS is not documentation that a vaccine caused the event.

McTaggart also refers to deaths in India. As Andy Lewis points out, these deaths included a drowning, a snake bite and the effects of malaria. Using deaths that are clearly unrelated to the vaccine in order to spread fear about Gardasil is, well, an interesting way to make your case.

I think the kindest way to interpret McTaggart’s use of VAERS data and the deaths in India involves assuming that she was unaware of both the nature of the information in the VAERS database and the fact that many of the deaths reported following administration of the vaccine have actually been clearly and unambiguously unrelated to the vaccine. I know of no deaths that have been attributed to the vaccine after investigation.

If people’s decisions on healthcare are being influenced by magazines such as WDDTY, then these magazines have a duty to be very, very careful not to inadvertently mislead anybody on topics such as HPV vaccination. I think they need to be rather more careful than they currently are.


I’ve just typed around 600 words arguing against a fragment of a sentence. There is so much wrong with the HPV article and the magazine as a whole that to address it all would take an age. Here are just a few further (brief) comments on some of the problems with WDDTY.

In the HPV article, there is a boxout on page 30 that is headed “first invent the problem”. Lynne McTaggart might not think that cervical cancer is the most serious or the most common problem women face, but it’s certainly not been invented by the vaccine manufacturers. Hundreds of women die each year in the UK from cervical cancer. In the US, there are thousands of deaths.

On page 35, McTaggart points out that HPV expert Dr Diane Harper has distanced herself from Merck’s marketing tactics. She fails to mention Harper’s views on the vaccine itself. Fortunately, Ben Goldacre did, in 2009. “I fully support the HPV vaccines,” she says. “I believe that in general they are safe in most women. I told the Express all of this.”

I’ve only looked at the HPV article, but I think it would be a mistake to assume that the rest of the magazine is any better. JQH points out that the research on vitamin D that is discussed is not as clear-cut as WDDTY would have you believe. He also points out that there is a recommendation in one article to take Ginkgo Biloba, but no mention is made of potential side-effects of this remedy.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Homeopathy-Supporting Hunt as Health Secretary: Cabinet Reshuffle Shows Cameron’s Choices As Bad As Ever

September 4, 2012 at 4:55 pm (Alternative Medicine, Evidence, government, Homeopathy, Politics) (, , , , , , , )

In 2010, I wrote of my surprise on discovering that Nadine Dorries and David Tredinnick had been appointed to the Select Committee on Health. Cameron seems to have gone one better with his cabinet reshuffle, appointing Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary. Read the rest of this entry »

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The British Chiropractic Association: experts in cherry-picking

June 8, 2012 at 9:27 pm (Chiropractic) (, , )

The British Chiropractic Association have an article on their website that contains a rather interesting comment regarding this BMJ article. While the BCA are happy to refer to “one report of 24 cases” and “one UK study” to support two of the various claims they make during the piece, they finish the article by complaining about the BMJ article: Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Write About Alternative Medicine? Part Three: Risks

February 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm (Alternative Medicine, Miscellaneous) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Another reason to write about alternative medicine: risk. Alternative therapies have associated risks that practitioners may not inform patients about. In part one of this series (here), I linked to research that found media coverage of alternative medicine to be positive (in some cases overwhelmingly so) and to lack discussion of the risks, benefits, and costs.

Given the reluctance of practitioners and journalists to tell people about the risks of CAM, I think it is worth taking some time to blog about them.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Write About Alternative Medicine? Part Two: Entertainment

January 27, 2012 at 5:35 pm (Alternative Medicine, Homeopathy, Kadir Buxton Method, Miscellaneous) (, , , , , , , , )

Part one of this series of posts was a po-faced commentary on the uncritical promotion of alternative medicine in the mainstream media. I pointed out the poor reporting of non-mainstream therapies, the inaccuracy and the incompleteness of press articles. I argued that this was a worthy reason for blogging about alternative medicine.

Another reason is that of entertainment. Proponents of alternative medicine might be wrong, but some of their ideas are fascinating. And, occasionally, hilarious. Read the rest of this entry »

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An A-Z of Alternative Medicine

January 22, 2012 at 6:14 pm (Alternative Medicine) (, , , , , , , )

An incomplete list of alternative therapies, and comment on some of the benefits and risks. Read the rest of this entry »

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