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12 Quick Guidelines For Uncovering & Exposing Quack Medicine

Posted by Jerry De Luca on Tuesday, August 27, 2013

quackery, health


Too many people are being hoodwinked by modern snake-oil hucksters bent on separating victims from their hard-earned money for all types of sham and “miraculous” cures. Often they prey on people’s fears, desperation, or ignorance.

Why and how is all this deception going on unchecked? Thanks to lobbying and pressure from the multi-billion dollar health supplement industry, The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 states simply that these companies are under no legal obligation to prove the efficacy or safety of their products. FDA drugs are approved after rigorous and exhaustive testing.

JAMA Internal Medicine compiled supplement safety statistics from 2004 to 2012. During this period the FDA recalled 237 dietary supplements because they produced “a reasonable probability” that the product would “cause serious adverse health consequences or death.”

Here are 12 guidelines to help avoid being duped:

1) To give the illusion that the treatment is widely endorsed quack web sites will create numerous “authentic” and “independent” looking web sites and blogs that link back, quote, or refer to the main quack site and treatment. All are frauds. Genuine treatments are written about in reliable medical journals.

2) Quack “doctors” claim to cure what is currently not yet curable by modern medicine. Genuine cures are rare. Real doctors use words like “remission” and “side effects”.

3) Extravagant claims are made for the healing power of vitamins. Some vitamins do help with some diseases, but they don’t offer by themselves a miraculous cure. Taking large doses of vitamins have caused cancer in some people.

4) Quacks claims that their treatment is completely “natural”, therefore better for the patient. Arsenic and cyanide are natural, but deadly. The FDA estimates 50,000 harmful reactions annually to all manner of “natural” vitamin, mineral, and dietary supplements, some requiring hospitalization. Many approved drugs are natural – derived from plants.

5) Hard to believe, but true. Quack after quack claim their treatment cures every illness imaginable. Notice how long the list is. There is no single cure-all.

6) Paranoia and conspiracy theories abound as these quacks claim that doctors, business and the government are trying to cover up their secret miraculous discovery. Charges of malpractice from the FDA are presented as “proof” of the persecution.

7) An endless list of scientific jargon that the public could never know is presented to impress and prove the quack is “in the know”.

8) Unverified testimonials are presented from people claiming to be “cured”. When the FDA requests authentic before and after evidence, quacks refuse and cry persecution.

9) Quacks promote so called “expert” endorsements for their treatments from doctors no one has ever heard of. Search for the expert at pubmed.gov and see if he/she has published articles in their field.

10) Some quacks appeal to a non-profit group to legitimize their product. Use charitynavigator.org to verify the organization.

11) Follow the money. Many quacks have made millions because they sell, at an exorbitant cost, the remedy for the disease. Some hospitals provide a specific charity to fly home victims of medical fraud after they have emptied all their life savings for a “treatment” that failed.

12) Errors and Biases That Lead to False Conclusions
The disease may have run its natural course.
Many diseases are cyclical.
Spontaneous remission.
The placebo effect.
Some allegedly cured symptoms are psychosomatic to begin with.
Symptomatic relief versus cure.
Many consumers of alternative therapies hedge their bets.
Misdiagnosis (by self or by a physician).
Derivative benefits.
Psychological distortion of reality.
For details see "Why Bogus Therapies Seem to Work" in the citations. 


T.E. Holt, “How To Sell A Miracle”, Men’s Health, September 2013 

Assess some of the irrational claims with this clear and concise list of logical fallacies: 

Photo: kentiki (flickr CC)  

Jerry De Luca is a Christian freelance writer who loves perusing dozens of interesting and informative publications. When he finds any useful info he summarizes it, taking the main points, and creates a (hopefully) helpful blog post.

8 comments :

  1. This is great information and something that people should run from. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. There are some natural treatments that are better than medicine and vice versa. Preventative medicine is the key, but sometimes medical treatment is necessary. Use your common sense but don't put all your faith in one or the other. I've been to a lot of 'real' doctors who were also quacks. I think your article is biased.

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    1. Lineup Minton:

      Thanks for your comment. If you find a conventional doctor who is a “quack”, you have a moral obligation to report him to the local governing medical association.

      For practitioners of alternative medicine, it’s the Wild Wild West. They are under no legal obligation to prove the efficacy of anything. All the latest research of the past few years has confirmed the amazing power of the placebo effect. That accounts for all so-called “success”.

      Homeopathy, for example, is like a religious cult. Not only is the active ingredient not there (“the water remembers”), but the invisible ingredient in the homeopathic pill is what caused the disease, not what may cure it. So for example, if you buy a homeopathic sleeping pill, the invisible ingredient is …. wait for it …. caffeine!

      Check out:
      http://www.quackwatch.com/
      http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/
      http://blogs.mcgill.ca/oss/

      Paul A. Offit, M.D. Do you Believe in Magic: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine, Harper Collins, 2013

      Hope this helps, Jerry De Luca

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  3. It is so weird to me that when a natural non-toxic cancer treatment doesn’t work on an individual, everyone rushes to call that treatment worthless and the doctor a quack. Yet, how many people tried toxic chemical (“conventional”) treatments for cancer that caused them immense life-altering consequences and suffering, and often times they died anyway?

    For example, my friend’s mom’s back was broken by radiation; one had a hole burned in his colon from radiation; one has to sleep at a 45 degree angle for the rest of his life because of a cancer surgery; my own dad used to have his throat close up so he couldn’t drink even a drop of water because of a cancer surgery and I later watched him wilt away and die despite surgery, chemo, and radiation; 2 of my other friends’ moms just died despite of chemo and radiation, etc. etc. And these are just the people I know. I’m sure if I polled, say, my coworkers, they would all have similar stories. What would the numbers be for stories like these? Much, MUCH higher than the ones you list for non-toxic treatments. But I guess no one's keeping track, so I should just chalk my stories up to being "anecdotal evidence," right?

    If these deaths and immense suffering were all caused by natural non-toxic treatments, everyone would be in a complete uproar and the doctors would probably be in jail. But we accept these stories as par for the course when they are a result of conventional chemical treatment. WHY? I honestly want to know why. When non-toxic treatments do fail, at least people don’t end with broken backs and holes in their organs. They also don’t end up having contributed tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to the worthless pharmaceutical industry that is getting away with doing this to us. These corporations are all publicly traded, so their goal is for shareholders to profit. Does it occur to anyone that healing disease is a complete conflict of interest when their goal is to sell drugs indefinitely? Why on earth would a successful corporation want to cure diseases so they can sell LESS or NONE of their products? Think about it. Please.

    Non-toxic treatments simply attempt to allow people’s body to heal itself, rather than flooding it with more poison. But pharmaceutical companies can’t patent natural molecules; they can only patent chemicals. Pharmaceutical companies obviously do not approach the FDA trying to get natural treatments approved, which is why they remain “unproven” by the FDA. You have to have billions of dollars to even get to that stage. Yet that's our standard for assessing the treatment's worth? And how many times do we see deaths & lawsuits for the drugs that ARE approved? It’s a complete JOKE. I just told my friend about a non-toxic method, and his dad went for it and his tumor shrunk to 2/3 its size in 3 weeks, and his doctor is “baffled.” Now THESE are the kinds of stories I'd much prefer to tell, "anecdotal" or not.

    I hope at least one person reads this comment & looks into non-toxic treatments instead of just believing what the media & their doctor tells them. The doctors' hearts are in the right place, but they are only taught conventional treatments that make big pharma money & have absolutely no training otherwise. Our med schools & journals are funded by big pharma. 25% of commercials on the news are for their drugs. Will a station say something to go against the people that give them a quarter of all their money? Please, think hard about it. We are not winning the war on cancer or disease with these people in control. We are losing it, & at a terrible cost. Are the people you know who take medications healthy? Or are they sickly?

    If you’re going to read “Do You Believe in Magic,” please read “Cancer: Step Outside the Box” too to hear from both sides, for your own sake. Peace & good health to Jerry & everyone reading this.

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    1. Share the Awareness:

      The sufferings of your family are tragic and painful and shared by others. However, it is a fallacy of logic that these examples should give credibility and legitimacy to alternative medicine. Yes, there are failures and problems within conventional medicine, but multiply them 100 times for alternative medicine.

      Illness is real. Suffering is real. Death is real. Because conventional medicine can’t cure everyone doesn’t mean it isn’t the best option, and doesn’t somehow irrationally support alternative medicine by the mere process of elimination. For many years, Tim Farley of Atlanta has been compiling the horrific and tragic consequences of choosing alternative medicine. Spend some time going over the case histories:

      http://whatstheharm.net/
      http://twitter.com/WhatsTheHarm

      Note: Some of the links are broken, but about 95% work. Also, in some sites you are directed to the home page, just enter the victim’s name in the Search field.

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  4. (from Dr. Lim) I agree with Lineup Minton that this article is biased. If you're Christian, why are you of all people trying to persecute alternative medicine? I watched that video you posted on "Homeopathy exposed" and I get it, you're trying to show that it's a scam and/or the placebo effect is what makes people feel better...

    But if it works, it works. Individuals should have the freedom to choose their method of treatment and I think more people need to be exposed to what else is out there before making up their minds. If voodoo works for someone in alleviating their arthritis, who's to say it's BS? I'm not saying it's for everyone (hell, I'd never do voodoo), but who's to say it doesn't work? After all, health and wellness is truly subjective at the end of the day. I appreciate your good intentions on trying to inform people, but I think you're going about it all wrong. We need to focus on restructuring the current health model. After all, health is a complex matter involving mental, chemical, structural, and emotional factors and as soon we can understand that only then can we move forward with not just health, but wellness.

    Their is no "one treatment fits all" and I think both alternative docs as well as medical docs are both guilty of that. Sadly, more people die from prescription drugs everyday and it's a shame that the medical field is only trained in matching symptoms with drugs. I think there needs to be more alternative ways of treatment rather than getting prescribed drug A for my blood pressure, drug B to reduce the pain from the side effect of drug A, and drug C to help me go to sleep since drug B gets me cracked out, etc. The point is, it's always good to have options. Let the people choose. Don't be so quick to attack one type of treatment just because you think it's "quackery". Miracles happen every day. You do believe in miracles, right? Sometimes it's just blind faith that "cures" people.

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  5. Dr. Lim:

    Thanks for your thoughtful letter. 6 brief points:

    1) The Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine (Second Edition) is very fair in crediting the few alternative medicine treatments that have been proven to work. On this subject:

    “Homeopathic medicine is popular. However, it lacks good studies to prove its effectiveness. Studies that have been done have generally been small and have produced conflicting results. In general, the scientific community also finds the theories on which homeopathic medicine is based questionable and difficult to accept. These factors have kept it from being widely accepted into mainstream medicine.

    “Because homeopathic medicine mainly involves diluted substances containing little, if any, of their original formulas, the risk they pose is likely minimal. The risks you may be taking are spending money on something that may not work and forgoing proven conventional treatments for homeopathic therapies.”

    2) People should be given all the facts so they can make an informed decision. No one is preventing them from using homeopathy, but most people are unaware of the basic facts – mainly – there is nothing there! Many propagators of homeopathy claim that scientific evidence backs up their claims. Just the opposite is true. Test after test has proved it doesn’t work. It is an insult to basic human dignity to be lied to for profit. Just tell the truth and let the consumer decide.

    3) Regarding your statement: “If you're Christian, why are you of all people trying to persecute alternative medicine?” The answer is that being a Christian means having a solid commitment to truth and exposing lies. Alternative medicine’s practitioners and users follow a New Age, “natural”, mystical, philosophical and religious world view. When solid evidence is presented that a treatment or pill is no better than a placebo, they insist the science is wrong, because their religious views cannot be. When irrefutable evidence is presented, advocates claim persecution and fabricate conspiracy theories.

    The Journal of the American Medical Association did an exhaustive study on people’s motivation for using alternative medicine. The overwhelming majority did so because “they find these health-care alternatives to be more congruent with their own values, beliefs and philosophical orientations toward health and life.”

    4) Skeptics have publicly consumed large amounts of homeopathic pills without any effect. For example, some have consumed several entire bottles of homeopathic sleeping pills in one shot and have not exuded even a yawn!

    5) The placebo effect has been proven over and over to be surprisingly powerful. It is unethical to lie to patients and consumers knowing that the all-powerful placebo effect will hood-wink a large percentage of them into believing the product worked. If the practitioner is honest, they should tell their patients up front that all the scientific evidence disproves homeopathy, and let the patient decide. None do.

    6) There are problems with conventional medicine and Big Pharma – they are no secret and well documented – but that doesn’t prove the efficacy of alternative medicine. In my site I have clearly exposed some of the problems:

    Caffeine, Aspirin and Red Wine: Science’s Contradictory Claims http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2013/03/caffeine-aspirin-and-red-wine-sciences.html

    7 Medical News Guidelines http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2012/08/7medical-news-guidelines-weve-allheard.html

    Overdose: Shocking Numbers from a Popular Pill http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2012/09/overdose-shocking-numbers-from-popular.html

    Make Sure You Really Need That CT Scan http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2012/06/make-sure-you-really-need-that-ctscan.html

    7 Lifesaving Hospital Precautions http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2012/07/7-critical-precautions-to-make-sureyour.html

    Hope this helps, Jerry

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    1. Recent article on Big Pharma:
      http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2013/09/big-problems-with-big-pharma-and-remedy.html

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