Today’s post is a guest contribution from a Canadian pharmacist who is writing under the pseudonym Sara Russell:
Every morning I open up Facebook and expect to see the usual sharing of my friends’ latest adventures in pseudoscience, but it wasn’t until this morning that I felt compelled to write about something. A friend had posted this video asking for feedback. Continue reading ‘Mozi-Q – “Insect repellent you eat”. But does it work?’
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Tags: health canada, homeopathy, insect repellents, mozi-q, natural health products directorate
Summer feels like it’s finally here in Canada (well, Toronto at least). Here’s what I’ve been reading. Continue reading ‘Weekend Reading’
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Tags: drug safety, GMOs, supplements, vaccines, vitamins
If you grew up in the seventies, you may remember the same food fads as I do. There was the oat bran buzz that was replaced by the wheat germ movement, the family fondue set and the homemade yogurt maker. And for a while I remember my father making what I called “aquarium water” – a foul-looking jug sitting on the kitchen counter with a gelatinous white mass floating on top. Despite the assurances it was good for me, I declined the taste tests. They didn’t push it and I never volunteered to drink this “cure all”. I thought kombucha had gone the way of gelatin-based salads and entrees, until a friend told me she was drinking it. Not only is it still a home-brew darling, kombucha isn’t just for hippies: There’s probably some for sale at your local organic grocery. Yet after a bit of digging, kombucha culture still seems mired in the 1970′s. It’s still touted as a panacea, and it’s still one of the more questionable folk remedies out there. Continue reading ‘Kombucha: A symbiotic mix of yeast, bacteria and the naturalistic fallacy’
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Tags: adverse events, kombucha, nutrition fads
The photo above is from a pharmacy in Toronto. Acid base nonsense? Check? Cancer quackery? Check. Endorsed by a pharmacist? Check. Send me your own pictures of ludicrous pseudoscience and quackery for sale in a pharmacy, and I may feature it in a future post.
Here’s today’s updates to engage, inspire and possibly infuriate you… Continue reading ‘Weekend Reading’
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Tags: andrew wakefield, antibiotic resistance, black salve, coconut oil, conspiracy theories, crystal meth, dr. oz, evening primrose oil, GMOs, homeopathy, pharmacy practice, vaccines
The risks we face in our lives have been utterly transformed by vaccines. With the exception of clean water, no other health intervention has been as effective: More than 20 million lives in the past 25 years have been saved. Our parents and grandparents faced the risk of illness and death from diseases like smallpox, diptheria, and polio as a fact of life. Mass vaccination completely eradicated smallpox, which had been killing one in seven children. Polio is next. Public health campaigns have also eliminated diptheria, and reduced the incidence of pertussis, tetanus, measles, rubella and mumps dramatically. More than 100 million infants are now immunized against the most common preventable childhood illnesses each year, saving more than 2.5 million young lives each year.
Yet as long as there have been vaccines, there has been those that oppose them. I’ve spent quite a bit of time outlining the tactics and tropes of the antivaccine movement as well as considering ways in which health professionals and science advocates can improve the way they respond to antivaccinationism. And this battle continues, after over 100 years of immunization, and over two dozen diseases becoming vaccine-preventable.
Debating antivaccinationists can be dispiriting, especially if you’re a health professional. Getting personal insults in your email regularly isn’t encouraging. Your peers may not share your understanding of the issue, and your passion for it. Personally, I see vaccine advocacy as part of public health advocacy, and part of my responsibility as a health professional, a science advocate and a parent. I’ve spent a lot of time along with my fellow bloggers at Skeptic North and Science-Based Medicine discussing the tactics of the antivaccine movement, and helping to educate and motivate. There is evidence that antivaccinationists can influence vaccination decisions. There are four main tactics that they use:
- Skewering the science of vaccine safety and efficacy, while trying to create legitimacy for unfounded or discredited theories of harm.
- Shifting the hypotheses and the villain, from MMR, to thimerosal, to other “toxins”, and more recently, “too many, too soon”.
- Censoring criticism, whether it’s at Age of Autism, Mothering.com, or other antivaccine sites that delete comments or restrict access to their events.
- Attacking the opposition – whoever is an advocate.
How do antivaccinationists attack? Viciously. Imagine you’re the parents of a child that died of a vaccine-preventable disease. And you’ve used this tragedy to publicly advocate for improved vaccination programs, which could have prevented the death of your child. What do you think the response would be? If you’re Toni and David McCaffery, parents of of Dana McCaffrey, this isn’t a thought exercise – it’s exactly what happened. Dana died at four weeks old of pertussis (whooping cough). The reaction from antivaccinationists? Heinous: Continue reading ‘Why the fight against antivaccinationists is important’
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Tags: antivaccinationism, Australian Vaccination Network, AVN, public health, stopAVN, vaccines
Vitamins are magic. Especially when they’re injected. Roll up the sleeve, find a vein, insert a needle and watch that colourful concoction flow directly into the bloodstream. It may sound somewhat illicit, but that person infusing it is wearing a white coat, and you’re sitting in a chic clinic. There must be something to it, right? Intravenous vitamin injections are popular with celebrities and have even been described by Dr. Oz as “cutting edge”. Advocates claim vitamin injections can benefit serious conditions like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration, fibromyalgia, depression, and that modern-day obsession, “detoxification”. And vitamin infusions aren’t just for the ill. They’re also touted as helpful for preventing illness, too. A search for vitamin injections brings up millions of hits and dozens of advertisements. There is no question that vitamin injections are popular. But despite all the hype and all the endorsements, there is no credible evidence to suggest that routine vitamin infusions are necessary or offer any meaningful health benefit. Vitamin infusions are a marketing creation, giving the illusion you’re doing something for your health, but lacking any demonstrable efficacy. What’s more concerning, providers of vitamin therapies target their marketing at those fighting life-threatening illnesses like cancer, selling unproven treatments in the absence of good scientific evidence that they are beneficial.
The intravenous vitamin industry is a sideshow to science-based health care. Yes, there is an established medical role for injectable vitamins, though it’s no energy-boosting cure-all – they’re used to replace what we should obtain in our diet. As a hospital-based pharmacist I used to prepare sterile bags of total parenteral nutrition (TPN), a mixture of vitamins, carbohydrate, protein and fat that completely replaced the requirement to eat. TPN is effective, but not without risks, and far less preferable than getting your nutrients the old fashioned way – by eating them. There’s also the routine use of injectable vitamins like B12, or iron, all of which can be science-based when used to address true deficiencies, or to manage specific drug toxicities. IV vitamins (particularly thiamine) are also used in the emergency room, given to alcohol-dependent patients in order to prevent Wernicke’s encephalopathy. And there is the therapeutic use of high-dose minerals like intravenous magnesium for acute asthma attacks. But there is no medical justification to infuse vitamins into a vein when you can more appropriately obtain those nutrients in your diet.
Continue reading ‘Intravenous vitamin injections: Where’s the evidence?’
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Tags: alternative medicine, cam, Myers' Cocktail, naturopathy, vitamin c, vitamins
It’s the May Long Weekend – in Canada at least. The flower above is the Trillium, commonly seen in cottage country at this time of year. Here’s some links, articles, and podcasts I enjoyed this week: Continue reading ‘Weekend Reading’
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Tags: GMOs, homeopathy