Why is the SickKids Foundation Supporting Antivaccinationists?

In yesterday’s post, I pointed out that the notorious antivaccination group AutismOne is sponsoring a conference this October at the University of Toronto. On the agenda, dubious and implausible treatments like homeopathy and various “biochemical” treatments.

What is even more concerning is that the conference is financially supported by the SickKids Foundation, the charitable foundation of the Hospital for Sick Children, Canada’s largest children’s hospital – one of the finest in the world.

Well today I (and many of you) wrote to SickKids to register our concern about the Foundation’s support of an organization that propagates fiction about the supposed links between vaccines and autism (there isn’t one) and tout pseudoscientific, non-science-based treatments. AutismOne, as my pharmacist colleague pointed out in yesterday’s post, has probably done more than any other group to hurt the autism cause, and is jeopardizing the lives of Canadian children through an unfounded, manufactured controversy about the safety of vaccines. Continue reading

The University of Toronto Embraces Autism Quackery

U of T

Well, it seems that quackademic medicine is being embraced by my alma mater, the University of Toronto. Yesterday someone tipped me off to a program hosted by the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and sponsored by the SickKids Foundation of the Hospital for Sick Children.

The program is the AutismOne/Autism Canada Conference, “Changing the Course of Autism In Canada” [PDF], October 31/November 1, 2009.  As detailed by blogger Orac at the Respectful Insolence Blog: Continue reading

World Health Organization Warns Against Use of Homeopathy

In response to an open letter from scientists and researchers, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a unequivocal statement that it does not support the use of homeopathy for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, influenza and infant diarrhea.

Today, the Voice of Young Science Network, part of the group Sense About Science, issued an open letter to health ministries around the world, to highlight the WHO statement and fight the growing use of homeopathy, which is nothing more an elaborate placebo system. Continue reading

Heliocare and Fernblock: Sunscreen in a Pill?

This post is now archived. It was updated in July 2010, based on an article for Science-Based Medicine. It’s also updated here, on this blog.

Polypodium leucotomos

“For the first time you can achieve essential protection from dangerous sun exposure in a pill”

–  LifeExtension advertisement for Fernblock

“Heliocare works to turn back the sun”

– Advertisement for Heliocare

If only it were that easy.Unfortunately, statements like this might make you think that Fernblock and Heliocare are alternatives to sunscreens. But if you put your trust in oral sunscreens, you may end up burned.

Continue reading

Skeptically Speaking Radio Interview This Friday!


I will be on the Skeptically Speaking show this Friday August 14 at 6pm Mountain time (8pm Eastern, or midnight GMT).  Possibly the world’s only skeptical talk show, Skeptically Speaking encourages you to call in, and question everything. It’s an excellent program, and one of several podcasts I subscribe to through iTunes.

We’ll be talking about pseudoscience in the pharmacy, bioidentical hormones, naturopathy, pharmacists that refuse to fill prescriptions for religious/moral reasons, vitamin supplements, and whatever else you want to discuss.

Why not join the discussion? Call in, send a question via Twitter, or post a question here in the comments.

If you’re not in the listening radius of FM 88.5 CJSR in Edmonton, click here to listen live! If you miss the show, we will let you know when the podcast is available.

Is Red Yeast Rice a Good Alternative to Statin Drugs?

In the pharmacy, I’m often asked for “non-drug” solutions to various illnesses. In some cases, a desire to avoid medication can push people to make overdue and important diet or lifestyle changes. But in many cases, consumers simply want to avoid prescription drugs, asking if there’s something they can buy, preferably “natural”, that can help them.

This belief, that “natural” is preferable to anything “synthetic” is actively promoted by the natural health products industry, and it’s referred to by science-based health practitioners as the naturalistic fallacy: Anything that comes from natural sources is believed to be good, helpful, and non-toxic, and anything that is synthesized is therefore artificial, unnatural, and dangerous. It’s an incorrect assumption. Many natural products are toxic (e.g., botulism, strychnine, lead, and arsenic). And many of the drugs we use today are derived from, or based on, products found in nature.  Nature represents a remarkable drug synthesis lab, and there are many commercially-manufactured drugs that are identical to, or based on, natural sources. But being “natural” has no relationship to whether a chemical is safe to humans or effective to treat a specific condition. Natural product advocates almost seem to think that the ideal treatment for any condition is just “out there” in its natural state, as if created specifically for our purposes, and just awaiting our discovery, ready to consume in its natural state. But that isn’t the case.

Consider paclitaxel, for example. It’s a cancer treatment (“chemo”) drug derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree. Once the active chemical in the bark was identified, it was purified, isolated, and subsequently manufactured in a lab. It’s given by an intravenous injection. Science has found an effective drug, avoided having cancer patients consume huge quantities of tree bark, and saved a plant species from possible extinction. (For more information on the naturalistic fallacy and the story of Taxol, check out, “Why we don’t prescribe bark for cancer” over at the Science-Based Medicine Blog.

Among natural products for the treatment of high cholesterol, red yeast rice (RYR) is among the most requested alternatives to prescription statins. And there’s a reason why: it actually works – it lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol! But before we start treating high cholesterol with yeast, let’s dig a bit deeper.

Continue reading