Neuragen for Nerve Pain

Today’s post is from SBP contributor Avicenna. Here’s his bio and his prior posts.

An estimated 2 to 3% of the developed world  –  roughly 1 million Canadians and 10 million Americans  –  suffer from a debilitating form of chronic pain, called neuropathic pain (NP) or neuralgia.(1,2) What’s worse is that these numbers are expected to rise because of an aging population and the subsequent increase in diabetes and shingles, two common diseases associated with NP.(3,4) More simply called nerve pain, NP is quite a challenging medical condition to treat since current treatment options provide only modest relief, and usually with problematic side effects.

I’ve recently had a few patients asking me about a new over-the-counter treatment for NP. The product is called Neuragen which is a homeopathic mixture in a solution of five essential oil extracts.(5,6) Neuragen comes in either a “concentrated” dropper-bottle (5 mL or 15 mL ) or an 8 gram gel jar.  Canada-based Origin Biomed, Neuragen’s manufacturer, boasts of impressive pain relief with Neuragen, including “Effective for up to 8 Hours”, “Effective for more than 80% of sufferers”, and “Highly effective for 63% of sufferers”.  Before looking at the evidence for Neuragen, let’s look at what we’re trying to treat: a condition called neuropathic pain. Continue reading

Guess The Fake

]I want to highlight a popular new recurring post over at Skeptic North: Health Canada Approves. Each week, Erik Davis describes two remedies:  An actual product reviewed and approved by Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate, and one that is completely made up. Based on his description (no googling!), can you identify which product is approved as “safe and effective”? The results are posted one week later, and Erik reviews the evidence that exists for the approved product. Given these products are found on pharmacy shelves, see if you can guess which is the “real” remedy.

SkeptiCamp: Coming to a Canadian City Near You

Are you baffled by the popularity of pseudoscience? Are you interested in critical thinking and science? On October 23, 2010 four SkeptiCamps will take place across Canada. If you enjoy reading this blog, you’ll undoubtably enjoy SkeptiCamp.

Happily, SkeptiCamp involves no actual camping. It’s a flexibly organized, collaborative conference on science and critical thinking. SkeptiCamp is not your typical conference with high fees, long talks and little interaction with speakers. It differs in three key ways:

  1. Openness – anyone with something to contribute or a desire to learn is welcome and invited to participate. Topics are chosen not by the organizers, but rather by their presenters.
  2. Participation – because admission is free, everyone is asked to contribute in some way, either by giving a talk or helping to put the event together. At the very least, attendees are asked to interact with speakers and other attendees.
  3. Collaboration – The organizing efforts are distributed amongst many, including the participants.

There are four SkeptiCamps on October 23: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Toronto.

I’ll be speaking at the Toronto event on a topic that I’m sure will be of no surprise to the readers of this blog: Natural health product regulation. Other talks will include:

  • Cognitive Underpinnings of Sympathetic Magic
  • How to make sense of medical literature / levels of evidence / Clinical trials
  • Naturopath
  • Libel laws, Skepticism, and the internet: A Primer
  • Conspiracy theories
  • Philosophy of Science and Pseudoscience (or Why Skeptics Should Stop Talking about Falsifiability)
  • Can we overcome the irrational pitfalls of human psychology?
  • Politics, Policy, and Skeptical Activism
  • Critical Thinking in High Schools

For the full Toronto agenda, you can get more information here, RSVP here, follow on Twitter, or join the Facebook group. The final details are still being worked out but the program will probably run 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm at a 216 Beverley Street (Queen’s Park subway stop).

If there’s one near you, consider attending SkeptiCamp on October 23. Given it’s free, Skepticamp offers tremendous value-for-money. And if you’re attending the Toronto SkeptiCamp, be sure to say hello.

More evidence that mercury in vaccines doesn’t cause autism

A comprehensive study published today has failed to find any relationship between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the administration of vaccines that contain thimerosal. This lack of association even extends to prenatal exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines. Will this study finally put an end to the manufactroversy about vaccines, thimerosal, and autism? Continue reading

Blue Berry Eyebright: Claims without Evidence

Blueberry Eyebright New NordicI stumbled across a full page advertisement in the August 2010 Toronto Life, with this headline:

I tried Blue Berry Eyebright and improved my eyesight!”

The rest of the ad is a testimonial from “Earle” who suffers from macular degeneration. Reading the ad, it’s clear Blue Berry Eyebright is a supplement specifically at people worried about their vision, and macular degeneration. Continue reading

Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing: Road Map or Tarot Cards?

This post originally appeared at Science-Based Medicine. Join in the discussion there.

A topic of growing interest (and concern) for advocates of science-based medicine is laboratory and diagnostic test pseudoscience. Over the past several years, diagnostic tests have emerged that appear to be science-based and offer gene-level insights into your health. And these tests don’t even require a physician’s visit – just a swab of saliva and a credit card get you reams of information on your genetics, traits, and risks of dozens of diseases. It looks like the ultimate in consumer health information, with the potential to offer truly personalized treatment strategies. Companies like 23andme, deCODEme, and Navigenics all promise “genetic insights” to improve your health. How could this information be anything but helpful?

Personalized medicine describes medical practices that use information about a person’s genes, proteins, and environment to prevent, diagnose and treat disease. Science-based practice has routinely incorporated environmental advice (e.g., diet and exercise) into medical management. And there are a number of genetic tests in routine use that are well established, clinical validated, and are highly predictive of future outcomes, such as tests for Huntington’s disease and hereditary breast cancer.
Continue reading

Don’t ask your pharmacist about Nervoheel N or Neurexan

Magic beans

I can across a strange full-page ad in yesterday’s Globe and Mail. The headline was huge:

Reclaim your inner peace. Homeopathic Preparations. Scientifically proven effective.

Proven effective? Large comprehensive reviews have concluded that homeopathy is not efficacious (that is, it does not work beyond the placebo effect) and that explanations for why homeopathy would work are scientifically implausible. Consequently, it seems quite a stretch to say any homeopathic remedy is “Scientifically proven effective”.  This particular ad was for two homeopathic products from Heel.  Both Nervoheel N (“calms stressful moments, eases nervousness”) and Neurexan (“restores your natural sleep patterns, improves sleep quality”) are approved by Health Canada as safe and effective. Kim Hebert over at Skeptic North went looking for the published clinical evidence to support these efficacy claims:

  • For Nervoheel N there was one open-label, non-randomized cohort study that stated “The differences between the treatment groups [Nervoheel and lorazepam] were not significant.” The paper concluded that Nervoheel N is non-inferior to lorazepam. No placebo group was included.
  • For Neurexan there were two studies. Both non-random studies compared Neurexan with another unproven treatment, valerian, in the absence of a placebo group. There is no objective way to separate these results from unintentional researcher/patient bias or the placebo effect. Therefore, the results of both are clinically meaningless.

This data was presumably adequate for Health Canada (search their database for products 80007796 and 80004914 here) unless there’s unpublished data that was supplied.  The ad continues:

Both products are suitable for the whole family, for short or long-term use, as they are clinically proven effective, non-addictive, and non-sedative. They have no known side effects, medicinal interactions, or contraindications.

In order to have side effects, first a product has to have effects. So no surprise there.  The strangest statement, however, is at the bottom of the ad:


Ask your chiropractor or naturopath for more infomation.

Presumably they don’t want you to ask your pharmacist for more information. What kind of response might a pharmacist give about the scientific evidence supporting this, or any other homeopathic remedy? Hopefully, a science-based one.