Cancer Complementary and alternative medicine Medicine Quackery

Orac’s mail bag: Quacks do better than medicine!

We get hate mail. Or I do. True, I don’t get an inordinate amount of hate mail, but I do get some. A lot of the time, it’s rather boring and predictable, which is why I don’t often respond to it on the blog, although sometimes against my better judgment I respond by e-mail. That happens less and less frequently, though, given my e-mail volume between work, personal life, and the blog.

Less tiresome is hate mail from proponents of alternative medicine whom I have apparently really, really annoyed. Well, sometimes it’s less boring. Often it’s very boring indeed, but sometimes when I’m in the mood, just the right e-mail with just the right tone and just the right challenge will arrive and I will see a “teachable moment.” Yesterday, someone named “Steve” provided me just that, because apparently he was very, very unhappy at something I wrote about chemotherapy for cancer last week. This led him to write to me last night with an e-mail challenging me to reply with a rebuttal that “makes sense.” Given that Steve packs his e-mail with every alt-med apologist canard in the book (or at least a lot of them anyway), I realize that, no matter how much sense my reply will make to rational people, it probably won’t make sense to Steve. Remember, however, that this is a “teachable” moment. I’ll even be nice and not reveal Steve’s full name publicly, even though I’m under no obligation to do so. After all, as it says here in my e-mail policy, any e-mail to the blog is fair game to be posted on the blog. I know, I know. Usually, I’m much more “insolent,” but this is a teachable moment, and I’m feeling in an unusually mellow mood. I hope that doesn’t make this less educational and entertaining. So let’s dig in.

Steve begins:

When it comes to the topic of cancer quackery, and the manner of deciding which therapeutic modalities to pursue in reversing disease, I, along with many level-headed individuals, am left to one conclusion: carefully analyze and compare “survival rates”.

For example, in this country, the survival rates of people with advanced stage pancreatic cancer, under chemotherapy, is LAUGHABLE. Why not–Chemotherapy is probably one of the most toxic agents known to man (derived from mustard gas, a poison in used on soldiers in World War II). I hardly know where to begin to explain why the logic of giving poison to a person who is suffering from severe illness is at best, severely flawed–at worst, DEADLY. Is the logic that, although a poison such as chemotherapy will make a healthy person sick, it will nonetheless make a sick person healthy what we as a nation, with disease care costs skyrocketing under “Osamacare”, should be embracing?

“Obamacare”? What does the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) have to do with quackery? Well, to me the only thing it has to do with quackery has been the efforts of advocates of quackery like Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) or Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to take advantage of the PPACA to insert mandates that insurance companies and insurance exchanges cover various woo under the new law. His non sequitur about the PPAC aside, Steve seems to think that all or most chemotherapy is derived from mustard gas. True, one class of chemotherapeutic agents (appropriately enough, the nitrogen mustards) owes its existence to the study of mustard gas. Several of them are even still in use, including cyclophosphamide, melphalan, and chlorambucil. Indeed, cyclophosphamide is very effective against breast cancer when combined with, for instance, the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin, and the reason that some of these drugs are still in use, even 60 years after their development is because they work. Steve’s view of chemotherapy is stuck decades in the past. Maybe he’s been watching too much Love Story. Or maybe not. One problem with that movie was that, the sicker Ali McGraw’s character got, the better looking she seemingly got.

Of course, these days chemotherapy is so much more than toxic compounds. There are numerous classes and types of chemotherapeutic drugs. And, Steve, believe it or not, only few of them are derived from nitrogen mustards. Indeed, some of them are even derived from plants, such as the bark of the Pacific Yew tree (taxol), the periwinkle plant (vinca alkaloids), or, my favorite, the Happy Tree (camptothecin, irinotecan, topotecan). Then there are new classes of targeted therapy that attack a key signaling pathway in cancer cells necessary for growth and invasion, designed with the explicit intent of being less toxic than previous chemotherapy regimens.

As for the pancreatic cancer reference, all I can say is: Well, duh! Every physician treating cancer patients knows that pancreatic cancer, once it metastasizes, is a fatal disease. It’s one of the cancers that we admit that we don’t do very well with, which is why we do research to try to do better. We know that chemotherapy alone for pancreatic cancer has a dismal record when it comes to survival rates. It is, however, not useless. For example, 5-FU and gemcitabine have been shown to prolong survival in pancreatic cancer patients, as have other chemotherapy regimens. It is true that these increases in survival are relatively unimpressive, on the order of a few months, but, as I put it before, those few months of lengthened survival times can mean the difference between seeing a child graduate from college or not, seeing a child get married or not, or seeing the birth of a grandchild or not. Other examples exist. It must also be remembered that the measured improvements in survival due to chemotherapy are usually medians. Not uncommonly, buried in that median are “outliers” who derive a huge survival benefit from the chemotherapy and survive many more months than expected, sometimes many more years than expected.

More importantly, no one is claiming that chemotherapy is the answer to cancer. In fact, multimodality therapy is the way cancer is treated, including various combinations of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy, sometimes with hormonal therapy or various forms of targeted therapy. There are relatively few cancers that chemotherapy is expected to cure. Leukemias and some lymphomas come to mind, but that’s about it. It’s a massive straw man Steve is arguing against, a common straw man that alt-med advocates who have a problem with scientific medicine try to hold up as being the prevailing belief among oncologists, radiation oncologists, and cancer surgeons. Not that that stops him:

Consider that the cost of disease care in this country is the highest among all the nations, YET, the survival rate of the chronically ill and degenerative diseased is worse than some third world countries. Why? Because the U.S. medical profession has adapted the “atomist” mentality. This is the mindset that says “Do whatever it takes to force a symptom to disappear.” An example of this logic is a motorist driving along when his oil light comes on, and so he pulls over, opens the hood, and clips the wire to the oil light, thinking he’s fixed the problem–i.e.. until his engine freezes up. This mentality has long overtaken what was originally stated by Hippocrates (who stated that “non-patentable” FOOD should be one’s medicine), namely “Do no harm”. That so-called “quackery” (when viewed by the medical profession), is the philosophy of supplying the necessary raw materials to the body so that the body can rebuild and heal ITSELF.

While there are numerous modalities available for treating serious, degenerative disease that fit the “do not harm” bill, they nonetheless, DO NOT fit the “doctor’s” bill. In other words, profit margins in the area of alternative, “non-patentable” modalities are far smaller than those of the toxic drugs that are manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry (some, which retail for as much as TWO HUNDRED THIRTY DOLLARS, yet cost only ELEVEN CENTS to manufacture). Forget street drugs. The pharmaceutical industry, with the money its players make, in comparison (or in contrast) makes street drug pushers look like PEASANTS. Hmmm. Could it be that the patient’s health is “NOT” the highest priority? It would certainly seem so.

You know, whenever I see someone use Hippocrates’ statement about “let food be your medicine,” I know I’m in for some serious woo, and Steve doesn’t disappoint. I should play the game “count the logical fallacies” in the paragraph above. The renaming of “health care” to “disease care”? Check. The claim that doctors only treat symptoms? Check. Quoting Hippocrates (who was not really correct about food and medicine)? Check. The claim that doctors aren’t interested in nutrition? Check. Personally, I’d be interested in the statistics showing that the survival rate of the chronically ill is so bad in this country. I actually know some of them, such as the fact that deaths from heart disease have been declining steadily since the 1950, and cancer mortality has been declining since the 1990s. Life expectancy has been rising, and age-adjusted death rates in the U.S. have been steadily decreasing over the last thirty years. Don’t believe me? Check out Figures 1 and 2 in the latest National Vital Statistics Report. The simple fact is, more people are living longer, and that’s largely thanks to modern medicine. So what does Steve offer as an alternative?


I strongly recommend that you watch the ENTIRE “Gerson Miracle” (2004) video. In it, you will discover a number of very interesting FACTS. For example, many of the patients who are treated by the Max Gerson clinic in Tijuana have gone there AS A LAST RESORT, after medical “pseudoscience” has failed them. Some have literally had less than a couple of months to live. I find it very ironic that an industry that claims to have “the world standard” in medical treatment appears to have the fewest numbers of answers when it comes to the terminally diseased patient–being EASILY outshined by other nations with budgets that are only a small fraction of the U.S.’s. It would almost appear as if they are being funded by funeral homes.

I’ve never seen this particular video, but I have watched The Beautiful Truth, which is a more recent paean to the quack known as Max Gerson. The Gerson therapy, regular readers might remember, consists of a special diet, lots of supplements, plus (yum, yum) coffee enemas. In brief, there is no evidence that the Gerson therapy prolongs survival in cancer. None. Nada. Zip. Perhaps I should rephrase that to say that there is no good scientific evidence from preclinical or clinical studies supporting the efficacy of the Gerson protocol There is, however, Gerson’s (in)famous case series. Too bad that the NCI examined that case series and found no compelling evidence for prolongation of cancer survival. As Peter Moran explains, these cases are not persuasive at all. Many of them either didn’t have cancer at all or Gerson’s case reports were not convincing that they did. Many never had a biopsy to provide incontrovertible evidence of cancer. Remember, these are the best cases Gerson could come up with. The very best. Too bad Gerson’s best was never good enough.

To Steve, apparently and in contrast,” conventional science-based medicine’s best is never good enough to Steve:

I could literally go on, but my stomach can’t take it. What I WILL say in conclusion is that, when it comes to “quackery”, it seems that the medical profession has it backwards. In reality, the “quacks” are the “failures” (i.e. failures in healing people and saving lives, NOT failures at becoming “filthy” rich), and while not every alternative modality may be as effective as the next, THE VAST MAJORITY have one thing in common, i.e., the “DO NO HARM” philosophy.

Let me just say in closing that emergency room workers are probably the only exception to the major disgrace that the (Rockefeller-started) medical industry has become–they HAVE saved many lives, and I give credit to the many emergency room workers and paramedics (yes, I know some of them are doctors) that have faithfully carried out their sworn duty.

I love the little “some of them are doctors” jibe in the paragraph above, placed oh-so-matter-of-factly in parentheses). It reminds me of “some of my best friends are Jews” or “some of my best friends are black.” True, they’re not the same thing, but they’re in the same family. “Some of my best friends are…” gambit is intended to preemptively blunt criticism for racism or bigotry. In Steve’s case, he’s trying to preemptively blunt criticism that he has a bug up his butt about doctors, in essence grudgingly admitting that, in the case of emergency and trauma physicians, doctors can actually do some good. But to him that seems to be the only case where doctors do any good.

I will agree with one thing Steve said–sort of. Many alt-med modalities “do no harm,” but that’s because they don’t do anything at all. They are nothing but placebos. On the other hand, a depressing number of them. I do like Steve’s take on one of the oldest alt-med tropes I know of, namely the pharma shill gambit, you know, the claim that the only reason people like myself use and promote science-based medicine is because we’re all in the pay of big pharma or because we make obscene–excuse me, “filthy“–amounts of money using and administering the products of big pharma.

So, there you have it. A truly heapin’ helpin’ of alt-med tropes and logical fallacies, all packed into a rather compact form. But Steve’s not done. Oh, no. He has to conclude before his challenge:

I already know that I am probably on the red list (the list of those “troublemakers” that will first be rounded up when marshal law hits this country), so I really have nothing to lose in voicing the truth.

No further comment is needed.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

60 replies on “Orac’s mail bag: Quacks do better than medicine!”

His biggest concern about “making sense” is that toxic substances that would make well people sick, are given to sick people to make them well. I know you could have addressed that, and even non woo-y people often don’t understand the logic.

There’s also the Gonzales regimen series on SBM – based on the Gershon therapy – that you could have referred to. (I’m on an iDevice that makes it complicated for me to link.) He seems to think that you aren’t aware of it, and your statement that none of the people with terminal cancer who turned to Gershon after oncologists had given up on them had been proven to have cancer using a particular test, sound a little hollow. (Can anyone make sense of that sentence? I’m sorry.)

Off to join the conspiracy!

Ugh. In my younger days I was a registered nurse with further certification in Oncology. And palliative care. And haematology. So I’ve been taught physiology at a cellular level. So when I read your quotes from Steve I just thought “Steve, for the love of fuck, don’t have an opinion until you are informed. Fully informed to the cellular level.”

We kept a dossier of sorts in our filing cabinet of all the whacko “cures” for cancer. The whackos claim to cure cancer but can’t distinguish one neoplasm from another.

I am all for complimentary therapies. They keep the patient calm and positive. There’s nothing worse than pumping chemo into an hysterical person. But to call all cancers the same, equating Hodgkin’s lymphoma with small cell lung cancer, for instance, well it makes them look like idiots. And even worse I imagine, lawsuit-magnets.

hey orac, not hate mail but a gentle reminder – lead (Pb) is a heavy metal. Led is the past tense of the verb “to lead”. Sorry, pet peeve of mine.

“This lead him to write to me last night…”

“Steve” wrote:

I already know that I am probably on the red list (the list of those “troublemakers” that will first be rounded up when marshal law hits this country), so I really have nothing to lose in voicing the truth.

How disappointed he shall be when the Pharma Overlords™ take over and don’t lift a finger about his irrelevant posterior.

mustard gas, a poison in used on soldiers in World War II

Strikes me that someone who has gone through life without learning the difference between WWI and WWII is stuck inside such a hermetically-sealed bubble of ignorance that the concept of “Teachable moment” is lost on him.

My wife and a family friend were both diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer within a couple of months. They were both healthy vibrant women in their late 40’s. My wife had surgery and adjuvant chemotherapy and was healthy for two years. During an exam in her third year new metastases were seen in her lung and hip. She fought the disease for another 8 years with chemotherapy (including targeted with herceptin) and radiation. There were some bad times but a lot more good and she was able to go to our son’s graduation from college before she passed away. Our friend eschewed surgery and other medical interventions, she went the Gerson route. She died in under two years. Yes this is an anecdote and not all cancers are the same. But anecdotes are all people like Steve seem to understand

I really do love how these people do not REALIZE that when they use CAPITALIZATION more than once or twice in an email/comment that they’re no longer providing EMPHASIS for the point they’re trying to make, but just making themselves LOOK stupid.

I already know that I am probably on the red list (the list of those “troublemakers” that will first be rounded up when marshal law hits this country)…

I doubt it. You really aren’t important enough to catch the attention of the Illuminati-governed AMA.

LOOK, I get IT. Sometimes, things that DO NOTHING at all SEEM like the PERFECT thing because those things that DO WORK can be painful (or even just SEEM painful). Take for example RESETTING a broken bone. It will HURT like an SOB for a little bit, but the BONE will be back to NORMAL in a few weeks time.

Alternatively (not ALTERNATELY, as I learned THIS MORNING), not doing something MAY seem to be just the THING. To use STEVE’S own words, the QUACKERY is in clipping the ALARM wire. It does NOTHING to fix the ENGINE, but it also does NO HARM. You’ll ride HAPPY and EASILY for some miles before your engine SEIZES. And, during your last miles, you’ll SWEAR to almighty GOD that you’ve FIXED the engine.

PROVIDERS who use EVIDENCE and SCIENCE in their methods of HEALING would NOT clip the wire, they would ADD oil to the ENGINE. Steve would then CLAIM that the OIL is what seized the ENGINE, not the MILES the engine went WITHOUT oil.

I’d call Steve a DOUCHEBAG, because he fits the DEFINITION thereof, but we all know how well that ENDED for Epi Ren.

I hardly know where to begin to explain why the logic of giving poison to a person who is suffering from severe illness is at best, severely flawed–at worst, DEADLY. Is the logic that, although a poison such as chemotherapy will make a healthy person sick, it will nonetheless make a sick person healthy what we as a nation, with disease care costs skyrocketing under “Osamacare”, should be embracing?

I take it he’s not a fan of homeopathy, then?

Last week, I commented how woo-providers’ fear mongering *especially* about chemotherapy might be harmful by frightening patients off this therapy (when their diagnosis puts them in a category where it is most likely to be very effective) or *delaying* treatment so that the lag time might shift them into a higher stage where percentages aren’t as high.

I listen to people who call in ( or send e-mails) to a Major League Woo-meister(tm) seeking “information and counselling”. Steve sounds as if he attended this Woo-niversity of the airwaves, took copious notes, and took evening classes at Adams’ Tech ( his last quote gives it away). The “advice” I hear sounds like reckless endangerment.

Chemotherapy is their *bete noir*: probably because they know how afraid the general public is about it ( and are ignorant themselves). They work even harder to accentuate that fear and capitalise upon it- it fits in nicely with their image of sadistic, money-hungry doctors while they paint their own nonsense-based therapies ( see Quackwatch’s “Questionable Cancer Treatments” page) as kinder and gentler to the cancer patient . This mis-information is floating around the net and the back of people’s minds ( especially if they aren’t SB) and comes home to roost when they or someone they know is diagnosed and prescibed. As if the reality isn’t frightening enough.

How can sceptics work against this dis-information campaign? Read, learn, converse, speak up when you hear woo- “If you see something, say something”.

I found myself in the uncomfortable position of reading the proverbial riot act when my friend disclosed that she had had the recommended surgery but *not* the chemo and radiation ( her stage deemed it necessary). And “why” she didn’t. And yes, she was upset about what I said. I told her if I saw her house on fire I’d tell her even if it upset her.

with disease care costs skyrocketing under “Osamacare”


Is that like administering parenteral lead followed by sea water hydrotherapy?

TBruce — I shouldn’t laugh, but I did anyway. That was funny.

This also made me laugh:

This mentality has long overtaken what was originally stated by Hippocrates (who stated that “non-patentable” FOOD should be one’s medicine), namely “Do no harm”.

I didn’t realize that patent law extended back to the ancient Greeks, or that Hippocrates was such a fan of open standards. A veritable ancient Richard Stallman. Gosh. You learn something new every day.


Thank you, Orac. I don’t know how you managed to actually read that nonsense, and then turn around and make it into a “teachable moment.” That was painful. And Steve’s ignorance…wow. Dunning-Krueger, dude.

Steve wrote:

[P]rofit margins in the area of alternative, “non-patentable” modalities are far smaller than those of the toxic drugs that are manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry (some, which retail for as much as [two hundred thirty dollars], yet cost only [eleven cents] to manufacture).

The tired old “it’s true because it’s less profitable” line. By this argument, designer sports cars are rubbish and we should all drive Ford Edsels. Ford lost money on it, so they must’ve had purely altruistic intentions.

Strangely enough, just the other day I met a business undergrad who boasted she was earning $40,000 a week selling a herbal “male enhancement” supplement online. And it wasn’t pyramid sales scheme, because the promotional materials she got from her recruiters say it isn’t a pyramid scheme in caps lock, and the diagram of how gratuities travel up the chain from recruits to recruiters is of a bigger man composed of smaller men. Definitely not a pyramid scheme.

She said CAM was a good industry to get into because of the huge profit margins. Business undergrads. Go figure.

@ Scott Cunningham:

Right. Alt med providers often scream about how Pharma profit drives SBM** quoting prices- as Steve does above – neglecting to mention the cost of real testing and hiring people with real degrees and experience ( about which they would know absolutely nothing).Their protests might be fuelled by jealousy.

** and Draconis.

@Scott Cunningham

I signed up for alerts from the FDA; every now and then I see some warning/recall for herbal “male enhancement” products because they contain undeclared/unapproved drugs.

When is smart dumb? You get hate male because your passion for science (smart) gets in the way of your ability to understand people (dumb). Most teachers and clinicians learn how to work cooperatively with others to operate effectively in life. The I’m right you are wrong position is not the most effective way to help people discriminate between science based and non science based therapies. You would never advocate a non effective science based therapy. Why then do you continue to respond to non science based therapies in such an antagonistic way? It is not effective! Emotional Intelligence matters! Daniel Goleman points out that “Helping people better manage their upsetting feelings–anger, anxiety, depression, pessimism, and loneliness–is a form of disease prevention…it is time for science based medicine to enlarge its vision to embrace the impact of emotions….many patients can benefit measurably when their psychological needs are attended to along with their purely medical ones”.

I’ve read about herbal “male enhancement” supplements recalled because the manufacturer was adulterating the herb product with crushed up viagra pills. Hey, there’s one herbal supplement I’m sure they can prove is effective. We know why, though, and it’s not the herb (lab tests showed it was actually oregano).

Hmm. Five will get you ten that STEVE has on his dinner table the same CHEMICAL that was used in POISON GAS. (And no, STEVE, it’s not MUSTARD.)

P.S. Love the “marshal law” part.

Hi Steve,
An anecdote: My oldest sister was diagnosed with a fast growing lung cancer back in 1990. She was given a 12% 5-year survival probability. She went full throttle into experimental chemo radiation combo at Stanford. I was an alt-med, new-ager back then and thought of giving her “iformation” on the nonsense I was into then, but I was so terrified at the thought of losing my big sister, I just shut up and let her do what she thought was right . . . which turned out to be right. She survived those 5 years and 12 more. Her docs were amazed and she made the most of those years since she was the only long-term survivor out of the 15-patient study cohort she was in. She knew the odds of cancer returning would be high, but she took good care of herself and loved her life. When the cancer did reoccur, it did so quickly and by the time they found it (she was having dizzy spells and what they thought were allergies) it was in her lungs, spine and brain. Once again, she considered fighting the good fight with chemo and radiation, but the prognosis was not good and so she chose palliative care and lived out her last five weeks in acceptance, comfort and surrounded by her loved ones.
After consulting her physicians, she knew that the fight wasn’t going to work this time (she was just shy of 70), maybe a few more months, but they would have been awful months with the possibility of blindness as a side effect of the required treatments for her brain. She passed grateful for the time that modern medicine had given her back in 1990 and the comfort that it was providing her in her last weeks.

Can someone teach him how to properly use the term “i.e.”? That’s the point where I lost his argument (as long you discount all the other gibberish he wrote).

herr doktor bimmler @5

Was it WWI or WWII that wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

Queen Khentkawes @21
I think “mashal” law is where the marshals arrest you for telling the truth about Big Pharma (or is it Big Farmer). It would have been even better if he had misspelled it as marital law.

It is amazing how much Steve got wrong that Orac either missed or chose to ignore.

I wonder why Steve is such a big fan of the ER. After all, their record on curing decapitations and gunshot wounds to the heart is very poor.


Minion Walters,

I was quite proud of those pills that cost us only eleven cents to make that we sell for TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY DOLLARS!!!!! The ladies on level 7 created what we thought was going to be our ultimate moneymaker Revaritratramaviranol™, a fabulous new pill that costs us almost nothing to make and would have sold for ONE MILLION DOLLARS! Sadly, it cured stupidity, so we’re shelving it. Back to the drawing board . . .

Yrs in Eeeeeeeevil PharmaDominion™

Lord Draconis Zeneca, VC, iH7L
Forward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Suzerain of V’tar and Pharmaca Magna of Terra
PharmaCOM Orbital HQ
—————————————— MESSAGE ENDS

when marshal law hits this country

The U.S Marshal’s Service is taking over? Anyone know when this is supposed to happen?


Brought to you by Osama…er…Obama…er…Sadama Yomamma Hussein bin Barrack, who is of course a Muslin.

You really aren’t important enough to catch the attention of the Illuminati-governed AMA.

On the contrary. I would argue that Steve is extremely impotent.

$40,000 a week selling a herbal “male enhancement” supplement online

I find that HARD to believe.

the diagram of how gratuities travel up the chain from recruits to recruiters is of a bigger man composed of smaller men

Ahh, so that’s how they do the…”enchancement”. Interesting.

every now and then I see some warning/recall for herbal “male enhancement” products because they contain undeclared/unapproved drugs.

But if the manufacturers of said supplements were sued, could the plaintiffs make it stand up in court?

You know, even at the height of my woo-fixation I would have recognized this argument as nonsense. Even if the rest of it didn’t raise alarm bells, the tinfoil-hat paranoia in his signoff is an unmistakable sign that the writer is somewhat detached from reality.

Lord Draconis – of course your pill failed, the people who need it most refuse to take pills! However, I have a proposition for you. I am currently working on a homeopathic remedy for stupidity called Frothing Nonsense™. I filled a Dr. Oz travel mug with water, left it sitting in front of my computer all night with the browser opened to Natural News and, circled it around the head of a colleague who refuses to get flu shots, then diluted it in the office water cooler tank and succussed it against the same colleague’s head several times.

I would be happy to sell you the mother tincture for a price to be negotiated between us, and recommend you market it in a 30C dilution to ensure maximum efficacy and more importantly, vast homeo-profits for all. You in?

You are obviously not a regular reader of this blog. Prepare to duck.

Nah. I just deleted her pedantic comment with extreme prejudice. If she had bothered to include another observation that commented on some substantive aspect of what I posted and wasn’t just a spelling/grammar Nazi “gotcha” remark, I might have left it alone, but no…..

So where is the guy who was pushing Gerson yesterday, Eric Sanders? Surely, as a high level cleric of the court, he must have something to say in Steve’s defense.

I suspect I know who “Steve” is. This “anonymous Steve” most likely is the same one whose only claims to fame was POSTING UNDER HIS REAL NAME and the size of its manly anatomical structure(s).

There is however, a new political element here by “Steve’s” labeling of the PPACA as Osamacare/Obamacare…as if covering more of the uninsured is a bad thing…or that other provisions of the PPACA, that provide coverage for children with complex medical conditions or those with pre-existing serious medical problems such as cancer aren’t long overdue.

I know that if I were “Steve” and the subject of today’s Respectful Insolence, I would be posting furiously to defend myself and my e-mail to Orac.

a high level cleric of the court

I wonder if he’s a high enough level to cast heal. Then he wouldn’t need either medicine or quackery…

Curses! Double Drat!! Chris has foiled me again…this time only by her 4 minutes earlier post about “Steve”.

@ Narad: Thank goodness the Alaskan Diva saved us from the dreaded “death panels”. I don’t mind the “labels” as much as the vile cartoons that accompany them.

Since everyone else got to the ‘marshal law’ before I did (I had mental images of Tommy Lee Jones taking over the country, which could actually be quite productive), I’ll just mention in passing that bendamustine (approved for CLL and indolent NHL that progressed on rituximab, not pancreatic cancer) is indeed a nitrogen mustard, from the same general family as the infamous WWI (sorry, Steve) gas. I tend to think of that as a lovely triumph of science over warfare, kinda swords-into-ploughshares in its arc. I guess I don’t have what it takes to be Steve.

But if the manufacturers of said [male enhancement] supplements were sued, could the plaintiffs make it stand up in court?

Supplement? Making it more supple is the last thing I want.

Pretty much on topic….

Headlining national news here in New Zealand today: Bastion of Science and New Zealander of the Year Sir Paul Callaghan is experimenting with intravenous vitamin C treatment and Chinese medicine to fight his terminal cancer.

He says: “Let me be clear. I do not deviate one step from my trust in evidence-based medicine,” Sir Paul said in his blog. However, if there was a potentially effective but unproven drug, “Why would I not try it?” he reasoned. “Am I mad? Probably.”

I like his honesty, but proponents of CAM will likely skewer this to read “I am a highly regarded scientist and I believe that CAM will treat my cancer better than evidence-based medicine”.

The article goes on to say: “He is tracking the treatment’s effectiveness through a blood test for protein carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), which indicates cancer levels.”

I will follow his progress with interest…

You’d think Steve would approve of using old chemotherapy chemicals. After all so much woo is based on the idea that since the so and sos have been using something for centuries it must be good.

My Dearest Lord Draconis,

Seriously. If I hear one more word about those frigging ladies of f—ing level 7…. I shall shriek!

Who is it- pray tell- doing the *real* heavy lifting around PharmaCOM, darling, but the shills and minions who manage the informational campaign contra “Truth Tellers” of all stripes: reporting, sabotaging, and counter-espionaging their brave maverick-y efforts to uncover and dis-ambiguate our many projects. Counter-truth never sleeps. Just like rust.

I have been working my long, delicate, perfectly manicured fingers to the bone for you ( please don’t take that literally): pounding out propaganda on a crappy keyboard, patiently listening to General Barrett on the phone nearly _nightly_,and keeping unruly shills on track through alcohol therapy and fast talking. ( Fortunately, the minions keep themselves on track. Girl power.)

I think that it’s time for His Lordship to recognise the irreplacable value of our symbolic activities and throw us a party. Spend more money on us. Wouldn’t want us to look second rate, like those miserable pill pushers from the Crab Nebula? So what about it, love? Nice glitzy party, Champagne, rent out an art museum or something. Maybe Fancy Dress? Good for morale. Kiss kiss. You know I’m right.

Most sincerely yours,
DW, DL, 7, you know the rest.

I wonder what would Steve think about doctors spreading the use of these scary chemo drugs to other diseases as well. Ever since getting a prescription of tioguanine for my Crohn’s Disease a friend, who’s sadly into woo, has been waiting to see my hair fall out. All because of the word “chemo”.

I guess there’s some need for educating the public about what these drugs really are and how they work in the body to suppress disease. I’ve not found a really good article/site doing this, so I don’t know if it has already been done. If someone knows, share the link please?

@ lurker: Have you tried the NIH NDDIC site?:

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse-Crohn’s Disease….some good information there.

Dearest Darkest Lady, Minion of High Standing, Level VII Whatever, etc, etc.

Funny you should mention a party because the ever effervescent and efficient Miss Flinders reminds me that the third weekend in October is our fourth annual Orbital Command Pappy Puff-Adders’s Old-West Days and Phuntime Pharma Jamboree™ at the old Imperial Vortex Generation Base in Sedona.

Now normally we rely on your wholesome, homespun dishes to grace our communal tables at this family event, but in light of DW’s strident insistence on luxury, luxury, luxury, Chef Thomas Keller shall be providing a delightful luncheon for one and all. He and Cindy will be going over a lavish menu from The Old French Laundry . . . just as soon as he stops chewing on his restraints.

And please accept a new optineural interface station as our gift to you for all your brilliant work, cant’ have you ruining your claws typing.

Yours in Diabolical PharmaDominion™,

Lord Draconis Zeneca, VC, iH7L

Forward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Suzerain of V’tar and Pharmaca Magna of Terra

PharmaCOM Orbital HQ


—————————————— MESSAGE ENDS

Orac, I know you don’t like people picking on your spelling or grammar. So, for the first and (I promise) very last time (and only because this is a frequent, about once-per-post occurrence in your good work), I’m going to highlight some syntax:

“They are nothing but placebos. On the other hand, a depressing number of them.”

I have a feeling there was more to that second sentence.

Now, I won’t presume to criticise how you write (mostly because I really enjoy _what_ you write), but for the love of continuity can you consider a quick proofread? My old English teacher, back in the time before spellcheckers, wouldn’t even accept an assignment until he’d asked, pointedly, “has this been proofread?” Frankly it detracts from the impact of your words when I have to back up and re-read a sentence and find that it goes nowhere or makes no sense.


Proofreading is hard. He probably does, it’s just too easy to miss stuff when you’ve written it yourself because your mind connects dots and fills blanks. Some bloggers respond to people pointing out distracting errors by fixing them and saying thanks. Orac doesn’t. Even when one is polite and genuinely confused/ curious.

There are worse things to become irrationally enraged about.

(But I’m interested that the comments ridiculing Steve’s misspellings didn’t get deleted.)

Lord Draconis

Do you know if Chef Keller be barbequing long pig this time?

I was looking forward to it last time, but apparently it was pulled from the menu at the last minute. I think Sedona would be a good place to find a vegetarian feed only source.

Hippocrates (who stated that “non-patentable” FOOD should be one’s medicine), namely “Do no harm”.

Yeah, that’s the short form. The longer version would be something like,

“Look, we’ve got no idea what causes diseases, and nothing that really works to help them. So try to keep the person fed, and warm, and calm, and rested, and with any luck their body will heal itself. Also, don’t harm them by giving them stuff that will make them worse; in fact, don’t give them anything that you know doesn’t help.”

All the improvements in medicine have been in whittling down that first sentence. All the improvements in woo have been in ignoring the last sentence.

I used to work at Barnes & Noble and I remember in the “Alternative Medicine” section there was a book with a title like “The Cure For All Cancers” and it was a big thick paperback book priced at $45 or $50. But to keep those sneaky cancer patients from finding out what the secret cure was and then not forking over the cash for the book, the publisher had shrink-wrapped it in plastic. Every so often I’d find the plastic on the floor from some immoral metastasizers who stole a glance at the cure without paying. One time curiosity got the better of me and I checked it out, but it looked more like a vegetarian cookbook to me than any kind of description of a cancer cure.

Profit margins in the area of alternative, “non-patentable” modalities are far smaller than those of the toxic drugs that are manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry (some, which retail for as much as two hundred thirty dollars, yet cost only eleven cents to manufacture).

This sort of stuff drive me absolutely insane inside of my brain. Where do they get it from? Who pulled these numbers out of their arse? How is it possible to be THIS intellectually dishonest? Even if these prices were true (and I don’t for one second believe ‘Steve’ can back this statement up with proof), the blatant disregard for all the other expenses involved in drug R & D is astonishing. Now, Big Pharma can be a shady, shady business, but that doesn’t change the fact that ‘Steve’ and his apologist buddies are absolutely implying a lie when they make statements like this.

Question for ‘Steve’: A dose of dried oregano for male member enhancement purposes is cheap to produce and non-patentable. The Viagra the dose was adulterated with cost considerable amounts of money to test and get approved. Which one do you think did something to your erection?

@ Nik K (48)

“I used to work at Barnes & Noble and I remember in the “Alternative Medicine” section there was a book with a title like “The Cure For All Cancers” and it was a big thick paperback book priced at $45 or $50.”

Ha! I’ll save you the trouble of reading it.
The book is By Hulda Clark.
The cause of ALL cancers is a large parasitic fluke sitting inside everyone’s livers.
The cure for this imagination-figmented fluke is to buy a patented “zapper” machine, which merely consists of 2 wires connected to a battery. It retails at $499.

Oh, and Hulda Clark is dead by the way.
From cancer.


Militant One,

Your question is a fair one, but we’ve just got Chef Keller calmed down enough to fashion coherent sentences and he’s in no mood to divulge the entire feast, but he said there will be pig. He shall be creating a sort of porcine carpaccio from Iberico Fresco pork that we shall have flown in from España for the event. Said pork shall be seared like Ahi and then thinly sliced, drizzled with a fine olive oil, a dash of marine sodium and just a hint of citrus. Sounds delicious. As I said, I am not at liberty to divlulge the rest of the menu at this time. Don’t worry about your picky offspring though, there will be the usual sausage products, sugary beverages and a festive, clown-themed, cotton candy machine for your hatchlings. Astra said she thinks we should do the pin the tail on the acupuncturist game for the little ones again. It was so very popular last year. Somebody want to be in charge of finding some acupuncturists? But I digress . . .

Well, that’s better. I see on my security feed that Chef Keller has stopped shaking uncontrollably and that he and my personal chef are now chatting amiably over a glass of 1945 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. Once Thomas gets past the whole exoskeleton thing, I’m sure they’ll be great pals.

Kamkaak v’hash! (bon apetit),

Lord Draconis Zeneca, VC, iH7L

Forward Mavoon of the Great Fleet, Suzerain of V’tar and Pharmaca Magna of Terra, Bringer of Pork Products

PharmaCOM Orbital HQ


—————————————— MESSAGE ENDS

Lurker @ 40 and Lilady @ 41:

If you all want to put together a list of Good Links — links which you’d like to see elevated past the woo-links on a typical Google search — post them here in this thread (Orac permitting). I plan on doing a few posts at my home blog and elsewhere talking about the resources people should be using when they go hunting online for medical information. (For example: for vaccines, for homeopathy, etc.)

I figure if enough of us were to post this stuff either on our own blogs or elsewhere, especially for categories overwhelmed by woo sites, we can send a few worthy science-based sites a touch higher in the Google rankings.

To the “you can’t patent and so no one will do it” nonsense: I heard a talk last week about Niemann-Pick disease. You can find info about it at Wikipedia, which is pretty good. The key point of the talk was that it has been discovered that a very effective treatment for one version of it is cyclodextrin. This is pretty common stuff, and, on it’s own, isn’t the least patentable. It’s even more common than DCA. Yet, people are investigating it as a therapeutic agent for Niemann-Pick. What are they thinking? Don’t they know there is no money in it?

Of course, that isn’t quite true. Like any good scientist would do, the folks working on it are trying to find ways to improve upon it, and if they are able to build a better mousetrap, then that is absolutely patentable. Never underestimate the ability of scientists to invent something new and better, even from the same old parts (the goal of the work is to find a better way to deliver the cyclodextrin – raw cyclodextrin requires massive doses because most gets excreted, so they want to find a way to minimize the waste and more efficiently get to the disease)

Hippocrates … stated that “non-patentable” FOOD should be one’s medicine

You know that food is medicine because people manage to overdose on it.

@ Phoenix Woman:…the website for the Immunization Action Coalition is the gateway for many great websites about childhood and adult immunizations.

The 2011 Recommended Vaccine Schedule, the VISs (Vaccine Information Sheets, ACIP recommendations are available at

The site also gives you access to “Needle Tips” issues which are a goldmine of up-to-date vaccine news and vaccine preventable disease outbreaks.

The CDC Pink Book (April, 2011 edition) is a bit more technical, but it is available in its entirety on the web. It covers every childhood vaccine, the history of and epidemiology of vaccine preventable diseases and statistics (incidence and prevalence) of the diseases both before and after availability of the disease-specific vaccines.

MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) New weekly issues available each Friday morning on the internet.

Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal (CDC monthly issues)-some very exotic diseases but also reports on more common disease outbreaks…some of which are “vaccine-preventable”.

My lord and most forward of Mavoons, I am afraid that your unfamiliarity with our idioms, especially Polynesian ones will result in us being disappointed again as well as unnecessary expense. Fine free range organic vegetarian fed long pig is in abundance in the Sedona area. Although it is not available in the markets, capturing a specimen or 2 should be no trouble at all for the Obsidian units if you get my drift.

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