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17th June 2007 (Updated 5th July)


Hi Guys,

3 interesting articles about the "quack-busters" out there and what they are really protecting. These 3 articles (2 by M.D.s) look at the work of those who belittle non-mainstream therapies.

If we really what to help patients, conventional and alternative practitioners must work together - something has got to give.


"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." -- Buckminster Fuller (Architect & Geometrist)

Related: The Science & Politics of Cancer (video)


By Elmer M. Cranton, M.D.

There exist a small number of self-styled medical thought-police who call themselves "quack busters."  This organization has the mission of attacking alternative and emerging medical therapies in favor of the existing medical monopoly.  They even have their own Quackwatch Internet website. It would be interesting to be able to trace the funding for this group back to its original source. One investigator alleges that funding comes indirectly, through a number of cutouts, from pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Who are these so-called Quackbusters, who funds them? It is virtually impossible to trace the flow of funding, but it appears they are funded by a consortium of the multinational pharmaceutical industry.

For years these so-called quackbusters have  attacked nutritional supplementation and high potency multi-vitamins as "quackery."  As summarized elsewhere on this website (Nutrition In The News), recent scientific studies now prove that virtually anyone can benefit from nutritional supplementation.  With egg on their faces from this recent vitamin research, those same critics continue to attack chelation therapy.  I will answer below, point by point, a critical article on the Quackwatch website by Dr. Saul Green entitled "CHELATION THERAPY: UNPROVEN CLAIMS AND UNSOUND THEORIES," in which Dr. Green  attempts to discredit EDTA chelation using half-truths, speculation, and false statements.


Opponents and critics of EDTA chelation, such as Saul Green, rarely state that chelation "does not work" or that chelation is "proven not to work." Instead they merely state that it is "unproven." They are evasive and set a double standard. Bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty and close to 80% of all other therapies routinely used by medical doctors in everyday practice are also "unproven," using those same unreasonable standards. Most widely-accepted and traditional medical therapies have never been subjected to double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trials costing many millions of dollars―as demanded by opponents of chelation therapy.

Detractors of chelation therapy insist that large, multimillion-dollar studies be performed, giving half the patients a placebo, with the placebo group "blinded"―unknown to the investigators until the study is complete (called "double-blind" because neither the doctors nor the patients know who gets the placebo and who gets the active medication). Drug companies are required by the FDA to test new prescription drugs in this manner before they can make marketing claims. On the other hand, bypass surgery, balloon angioplasty and most other widely accepted medical procedures have never been subjected to that type of testing.  Because patent protection has long since expired on EDTA, there is no source of funding for such a study.  N.I.H., the government source for research money, has repeatedly refused to fund a research grant to study EDTA chelation.

Saul Green makes an issue of an FTC ruling in 1998 relating to advertising for EDTA chelation therapy. Because the FDA has not yet approved EDTA chelation therapy for treatment of atherosclerosis, the FTC ruled that it is not proper to imply otherwise in advertisements to the lay public. The informed consent provided to patients by chelation doctors has always made that fact clear, but once again politically powerful critics of chelation therapy have generated adverse publicity, using what was essentially a non-issue. That FTC ruling was based partly on their opinion that professional physicians associations, such as the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), should not advertise directly to the lay public. The FTC ruling does not apply to the doctor patient relationship. Training courses on chelation therapy continue to be given to practicing physicians twice yearly by ACAM.

Drug companies quickly patent their newly developed remedies, which allows them to charge high prices (usually a dollar or more per capsule, sometimes much more) to recapture their millions of dollars in expenses for the FDA-required double blind studies. EDTA is a generic drug. Patent protection expired many years ago. Double-blind placebo studies of adequate size have therefore never been funded and probably will not be funded in the future unless N.I.H. or a private foundation can be convinced to do so with either public or philanthropic funds. (In 2002 a $30 million research proposal for a multi-center study of EDTA chelation therapy is under consideration by N.I.H. Let's all hope that it gets funded.)

Read the rest here:


If EDTA Chelation Therapy is so Good, Why Is It Not More Widely Accepted?

James P. Carter, MD, DrPH

(When he wrote this original article Dr. Carter was Professor and Head, Nutrition Section, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana.)

Reprinted from the Journal of Advancement in Medicine, Volume 2, Numbers 1/2, Spring/Summer 1989, pages 213-226.

ABSTRACT: A summary of the medical politics, turf struggles between medical specialties and factions in the health care professions, and the medical economics of EDTA chelation therapy is described in detail to answer the question, "If EDTA chelation therapy is so good, why is it not more widely accepted?"

Most people, including physicians, are not aware of the medical politics, legal machinations and economic sanctions that covertly control the practice of medicine in the United States. A physician who introduces an innovative and nontraditional type of therapy often becomes the target of those forces. That is especially true if a new therapy, like EDTA chelation: 1) involves a major shift in the scientific paradigm; 2) if acceptance of the new therapy somehow implies that currently used medical practices are inappropriate; or 3) if the new therapy threatens the financial well being of a politically powerful and well established branch of the medical profession. Quite the opposite occurred with the immediate and widespread acceptance of bypass surgery and balloon angioplasty, which quickly brought wealth and fame to surgeons, cardiologists, large teams of health care professionals, and the hospital industry.

When a radical new therapy like chelation is first introduced, physicians who do not utilize that therapy feel threatened, both professionally and financially. Their professional integrity is threatened by obsolescence of their scientific knowledge and they lose patients who seek out the new therapy. They forget that if their established treatments were really successful, and without major disadvantages, patients would not look to another type of treatment.

As with EDTA chelation therapy, major pressures are brought to bear on the "deviant" physician to coerce him back into the accepted mold. He is ostracized by his peers; he comes under professional attack for "lack of ethics;" his medical and mental competence are questioned; he is accused of "exploiting" his patients for personal gain; and epithets of "quack" and "charlatan" are hurled his way. Ad hominum attacks are common, in the absence of more cogent and scientific criticisms.

Well known historical examples of that phenomenon occurred with the introduction of the germ theory of disease. That simple concept took 50 years for complete acceptance by the medical profession.

Lister was viciously attacked when he proposed that wound infections were not inevitable after surgery if aseptic techniques were used. Semmelweis was likewise dealt with when he urged doctors to wash their hands before delivering babies to prevent maternal deaths from puerperal sepsis. Lister's recommendations were not accepted by mainstream medicine for many decades, and Semmelwels was persecuted to his death by medical colleagues, who were incensed by the notion that they themselves transmitted disease from patient to patient on their unwashed hands. Has human nature changed since that time?

The history of medicine is replete with examples of medical "heretics" who were eventually credited with major advances. They were often not recognized for their achievements until after death. Paracelsus, for example, is exalted as one of the great pioneers in medicine, but he was the original "quack" in his own time. Paracelsus introduced the use of mercury to treat syphilis. There was no other cure for syphilis at the time, although, as with many treatments today, the lethal dose of mercury was close to the therapeutic dose. Paracelsus was viciously attacked by his medical peers and derisively called a "quack" (short for "quacksalber," the old German word for mercury).

Inertia in science and medicine is a powerful force and is reinforced by major economic and legal forces in the United States. Many industries and special interest groups that are politically and economically powerful would be hurt financially if chelation therapy were to become more widely accepted. Those same industries have a major influence in our society at all levels. Grants for university and medical school research often stem from those same sources. They spend heavily to lobby for laws, regulations and government funded medical research to favor their own interests and to suppress competition. It is difficult to obtain NIH research funds in the face of opposition from powerful lobbies when that research goes against those special interests.

Those same special interests have a major influence on lay and professional exposure through the news media. Advertising revenues are essential to the survival of medical journals, newspapers, magazines, television and radio. Even with freedom of the press, the media cannot survive without advertising revenues. There often exists an understandable reluctance to bite the hand that feeds them. It is difficult to educate the public and the medical profession about new developments without media cooperation. Medical schools also cannot afford to offend their corporate sources of research funds.

The welfare of the American public is often pushed aside by the industrial quest for profits and pressures to suppress competition. Every industry wants a monopoly, if that can be achieved. Mainstream medicine has come very close to that goal.

Scientific arrogance is commonplace. Physicians consider themselves to be experts in their own field. If a majority of physicians do not endorse a new therapy, they collectively rely on public recognition of their own "expertise" to discount a new concept that they themselves have not yet embraced. They forget that all great advances in medicine began with a small minority. Their thinking tends to follow along these lines: "If I'm the expert and I don't use this new therapy and if my many colleagues and peers are experts and they don't believe in the new therapy, then we must be right and that small group of physicians who believe differently must be wrong. We're the experts."

The most frequent criticism leveled by critics of non-traditional and alternative medical therapies is that new treatments are "unproven" because randomized, double-blind, controlled studies have not yet been done to prove effectiveness. Those criticisms ignore the fact that most medical procedures routinely performed in the practice of medicine are also unproven using those same criteria.

The Office of Technology Assessment, a branch of the United States Congress, with the help of an advisory board of eminent university faculty, has published a report with the conclusion that, " . . . only 10 to 20 percent of all procedures currently used in medical practice have been shown to be efficacious by controlled trial." Therefore, 80% to 90% of medical procedures routinely performed are unproven.(1) That report further points out that research which purports to prove effectiveness of the remaining 10% to 20% of medical procedures is largely flawed, and " . . many of the other procedures may not be efficacious." The most frequent reason for not accepting the value of EDTA chelation therapy reflects a flagrant double standard.

Read the rest here:


What's Eating Stephen Barrett?

by Burton Goldberg

Let's look at this set-up carefully. Barrett and his " quackbusting " colleagues say they are working to protect the public against health frauds. They don't want the public to waste its money on "sham" treatments that don't work. In the paradox of "quackbusting," the quackbusters say they're protecting public health, but in fact, they're abandoning the public to their own suffering to protect the financial interests of conventional medicine, which has no interest in or ability to produce benefits for these conditions.

He says he's using science to protect the public from expensive fad diagnoses, but if this "quackbuster" has his way, the public will have no recourse but conventional medicine for their health problems.

Recently, I set myself the exercise of trying to understand what motivates a self-proclaimed "quackbuster" to write a book debunking an entire field of medicine. A "quackbuster," as we've come to know over the years, is someone who is dedicated to casting aspersions on alternative medicine, regardless of whether there is any factual basis.

As alternative medicine continues to grow more popular-an estimated 42% of Americans now use it-the "quackbusters" are growing more clamorous in their denunciations of our field. They have to be-they're almost a minority view.

Multiple chemical sensitivity, sick building syndrome, food-related hyperactivity, mercury amalgam toxicity, candidiasis hyperactivity, Gulf War syndrome-these are all costly misbeliefs and fad diagnoses, says Barrett. "Many Americans believe that exposure to common foods and chemicals makes them ill," he says. "This book is about people who hold such beliefs but are wrong."

Not only are patients wrong, Barrett says, they are "financially exploited as well as mistreated." They are duped by "far-fetched" notions and "dubious claims," by headline-crazed media and "toxic television," and by "physicians who use questionable diagnostic and treatment methods."

Patients presume they are being made allergic or toxic or even being poisoned by the mass of modern chemicals, cosmetics, cleaning agents, drugs, and other human-made substances. They are mistaken, says Barrett. Their misbeliefs are especially hard to understand, Barrett says, "at a time when our food supply is the world's safest and our antipollution program is the best we've ever had."

Patients' symptoms are mental (psychosomatic) in origin-"they react to stress by developing multiple symptoms." Their symptoms are not caused by chemicals or dietary factors, he says. In fact, Barrett suggests that some patients are "hysterical," others are "paranoid," and the rest have "certain psychological factors" that "predispose" them to "develop symptoms" and to seek out "questionable" doctors (meaning alternative medicine practitioners) who will attach a ("not scientifically recognized") disease label to them.

Regarding Gulf War syndrome, for example, Barrett declares: "It provides a feeding trough for serious scientists, since funding is abundant, and for every charlatan with a newsworthy theory." On the matter of the dangers of mercury fillings, he states: "The false diagnosis of mercury-amalgam toxicity is potentially very harmful and reflects extremely poor judgment."

For the most part, of the illnesses listed above, nearly all are mere "labels" rather than legitimate illness conditions, asserts Barrett; they're not caused by foods or chemicals; there are no "scientific" studies conclusively proving the association of diet, chemicals, and illness; and we are best advised to dismiss them out of hand, he says.

In most cases and for most of the illnesses commonly associated with chemical sensitivity, Barrett says the mass of mistaken patients would be better off seeking "mental help" from a psychiatrist or other "mental health practitioner." Alternative medicine physicians and especially "clinical ecologists" (the old name for practitioners of environmental medicine, which links exposures to toxic substances with health conditions) should be chastised, investigated, put on notice, and if possible, put out of business, says Barrett.

Most of what Barrett claims can be refuted, easily and decisively. That's not my intention here. I'm more interested in looking at the bigger picture-what is Barrett really saying amidst his quackbusting bluster, and why?

Barrett appears to be saying that the typical American patient is stupid, hysterical or paranoid, easily duped, and generally incapable of making a rational, correct medical decision on their own. The patient is mistaken and wrong in thinking their multiple symptoms have any connection to the foods they eat or the environmental chemicals to which they are exposed. The media is irresponsible and not to be trusted as an information source about medicine, especially about alternatives. Doctors who practice alternative medicine are unscientific, opportunistic frauds or quacks, peddling flawed or junk science.

I next pondered what could be the purpose of this book. What could be the result of debunking the connection between foods, chemicals, cosmetics, and drugs with the varieties of environmental illness (mentioned above) now afflicting millions of patients. Why does Barrett (and his colleagues) so dislike alternative medicine? What's eating him that he must disparage the field at every opportunity?

The purpose has to be this: to corral this mass of suffering "confused" patients into the treatment pen of conventional medicine. But here Barrett's rationale collapses. The patients end up with nothing.

Surely no person suffering unexplained allergies or general toxicity wants to be told they're stupid, mistaken, and ought to have their head examined. And surely no patient who has abandoned conventional medicine (because the one or two dozen doctors they consulted hadn't a clue as to how to help them) would be interested in Barrett's thesis. It is genuinely hard to imagine how a suffering patient could actually be persuaded by Barrett to dismiss alternative approaches when the conventional ones were not useful, or even worse, were harmful.

But let's say, despite these reservations, patients allowed themselves to be herded into Barrett's allopathic corral. There would be nothing there for them. Conventional medicine has no cure or treatment for these illnesses. In fact, as Barrett repeatedly points out, for the most part, conventional medicine does not even validate the existence of these illness categories and regards a diagnosis of such illnesses as bogus medicine. Of course, Barrett does offer patients "mental help."

Let's look at this set-up carefully. Barrett and his "quackbusting" colleagues say they are working to protect the public against health frauds. They don't want the public to waste its money on "sham" treatments that don't work. The false labels of multiple chemical sensitivity, environmental illness, and the rest, do the public a "disservice," Barrett says, and seeking treatment for these wastes the financial resources of insurance companies, employers, and other third party reimbursers.

But since conventional medicine has nothing to offer patients who "believe" they are suffering physical distress from these conditions, the patients, in effect, are left on their own to suffer some more. Barrett's plan seems to be to corral these misguided patients into the conventional medicine pen so he can dissuade them of their mistaken notions regarding their illness and make them "see" that it's all psychosomatic.

Clearly the patients do not benefit at all from this scenario, so who does? The makers of drugs, petrochemicals, cosmetics, synthetic food additives, pesticides, prepared foods-in short, the massive food and chemical industry of North America benefits. They are no longer held accountable as causal factors in multiple symptom illnesses. They are let off the hook. They can proceed with business as usual. There are no poisons in their products. (See the cartoon about "quackbusters" by Harley Schwadron in "The Politics of Medicine" section, this issue, p. 106.)

In the paradox of "quackbusting," the quackbusters say they're protecting public health, but in fact, they're abandoning the public to their own suffering to protect the financial interests of conventional medicine, which has no interest in or ability to produce benefits for these conditions. The "quackbusters" say they're serving the public, but the truth is they're grossly disserving patients. Thanks to Barrett's remarkable chemical insensitivity, a great many patients will be left to suffer on their own without any diagnosis or treatment, except perhaps another round of Prozac on the house.