US to tighten rules on homeopathic “medicines”

According to a policy statement[1] released in Nov 2016 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) homeopathic products will soon have to submit to the same regulations that govern other products sold as drugs in the Unites States.  Classified as drugs under the FTC Act decades ago, homeopathy has nonetheless enjoyed a de facto exemption from scrutiny.  This is partly because of a sympathetic lobby and the prevailing notion that it was, at worst, a harmless nuisance – not something to waste regulatory effort over[2].  However, decades of work by medical and skeptical groups, including the Center for Inquiry, has paid off and, in the words of Dr. Stephen Novella, of Science Based Medicine, “the FTC has finally decided to do its job” [3].

In their summary the FTC acknowledges that there “is no basis under the FTC Act to treat homeopathy drugs any differently than other health products”. The summary goes on to say that despite the lack of reliable scientific evidence, claims by homeopathic labeling must “be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence”.  Unfortunately this was followed by an allowance that homeopathic products could still make unfounded health claims as long as it was clearly stated on the label that the claims are not based on science or evidence. This kind of change may not affect the average consumer of homeopathic products, so we are not sure it will have any real effect, but we are optimistic that this signals a shift on the part of the FTC, bringing it more in line with the UK and Australia, where government crackdown on homeopathy is more aggressive.   Perhaps Health Canada will take note and consider regulating all homeopathy products in our country with “truth in advertising” as a core value.

Blythe Nilson

Science Chair

Another Pediatric Death by World View

[excerpted from an article by Clay Jones at Science-Based Medicine]

On March 18th, 2012, physicians at Alberta Children’s Hospital made the always-difficult decision to remove 19-month-old Ezekiel Stephan from life support after five days under their care. Carrying the diagnosis of brain death, there was sadly no life to support at that point. The events that led to his tragic death are currently the focus of an ongoing trial where Ezekiel’s parents stand charged with “failing to provide the necessaries of life.” If convicted, they face up to five years in prison as well as loss of custody of their remaining children.

The charges against the Stephan family are based on concerns that they failed to seek appropriate medical care while he suffered from bacterial meningitis, a deadly infection involving the brain and spinal cord, for several days. Revelations from court testimony so far have revealed that the Ezekiel’s parents chose instead to treat him at home with various herbal remedies. This isn’t surprising considering that Ezekiel is also unvaccinated and his grandfather operates a notorious herbal supplement company which sells cures for bipolar disorder and autism.

So far the jury has heard from a nurse family friend who visited the home a few days before Ezekiel died and who recommended that they bring him to a doctor for possible meningitis. Instead he was brought to a local naturopathy clinic and received an herbal concoction meant to “boost the immune system.” Only once the poor child had stopped breathing did the family call 911, but it was too late. Testimony from Alberta Children’s Hospital pediatricians revealed that he was likely already brain dead by the time he arrived by emergency transport.

So who is to blame for Ezekiel’s suffering and death? Certainly his parents, and their warped anti-medicine world view, should be held accountable. But this tragic case also raises serious concerns about a system which licenses practitioners of pseudomedicine and allows them to practice their dangerous nonsense on vulnerable children. Adding to the controversy, Ezekiel’s parents are now claiming that a conspiracy between the Crown and the pharmaceutical industry may be at work.


Further Inquiry


Anti- AntiVaccination: The battle continues

#dropjenny: Tell ABC that Jenny McCarthy’s pseudoscience is not welcome on The View (@theviewtv)

Update 1: Ottawa public health reports a case of measles in an unimmunized child – the first since January 2011:

“The risk to the public is very limited,” said Dr. Lindy Samson, Chief of Infectious Diseases at CHEO. “Immunization is the best protection from measles. Everyone should ensure that their vaccines are up to date.”

The reported incidence of measles in Ottawa is very low as most of the population has been vaccinated. Despite the rarity of this disease in Ottawa, it is very important for all residents to keep their vaccinations up to date.

Update 2: Toronto public health weighs in, and provides an enlightening infographic.

In 1998 Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent paper linking autism to the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine. What followed was a growing movement of scared parents who began avoiding getting their kids vaccinated for fear that they would become autistic. For years scientists could not repeat the results found by Wakefield. Finally in 2004, Wakefield was found to have a conflict of interest in favour of finding a link between the vaccine and autism. In May of 2010, Andrew Wakefield was found guilty by the General Medical Council and was struck of the medical register and banned from practicing medicine. The rumour campaign against vaccines was picked up by Jenny McCarthy, an actress with no scientific or medical background. She became the mouthpiece for the supposed controversy, despite the fact that there was no scientific basis for any of the claims she made. Despite this, her fame allowed her greater publicity. She used her son’s supposed autism to gain sympathy, and to tug at the heartstrings of worried parents everywhere.

Hordes of new parents opted against vaccines. Not just the MMR, but others as well. Parents began sending pox pops to one another, and holding chicken pox parties. Adults who had previously had their vaccines, opted against getting their regular boosters. Since that time, the western world has seen a re-emergence of various diseases that before this time had been on their way to extinction: whooping cough, measles, mumps, and many more.  When confronted about their choice, many will answer:

“It’s my kids/my health, I’m not hurting anyone else”

But, the truth they don’t want to face is that it’s not themselves, or at least not just themselves, they are hurting. They are also hurting people whose immune systems have been compromised. People who have autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s or colitis, like lupus, diseases like HIV and AIDs, people on chemo or who have had an organ transplant, the elderly, and children. These are the people who will not only get sick, but are those most likely to suffer serious consequences like disability, even death as a result. They are the people who rely on group immunity: who for one reason or another could not get the vaccine. People who, even if they were vaccinated, may not have enough of an immune response to fight off the illness.

In February of 2013, the Ottawa Cancer Foundation invited Jenny McCarthy to paticipate in their “Bust A Move” fundraising drive.  The Ottawa Skeptics launched their #dropjenny campaign on twitter and social media, and as a result, the OCF cancelled McCarthy’s appearance.

Now,  ABC TV is looking to have Jenny McCarthy replace one of the hosts of the VIEW, which would give Jenny  a new platform from which to spout her dangerous anti-science and anti-medicine ideas.  It’s time to restart the #DropJenny campaign on twitter and help encourage ABC to reconsider their decision to give her a spot on their popular daytime TV show.

Help defend science, medicine, and reason, and those who cannot defend themselves. Tell @ABC @theviewtv to #DropJenny!

You can also sign a petition started by Voices for Vaccines here.

(More on the Ottawa #dropjenny campaign at Scribbles and Rants.)

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