Dr. Margaret McCartney, who helped launch the PrivateHealthScreening.org site we wrote about yesterday, has a piece in the BMJ this week, “What a new consumer health magazine doesn’t tell you.” (Subscription required for full access.) Excerpts:
“It looks just like any other magazine on the shelves of the newsagent aimed at middle aged women: glossy, 100 pages, with a smiling, confident looking woman on the cover. What Doctors Don’t Tell You, a monthly magazine that launched in September 2012, claims to explain how to “discover treatments that are safer and more effective.” …
In the October issue’s news section the article “Thyme is better for acne than creams” starts, “Thyme is more effective than prescription creams for treating acne . . .The herb outperformed pharmaceuticals in a series of laboratory tests, killing the actual bacteria that cause acne . . . Not only is thyme more effective, but it’s kinder on the skin too, say the researchers. Most pharmaceuticals cause a burning sensation and irritation to the skin, whereas thyme and other herbal preparations have none of these side effects.” The article references the Society for General Microbiology’s spring conference in Dublin this year. This research was reported through a press release; it was an in-vitro model; and the researchers did not compare side effects with current prescription creams.
Another article says, “Army personnel with noise deafness and tinnitus are commonly deficient in B12, but enjoy an improvement in symptoms after taking B12 vitamins.” The study referred to contained 12 patients receiving vitamin B12 and was not a randomised controlled trial.
The editorial on Gardasil, headed “Lock up your daughters,” warned that “your doctor and your daughter’s school nurse are not likely to tell you about the 100-plus American girls who suddenly died after receiving an HPV [human papillomavirus] vaccine.” Although there are valid concerns about the long term efficacy of HPV, to suggest that it has led to death is alarmist and does not reflect or explain the evidence collated by the Food and Drug Administration. Informed choice has to be about fair information, not scaremongering; we should hardly wish for a repeat of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine debacle.
Although medical journals carry advertisements for drugs, the ones in this magazine are an extraordinary shrine to non-evidenced based medicine. …
It is right to criticise medicine, but the same standards must be applied to all interventions, “alternative” or not. We now realise how important it is to ensure that fair evidence, free of bias, is used in making medical decisions. There is no point in substituting bad medicine for bad science, and it is not clear from this magazine where the hierarchies of evidence stand, and the limitations and uncertainties that arise in research are not consistently explained. The magazine’s liability statement—“the publishers cannot accept any responsibility for any damage or harm caused by any treatment, advice or information contained in this publication”—should perhaps be better printed on the cover, in an unmissable font.”
She’s not the only one giving What Doctors Don’t Tell You a critical eye. The Quackometer blog refers to “Fifty Shades of Quackery.”
I’ll show you a screenshot from that blog that should be titillating enough to send you there to see more.