Available April 21, 2008
in the U.K.

Reserve Your Copy Now

Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine

Available August 18th
in the U.S.
Trick or Treatment:
The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine

by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst

The ultimate verdict on alternative medicine.

Welcome to the world of alternative medicine. Prince Charles is a staunch defender and millions of people swear by it; most UK doctors consider it to be little more than superstition and a waste of money. But how do you know which treatments really heal and which are potentially harmful? Now at last you can find out, thanks to the formidable partnership of Professor Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh. Edzard Ernst is the world's first professor of complementary medicine, based at Exeter University, where he has spent over a decade analysing meticulously the evidence for and against alternative therapies.He is supported in his findings by Simon Singh, the well-known and highly respected science writer of several international bestsellers. Together they have written the definitive book on the subject. It is honest, impartial but hard-hitting, and provides a thorough examination and judgement of more than thirty of the most popular treatments, such as acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology, chiropractic and herbal medicine.

In "Trick or Treatment?" the ultimate verdict on alternative medicine is delivered for the first time with clarity, scientific rigour and absolute authority.

How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All

by Rose Shapiro

Suckers reveals how alternative medicine can jeopardize the health of those it claims to treat, leaches resources from treatments of proven efficacy and is largely unaccountable and unregulated. In short, it is an industry that preys on human vulnerability and makes fools of us all.

  • Review by Steven Poole in The Guardian

  • The Cure Within
    A History of Mind-Body Medicine

    by Anne Harrington

    Reviewed by Dr. Jerome Groopman

    In “The Cure Within,” her splendid history of mind-body medicine, Anne Harrington tries to explain why we draw connections between emotions and illness, and helps trace how today’s myriad alternative and complementary treatments came to be. A professor and chairman of the history of science department at Harvard, Harrington has produced a book that desperately needed to be written.

    Snake Oil Science:
    The Truth about Complementary
    and Alternative Medicine
    by R. Barker Bausell

    Millions of people worldwide swear by such therapies as acupuncture, herbal cures, and homeopathic remedies. Indeed, complementary and alternative medicine is embraced by a broad spectrum of society, from ordinary people, to scientists and physicians, to celebrities such as Prince Charles and Oprah Winfrey.

    In the tradition of Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things and Robert Parks's Voodoo Science, Barker Bausell provides an engaging look at the scientific evidence for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and at the logical, psychological, and physiological pitfalls that lead otherwise intelligent people--including researchers, physicians, and therapists--to endorse these cures.

    The book's ultimate goal is to reveal not whether these therapies work--as Bausell explains, most do work, although weakly and temporarily--but whether they work for the reasons their proponents believe. Indeed, as Bausell reveals, it is the placebo effect that accounts for most of the positive results.

    He explores this remarkable phenomenon--the biological and chemical evidence for the placebo effect, how it works in the body, and why research on any therapy that does not factor in the placebo effect will inevitably produce false results. By contrast, as Bausell shows in an impressive survey of research from high-quality scientific journals and systematic reviews, studies employing credible placebo controls do not indicate positive effects for CAM therapies over and above those attributable to random chance.

    Here is not only an entertaining critique of the strangely zealous world of CAM belief and practice, but it also a first-rate introduction to how to correctly interpret scientific research of any sort. Readers will come away with a solid understanding of good vs. bad research practice and a healthy skepticism of claims about the latest miracle cure, be it St. John's Wort for depression or acupuncture for chronic pain.

    Canadian Quackery Watch - Hot Topics

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    United States Canada
    Alternative Medicine Radio

    Your inside track to medical quackery on the airwaves

    The Touch of Health
    Our Response

    The Touch of Health was an alternative medicine radio show beamed around the world from several Canadian radio stations via the internet. For two hours on Saturday afternoon the world was entertained with "news" about the wonderful world of alternative medicine.

    The hostess, Christine McPhee tooled around the Province of Ontario, from the Total Health Expos in Toronto, to small town health food stores in Markham, and Waterloo. She recruited companies to sponsor her show, and many of the segments were in reality infomercials. I don't ever remember McPhee, nor the station management announce to the listening public that many of her shows were nothing more than paid programming, i.e. infomercials. They gave the usual disclaimer about seeing your "doctor" or "health provider" if you had any medical questions. In the opinion of many, the shows were nothing more than entertainment with a twist, patients called up and were often "doctored" by unqualified, unlicensed "experts", and many of them have even lost their license to practice their chosen profession.

    I was told that the shows were produced by CHUM, a Toronto based media conglomerate. The shows were then sold to the WIC (Western International Communications), and to Rogers Communications. With the reorganization of WIC, it was sold to Corus Entertainment in early July 2000, the new management decided that it was in their best interest to not renew the contract that was to expire in August 2000. So, the show's run was concluded.

    Along the way there have been a number of important public health issues that have been covered by McPhee and her guests. However, it's the HOW they were covered that has been the thrust of a number of complaints to regulators (see below for details).

    McPhee has regularly invited guests into the studio, or visited and helped to promote Health Expos, health food stores, and holistic practices around the Province. Some of the Expos have been co-sponsored by questionable, Mexican based cancer clinics. She has regularly helped to promote terribly ridiculous schemes, like Hulda Clark's "Cure for All Diseases", based on quackery, not science. During one particular devastating E. coli outbreak that killed at least a half-dozen Walkerton area residents, including a two year old doctor's child, she entertained us with a formerly licensed osteopath from Illinois who said he could help control the E. coli with oil of oregano.

    The good news is that The Touch of Health, contract with stations owned by Corus Entertainment after August, 20 2000 would not be renewed. According to unnamed sources, the entire length of the original contract that was signed by the WIC radio network was fulfilled. No contract was broken. Since July, the shows have not been heard on Rogers owned NEWSTALK570 - CKGL in Kitchener.

    Ms. McPhee, like any other Canadian entrepreneur, was free to take her shows elsewhere.

    However, there was a problem that erupted with a vengeance, and while we have no proof that McPhee was directly involved, it is indeed disturbing news for all concerned.

    Serious allegations have been made by alleged friends and supporters of Christine McPhee about Drs. Terry Polevoy and Patricia Marchuk that are in fact false, personally offensive, and probably defamatory. These false statements have been published on the internet hundreds of times, perhaps thousands of times since the summer of 2000.

    Ms. McPhee and those associated with her had more than ample opportunity to respond to complaints about her shows since June 1999. If in fact McPhee reacted to the complaints in writing to either WIC or Rogers, is unclear. She did file a complaint with the Canadian Broadcast Stadards Council, and they ruled that she had no case. The Appendix to the decision stated

    A licensee is responsible for the actions of its employees, including open-line hosts, producers and programmers. A licensee is also responsible for comments made by guests or callers during open-line programs."

    However, she at times acted with personal attacks, sometimes with vicious intent on the telephone to office staff and to family members of those who have complained about her.

    Despite serious complaints, McPhee's CHUM produced shows continued to promote quackery, and despite numerous complaints to station managements, McPhee had, in my opinion, never allowed contravening views onto her shows. One almost never heard a caller who was doubtful of the treatments suggested, or the products that were promoted. And of course the deep-dark secret that the shows were really paid programming much of the time was never made public by McPhee.

    The issue here is not suppression of alternative medicine by anyone. The issues wereclearly the promotion of quackery and potentially dangerous medical treatments during many of her broadcasts. The Touch of Health presented an anti-medical, anti-public health attitude. Many of the programs, particularly near the end of the show's run were clearly aimed to destroy the public's confidence in their family doctor, and in their community health department.

    The Touch of Health has always seemed to duck the issues of responsibility. It copped out by saying that they were merely presenting an educational program. How can you educate the public by presenting fraudulent and inflammatory material as medical fact?

    If readers of this article need to have assurances that she had the right to take her outrageous presentations elsewhere in Canada, you can be assured that Canada is a free country. She has the right to put all of her drivel on the internet, just like us.

    It's just that it's the opinion of many, that any unbalanced promotion of quackery on the airwaves in Canada goes way beyond not only good broadcast and journalistic standards, it might be considered criminal by some.

    Colman Jones in a wonderful article in NOW Magazine said it best:

  • "..many of McPhee's fans may not have been aware that the show -- which often featured big names in natural healing like Carolyn deMarco and Zolton Rona -- was in fact a two-hour paid ad"
  • "..the demise of McPhee's infomercial raises questions about the role of scientific verification in the natural health field and the problem of conflict of interest in ads dressed up as programming."
  • "McPhee's radio show, for example, was financed by Puresource Natural Products and other such companies. I ask her in a telephone conversation to comment on the problem of credibility in this kind of situation. McPhee in turn asks for my indulgence while she sets up a three-way call with Tim Bolen, her California-based PR guy.

    "This is not a health issue -- this is a political issue," Bolen warns me from his cellphone as he approaches the Mexican border en route to a clinic in Tijuana.

  • Advising patients who call in to a radio talk show, or who are advised to go to a web site controlled by that show, might be dangerous. Those callers or surfers might be advised to seek herbal medication, or be referred to a specific alternative practitioner who may have no license, no office, no insurance. Any of those scenarios could be potentially fatal or injurious to the listener.

    To advise mothers to avoid immunization because of some strange idea that there is a conspiracy that involves the Royal Family and Nazi spawned drug companies is insane. This is not alternative medicine, it is not voodoo, it is not witchcraft, it is insanity. Yet, McPhee's guests represented those ideas, and McPhee earned her keep by giving those people a platform to spread their untruths.

    If the eroneous attacks by Ms. McPhee and her friends continue, you can be certain that there will be action taken. We have as much right to a legal opinion as they do. And, guess what, we have the right to take them to court for libel and slander.

    Topics discussed on McPhee's show that support complaints made:

    McPhee's endorsements

    • Breast enhancement herbs "I'm an ingredients reader and I studied this product. I was so impressed that it's natural. It's a safe alternative."
      "Never before have we seen something that can give us inches, increase size, is natural and effective. The whole thing in one product. And men notice it."

    • Another breast booster - same exact text as previous one

    Objections to just one of The Touch of Health guests

    • Letter sent to the CRTC and WIC station management in regards to her show on the treatment of schizophrenia with orthomolecular psychiatry and supplements. She interviewed William Walsh, who recommends that many patients with schizophrenia and many other diseases can be successfully treated with megavitamins and minerals, otherwise known as orthomolecular psychiatry, made famous by Canadian doctor Abram Hoffer.


  • The Touch of Health
  • TOH radio page
  • TOH Healthy links
  • Len Horowitz
  • Cass Igram (Ingram)
  • Clark Research
  • Michael R. Pinkus
  • Kulhay Wellness
  • CCRG
  • Corus entertainment
  • CHUM Limited
  • Rogers Communications
  • Advertising Standards Council
  • ONHP Canada
  • Food Section - Health Canada
  • Health Claims - CFIA
  • Drug-like claims - CFIA
  • Testimonial regs. - CFIA
  • BBB Canada
  • CAB Code of Ethics
  • FAIR'S Media Activist Kit

    Canadian born quack Hulda Regehr Clark
    Click on the picture of her book to follow her trail of quackery

    Amazon books
    Quackery Books

    Health Robbers - Barrett

    A Consumer's Guide to Alternative Medicine by Kurt Butler

    Lying for Fun and Profit  by Kurt Butler

    Quack: Tales of Medical Fraud from the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices

    Honey, Mud, Maggots, and other Medical Marvels

    A Consumer's Guide to Alternative Medicine

    Fundamentals of Complementary & Alternative Medicine

    The PDR:  Family Guide to Natural Medicines and Healing Therapies
    Doing Ethics In Journalism: Handbook With Case Studies

  • More Top Quackpots on your AM Dials

    Thanks to our many contributors, this section will be a highlight on Canadian Quackerywatch - although not all the listings will be Canadian. The fact that so many kooks are now heard on the internet via RealPlayer or Windows MediaPlayer makes any quack worthy of inclusion here.

    So, if you know of a fine example send the links with a little blurb to:

  • amradio@healthwatcher.net

    Awareness Corporation -- POO POO on DOO DOO Cleanse.cc

    JJ Richards, the former talk show host of Vancouver radio, must have fallen on hard times. His voice now helps Paige Matisse, a U.S. based pitchperson for herbal laxatives and supplements. They try to convince us that John Wayne's colon really did contain 63 lbs. of fecal matter at the time of his death from lung cancer. It's enough to make you want to shut your radio right off, and go light up a Camel straight. But, these scammers and their buddies in Rogers Communications, and the naturopathic health business would have you think othewise. This is actually one of the funniest hours of audio spam that I have ever heard. In fact, I don't think that there's one word of truth in anything that these folks have to say.

    Yes, it's a real four-bagger of poo-poo folks, a real four-bagger. So, don't blame me if your water bill goes through the roof if you decide that I'm full of it, and your credit card gets billed by the Awareness Corporation. I hope that this web site helps you clear the airwaves of stuff and that you can tell the difference between it, and "Shinola". I'm sure that Rogers Communications doesn't know the difference.

    Michael R Pinkus, DC

    I could say that he has more infomercials on Canadian AM radio than anyone else. Words could be written about the enormous success that he has had with his own products. Unfortunately, there appears to be little evidence for the rest of us.

    Denver's Alvin Stjernholm, DC

    This site was submitted by a Colorado resident who has changed her identity and has joined the chiropractic witness protection program. I'd say that this one rates a 4 quacks on our rating scale.

    Alvin comes to us via the American Freedom Network Radio Station (1360AM), out of Johnstown, Colorado, you can now hear over the Internet the most demented of all quacks -- And guess what, AFN is a Messianic Jewish site, which really substantiates our previous complaints about folks like Len Horowitz who also holds anti-vaccination views.

    Among Stjernholm's favorite subjects: the evils of vaccination, the reversal of all pathologies through chiropractic adjustment and soft laser treatments. Learn how poisonous vaccinations mimic "shaken baby" syndrome; how a little "tug on the hip" can stop a heart attack. A true marvel of imagination! Classic quack! Program Guide:

  • Back to CQ - Canadian Quackerywatch