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Man who lost sense of smell believed Zicam safe

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 17, 2009


He was like millions of other consumers who sometimes take vitamins or echinacea, hoping to build up his immunity or ward off a cold. He figured alternative remedies were as safe as a spoonful of honey.

But that notion washed away with one squirt of a homeopathic cold gel.

David Richardson, of Greensboro, N.C., is one of hundreds of patients across the country who have lodged complaints about Zicam Cold Remedy, saying it destroyed their sense of smell.

“It’s like watching a sunset in black and white. The things that you take for granted, not only smelling fresh-cut grass or bread in the oven … you miss those parts of your life,” he says. “There’s not a day that goes by that you’re not reminded of it.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that people who can’t smell may also miss danger signs in their daily lives like smoke or gas. It moved to force three Zicam products — Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, Nasal Swabs and discontinued Swabs in Kids’ Size — off the market Tuesday and told consumers not to take them anymore.

Zicam belongs to an under-the-radar but legal sector of the drug industry called homeopathic remedies. They hold a unique legal status: They are mainly sold without prescription as legal drugs claiming to treat specific ailments, yet they are not routinely reviewed for safety or benefit by the FDA. The agency rarely acts unless safety questions arise after marketing.

Most scientists say homeopathic remedies contain active ingredients in such low concentrations — often 1 part per million or less — that they are usually safe.


Homeopathy gets a smackdown by the hands of MSNBC

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on June 17, 2009

Following the wake of the Zicam issue, MSNBC published quite a smackdown of homeopathy as a whole, a rarely heard off thing to do in the world of mass media.

But an Associated Press analysis of the Food and Drug Administration’s side effect reports found that more than 800 homeopathic ingredients were potentially implicated in health problems last year. Complaints ranged from vomiting to attempted suicide.

I guess homeopathic solutions are not “free of side effects” after all.

In its review of homeopathy, the AP also found that:

  • Active homeopathic ingredients are typically diluted down to 1 part per million or less, but some are present in much higher concentrations. The active ingredient in Zicam is 2 parts per 100.
  • The FDA has set strict limits for alcohol in medicine, especially for small children, but they don’t apply to homeopathic remedies. The American Academy of Pediatrics has said no medicine should carry more than 5 percent alcohol. The FDA has acknowledged that some homeopathic syrups far surpass 10 percent alcohol.
  • The National Institutes of Health’s alternative medicine center spent $3.8 million on homeopathic research from 2002 to 2007 but is now abandoning studies on homeopathic drugs. “The evidence is not there at this point,” says the center’s director, Dr. Josephine Briggs.

They’re cheating! While screaming out about water memory and dilutions and stuff, they have “homeopathic” remedies with concentrations of 2,000 times  of what a homeopathic solution should have. The homeopaths are using active ingredients! Hahnemann must be turning in his grave!

To this day, homeopaths put forth mystical-sounding explanations involving “vital force” and “healing energy.” And with arcane ingredients like “nux vomica” and “arsenicum album,” many homeopathic medicines sound like something brewed in a druid’s kettle.

That’s just funny. I wanted to make this my skepquote of the day, but then I decided to comment a little more on this whole issue. Druid’s Kettle! Wish I’d thought of that one.

Richardson says he thought he was taking a government-approved drug when he took a whiff of homeopathic cold gel. He says he felt a burning sensation and hasn’t smelled much since. A doctor who tested his sense of smell tentatively linked his condition to Zicam, Richardson’s medical records show.

Why wouldn’t he be confused? They sell these things in pharmacies next to the real medicine. The assumption of legitimacy is only natural to make at that point.

Some independent research also has blamed the active ingredient in Zicam, zinc gluconate, for such problems.

Aahhh, cheaters! **Shaking my fist at the screen**It’s not supposed to have an “active ingredient”. Even the homeopaths know that their dilution crap is just that, crap, and that their remedies need real active ingredients to work.

Though many homeopathic remedies consist mostly of sugar or alcohol, thousands of patients swear by their effectiveness anyway.

Thousands of patients are gullible!

Amanda Rafferty of Haverhill took homeopathic sanguinaria canadensis, made from a toxic herb known as bloodroot, for her monthly migraine headaches. She says her next migraine didn’t come back for a full year.

It is this sort of testimonial that the Alt Med crowd relies on as opposed to real scientific evidence. It is this sort of testimonial that makes them succesful and sways peopel their way. Who wouldn’t want a monthly pain to be rescheduled to a yearly one? It’s fantastic!

Her homeopath, Begabati Lennihan of Cambridge, treats headaches, colds, ear infections, digestive complaints, depression and behavioral problems. Like other homeopaths, Lennihan considers not just symptoms but also temperaments, favorite foods, even dreams. However, if the problem shows up in an X-ray, she acknowledges, it “is going to be harder to fix with homeopathy.”

Ha ha ha ha. Priceless. In other words if it’s a real problem we can’t fix it. We only want to deal with subjective issues not objective ones. Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know about homeopathy?

With only about 2,500 full-time U.S. homeopaths, patients routinely diagnose themselves. Dr. Ahmed Currim, one of 13 state-licensed homeopathic doctors in Connecticut, discourages people from buying homeopathic remedies without professional advice, because they “don’t know what they’re doing.”

I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Ahmed. People that intentionally go and buy homeopathic remedies really do not know what the hell they’re doing.

In the booming nonprescription market, many homeopathic remedies are sold for symptoms so vague and broad that it’s virtually impossible to match treatment and ailment.

Of course, otherwise it would quickly fade away. Remember the precious bit about not working on things that show up on an X-ray.

Dr. Iris R. Bell, a psychiatrist and homeopathy researcher at the University of Arizona, Tucson, says the suspended Zicam products deliver the homeopathic ingredient right into the nose — not an accepted homeopathic method. She says the FDA should act against such products.

Right, they were doing it the wrong way. I see, because of course there could be nothing wrong with homeopathy and how their products were prepared. Well Dr. Bell, Zicam was meant to treat congestions so naturally it would be delivered through the nose. You’re not really going to get much help with congestion by taking suppositories!

She also acknowledged that “there are people preparing things homeopathically to try to get around FDA regulations of over-the-counter drugs.” But she says most homeopathic remedies are much safer than conventional pharmaceuticals, so no major regulatory changes are needed.

Talk about blind faith.  How about the fact that homeopathic remedies DO NOT WORK. Does that not require some sort of regulatory change according to the good doctor? How about having regulations that require homeopaths to provide scientific proof that their products work before they sell them to the public?


With the Homeopathy Awareness Week going on, this is exactly the kind of stuff that people need to become aware off.

Homeopathic plutonium? Now there’s a hot time in the old town tonight!

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on June 17, 2009


In keeping with Homeopathy Awareness Week (which still runs until June 21), I can’t resist commenting on this gem of a story that was sent to me the other day. I mean, we’re talking super duper heaving shopping in the very heart of London. It turns out that the Helios Homeopathy Shop right in Covent Garden will fix you up with homeopathic plutonium if you need it:

Dr Fiona Barclay, a chemist at RGB Research in west London, made this discovery. Her company specialises in selling collections of the periodic table elements (with the exception of those elements that are illegal or are so very short-lived – a few seconds or less – that they invite frustration). Some elements are easy to purchase: carbon, sulphur, iron. For others, one can turn to eBay, where arsenic, uranium (in the form of uranium-tipped missiles), and other elements of ill repute are commonly on offer.But plutonium proved hard to find … until Barclay turned to Google, which directed her to the Helios shop. She explains what happened next:

“I went to Covent Garden and went into the shop and said, ‘Please, may I have some plutonium.’ And the lady behind the counter said, ‘I shall fetch the chemist.’

“The chemist was duly fetched, and I said, ‘I’d really like a sample of plutonium.’ She asked, ‘And how strong would you like it, madam?’

Now there’s customer service! When told to jump, smile and ask how high! Of course, there’s one catch:

“I had gone in there with the very good intention of asking what their original source was, because it’s my understanding that, although they dilute everything until there’s not even a molecule left, they do start off with one drop. But I got frazzled, and forgot to ask.”The chemist gave me pillules, which very entertainingly have a ‘best before’ date of the 31st of March, 2013. And as I was leaving she pointed out that there was no plutonium in it.

Indeed, that’s what homeopathy is all about: not a trace of anything, therapeutic or otherwise, left in it. Of course, given that several isotopes of plutonium have half-lives on the order of thousands of years, one wonders why Helios’ homeopathic preparation would have only a four year useful life. Maybe the water “decays” faster. Or maybe the sympathetic magic that is homeopathy has a half life. Who knows?

I was intrigued; so I had to look up plutonium nitricum, which is the homeopathic version of plutonium being sold. Of course, at this point it is worth noting that, even if Helios (or any other homeopathy seller) did use plutonium to start out with, by the time it’s diluted to 30 C, it’s incredibly unlikely that there is even a single atom of plutonium left, which is convenient if you don’t want to be flooding your body with highly radioactive metal. On the other hand, if dilution and succussion truly does make the plutonium stronger, as homeopathic principles teach, then wouldn’t homeopathic plutonium be a great starting point for an unlimited supply of fuel for nuclear reactors or for the most powerful nuclear bomb ever? Truly, homeopathic plutonium would be dangerous stuff! One has to wonder why nuclear physicists and the military aren’t more interested. This could be a major breakthrough in unlimited civilian power and in military technology. I also have to wonder whether it would even be safe to succuss the mixture between each step, so potent would the plutonium become. And what would one do with all the waste water from the process of dilution and succussion? After all, if water has memory, the discarded water at each step would have a memory of the plutonium, wouldn’t it? True, it wouldn’t be as potent as the final remedy, but, following the law of infinitesimals, each succeeding set of waste water would be imbued with more plutonium goodness. Truly, it would be a horrible radioactive waste disposal problem.


From Clever Hans To Harass II – Supernatural Crime Solving Goes To The Dogs

Posted in Podblack Cat by Skepdude on June 17, 2009


Just in from Orlando Sentinal! You can’t keep a shaggy dog story down… especially when it’s one that ends up having people put in jail unfairly – wha? Hang on?

News item from Central Florida, where apparently people were being convicted of violent crimes, based almost exclusively on the “testimony” of a police dog – because his owner claimed he had powers to spot criminals?

Last weekend, we looked at the case of Bill Dillon, the Brevard County resident imprisoned for 27 years before DNA tests set him free…

At least two other men suffered the same fate — and another shared link: a dog.

Not just any dog. A wonder dog helped convict all three men: a German shepherd named Harass II, who wowed juries with his amazing ability to place suspects at the scenes of crimes.

Harass could supposedly do things no other dog could: tracking scents months later and even across water, according to his handler, John Preston.

It all came to a conclusion when Judge Gilbert Goshorn requested a tracking test after a case where the dog supposedly discovered a scent at a scene six months after a murder. And the dog got a big FAIL.

I would suggest that people check out the marvellous blog of ICBS Everywhere where you can learn about Clever Dave, the not-so-mathematically-literate dog and the history of Clever Hans, the horse that also couldn’t actually do math: