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Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial

Available August 18th
in the U.S.

Available May 27th
in Canada

Trick or Treatment:
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.

Book reviews

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.


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  • Magnetic scams
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  • Magnetic Therapy scams and scandals

    Would you spend up to $2800 to sleep in a bed that had a magnetic mattress cover that probably cost the vendor less than $100?

    At the present time, the government of Canada chooses not to prosecute or place its vital resources in place to fight against consumer health fraud when it concerns harmless products like so-called "therapeutic magnets". For those of you who have watched the marketing of these products in mainstream stores, and through MLM organizations, we would like to invite you to help expose this industry.

    We believe that magnetic covers, pads, mattresses, and wraps are nothing more than snake-oil. However, they are marketed in catalogs, at drug stores, and even through monthly mailings of one of Canada's largest companies.

    This next story is about Thorsten Wietschel, a carpetbagging German-American, who has criss-crossed over the Southwestern U.S. over the last few years plying his trade. His targets are usually senior citizens who he can easily fool into thinking that his product(s), magnetic mattress covers, can help alleviate or cure all sorts of health conditions.

    Police reports and court documents about this man have surfaced over the last few weeks and these were made known to Canadians who operate German Clubs in the area. In addition, the local police were notified, but they would do nothing. Members of Parliament were called, and they did nothing.

    We can't figure out how this man can just fly up here to Canada, cross the border, and begin selling products without one evidence to support medical or health claims.

    Did he tell the truth to the newspaper reporter, Brian Caldwell, of The Record, when he told him that he was going to build a mattress cover operation right here in the Kitchener area? What did he tell the folks at the Custom agents at his point of entry.

    Finally, why in the world did the executive of at least one of the German clubs refuse to block further presentations, even after the news broke on the front page on January 26, 2008. Did the German clubs just rent space to him and provide meals to his guests, or was the deal sweeter than that?

    Terry Polevoy, MD

    Therston Wietschel targeted Kitchener, Ontario

    Therston Witschel returned to Ontario in late January 2008 with his mattress cover promotions and his targets were again German-Canadian senior citizens. He's been investigated in a number of U.S. locations for the last few years and now thinks that Canada would be easier pickings for his brand of snake-oil.

    I can't understand how this man was even allowed to do business in Canada with a record like his in the U.S. If he is up here to ripoff senior citizens, then he should have been stopped at the border.

    The Record - our outstanding newspaper nailed him as a con-man when several of us contacted the police to complain. He apparently had rented rooms at two local German clubs and provided free schnitzel to his invited guests, but wouldn't allow the press to attend. Last October he had the balls to do a presentation at a Lutheran Church in the Toronto area and raised the ire of the local pastor.

    Press coverage:

    Clubs won't ban magnetic mattress sales pitch Seller who makes dubious health claims plans more local luncheons

    The spineless managers of the Kitchener, Ontario German Clubs think that shaking hands with a crook is okay. Despite the evidence uncovered by responsible citizens and reporters, they want to help contribute to the scam being perpetrated by Therston Wietshel.

    He doesn't live here, and some of us doubt that he is even in this country legally to peddle his magnetic mattresses. Why is it that the police won't help our seniour citizens who are being defrauded?

  • Clubs won't ban magnetic mattress sales pitch - January 29, 2008 by Brian Caldwell - The

  • Something doesn't seem right - Brian Caldwell in The Record - January 26, 2008 - PAGE ONE
    The same article appeared in the Hamilton Spectator

  • Pasadena California September 27, 2003

  • Pasadena California October 1, 2003

  • Warnings in Arkansas - October 20, 2003 Attorney General Mike Beebe’s office that his office is investigating Wietschel after he held two seminars in central Arkansas promoting the medical benefits of a magnetic mattress pad. Wietschel is charged in California with making false claims about the product, and the Arizona attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit against him in July in an effort to stop him from selling the mattress pads in that state. Wietschel allegedly targeted senior citizens and told them the pads cure arthritis, asthma and snoring, Beebe said. The pads, Wietschel said during the seminars, also prevent Alzheimer’s disease, lower cholesterol and prevent muscle cramps, the attorney general said.

    Anyone dissatisfied with a mattress pad they purchased from Wietschel can call the Arkansas attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division at:
    (501) 682-2341 or (800) 482-8982.

    Skeptical Links

    • California Attorney General Sues Magnetic Mattress Pad Sellers - Stephen Barrett, MD California Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed a lawsuit charging that Florida-based European Health Concepts, Inc. (EHC) made false and misleading claims about its magnetic mattress pads and seat cushions. The complaint, filed in Sacramento Superior Court, also names EHC president Kevin Todd and several sales managers and agents as defendants. The suit seeks more than $1 million in civil penalties for engaging in unfair business practices and making false claims; $500,000 in civil penalties for transactions involving senior citizens; and full restitution for purchasers of the products. The suit also seeks to permanently bar the defendants from engaging in future unlawful business practices in California

    • Magnet Therapy: A Skeptical View - Stephen Barrett, MD The device was invented by Richard Markoll, MD, PhD, who does not have a medical license but is described in Web site biographies as a graduate of Grace University School of Medicine, a Caribbean medical school. Trock, a former principal investigator for Magnetic Therapy Center, PC, Danbury, CT, was sentenced to 6 months probation. and ordered to make restitution of $35,250 . Trock has co-authored studies claiming that PST is effective for treating pain, but the device is not FDA-approved for that purpose.

    • Positive action in Arkansas - man charged in three States for fraud - magnetic mattresses are bust. Now why doesn't the rest of the world wake up?
    • Comet Biomagnetics - you've got a disease, they've got a treatment

    • Petro-Canada Markets Sukura bracelets
    • Yahoo Petro-Canada News
    • What the Skeptics Say - this is a large file with dozens of links to HCRC, CSICOP, and QuackWatch articles.

    Federal Trade Commission Actions

    Docket No. C-3898
    In the Matter of Pain Stops Here, Inc., and Sande R. Caplin Docket No. C-3897
    In the Matter of Magnetic Therapeutic Technologies, Inc., and Jim B. Richardson
    • Complaint
    • Decision & Order
    • IT IS ORDERED that respondents, directly or through any partnership, corporation, subsidiary, division, or other device, including franchisees, licensees or distributors, in connection with the manufacturing, labeling, advertising, promotion, offering for sale, sale, or distribution of magnetic therapy products in or affecting commerce, shall not represent, in any manner, expressly or by implication, that such products:

      A. Are effective in treating cancer, including lung and breast cancers, diabetic ulcers, arthritis,
      or degenerative joint conditions;

      B. Lower high blood pressure;

      C. Stabilize or increase the T-cell count of HIV patients;

      D. Reduce muscle spasms in persons with Multiple Sclerosis;

      E. Reduce nerve spasms associated with diabetic neuropathy;

      F. Increase bone density, immunity, or circulation; or

      G. Are comparable or superior to prescription pain medicine,

  • Magnetically charged claims

    • Two women arrested in California where it's against the law to sell magnetic devices that make health claims. This is a Los Angeles Times search. Now, if it's illegal to sell magnetic mattres pads in California, why do chiropractors in Ontario sell Nikken pads from their offices.
    • Cellu-slim Magnetic toning shorts - Shoppers Drug Mart promotes this unbelievable scam in hundreds of their stores. They promote other magnetic scams as well.
    • Magnetic Ideas if it isn't here, the scam hasn't been invented yet

    • Centurion - Canadian based company can't market to humans in U.S. Search

    New Consumer Sentinal web site for complaints

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  • Based on the recently published book, "MS TOOLKIT - A Patients' & Caregivers' Guide to Multiple Sclerosis," MS TOOLKIT will inform patients and caregivers about the realities of the disease, its possible causes, effects, and treatments. It will provide current information on new developments, clinical trials and other important matters for those dealing with MS.

    Finally! A how-to kit for understanding and dealing with multiple sclerosis - "MS" - one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases of the central nervous system. The true "story of multiple sclerosis' impact" - on everyone! If you have MS, or know someone with MS, you simply cannot be without this book! Cary Polevoy speaks candidly about the impact of MS and chronic disease on the lives of patients, family, friends, and co-workers, revealing critical information about the disease, the effectiveness of highly touted treatments, and what everyone should know BEFORE they find themselves stricken with a crippling disease or sidetracked by a career-ending accident: the importance of disability insurance and how to navigate the often onerous paths of insurance companies and Social Security. Everything is contained in one highly readable volume that everyone will understand. It is a necessity for anyone that has MS for dealing with the changes in their lives, family and work, and the medical community.

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