The Charity Commission and Quack Charities – Update

This quick update is more about the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) than about the Charity Commission, which is currently silent as usual. When I phoned the PHSO on 11th May I was told that a letter had been sent on 30th April. Yesterday (18th May) nothing had arrived, so I phoned the PHSO again. At my request the letter concerned was emailed to me. It wasn’t actually a letter, but text pasted into the email, and dated 1st May. Here it is: Continue reading

The Charity Commission is not fit for purpose

Last year I was pleasantly surprised when the Charity Commission advised a charity to stop making unsubstantiated claims, after I complained. I am now much less impressed. Encouraged by my initial success, I started looking at more charities that seem to mislead the public. Remember that charities are legally obliged to operate for public benefit, and there are many that do not. Several promote homeopathy, in some cases to vulnerable people in poor countries, which can’t possibly benefit them, and could do much harm. Continue reading

Evidence: Is it whatever you think it is?

Last evening I attended the annual Sense About Science lecture. Perhaps the most important outcome of any lecture is that it made the audience think, and Professor Steve Rayner certainly achieved that. His title, “Science, Technology and Democracy: Dissecting the anatomies of controversy”, promised much, and I was not disappointed. As an anthropologist by training, and having morphed into something of a social scientist, Rayner has become an authority on interactions between science – and scientists – and society, especially politicians. Continue reading

Paying the Piper

That guardian of all that’s self-righteous about quackery, the magazine and website What Doctors Don’t Tell You, has its ire well stoked this week. The editors reveal that the famous Clinical Trials Service Unit (CTSU) at Oxford University is funded by the pharmaceutical industry. This apparently is the result of tireless investigation by`nutritionist and wholefood campaigner’ Zoë Harcombe. Not you will note a dietician, but a nutritionist, a title that almost anyone seems qualified to hold these days. I can boil an egg, so I’m a nutritionist. “You got an ology?” But enough of flippancy. Continue reading

Deliberately Misleading – naturally

I’ve been meaning to post this for far too long, and I have stung myself into it by revisiting a previous post about Dr Jessica Braid (neé Middleton). She operates as The Natural Doctor, from her family’s chiropractic business near Stockport. I can hear the alarm bells already. I suggest you read the first instalment before reading on here. Continue reading

What’s Going on with the Advertising Standards Authority?

Don’t get me wrong, I have enormous respect for the ASA. Above all else, they are seriously annoying the quacks and charlatans, notably “What Doctors Don’t Tell You“, the magazine that makes up silly stories about health, disease, and treatments. But I am wondering whether the ASA is falling victim to the IT-driven tick-box mentality that pervades modern society and business. Continue reading

The Myth of Big Pharma

Forty years ago this year (god, can it be so long?), I joined the pharmaceutical industry. Its reputation then was little better then than it is now, various companies having weathered scandals in the previous two decades. In the 1950s Pfizer was top UK company by a long way, on the back of its tetracycline antibiotics. Oxytetracycline was promoted via golf weekends for doctors, and a dimpled ball emblazoned with the brand name Terramycin was famously brandished in the House of Commons in the late 1960s by Gwyneth Dunwoody MP. Not many years later I was working for Pfizer, and doctors still asked me for golf balls, I suspect only half in jest. In the 1960s Roche was forced to repay excessive profits from benzodiazepine anxiolytics, and of course the now long gone Distillers Company presided over the worst ever case of teratogenic damage from a drug. Continue reading

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