Download Lectures on Biostatistics (1971).
Corrected and searchable version of Google books edition

Download review of Lectures on Biostatistics (THES, 1973).

Latest Tweets

Jump to follow-up

Since writing about anti-scientific degrees in Nature (March 2007), much has been revealed about the nonsense that is taught on these degrees. New Year’s day seems like a good time to assess how far we’ve got, five years on.

At the beginning of 2007 UCAS (the universities central admission service) offered 45 different BSc degrees in quackery, at 16 universities.

Now there are only 24 such degrees.

If you exclude chiropractic and osteopathy, which all run at private colleges, with some sort of "validation" from a university, there are now only 18 BSc/MSc courses being offered in eight universities.

Degrees in homeopathy, naturopathy and "nutritional therapy", reflexology and aromatherapy have vanished altogether from UCAS.

In the race to provide BScs in anti-science, Middlesex University has now overhauled the long-standing leader, Westminster, by a short head.

Michael Driscoll, vice-chancellor of Middlesex

Geoffrey Petts, vice-chancellor of Westminster

Let’s see what’s gone.

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) was the first to see sense. In August 2008 they announced closure of their “BSc” degree in homeopathy. On September 2008 they announced an internal review of their courses in homeopathy. herbalism and acupuncture. The report of this review closed down all of them in July 2009. I first asked for their teaching materials in July 2006. I finally got them in December 2010, after winning an appeal to the Information Commissioner, and then winning an appeal against that decision at an Information tribunal . By the time I got them, the course had been closed for over two years. That is just as well, because it turned out that UCLAN’s students were being taught dangerous nonsense. No wonder they tried so hard to conceal it.

Salford University was the next to go. They shut down their courses in complementary medicine, homeopathy and acupuncture. In January 2009 they announced " they are no longer considered “a sound academic fit” ". Shortly afterwards. a letter appeared in The Times from three heavyweights (plus me) congratulating the vice-chancellor on his decision.

University of Westminster

For many years, Westminster was the biggest supplier of BSc degrees in quackery. At the beginning of 2007 they offered 14 different BSc degrees in homeopathy, naturopathy, nutritional therapy, "complementary therapies", (western) herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine with acupuncture. Some of their courses were so bizarre that some of the students and even staff sent me slides which taught things like "amethysts emit high Yin energy". Like UCLAN, Westminster also held an internal review. Unlike UCLAN it came to the absurd conclusion that all would be well if they injected more science into the courses. The incompetence of the review meant that those who wrote it hadn’t noticed that if you try to put science into homeopathy or naturopathy, the whole subject vanishes in a puff of smoke. Nevertheless Westminster closed down entry to BSc homeopathy in March 2009 (though the subject remained as part of other courses).

Three years after the Nature article, all five BSc homeopathy degrees had shut their doors.

During 2011, Westminster shut down Naturopathy, Nutritional therapy, Therapeutic bodywork and Complementary Medicine. See, for example,
More dangerous nonsense from the University of Westminster: when will Professor Geoffrey Petts do something about it?

Professor Geoffrey Petts of the University of Westminster says they “are not teaching pseudo-science”. The facts show this is not true

University of Westminster shuts down naturopathy, nutritional therapy, but keeps Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine

Now Westminster has only four courses in two subjects. They still teach some dangerous and untrue things, but I suspect the writing is on the wall for these too.

I have seen a document, dated 11 April 2011, which states

“The following courses have been identified as ‘at risk’ (School definition) and will be discussed at the APRG and University Review Group2, due to poor recruitment and high cost of delivery:
 Integrated Health Scheme: BSc Complementary Medicine, Naturopathy; BSc Chinese Medicine; BSc Nutritional Therapy; BSc Herbal Medicine”

All but Chinese medicine and Herbal medicine have already gone. Almost there.

University of Wales

Since my first post in 2008 about the validation scam operated by the University of Wales, and some good investigations by BBC Wales TV, the outcome was the most spectacular so far. The entire institution collapsed. They no longer "validate" external degrees at dodgy business colleges, loony religious colleges or magic medicine colleges.

Another worthless validation: the University of Wales and nutritional therapy (October 2008) This is a ‘degree’ in nutrtional therapy. It is even more hilarious than usual, but it passed the validation anyway.

Scandal of the University of Wales and the Quality Assurance Agency (November 2010). This post followed the BBC Wales TV programme. At last the QAA began to notice, yet further confirmation of its utter ineptitude.

The University of Wales disgraced (but its vice chancellor is promoted) (October, 2011) The eventual collapse of the university was well-deserved. But it is very weird that the people who were responsible for it have still got their jobs. In fact the vice-chancellor, Marc Clement, was promoted despite his mendacious claim to be unaware of what was going on.

It remains to be seen how many of the many quack courses that were validated by the University of Wales will be taken on by other universities. The McTimoney College of Chiropractic is owned by BPP University (so much for their quality control, as explained in Private Eye). but still claims to be validated by Wales until 2017.

Some of the more minor players

Edinburgh Napier University. After an FOI request (rejected), Napier closed their herbal medicine degree in 2010.

Hot and cold herbal nonsense from Napier University Edinburgh: another course shuts. (June 2010)

As expected, the Scottish Information Commissioner agreed with that for England and Wales and ordered material to be sent. Edinburgh Napier University teaches reflexology, aromatherapy and therapeutic touch. Scottish Information Commissioner says you should know. Some of the horrors so discovered appeared in Yet more dangerous nonsense inflicted on students by Edinburgh Napier University. The embarrassment seems to have worked. Their remaining degrees in aromatherapy and reflexology have now vanished from UCAS too. All that remains is a couple of part time “Certificates of Credit” for aromatherapy and reflexology

Anglia Ruskin Univerity Not only have BSc degrees gone in aromatherapy and reflexology, but their midwifery degree now states "We are unable to accept qualifications in aromatherapy, massage and reflexology."

University of Derby Reflexology and aromatherapy have gone, though doubtless Spa management therapies have much nonsense left

University of Greenwich. BSc in Complementary Therapies (Nutritional Health) and BSc in Complementary Therapies (Nutritional Health) have been shut. The BSc Acupuncture is listed on their web site but it is under review, and is not listed in UCAS for 2012. (Acupuncture is run at International College of Oriental medicine, validated by Greenwich.). Only osteopathy (MOst) is still running, and that is a validation of an external course run at The European School of Osteopathy, in Maidstone

Thames Valley University was renamed the University of West London in 2010. The nonsense that was run there (e.g. Nutritional Fairy Tales from Thames Valley University) seems to have vanished. Their previous alt med guru, Nicola Robinson, appears now to be at London South Bank University (ranked 116 out of the 116 UK universities)

What’s left?

Chiropractic Surprisingly, given the total discreditation of chiropractic in the wake of the Simon Singh affair, and the internecine warfare that followed it, none of the chiropractic courses have shut yet. Some are clearly in trouble, so watch this space.

Osteopathy has also had no course closures since 2007. Like chiropractic it also suffers from internecine warfare. The General Osteopathic Council refuses to disown the utter nonsense of "craniosacral" osteopathy. But the more sensible practitioners do so and are roughly as effective as physiotherapists (though there are real doubts about how effective that is).

Excluding chiropractic and osteopathy, this is all that’s left. It now consists almost entirely of Chinese medicine and a bit of herbal.

Glyndwr university (Known as North East Wales Institute until 2008)   Ranked 104 out of 116 UK universities

BSc Acupuncture (B341) BSc
BSc Complementary Therapies for Healthcare (B343)

Cardiff Metropolitan University (UWIC) (Known as University of Wales Institute Cardiff (UWIC) until Nov 2011.)   The vice-chancellor of Cardiff Metropolitan, Antony Chapman, is in the QAA’s board of directors, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that the QAA has done nothing.

BSc Complementary Therapies (3 years) (B390)
BSc Complementary Therapies (4 yrs inc Foundation) (B300)

University of Lincoln

Acupuncture (B343) 3FT Hon BSc
Herbal Medicine (B342) 3FT Hon BSc

University of East London   Ranked 113 out of 116 UK universities

Acupuncture (B343) 3FT Hon BSc

London South Bank University   Ranked 116 out of 116 UK universities

Acupuncture (B343) 4FT Deg MCM

The Manchester Metropolitan University   Ranked 93 out of 116 UK universities

Acupuncture (B343) 3FT Hon BSc

Middlesex University

Acupuncture (B348) 3FT Hon BSc
Ayurvedic Medicine (A900) 4FT Oth MCM
Herbal Medicine (B347) 3FT Hon BSc
Traditional Chinese Medicine (BT31) 4FT Hon BSc

University of Westminster

Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture (B343) 3FT Hon BSc
Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture with Foundation (B341) 4FT/5FT Hon BSc/MSci
Herbal Medicine (B342) 3FT Hon BSc
Herbal Medicine with Foundation Year (B340) 4FT/5FT Hon BSc/MSci

It seems that acupuncture hangs on in universities that are right at the bottom of the rankings.

Manchester Metropolitan gets the booby prize for actually starting a new course, just as all around are closing theirs. Dr Peter Banister, who was on the committee that approved the course (but now retired), has told me ” I am sceptical in the current economic climate whether it will prove to be successful”. Let’s hope he’s right.

But well done Westminster. Your position as the leader in antiscientific degrees has now been claimed by Middlesex University. Their "degrees" in Ayurveda mark out Middlesex University as the new King of Woo.

Over to you, Professor Driscoll. As vice-chancellor of Middlesex University, the buck stops with you.

Both still teach Chinese and herbal medicine, which are potentially dangerous. There is not a single product from either that has marketing authorisation from the MHRA, though the MHRA has betrayed its trust by allowing misleading labelling of herbal medicines without requiring any evidence whatsoever that they work, see, for example

Why degrees in Chinese medicine are a danger to patients
More quackedemia. Dangerous Chinese medicine taught at Middlesex University
Why does the MHRA refuse to label herbal products honestly? Kent Woods and Richard Woodfield tell me

Sub-degree courses

In contrast to the large reduction in the number of BSc and MSc degrees, there has actually been an increase in two year foundation degrees and HND courses in complementary medicine, at places right near the bottom of the academic heap. The subject is sinking to the bottom. With luck it will vanish entirely from universities before too long.

Research-intensive Universities

Although all of the degrees in magic medicine are from post-1992 universities, the subject has crept into more prestigious universities. Of these, the University of Southampton is perhaps the worst, because of the presence of George Lewith, and his defender, Stephen Holgate. Others have staunch defenders of quackery, including the University of Warwick, University of Edinburgh and St Batholomew’s.

Why have all these courses closed?

One reason is certainly the embarrassment caused by exposure of what’s taught on the courses. Professors Petts (Westminster) and Driscoll (Middlesex) must be aware that googling their names produces references to this and other skeptical blogs on the front page. Thanks to some plain brown emails, and, after a three year battle, the Freedom of Information Act, it has been possible to show here the nonsense that has been foisted on students by some universities. Not only is this a burden on the taxpayer, but, more importantly, some of it is a danger to patients.

When a course closes, it is often said that it is because of falling student numbers (though UCLAN and Salford did not use that excuse). Insofar as that is true, the credit must go to the whole of the skeptical movement that has grown so remarkably in the last few years. Ben Goldacre’s "ragged band of bloggers" have produced a real change in universities and in society as a whole.

The people who should have done the job have either been passive or an active hindrance. The list is long. Vice-chancellors and Universities UK (UUK), the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), the Hiigher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE), Skills for Health, the Medicines and Health Regulatory Authority ( MHRA) , the Health Professions Council (HPC), the Department of Health, the Prince of Wales and his reincarnated propaganda organisation, the "College of Medicine", the King’s Fund, the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), OfQual, Edexcel, National Occupational Standards and Qualifications and the Curriculum Authority (QCA).

Whatever happened to that "bonfire of the quangos"?


2 January 2012 The McTimoney College of Chiropractic (owned by BPP University) claims that its “validation” by the University of Wales will continue until 2017. This contradicts the statement from UoW. Watch this space.

3 January 2012. Thanks to Neil O’Connell for drawing my attention to a paper in Pain. The paper is particularly interesting because it comes from the Southampton group which has previously been sympathetic to acupuncture. Its authors include George Lewith. It shows, yet again that there is no detectable difference between real and sham acupuncture treatment. It also shows that the empathy of the practitioner has little effect: in fact the stern authoritarian practitioner may have been more effective.

Patients receiving acupuncture demonstrated clinically important improvements from baseline (i.e., a 29.5% reduction in pain), but despite this, acupuncture has no specific efficacy over placebo for this group of patients. The clinical effect of acupuncture treatment and associated controls is not related to the use of an acupuncture needle, nor mediated by empathy, but is practitioner related and may be linked to the perceived authority of the practitioner.”

Sadly. the trial didn’t include a no-treatment group, so it is impossible to say how much of the improvement is regression to the mean and how much is a placebo effect. The authors admit that it could be mostly the former.

Surely now the misplaced confidence in acupuncture shown by some medical and university people must be in tatters.

In yet another sign that even acupuncture advovates are beginning to notice that it doesn’t work, a recent article Paradoxes in Acupuncture Research: Strategies for Moving Forward, shows some fascinating squirming.

3 January 2012.  The Daily Telegraph has carried a piece about closure of university courses, written by Michael Hanlon. On 31 January they carried a much longer piece.

3 January 2012.  It is a great pity that some physiotherapists seem to have fallen hook, line and sinker for the myths of acupuncture. Physiotherapists are, by and large, the respectable face of manipulative therapy. Their evidence base is certainly not all one would wish, but at least they are free of the outrageous mumbo humbo of chiropractors. Well, most of them are, but not the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP), or, still worse, The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Energy Medicine, a group that is truly away with the fairies. These organisations are bringing a very respectable job into disrepute. And the Health Professions Council, which is meant to be their regulator, has, like most regulators, done nothing whatsoever to stop it.

5 January 2012. Times Higher Education gives a history of the demise of the University of Wales, Boom or Bust. It’s a useful timeline, but like so many journalists, it’s unwilling to admit that bloggers were on to the problem long before the BBC, never mind the QAA.

There was also a leader on the same topic, Perils of the export business. It again fails to take the QAA to task for its failures.

Interviews for Deutsche Welle and Middle East Broadcasting Center TV.

17 January 2012 Another question answered. I just learned that the ludicrous course in Nutritional Therapy, previously validated by the University of Wales (and a contributor to its downfall), is now being validated by, yes, you guessed, Middlesex University. Professor Driscoll seems determined to lead his univerity to the bottom of the academic heap. His new partnership with the Northern college of Acupuncture is just one of a long list of validations that almost rivals that of the late University of Wales. The course has, of course, an enthusiastic testimonial, from a student. It starts

I work full time as a team leader for a pension company but I am also a kinesiologist and work in my spare time doing kinesiology, reiki and Indian head massage.

Evidently she’s a believer in the barmiest and totally disproved forms of magic medicine. And Middlesex University will give her a Master of Science degree. I have to say I find it worrying that she’s a team leader for a pension company. Does she also believe in the value of worthless derivatives. I wonder?

18 January 2012. the story has gone international, with an interview that I did for Deutsche Welle, UK universities drop alternative medicine degree programs. I’m quoted as saying “They’re dishonest, they teach things that aren’t true, and things that are dangerous to patients in some cases”. That seems fair enough.

There is also an interesting item from July 2010 about pressure to drop payment for homeopathy by German health insurance

31 January 2012

The Daily Telegraph carried a prominent 1200 word account (the title wasn’t mine). The published version was edited slightly.

telegraph 31 Jan

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

39 Responses to The demise of quackademia. Progress in the last 5 years leaves Michael Driscoll and Geoffrey Petts isolated.

  • toffer99 says:

    This is most encouraging. Sadly, there’s usually one step back: The Police are to start using lie-detectors!

  • Dr Aust says:

    Congrats, David – sterling work. More than worth a Knighthood – not that you’d be offered one or accept one if offered.

    BTW, are you forgetting Manchester Metropolitan Uni’s ‘BSc in Acupuncture’, one of the few BSc degrees in nonsense to buck the trend by opening in the last few years? Though I wonder if they weren’t just filling the ‘local market gap’ left by Salford closing their equivalent course.

  • @DrAust
    Thanks. All corrected now, I hope. The problem was that search of UCAS for “complementary medicine” recovers some acupuncture courses but not all.

  • Eric the half says:

    Surely the term ‘lie-detector’ should be scrutinised by the ASA?

  • Blue Wode says:

    An excellent post.

    Regarding no chiropractic courses having been shut yet, unfortunately some UK university Deans have been approached recently about developing more chiropractic degrees:

    However, it’s worth noting that a previous chiropractic degree that was proposed for the University of Ulster (see http://tinyurl.com/7xypxnx ) fell through. Presumably common sense prevailed.

  • @Blue_Wode

    I heard a rumour that “validation” of the courses at the Mctimoney college of Chiropractic might be taken over my Middlesex University. It sounded plausible but Middlesex has denied the suggestion explicitly.

    After the demise of the University of Wales there must be a lot of scrambling for universities who are willing to provide a veneer of respectability to otherwise bald and unconvincing narratives.

  • Avoided Cranium says:

    As recession looms, I think we will see the demise of more of these sorts of courses. The appalling commercialisation of our universities has led to a cynical exploitation of naive aspirant alt-health-gurus. The marketing departments of the Universities promise that their degrees lead to successful careers in self-employed practices. What they don’t say is that very few graduates make a living from their ear-candling and H2O potions. A recent survey of British acupuncturists showed that sticking needles in people was not their main source of income and that the majority earned less than £10Kpa from it. So basically when you see someone with a degree in it, they are slipping on a white coat for a few hours a week to earn some pin money. The province of bored housewives with rich husbands? Entrusting your healthcare to amateur part-timers is a strange idea. If graduates are coming out of University with debts of £40K, you would question the sanity of anybody enrolling on these sort of quackery courses.

  • Mender says:

    I’m very disappointed in BPP for still being involved in this nonsense. For-profit they may be but they are used by some of the country’s top law firms who can spend six figure sums on training each new solicitor-they’re absolutely equivalent to a Russell Group university in status as a teaching institution, I would say.

  • @Mender
    I don’t think you could describe BPP as being “research intensive”, so I don’t see them as being much like a Russell Group university. That’s nothing to do with them being private.

    Nevertheless the the fact that their owners. Apollo were found guilty of ‘knowingly and recklessly’ misleading investors..”, and their appeal against this was rejected by the US Supreme Court, does not give confidence that they are more interested in truth than profit. See http://www.dcscience.net/?p=4422

  • misstickle says:

    No doubt it would also be to your liking to have all of these univeristy graduates lined up and shot or burned at the stake and their disserations and text books burned………

  • @misstickle
    What a very unpleasant suggestion. I am constantly amazed by the viciousness shown by the cuddly holistic community when they feel they are losing.

    As I have often said, I have no wish to make any sort of alternative medicine (or religion, or any other barmy belief) illegal. All I wish is that (a) they do not make false claims and (b) do not harm people (c) I do not have to subsidise them. None of these aims are fulfilled at the moment, though matters are improving.

    If these common-sense rules were obeyed, I’d be perfectly happy to regard homeopaths etc as (in the words of Ben Goldacre) as a voluntary self-imposed tax on the gullible.

  • Gj McArthur says:

    Never before have I seen the results of a Prolapsed Anal Sphincter splattered across a page in such a disgusting manner. You should be embarrassed with yourself for this lack of control. Where’s your evidence for your claims of ‘Quackery’, ‘Magic medicine’, ‘Dangerous nonsense’ and why are there no proper references? All work submitted on the Herbal Medicine Bsc (hons) degree is referenced using Harvard referencing guidelines to support the written text, where’s yours. The pathetic example given regarding ‘misleading labeling’ describes Echinacea standardised extracts, herbalists don’t even use these, so called ‘health food shops’ sell those (and quite frankly should be stopped from doing so) I notice that you managed to come up with some of the ‘Rankings’ for the Universities which best ‘fitted’ your view, But what of Cardiff Ranked 41st, and Lincoln ranked 66th ? Too good to fit your profile ? Get your Sphincter sorted out !

  • bsneddon says:

    Having successfully completed a honours science degree at Glasgow university and worked in both agrochemical research and medical (cancer) research for several years, I found my degree in Herbal Medicine to be just as scientific,to some extent more rigorous more wide ranging and far more educational in that it taught me better how to analyse the good and bad science that I was exposed to. The medical and scientific elements of the course being taught by relevantly qualified professionals. For any scientist who bases his own view on the back of second hand verbal reports to claim that he knows it all aboutthe complementary health sector – or understands everything shows a naivety and a closed mind that should see him excluded from his profession as a danger himself. Of course not all complementary courses that have been established over the last few years are of scientific basis in the way that current society might view it (we don’t have a scientific explanation of how homeopathy works). Some courses may have had elements considered weak even from a complementary health perspective. But to stop all research and analysis and thorough education within this sector will pose far greater threat to society in future from unrestricted practitioners. It will also completely remove our human right for choice in how we treat our own illness in future.

  • Gj McArthur says:

    As a “pharmacologist” your …”expertise ” comes from a very small section of the whole picture, without the knowledge of Herbalists Your “field” wouldn’t even exist. Get a grip on yourself,…and pull Hard !

  • @Gj McArthur

    I never cease to be amazed at the level of abusiveness which is generated by alternative medicine advocates when they are criticised.

    I suspect that you have not quite got the hang of the web. The references are all in the links. You have to follow the links and read them. If you care to follow the links to the examples I’ve provided on this blog of actual teaching materials used on herbal medicine courses, I’ll be interested to hear your defence of them. Perhaps you’d like to start at http://www.dcscience.net/?p=3200

    I’m afraid your ability to read tables is a bit suspect too. The ranking of of 41 to which your refer is (last year’s) ranking of Cardiff university. That is not the same place as Cardiff Metropolitan University, which appears as UWIC Cardiff, ranked 68. Although it is true that all the courses run in universities that are in the bottom half of the rankings, that does not preclude the possibility that some parts of the university may be pretty good. That is certainly the case at Westminster, the one that I know most about. The existence of the quack departments is a great embarrassment to the good scientists who work in places like Westminster (they have told me).

  • @bsneddon
    Thanks for the comment. At least it’s free of obscenities. But I think you have not read very carefully. I don’t rely on “second hand verbal reports”. I base them primarily on the actual teaching materials used on the courses. As with Gj McArthur, I’d prefer you based you criticism on defence of the things that are taught.

    You don’t say where you did your herbal medicine degree, but if it is not one that I’ve investigated, I’ll be happy to do so (if it still exists).

    I’m afraid your comment that “we don’t have a scientific explanation of how homeopathy works” condemns you not to be taken very seriously. It’s one thing to defend herbal medicine, which, in principle, could work. It is quite a different thing to talk of homeopathy as though it has been shown to have any effects at all.

  • Both the major criticisms here seem to have come from herbalists.

    I’d like to issue to them my usual challenge to herbalists. Please tell us which herbal preparation has the best evidence for therapeutic usefulness. Whenever I ask this question, herbalists seem to go strangely quiet.

  • Gj McArthur says:

    Log in to Your site, to view Your bits of tat… why would any free thinking individual stoop into your sphinctoral ejaculate? I have now been educated as to what you are,(from numerous sources) on the other hand you will never know what it is to be a Gj. Bye now x

  • Gj McArthur says:

    Ps the reason you don’t get answers to that question is that it is a stupid question !

  • @Gj McArthur
    Thanks for your comments. They do more to make my case that I could ever manage myself.

  • PhDelinquent says:

    Rudeness and splutteringly bad spelling seem to be good diagnostics for the “alternative medicine” brigade. I suppose they are also embracing “alternative spelling”?

  • […] in "Nutritional Therapy" or "Nutritional medicine". Westminster University closed its BSc Nutritional Therapy during last year. We still don’t know the fate of the notorious (or should I say hilarious) […]

  • Ulrich says:

    Napier still seems to offer Homeopathy: http://www.modules.napier.ac.uk/Module.aspx?ID=CPT09103

  • @Ulrich
    Thanks very much. I’m sure homeopathy hangs on as a component of other courses, but there is no degree at Napier.

    At the moment there are some surprising discrepancies between what is listed in universities’ own web sites and what appears in UCAS and that alone makes it hard to get precise numbers.

  • CrewsControl says:


    I suspect the problem for the Universities that dispensed with Magic Medicine degrees is what to do with the staff no longer teaching succusssioning, chakras and crystals to degree level; apparently some now teach short modules.

    It’s not only UCL that has shown great enthusiasm for ‘Wellbeing’. Napier University has its own idiosynacratic take on it and has set up its own variant.


    Edinburgh Napier Health and Wellbeing Multiclinic
    The Health and Wellbeing Mutliclinic offers complementary healthcare treatments for Edinburgh Napier staff at special rates – £25 for 1 hour and £15 for 30 minutes. Includes Aromatherapy, Auricular acupuncture, Clinical Hypnotherapy and Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), Craniosacral Therapy, Massage therapies, Therapeutic massage, Remedial Massage, Sports Massage, Kinetic Chain Release, Myofascial Release, Indian Head Massage, Pregnancy massage, Hopi Ear Candling, Reflexology, Fertility, Pregnancy & Postnatal reflexology

    Presumably some other staff members have been profitably employed in the Multiclinic where they now deploy their ‘skills’.

  • herbconcern says:

    Over the past several years, there has been a considerable amount of propaganda and debate concerning the alleged benefits of the proposal for the practitioners of herbal medicine to become statutorily regulated by the Health Professionals’ Council (HPC).

    Official government policy on this issue has already undergone several volte-faces and currently lies in an unsupportable position. This has been the result which was brought about through the intervention of the public relations company, Cogitamus, engaged during the final months of the campaign, who quote EHTPA Chair Michael McIntyre as stating: “On behalf of our thousands of members, I cannot thank or praise you enough for the vital support and advice you gave to us when it really mattered. Your intimate knowledge and experience of the health sector, combined with your understanding of both the formal decision-making processes and informal political dynamics in Whitehall, Westminster and the devolved administrations was exactly what we needed. It is no exaggeration to say that I truly believe you made a significant difference between ultimate success and failure in the final decision. I would have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending your services to any organisation in the health world needing calm, professional and deeply experienced advice or advocacy.”

    This admission clearly indicates that covert influence of a specialist lobbying firm, hired to promote a vested interest to influence government decision-making, a subject which has recently become highly controversial. This proposal has given rise to a number of anomalies, which are likely to undermine its future progress.

    Perhaps in recognition of the failure of herbal medicine to meet the constitutional requirements for HPC regulation, the government subsequently came out with a further statement that it would not in future extend statutory regulation to any group to which it had not already (mistakenly) given the green light. This in turn would lead to a situation under which the vast majority of genuine traditions would be culturally discriminated against, were statutory regulation to actually go ahead. This, in turn, would automatically give grounds for complaint under EU regulations.

    The concept of statutory regulation was promoted as a means of “outflanking” the introduction of European Directive 2004/24/EC, (aka THMPD), to allow herbal practitioners to continue to prescribe unlicensed herbal medicine products. This, however, is a misrepresentation of the facts. For this derogation to be enacted, practitioners would not only have to become statutorily regulated, they would also have to become “authorised health-care providers” within the terms laid down by the directive. This would theoretically put them on a similar footing with conventional allopathic doctors.

    There has already been considerable resistance to any such move, in particular from the Royal College of Physicians. In addition to this, the very concept of statutory regulation for the professional advancement of the practitioner, rather than the safety and welfare of the patient as will specifically opposed in the report to the Secretary of State for Health from the Working Group on Extending Professional Regulation (WG on EPR), chaired by Dr Moira Livingston.

    In the meantime, a legal challenge in the form of a judicial review of the implementation of European Directive 2004/24/EC has already been prepared, as a precursor to pursuing a subsequent challenge in the EU courts.

    The above mentioned hiatus appears to have been a major factor in the collapse of a number of university courses in (non-traditional) herbal medicine, which had been prepared to present herbal medicine as an adjunct to allopathic medicine, rather than preserving it as a viable and dynamic alternative. Although the majority of such courses are no longer available, the rump can still be accessed through either Westminster or Middlesex Universities.

    Although the content of these courses appears to have been prepared in preparation for the proposed subservient role described above, it has diverged from genuine tradition to such an extent that it is questionable as belonging to the same paradigm. In addition to this, in the event of the stalled process of Statutory Regulation finally (yet again) collapsing, the required, but unlikely, transition to “Authorised Healthcare Provider” status would also fail to materialise. This of course is the alleged raison d’être for SR in the first place. Further to this, in the event of the legal challenge to THMPD proving successful, the viability of these courses might also come under further threat, particularly in the light of the raised limits to university course fees.

    Although David and I hold “contrasting” opinions in some areas, I believe that we are united in the belief that issues of national debate should be undertaken with honesty, integrity and openness. These virtues have been singularly lacking in the campaign to inveigle herbal medicine into the “hallowed” territory of the HPC, to say nothing of the ethical contortions of this QUANGO to gratify its rapacious appetite for extending the shadow of its pernicious influence beyond its constitutional remit.

    Robert Scott (author Decoding Myth-Information)

  • @herbconcern
    Thanks very much for that interesting comments. It is indeed shocking to me that the minister should have paid more attention to an industry-paid lobby group than it did to responsible medical opinion.

    Having put a lot of effort into opposing the statutory regulation of herbal medicine, I’d appreciate it if you could provide some links for two developments that I was not aware of.

    (1) ” the government subsequently came out with a further statement that it would not in future extend statutory regulation to any group”

    (2) “a legal challenge in the form of a judicial review of the implementation of European Directive 2004/24/EC has already been prepared, as a precursor to pursuing a subsequent challenge in the EU courts.”

  • zeno says:


    Fascinating and thanks for the information.

    I suspect you’re referring to the Alliance for Natural Health’s attack of the THMPD when you referred to a legal challenge?

    It’s be interesting to see where it get them – not far, I’ll wager.

  • B. Macks says:

    Dr. Colquhoun:

    You may, or may not, have viewed this clip. If not, you may find it amusing. As a classically-trained pharmacologist, I certainly did.

  • herbconcern says:

    The statement that SR would not in future be used as a way of avoiding THMPD was published in the national press. I am still, trying to track down where I stored the clipping, but it was notable in its contrast to the banner headline than Cameron was intending to use SR as a way of defying Europe.

    The introduction of THMPD has been portrayed as being for the safety and benefit of the public. Neither of these claims can be substantiated, it is merely another surrender to the EU under the Lisbon treaty. Those problems that have given rise to genuine concern have involved a breach of the current Medicine Act and are already covered under UK law. This has been confirmed by the MHRA itself, in its own documentation and so the implementation of further regulation is not necessary, only the implementation of the existing.

    The few established risks should be balanced against those presented by the products of the pharmaceutical industry, which in the decade up to 2007 managed to kill 80,000 people in the UK with a further £46,000,000 being spent on the survivors. These statistics might be explained by the survey conducted on the efficacy of NHS treatments.

    “Of around 2500 [commonly used NHS] treatments covered 13% are rated as beneficial, 23% likely to be beneficial, 8% as trade off between benefits and harms, 6% unlikely to be beneficial, 4% likely to be ineffective or harmful, and 46%, the largest proportion, as unknown effectiveness.”

    (BMJ Evidence Centre)

    These statistics somewhat undermine the validity of the “scientific” provenance of the testing regime supported as the preferred model.

    On the subject of the appropriate level of regulation of this sector, Andy Burnham. When sec of state for Health said: “Emerging evidence clearly demonstrates that the public needs better protection, but in a way that is measured and does not place unreasonable extra burdens on practitioners.

    “I am therefore minded to legislate to ensure that all practitioners supplying unlicensed herbal medicines to members of the public in England must be registered with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).

    “I believe that the introduction of such a register will increase public protection, but without the full trappings of professional recognition which are applied to practitioners of orthodox healthcare.

    Much of the tension that has arisen around the introduction of BSc courses in CAM therapies has been the result of such a level of qualification being a requirement for HPC regulation. The great champion for this has been one Michael McIntyre the Chairman of the EHTPA and former trustee and Fellow of the FIH, which was famously shut down under allegations of embezzlement and money laundering. I understand he is also one of Cameron’s constituents, which gives him direct access to him as his MP. This, I feel may give some explanation behind what has been going on.

    It also may be relevant that the esteemed EHTPA chairman is a practitioner of Non-Traditional Herbal Medicine and TCM and it appears to be his obsession to bring these disciplines into the NHS, using HPC regulation as a jumping off point. As the majority of traditional approaches involve a degree of the metaphysical as well as the biochemical, their validation purely within the limits of post Cartesianism is a ridiculous concept.

    On the subject of homoeopathy, I would offer the following;-

    House of Commons debate on CAM
    2nd June 2010

    David Tredinnick (Bosworth, Conservative)

    The problem with the report that the Science and Technology Committee produced was that it did not take evidence from primary care trusts or from the Society of Homeopaths, and it ignored completely the evidence from abroad, which shows a greatly increased use of homeopathic treatments. For example, in France, homeopathy is taught in seven medical schools and practised by 25,000 doctors. In India, it is part of the health service. There are 180 colleges teaching homeopathy there, and more than 300,000 practitioners. Whatever the merits of the scientific research, the fact is that there are 500 doctors in Britain who choose to use homeopathic treatments as part of their work. Whatever the science says-whether it is proven or not-those people believe that homeopathy works, and that is important.

    For the record, I am neither an herbalist nor homoeopath myself, although have benefitted from both these approaches after the failure of allopathic medicine (which damn nearly killed me in the process), but a practitioner of something far less acceptable to the established regimes of legitimisation – spiritual healing. I also admit to having been greatly helped by orthodox on other occasions. All approaches have their merits, but I believe we should all stop trying to push our own preferences down each other’s throats. This practice only demonstrates a lack of confidence in what we trying to defend.

  • herbconcern says:

    i forgot to mention that the EHTPA (Michael McIntyre) is now the sole validator of Uni courses in herbal medicine. Full circleof vested interest and corruption?

  • herbconcern says:

    4.12 The extension of statutory regulation to currently unregulated professional or occupational groups, such as some groups in the healthcare science workforce, will only be considered where there is a compelling case on the basis of a public safety risk and where assured voluntary registers are not considered sufficient to manage this risk. 4.13 The exception to this is practitioners of herbal medicine, including Chinese herbal medicine. Under European law, manufactured medicines placed on the market require a suitable product licence, and from April 2011 this also applies to manufactured herbal medicines. However, Member States have the power to operate national arrangements permitting appropriately authorised healthcare professionals to commission an unlicensed medicine to meet a patient’s special needs and the UK already does so for doctors and certain other appropriately regulated prescribers. While there is evidence of public health risk where unlicensed herbal medicines are supplied by unskilled practitioners, the impact on practitioners and on consumer choice of preventing the supply of all such herbal medicines would be disproportionate. We therefore propose to introduce regulation for these practitioners by the HPC, to ensure that the public are able to access these products if they should choose to do so and to provide improved assurance of the competence of practitioners. The focus of regulation will be solely on minimizing risk to the public.

    DoH. Enabling Excellence Command Paper (page 18)

  • B. Macks says:

    The alternative proprietary approach of Nativis is to “save” the magnetic energy associated with a drug’s unique solvation shell in a “wave file” and then to “administer” this file to a patient so they can enjoy the benefits of the drug without worrying about the nuisance of pharmacokinetics and suchlike.


    This is as high-tech as it gets, and as such, must be guaranteed to work. The one question I have is whether efficacy transiently increases or decreases as a patient walks or drives below, and perpendicular to, high voltage power lines. Indeed, perhaps all future placebo-controlled trials of low-tech “drugs” should be conducted with patients housed in Faraday cages. We wouldn’t want a placebo group to enjoy a greater benefit than they should because a couple of patients happen to be sitting closer to the kettle.

  • @B. Macks
    I’ve seen some loopy web sites, but that one should get some sort of prize for extreme battiness. Hilarious (but deeply sad too).

  • B. Macks says:

    Dr. Colquhoun:

    Your scepticism was unfounded. Yesterday I drew the structure of metoprolol with ChemDraw and saved the structure as a simple jpeg file on a USB key. I then departed for a brisk post-lunch walk, and when I arrived back in my office, I shoved the USB key into my nostril. I monitored my heart rate at 5 minute intervals and noted that it dropped from 92 to 68 in only 17 minutes. I repeated the experiment today, with the only difference being that I popped the USB key in my mouth. Again, my heart rate dropped from 89 to 70 in 16 minutes.

    It is thus quite clear that the Nativis strategy extends to the use of jpeg files. Furthermore, this file format is similarly useful in bypassing pharmacokinetic issues, since there was clearly no reduction in metoprolol’s effectiveness due to first pass metabolism in today’s experiment. The very small file size (62 kB) and thus low dose used on both days speaks further to an absence of bioavailability issues.

    Next week, I’ll assess the effects of different file sizes and I hope to gain an indication of metoprolol’s binding affinity through determining -log10(file size), or pkB. I’ll let you know the results.

  • @B. Macks
    Aha good to see you have taken the experimental approach to testing predictions, and so added an air of verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.

    I look forward to hearing your new results. I have a little list for such things.

  • […] many university courses in quackery have now closed, two subjects that hang on in a few places are western herbalism, and traditional Chinese medicine […]

  • B. Macks says:

    Just forwarded to me by a colleague – the latest alternative to botulinum toxin.


    Perhaps not “alternative”, but certainly way out there, and quackery of the highest order.

  • […] this post from pharmacology Professor David Colquhoun explains, over the last few years, course after […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.