An editorial published by the Lancet, the respected British medical journal, entitled “The End of Homeopathy” demands that doctors recognize the absence of real curative powers in homeopathic medicine. The analysis concludes that, although homeopathic medicines have been around for more than 250 years and have attained cult-like status among their aficionados, the only effect they have is on the mind.
Swiss researchers compared the results of more than 100 trials of homeopathic medicines with the same number of trials of conventional medicines in the treatment of a wide variety of illnesses. The homeopathic agents had no more than a placebo effect.
The article further points out that the debate has continued for years, even though homeopathy, when subjected to the precise scrutiny of well-controlled studies, fares badly when compared with conventional medicines, noting that “the more dilute the evidence for homeopathy becomes, the greater seems its popularity.”
As the debate continues, Bayer HealthCare has been accused by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) of falsely claiming that selenium in its One A Day vitamins may reduce men’s risk of prostate cancer.
Last year, the National Institutes of Health completed a seven-year, $118-million study and concluded that “selenium does not prevent prostate cancer in healthy men.” Furthermore, a study involving more than 35,000 US and Canadian men called the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) was halted in October 2008 because researchers concluded that selenium did not protect men from prostate cancer and perhaps increased the incidence of diabetes in some of the subjects. Several other studies determined that selenium almost tripled the risk of developing diabetes. This finding led to a dramatic warning from the American College of Physicians that “long-term selenium supplementation should not be viewed as harmless and possibly a healthy way to prevent illness.”
In an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Peter Gann of the University of Illinois at Chicago urged that “physicians should not recommend selenium or vitamin E—or any other antioxidant supplements—to their patients for preventing prostate cancer.” In spite of these developments, Bayer HealthCare touts selenium for preventing specific prostate “issues” and reducing prostate cancer risk!
Nine prominent cancer researchers wrote to the Federal Trade Commission in support of CSPI’s complaint about Bayer’s advertising. The SELECT trial “was the largest individually randomized cancer prevention trial ever conducted, and, given its high rates of adherence and its statistical power, it is unlikely to have missed detecting a benefit of even a very modest size,” wrote the researchers. “Bayer HealthCare is doing a disservice to men by misleading them about a protective role for selenium in prostate cancer.”
At this point, it would appear that Bayer HealthCare adheres to the credo of P. T. Barnum that “there’s a sucker born every minute”!
Dudley S. Danoff, MD, FACS is the attending urologic surgeon and founder/president of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Tower Urology Group in Los Angeles, California. He is the author of Penis Power: The Ultimate Guide To Male Sexual Health (Del Monaco Press, 2011) and Superpotency (Warner Books).
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