[back] Health Fraud movement
The Campaign Against Health Fraud
by Martin Walker MA
[Chapters 26, 27, 31 DIRTY MEDICINE by Martin Walker. 1993]
1. Background and Beginnings
The Contemporary Scene
2. Early Targets
The Beginning of the Campaign Against Health Fraud
3. The Players and the Game, 1989-1991
The British Health Fraud Philosophy
1. Background and Beginnings
The malignant spread of medicine turns mutual care and self medication into misdemeanours or felonies. 1
Covert propaganda operations are not new to British industry. In the years immediately after the Second World War, fearful of nationalisation by a victorious Labour Party, Conservatives and industrialists set up a number of clandestine organisations, to champion the cause of free enterprise. Aims for Industry, which later became Aims, was set up to fight the post-war Labour Party's plans for nationalisation. The Society for Individual Freedom, set up in part by the intelligence agencies drawing on industrial support, was an organisation which championed individualist political freedoms eroded by wartime constraints.
Organisations like the Economic League were set up to gather intelligence on trade unionists. In the mid-seventies, the National Association for Freedom, sponsored by big business and organised by individuals with backgrounds in the intelligence community, campaigned first to get Margaret Thatcher to lead the Conservative Party and then for monetarist policies.
The pharmaceutical industry, intimately related to the great oil and chemical conglomerates, has often been at the forefront of covert industrial subterfuge and propaganda. Those who controlled oil have often also been close to the centres of foreign policy.
Gulf Oil, founded by the Mellon family, was before the Second World War part of one of the largest chemical cartels in the history of modern capitalism. It was dominated by LG. Farben, a group of German chemical companies. 2 In the 1960s, the London offices of Gulf Oil, now known as Chevron, were based in an unobtrusive high-rise office building called Gulf House, just off Oxford Street. From that building in 1967, the Queen Anne Press produced Medicine at Risk: The High Price of Cheap Drugs, by F. H. Happold.3 The only acknowledgment the author gives in the book's foreword is to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (APBI).
The book was published at a particularly sensitive time. The British Trades Union Congress was raising social and political questions about the pharmaceutical industry and in America the Kefauver hearings had recently enquired about price and monopoly practices. Only six years before, the international effects of thalidomide had dealt the image of the pharmaceutical industry its most devastating post-war blow.
The themes of Medicine at Risk are the themes of propaganda for the next two decades: themes which were to surface with a vengeance in the late 1980s.
The thalidomide incident stimulated attacks by those who profess to despise 'orthodox medicine' and all its works. Before examining the fallacies behind the accusations of the politically-minded critics of the pharmaceutical industry, it is useful briefly to consider the views of the crank. (italics added) 4
The only person whom Happold designates a 'crank' is Brian Inglis: he then cursorally looks at two of his recent books. 5
In Fringe Medicine, he [Inglis] describes approvingly the main forms of unorthodox healing, from naturopathy ('natural' food etc. school) to acupuncture (pricking with fine needles as practised in China); from Yoga to auto-suggestion; and from Christian Science (faith healing) to radiesthesia (black boxes, dowsing and all). 6
The book outlines industry's arguments against such forms of natural medicine.
Throughout history, the sick have been exposed to quacks and confidence tricksters, and a great deal of money has changed hands, for spurious remedies and treatments which did more harm than good. 7
Unwilling to look seriously at the efficacy of alternative medicine, the propagandist always turns instead to charges of financial exploitation, obscuring the fact that the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most profitable in the Western world.
Books like Medicine at Risk were foisted upon a relatively unsophisticated audience in the fifties and sixties. Its arguments are transparent but useful to explain the marketing strategies of the pharmaceutical companies in relation to alternative and complementary medicine. Twenty years after the inauguration of the NHS, Medicine at Risk supports the cosy relationships which socialised medicine introduced between general practitioners and the pharmaceutical industry.
Many attacks upon the pharmaceutical industry must be clearly recognised as attacks on doctors. The small minority of medical men who have associated themselves with wholesale denunciation of the drug industry ..... do not seem fully to realise that their views reflect on the competence and even integrity of their professional colleagues. 8
This is another theme which re-emerges in the 1980s. In the scenario presented by Medicine at Risk, economic power, price and profit are not mentioned. An infallible medical science serves a universal mankind manufacturing drugs entirely to rid the world of ill health. Doctors, who are solely concerned with the health of their patients, live in a world free of cultural, personal or commercial pressures.
Another important symbolic battlefield is the medical press. This too exists in a perfect world concerned only with disseminating biasfree information about the most appropriate treatments.
Doctors regard M.I.M.S. (Monthly Index of Medical Specialities), distributed free by Medical Publications Ltd, as one of the most useful guides for general practitioners. It lists all products by brand name, has a therapeutic and pharmacological index, cross referenced to detailed information on individual products, manufacturer, formulation, disease, indications, possible side-effects, dosage and price. It is entirely financed by manufacturers' advertisements.
The medical journals, which in Britain have a high reputation, provide in particular a source of information and opinion on treatment and drug action mainly at consultant level and also act as media for the exchange of medical opinion. They, in turn, are partly dependent financially on manufacturers' advertisements. Thus, the main part of the £ 1.5m (1964) spent by the industry on journal advertising is in fact devoted to supporting independent information services to doctors. 9 (italics added)
To suggest that the pharmaceutical companies finance the medical press, via advertising, so as to support an 'independent information service', gives new meaning to the word 'independent'.
The arguments put forward by Happold show that even in the mid-sixties, it was difficult to separate doctors from the pharmaceutically-orientated infrastructure, which had grown up, densely, around them.
The Contemporary Scene
It was evident, in the early years of the nineteen eighties, that there was a growth of interest in alternative and complementary medicine. It was an interest about which pharmaceutical companies were becoming increasingly concerned.
In 1981, the Threshold Foundation, a body primarily interested in complementary healing, published the results of a survey into the status of complementary medicine in the United Kingdom. 10 The survey, thoroughly researched, was a major contribution to the understanding of the status and social position of a wide range of complementary treatments in Britain.
Some results of the Threshold Foundation study gave the pharmaceutical companies serious reason to be concerned. Findings showed that increasing numbers of patients were turning to non-orthodox practitioners and that in the year 1980 to 1981, the numbers of such practitioners were increasing annually by around 11 %. The number of lay homoeopaths registered with a professional association, for instance, had risen from 25 in 1978 to 120 in 1981. The number of practising acupuncturists had doubled during the same period, rising from 250 in 1978 to 500 in 1981.
Such figures had a relevance far beyond their simple arithmetic. The growing number of complementary practitioners would not be prescribing or advising the use of drugs. Perhaps more startling to the pharmaceutical companies, as each discipline set up its own training programme, the education of 'healers' and specialists would begin to change. The survey showed that already, by 1981, the rate of increase in complementary practitioners was nearly six times that of the annual increase in the number of doctors in the UK. 11
In July 1983, the BMJ 12 carried an editorial which warned doctors to remain sceptical about alternative treatments until they had passed the supreme scientific test of the 'controlled trial'. More should be done, the editorial suggested, to carry out rigorous clinical trials for alternative treatments: 'Stricter standards should be required, however, by a doctor proposing himself (sic) to use alternative treatments. If the treatment he (sic) proposes using has not been validated by a clinical trial then he (sic) is in just the same position as a clinical pharmacologist with a new drug.'
In 1984, the Royal College of Physicians and the British Nutrition Foundation published Food Intolerance and Food Aversion, which brushed over alternative treatments in relation to allergy. In 1986 the Board of Science and Education of the BMA published a report on Alternative Therapy, 13 which was clearly the profession's answer to the Threshold report.
Alternative Therapy argues the case for the allopathic doctor against the alternatives. The report was overseen by Sir Douglas Black at a time when he was President of the BMA. The first thirty six pages discuss the history of medicine from the birth of man, very useful for first-form secondary school pupils, but not so useful for those interested in alternative therapies. The description of the alternative therapies themselves is twenty five pages long. A short historical description of each practice - homoeopathy gets three pages, herbalism gets one page, acupuncture two pages - is followed by eighteen pages of discussion and analysis.
These eighteen pages represent the tablets of stone upon which later and more acerbic critics of alternative medicine, campaigning in the late eighties, came to base their case. The discussion begins with a short discourse in praise of science and from that point onwards a fog of cynicism emanates from the pages.
Inasmuch as scientific method lays such firm emphasis on observation, measurement and reproducibility, historically it has become inevitably and increasingly separate from doctrines embracing superstition, magic and the supernatural.
Herein lies the first and most important difficulty that orthodox medical science has with alternative approaches. So many of them do not base their rationale on any theory which is consistent with natural laws as we now understand them. It is simply not possible for example, for orthodox scientists to accept that a medicine so dilute that it may contain not so much as one molecule of the remedy in a given dose can have any pharmacological action. 14 (italics added)
What is interesting about such reflections on 'science' is that they expose some of its value-laden assumptions. If scientific method emphasises observation, measurement and reproducibility, why can we not use such method to appraise homoeopathy? The report as a whole argued that modern medicine began with the enlightenment and any medical treatment which cannot be explained is invalid.
The authors of Alternative Therapy considered it important to make clear not only that many alternative treatments were in their opinion non-scientific but also to point out the fact that a number of alternative therapies are propagated by 'cults'. By discussing medicine within this context, the report begins the process of the 'criminalisation' of alternative practitioners, which the Campaign Against Health Fraud was to take up in 1989.
Our attention has been drawn by many people to the activities of what have become known as 'new religious movements', a term which is perhaps more acceptable and descriptive, if not more accurate, than 'religious cults and sects'.
Our particular interest is in the fact that many of these 'religious' organisations make direct claims to be able to cure disease, including cancers and fractures ... There are now over 100 groups operating in the UK in such a manner as to have come to the attention of FAIR (Family Action Information and Rescue), which was formed in 1976.
Alternative therapies may be used by these groups to induce belief, thus strengthening the religious dimension (which can qualify for charitable status with resulting tax benefits). Illness may be proclaimed as being a 'punishment' for lack of faith or other misdemeanour.
We believe that, subject to the necessity to maintain the principle of freedom of religion in this country, they [the cults] should be carefully and continuously monitored in order to ensure that they do not become a threat to the health and wellbeing of those who enter into association with them. 15
The inclusion of these unreferenced and poorly explained paragraphs about 'new religious movements' and alternative therapies is gratuitous to any proper analysis of such therapies in an apparently serious work.
Another idea which enters the public domain with this report, is that many alternative therapies are actually bad for you. Never is the information about health damage caused by alternative medicine compared to the dangers implicit in pharmacological treatment, or surgical intervention. Rarely are references given for claims and never are these claims the result of scientific studies.
The 365 traditional points in acupuncture, run near, some perilously so, to vital structures, and complications ranging from the minor to the serious and the fatal have been reported. The public should not be exposed to acupuncturists who have not been trained to understand the relationship between the acupuncture points and anatomical structures, and also the physiology of organ structure.
The potential dangers of local and systemic infection following an invasive technique such as acupuncture are real and well documented. While strict asepsis and sterile needles are self-evident requirements, we were led to believe it was an aim rather neglected in practice. Yet the transmission of infectious hepatitis has been reported and the increasing incidence of AIDS virus infection makes the possibility of transmission by contaminated needles a reality (italics added). 16
Ordinary monopolies corner the market; radical monopolies disable people from doing or making things on their own. 1
Caroline Richmond called the first meeting of what was to be called the Campaign Against Health Fraud in 1988. She had been laying the foundation for the group, gathering information and organising critical attacks upon clinical ecologists and allergy doctors, for at least two years previously.
The campaigns against allergy medicine in particular, and clinical ecology generally, had perhaps been strongest during the previous decade in the north of England. The pragmatism of industrial Protestantism is seemingly unwilling to accept ideas about the delicate interleaving of the mind and body, and the hard commercial instinct remains unconvinced by alien notions of industry being bad for the health.
In the mid-eighties, after going to work with Wellcome, Caroline Richmond consolidated her friendships with a variety of natural allies, most especially orthodox doctors working in the field of immunology. Her most enduring contacts were made with doctors and activists in the Manchester area, the city which was to become host to the UK Skeptics. Two doctors in particular, Dr Tim David and Dr David Pearson, joined Richmond in her campaign against the alternative treatment of allergy.
In 1982, Dr David Pearson returned from the United States, where he had been working in an occupational illness centre funded by the US public health department. His first stop was Manchester University where he had previously received his PhD. Now his area of research was classical food allergy. Dr Tim David also became prominent in the early eighties working as a paediatrician, with an interest in allergy, at Booth Hall Hospital in Manchester. Dr David's interest in allergy developed in the late seventies and grew from his work with the National Eczema Society, a group which even then was patronised by the oil and pharmaceutical companies.
Both David and Pearson felt particularly offended by the work and life style of Dr Keith Mumby. His practice, in the early eighties in Stockport then later in Stretford, on the edge of Manchester, used the 'provocation neutralisation' technique to diagnose and then treat allergies. Mumby, a writer as well as a doctor, had come late to environmental medicine, and when he did get involved, it was with great enthusiasm. He travelled frequently to America to train with Dr Joe Miller, the 'father' of provocation-neutralisation. By the mid-eighties Dr Mumby was at the centre of a small northern contingent of environmental practitioners.
Another doctor who had been attracted to environmental medicine and especially to food allergy treatment was Dr David Freed, at that time based in Prestwich near Manchester. Despite being a classically trained allergist and immunologist, Freed turned away from orthodox medicine and towards clinical ecology in the late seventies. He is a large, bearded man, whose avuncular nature disguises a clear, disciplined mind. It was during his postgraduate training at Manchester University that Dr Freed first met Dr Pearson. In the mid-eighties, Dr Freed was working with an allergy therapist and dietician, Anna Foster.
From the early eighties onwards, these northern practitioners were to become the subjects of a propaganda assault organised by Caroline Richmond and her two close friends.
While at Manchester University, Pearson carried out an investigation into people who said they suffered from food allergy; he later published the study.2 Pearson and his psychiatrically trained colleagues took a small group of individuals who either maintained that they suffered from allergy, or had been diagnosed as so suffering. Each patient was challenged with capsules of food additives and chemicals. Only 5 out of the 35 patients produced reproducible symptoms in a double blind test. The researchers concluded that the remaining 30 patients were suffering from psychiatric complaints.
This single piece of research by Pearson was to form the basis for the next decade of campaigning against doctors working in the field of allergy. The singular work was also to form the basis of Caroline Richmond's later contentions that people who complained of allergic responses or chemical sensitivity were in fact psychologically ill.
By the mid-eighties, both Pearson and David had got themselves quoted in the papers denouncing 'private allergy clinics'. 3 Dr Freed, who was working with Anna Foster in one of the few private allergy clinics near Manchester, 'The North West Allergy Clinic', inevitably felt that such attacks by Pearson and David were personal attacks on him.
Even in those early days of the campaign against clinical ecology, the vested interests supporting orthodox allergy work were beginning to show. Tim David denounced Dr Freed to the General Medical Council, after his name appeared on a list of doctors supporting the Hyperactive Children’s' Support Group, which had begun campaigning against chemical food additives.
In November 1986, a large two-day conference of classical allergists and immunologists was held in London. The proceedings were to be published as a book on food allergy. 4 The conference was sponsored by a leading nutrition company, Wyeth Nutrition, and held at Regents College. About twelve doctors attended a critical seminar prior to the conference at the Royal College of Physicians, at which each paper and potential chapter was discussed.
Following the seminar, the doctors gave a series of talks to the full conference. The audience was an invited audience consisting mainly of paediatricians and GPs. One of those present who was not a clinician of any kind was Caroline Richmond. When Dr David Freed went up to the podium to read his paper on 'provocation neutralisation', Richmond came bustling from the audience with a tape recorder.
In the mid-eighties, Richmond was already developing the tactics and gathering the intelligence, which were to form the basis of her work for the Campaign Against Health Fraud. A year after the Swiss Cottage conference, in Autumn 1987, while working at the North West Allergy Clinic, David Freed received a phone call from Caroline Richmond. She introduced herself as a journalist and asked for his comments on an article which she had written about the clinic.
After it had been read to him, Freed thought Richmond's article:
fairly scurrilous; a biased story about a patient who had fallen out with the clinic. Although there was nothing factually wrong with the article, the slant of it was antagonistic to environmental medicine. 5
In the article, Richmond accused Anna Foster of making a false diagnosis of the patient. Dr Freed, who had been present during the consultation, knew that no mistake had been made. Freed was so concerned about the style and the content of the article that he immediately rang the Medical Protection Society, who in turn put pressure on Richmond to withdraw her story. At the time, Freed recalls, there were a number of heated exchanges between himself, Foster and Richmond over the phone.
By the end of 1987, Dr Freed had a very clear idea that he was considered by Caroline Richmond and her small group of campaigners to be in the enemy camp. In 1988, after Anna Foster had set up a new organisation in Bolton called 'Nutritional Medicine', she received another call from Richmond. Richmond said she was working for the Observer on an article about allergy. When it became apparent that Anna Foster was not going to take part in an interview, Richmond used tactics which were to become common in later campaigns. She rang Foster frequently. The continual calls, as late as midnight, became so annoying that Foster was forced to refer the matter to the Press Council.
The Beginning of the Campaign Against Health Fraud
The major players in the British health-fraud movement, Caroline Richmond, Dr David Pearson, Dr Vincent Marks, Professor Michael Baum and Dr Nick Beard, had been coming together since 1985. They were all heavily involved in the defence of scientific medicine and most of them had a connection, however tenuous, with the Wellcome Foundation.† Each founder member also had contacts who would be drawn into the campaign and help in reporting information and publicising cases. One 'quackbuster', whose role in the organisation was to be shrouded in misinformation, was Duncan Campbell. Campbell was later to claim on a number of occasions that he had never been a member. There are, however, a number of references from the early days of the organisation which show clearly that he was involved. ††
† As well as working in the Wellcome Institute, and receiving a Wellcome bursary, Richmond acquired 250 Wellcome shares in December 1986. She held these shares until they were sold in 1990.
†† The Autumn 1989 CAHF Newsletter quotes a letter sent by Campbell to Hospital Doctor. 'I enthusiastically welcome the recent launch of CAHF. In the few weeks since they launched, I and others have already benefited immensely from their assistance in working to expose the many (other) charlatans who are preying on the vulnerable for commercial gain'. 7 Around the time that the Campaign was launched, Campbell had meetings with Caroline Richmond and Nick Beard. He was cited in the Campaign's newsletter as a member and attended ordinary Campaign meetings and closed Annual General Meetings at the Ciba Foundation and St Bartholemew's Hospital.8 At around the same time that it became public that the Campaign was funded by the Wellcome Foundation, Campbell began to distance himself from the organising core of the Campaign, and later claimed that he had never been a member. For the purposes of this book, Duncan Campbell has been considered as an associate member of the Campaign Against Health Fraud. He added a great deal of authority to the Campaign's strategy and was instrumental in many of its critical attacks. He used information supplied to the Campaign and was happy to use its founder members as a rich source of quotes for his articles, without questioning their vested interests. From the first 1989 issue of the UK Skeptic, Caroline Richmond and Nicholas Beard had the space to outline the strategies and attacks organised by the CAHF. In the February 1989 issue, Nick Beard contributed an article about the need to put natural or alternative remedies through clinical trials. He used the article to consolidate the attack on Jacques Benveniste carried out the year before, by CSICOP member James Randi.
It was first decided to call the Campaign, the Council Against Health Fraud. 6 This is a clear indication that the British Campaign had links with the American Council.† In November 1988, Caroline Richmond organised the first steering committee meeting for what was to become the Campaign. The meeting was advertised in the newsletter of the Medical Journalists Association (MJA). The MJA, of which Richmond is a long-standing member, is supported by Ciba Geigy and a number of other pharmaceutical companies. Companies use the Association's newsletter to advertise meetings and conferences and 'freebies' at which they promote their drugs to journalists.
†The Campaign Against Health Fraud was listed in the Newsletter of the American Council as an associate organisation. 9
Following the meeting, Caroline Richmond sent round a circular to the press and interested parties. 'At a meeting on 1st November 1988, a group including doctors, journalists and a barrister decided to form the Council Against Health Fraud, an information and action service against the growing tide of quackery.' At the bottom of this short advertisement Richmond gave her address, for contact purposes, as The Wellcome Institute, 183 Euston Road.† 10
† Richmond later claimed that she was not influenced by her employers and that the Campaign was not supported by Wellcome. She told a number of people that she had almost lost her job as a consequence of using the Wellcome address at the bottom of the leaflet. In an attempt to correct the blunder she later replaced the Wellcome address with a box number and her home telephone number.
Between the first meeting and the official launch of the Campaign in May 1989, the steering committee met at the Ciba Foundation, 11 the academic front for the drug company Ciba Geigy. The Ciba Foundation has an information service, the Media Resources Service (MRS), which was to some extent already doing the kind of work, in defence of science, health and the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, that CAHF planned. The MRS put scientists and sympathetic journalists in touch with each other.
At least two patrons of the Service were known to Caroline Richmond. Professor Sir Hermann Bondi was influential within the British Humanist Association, and Sir Alastair Pilkington was at that time one of the principal directors of the Wellcome Foundation. Amongst MRS Steering Committee members were two people with whom Richmond had closer links, Sir Walter Bodmer † and Dr Bernard Dixon. Dixon was both a founder member of the Campaign Against Health Fraud and a member of CSICP, the British branch of CSICOP.
† For Caroline Richmond's links with Sir Walter Bodmer in the British Association for the Advancement of Science see Chapter 22, The Pollution of Science.
The Ciba Foundation also plays host to a number of other organisations with which Caroline Richmond and Sir Walter Bodmer are associated. These include the Wellcome-administered Association of Medical Research Charities and the Association of British Science Writers. The British Association for the Advancement of Science holds meetings there for its Media Fellows, as does the Medical Research Council.
During the gestation period of the Campaign Against Health Fraud, Caroline Richmond was involved with the magazine UK Skeptic †, which had been set up in 1987 with money from CSICP. 12 On its inauguration, CAHF was advertised as a co-member of the UK Skeptics in the first page of their magazine UK Skeptic. The British branch of the CAHF had the same relationship to UK Skeptics, as the American Council Against Health Fraud had to CSICOP. The health fraud campaign was, as it were, the armed wing, while CSICOP and CSICP were made up of theorists.
† See Chapter 18.
From the first 1989 issue of the UK Skeptic, Caroline Richmond and Nicholas Beard had the space to outline the strategies and attacks organised by the CAHF. In the February 1989 issue, Nick Beard contributed an article about the need to put natural or alternative remedies through clinical trials. He used the article to consolidate the attack on Jacques Benveniste carried out the year before, by CSICOP member James Randi.
Last year Nature published a paper which claimed to provide in vitro evidence for an effect which could have helped to explain homoeopathy - the start of the Benveniste fiasco. The research appeared to show that basophil degranulation (an immune response in white blood cells) continued to be triggered by solutions of an antigen even to concentrations of 10 -120. However, this was followed shortly afterwards by a damning report from a team of investigators who found serious errors in the research methods involved, invalidating the research. 13
Using UK Skeptic and the CSICOP journal, both a long way from being 'peer-review' publications, health-fraud activists were able to publish unreferenced stories. Both magazines were able to continuously recycle 'debunking' stories years after actual allegations had been found wanting. John Maddox, the editor of Nature, also had great fun talking to UK Skeptics about Benveniste.
Let me just tell you a bit about our visit to Paris, a year ago to investigate Dr Benveniste's claim that it was possible to take a biological reagent, put it in water, dilute the water virtually indefinitely and still find the biological activity in the solution. We took with us a conjurer, an exceedingly good one, James Randi. When we arrived in Paris we found Dr Benveniste was not doing his experiments with his own hands but that somebody else was doing them for him in an exceedingly sloppy way. He was not actually taking proper account of the statistical controls that in those circumstances any first year undergraduate biologist would recognise to be necessary. 14
The UK Skeptic, for which both Richmond and Beard wrote, and which was financed by CSICP, continued to report the attacks mounted by the Campaign Against Health Fraud throughout 1991 and 1992.†
† In the 1991 January/February edition of UK Skeptic, there is a biased account of the flawed Lancet paper on Bristol Cancer Help Centre, and a one-sided account of the CAHF-engineered attack upon Dr Jean Monro.
The Campaign proper finally got off the ground at a press conference held on May 8th 1989, at the Royal Society of Medicine. The invitation briefly stated that the campaign organisers were 'worried about the growth of quackery, and false, pseudo-scientific claims'. 15 Coincidental with the launch of the CAHF was a CSICOP European conference also held in May near Munich, West Germany. The launch of CAHF was discussed, as was the general subject of 'fringe medicine'.
The press conference was chaired by Caroline Richmond and attended by 20 or so journalists, who were treated to speeches from Professor John Garrow, the TV and radio presenter Nick Ross and Professor Michael Baum. The 'Today' programme reported the Campaign's concern about 'private food allergy clinics' and hair analysis, while Vincent Marks managed to get himself on LBC, attacking 'worthless cancer treatments' which deterred people from having surgery.
The CAHF launch got publicity in the BMJ and was reported with some seriousness in some daily papers, particularly The Times.
Last year, Caroline Richmond, a medical journalist and research scientist, decided that the public needed to be protected from 'unproven and worthless' treatment, and she decided to set up a British equivalent of the American National Council Against Health Fraud or 'Quackbusters'.
The campaign aims at promoting assessments of new treatments and protecting consumers from fraudulent claims. It will act as an independent information service for journalists who want to comment on fraud in medicine, and it will also set up specific enquiries. 16
'Carefully controlled trials' for new treatments sound very laudable, until it is remembered that Wellcome was then involved in the most prestigious, costly and contentious 'controlled trial' of any modern pharmaceutical product: the Concorde trials for AZT. Was it simply coincidence that the CAHF, an organisation set up to investigate quacks, was linked with Wellcome, and began its life at almost the same time as major trials of AZT were begun in Britain and France?
Reports of the launch of CAHF by Thompson Prentice, published in The Times, made little attempt to disguise links between CAHF and Wellcome. The article in which news of the launch appeared was an unadorned advertisement for AZT. Headed 'AIDS RESEARCH', the sub-heading 'Drugs May Protect Carriers' stretched across three columns. The news content of the article simply reiterated basic information about the Concorde trials. Set in the centre of this article in bolder type was a single paragraph article about the launch of CAHF.
For a self-styled independent organisation, the proximity of these articles, their intimacy even, was a little embarrassing. On the following day, Thompson Prentice went to town in promoting CAHF, when The Times ran a four by three inch column article bannered 'ANTI-FRAUD CAMPAIGN', as if the newspaper had adopted the campaign. Even in this article, which described the new organisation and its launch, Thompson Prentice could not resist placing information from Wellcome in close proximity.
The article was clever in its orientation: headlined 'Quacks risk women's lives', 17 it quoted mainly from Dr Michael Baum: 'A growing number of women are dying from breast cancer because they are putting themselves in the care of "quacks", rather than orthodox specialists. '
Baum went on to describe how women came to his surgery with little chance of survival after they have sought 'unproven alternative therapies ... I have a cluster of patients who have been convinced that homoeopathy and special diets will help them. In fact, their cancers go unchecked' .
Vincent Marks was quoted as stating: 'Bogus explanations for ill health bring the genuine concept of scientific medicine into disrepute.' CAHF was an organisation, the article said, 'of doctors and lay members who aim to protect the public from taking cures and untested medical treatments'.
Following the launch, Michael Baum gave an interview to the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. In this interview he at least made clear his views about alternative medicine. He did not believe, he said, 'that any system of alternative medicine had any basis in scientific fact'. 18
After the launch, Steering Committee meetings continued to be held at the Ciba Foundation, the first being on the 15th of May. 19
3. The Players and the Game, 1989-1991
Quackery is practiced not only by barkers at carnivals, but also by men with doctoral degrees who are members and officers if prestigious medical- scientific: organizations and who are shielded from detection and criticism by such organizations, by public officials, and by governmental corporate and organizational secrecy and public relations. 1
Those who represented the core of the Campaign Against Health Fraud at its formation in 1989 remained involved over the next two years; others pulled in on the fringe soon drifted away. On April 3rd 1989 at a Steering Committee meeting held at the Ciba Foundation, two joint presidents were elected: Dr Michael O'Donnell, broadcaster and former GP, editor of GP magazine, and television and radio presenter Nick Ross.
At that time, soon after the press launch, the leading Campaign activists were Dr Nick Beard; Dr Christopher Bass, a psychiatrist and committee member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; Dr Simon Wessely; Professor Michael Baum and his brother Professor Harold Baum, Professor of Biochemistry at King's College Hospital; Diana Brahams, barrister and journalist; John Walford; Mark Pownall; Dr lain Chalmers; Dr Vincent Marks and Duncan Campbell.
An initial statement from the Campaign about funding suggested that it was largely funded by individual subscriptions which stood at £12 per annum. The claim that individual members were paying for the Campaign was similar to that made by the American Council Against Health Fraud. It might strictly have been true, but as the majority of the early core activists had some financial connection with Wellcome, as well as other companies, or worked in projects funded by the pharmaceutical industry, the exact source of their corporate funds is relatively unimportant. †
† In 1992, the minutes of the CAHF Annual General Meeting disclosed that in the year 1991-1992 the Campaign received a grant from the Wellcome Foundation. Other granting bodies included medical insurance companies and other pharmaceutical companies.
Apart from Caroline Richmond's obvious connections with Wellcome, most other leading members also had links. Professor Michael Baum worked at the Royal Marsden Hospital which was joined to the Institute of Cancer Research where Dr Robin Weiss had developed testing kits with Wellcome. In 1990 at the same time as he took up a position at the Institute of Cancer Research, Michael Baum became clinical advisor to Breakthrough, a cancer charity which is raising money for a Breast Cancer Centre at the Royal Marsden Hospital. The Centre will be staffed by, amongst others, a team of eight Wellcome-funded scientists.2 Michael Baum also ran the Tamoxifen trials in Britain throughout the 1980s for ICI. Wellcome and ICI had a number of joint projects, not least between 1985 and 1990, when they jointly owned Coopers Animal Health. Professor Harold Baum with two other medical scientists received a large grant from Wellcome in 1985. Dr lain Chalmers was running the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, which was hugely subsidised by Wellcome. 3† John Walford was the Grants Officer for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; this Society is a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities, an organisation administered by Wellcome. 4 The MS Society research is funded by a number of industrial interests including pharmaceutical companies. 5 Vincent Marks, biochemist and entrepreneur, heads the Department of Biochemistry at Surrey University which received nearly half a million pounds from Wellcome between 1985 and 1990. 6
† In 1990, the Wellcome Foundation gave £186,182 and the Wellcome Trust gave £24,888, to the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit.
Given that considerable emphasis was later to be placed upon the idea of supporting the National Health Service and the general practitioner, the above members and those who were to follow were an odd collection. Just as the Campaign did not have any representation from patients, there were few hard-working general practitioners or people with clinical experience of everyday illness. Even more interestingly, few of the active members obtained their salary from working as medics of any kind; a large percentage of them were journalists or scientists of one kind or another. Caroline Richmond describes herself as a medical journalist; the two Presidents, Dr Michael O'Donnell and Nick Ross, were both journalists. When Dr Nick Beard met up with Richmond he had just finished working for Coopers and Lybrand and was on a course at Imperial College while also doing some free-lance journalism. Bernard Dixon was a writer and journalist. Later, Andrew Herxheimer from the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin was to join. James Le Fanu, who joined later, though working as a doctor was also a free-lance journalist. In various articles, Duncan Campbell was to make much of the idea that those he attacked were at the centre of private medicine, and yet those he was working with were often supported by private interests.
As the campaign began to gather members, others with a Wellcome connection joined. Dr Jeremy Powell-Tuck, for example, had been a Wellcome Fellow and Sir John Vane, who joined with his wife Daphne Vane, had recently been one of the most senior scientists at the Wellcome Laboratories. A number of those who were to join the Campaign soon after its launch were associated with the processed food industry. John Garrow and Arnold Bender, whose wife became the membership secretary in May 1990, had both previously been grant-aided by large processed food concerns. 7
By the time of the second Annual General Meeting in July 1990, at the Nutrition Department of St Bartholomew's Hospital, there were a few committed new members. One in particular, Professor Tim McElwain, must have seemed like a prestigious catch. McElwain was one of Britain's most renowned cancer doctors and a man who had been committed to orthodox cancer treatment for the whole of his working life. †
† See Chapter 36, for Professor McElwain's involvement in the survey of patients attending the Bristol Cancer Help Centre.
By the first months of 1990, the Campaign literature was quoting the names of those who although they had been associated with the campaign from the beginning had never been listed as members before: Dr David Pearson, the allergy specialist from Manchester, Duncan Campbell who had been involved from the beginning with Nick Beard, and a medical sociologist with a good reputation in the field of orthodox medicine, Dr Petr Skrabanek of Dublin University.
Within a couple of months of its launch, the Campaign Against Health Fraud had produced a newsletter. It was not as professional as its American counterpart 8 but it provided a good platform for the Campaign to promote attacks and debunking projects which it had initiated.
Caroline Richmond seemed most concerned that journalists got the proper view of health matters. To her, one of the principal aims of CAHF was to inform the media about treatments which did not reach an acceptable standard. 'The campaign will give journalists and everyone in the media concerned with health, access to an independent assessment of the many claims about health that are currently in circulation.' 9 Nick Ross, writing as the co-chairman, pursued a line common amongst American campaigners: that it is the elderly, the old and the ill who are exploited by health-fraud. Ross seemed to envisage the Campaign as an extension of the para-policing work which he did on the television programme 'Crimewatch', homing in on criminal fraud: 'it is a particularly offensive form of fraud when people pose as healers and exploit that desperate need for help by offering illusions of cure that can never be fulfilled.' 10
The newsletter provided Campaigners with a forum where they could criticise what they saw as 'unscientific' ideas about health in the media. In the first newsletter, Caroline Richmond complains about the absurdity of suggesting that electricity has anything to do with illness; John Garrow complains about an article in the Today newspaper which talks about apricot kernels in the context of nutrition and Nick Beard complains about an item on reflexology in the TV Times.
The strong American flavour of the Campaign showed clearly in their choice of books they reviewed. Nick Beard reviewed a book published by Paul Kurtz and CSICOP's publishing company Prometheus, while Caroline Richmond reviewed an American Medical Association bibliography of health fraud.
In June 1989, Michael Baum gave an interview to the Journal if Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The article was entitled: 'Why I Will Bust Quacks'. 11 From his first utterances about the Campaign, Michael Baum, like other members, was 'economical with the truth' about its objectives. 'What the campaign is not, I must emphasise, is a clique of doctors, ganging up against alternative medicine. Alternative and complementary therapists would be welcome to join the campaign as long as they agreed with its aims.' In fact, the CAHF had from the beginning a practice of restricting membership to those who endorsed the use of pharmaceuticals. The few natural medical practitioners who tried to join were usually turned down, without any reason being given.
CAHF was formed, Baum claimed, 'for the specific purpose of protecting the public by highlighting examples of fraudulent practice and providing a panel of experts to independently assess health claims. † Recent years have seen a flood of explanations and promised cures for illness whose validity has never been tested; vitamins to increase intelligence, hair analysis which reveals vital missing minerals, diets that promise to counteract childhood hyperactivity or prevent cancer.' 12
† From the beginning CARF was keen on 'assessing' claims for diagnostic techniques and treatments. As in the main they knew nothing about alternative and complementary medicine, and some like Caroline Richmond had no clinical experience, it is difficult to see from where they thought their authority in this judgemental capacity came.
In three lines of this interview, Baum gave away a good portion of the game plan which CAHF activists had been working on for the previous year. The vitamins to increase intelligence alluded to the work of Larkhall Natural Health and Cantassium products. Hair analysis related to the work of Biolab and Stephen Davies and diets which promise to counteract childhood hyperactivity alluded to the work of Belinda Barnes on child hyperactivity. In fact, in each of these cases there were mountains of referenced work and scientific papers, none of which were ever alluded to by the Campaign.
By the time the first newsletter was published, it was evident how the Campaign were to go about prosecuting their complaints against non-pharmaceutical treatments. Apart from sundry bodies like the Advertising Standards Authority, they were to rely upon the investigators at MAFF and the Medicines Commission, inside the DoH. The Campaign even made overtures to the Department of Health, asking if they might be formally recognised as a prosecutorial agency by them.
It is not surprising that they expected such official bodies to prosecute their complaints; both MAFF and the DoH generally have a cosy relationship with industry and what might be called an intimate relationship with the pharmaceutical and agri-chemical business. In the second newsletter, Mark Pownall, writing about a 'MAFF crackdown on misleading nutritional claims', points out germanium as being 'clearly dangerous', a product which 'should be subject to the Medicines Act' as should 'promotional claims of other health enhancing properties of "health food" products'. 13 Clearly the CAHF had powerful friends in high places, because germanium was not simply made subject to the Medicines Act; a short time after the newsletter was written it was banned. †
† For the story of how germanium was banned see Chapter 34.
At the Annual General Meeting of CAHF in 1990, members voiced concern that the organisation had been accused of being in the pay of the pharmaceutical industry (in particular the Wellcome Foundation). This was refuted and the minutes recorded that: 'There is no connection, nor has any money been received from any pharmaceutical company towards any of our activities.'
Some time was taken up at the Annual General Meeting discussing under what circumstances and from whom, the campaign might accept money. 'The Committee decided that money from any source, including the pharmaceutical industry, would be acceptable if it was given on a hands off basis and provided that no single interested party contributed more than 25% of CAHF's annual requirement.'
Nick Ross was apparently unhappy with the decision, believing that the pharmaceutical and food industries had the greatest interest in the survival of CAHF. He felt that such donations would be used against the Campaign. In the discussion which followed, Professor Vincent Marks, Professor John Garrow, Wally Bounds, Dr lain Chalmers and Dr Jeremy Powell-Tuck all agreed that money could be taken from any source. Sir John Vane pointed out naively that anyone contributing would do so because they had an interest and this need not influence the behaviour of CAHF.
By the time of the second AGM in 1991, commitment appeared to be waning. While there had been over sixty members at the first AGM, only twenty-one were present at the second. The Campaign felt that it had been penalised when earlier in the year it had been refused charitable status because of its campaigning activities.
The meeting decided to change the name of the organisation from the Campaign Against Health Fraud to HealthWatch. The point of this cosmetic exercise was to make the organisation appear less combative and more charitable. It also placed HealthWatch in the context of a number of other groups, mainly set up by the police:
Neighbourhood Watch, Homewatch, Carwatch. In the following year, 1991, though its campaigning zeal had not abated and it had done immense damage to a range of alternative and natural practitioners, it was granted charitable status.
The British Health Fraud Philosophy
The modern health fraud philosophy is extensive and complex, but not really a philosophy, more a series of post hoc defensive arguments for orthodox medicine. At the heart of these assumptions is a simple equation: anything which challenges the monopoly hold of the chemical companies on food production and pharmaceuticals, the professional status of doctors, or the ruling paradigms of industrial technology should be attacked.
Much is made by activists of the fact that the health-fraud philosophy is based upon science. In fact health-fraud arguments are rarely objective, let alone scientific. Quite the opposite, they are usually highly personalised and apparently given weight by unsupported assertions.
The spate of articles and interviews which appeared between the beginning of 1989 and the end of 1991 give a good idea of the Campaign's preoccupations and points of intervention. Many of its arguments have a patina of seductive popularism.
One article which plainly illustrates the way in which CAHF uses opportunities to attack complementary medicine is an article by Anne Wiltsher in the New Statesman and Society of July 7th 1989.14 This article purports to be a look at the fortunes of complementary medicine as we approach new European regulations in 1992.
The article begins with a brief introduction which lampoons complementary medicine (the article is accompanied by one large and one small photograph of individuals undergoing acupuncture treatment; both pictures are visual jokes). It then briefly discusses the attitudes of the European powers towards complementary medicine, before launching into propaganda for the CAHF.
CAHF wants to see testing by clinical trials of all health products and procedures and better regulation of practitioners to protect the public. 15
CAHF has, the article says, the backing of the Advertising Standards Authority and the Consumers' Association.
The latter has recently pointed out the dangers of creating fashionable herbal remedies from garden plants. For example, camomile which is often taken as tea is now thought to cause vomiting if taken in large doses. Comfrey is now linked with liver cancer in rats. 16
Oddly enough, both these examples are given in the report on complementary medicines published by the BMA, three years ago in 1986.
The January 18th 1991 issue of GP carried an article by Dr Charles Shepherd, a long-standing member of the CAHF and a Clinical Adviser to the Media Resources Service of the CIBA Foundation. Entitled' "Natural health" pills can be lethal', 17 a centre column subheading reads 'Many of the remedies can have bizarre and disturbing toxic effects'. It is one of the most climactic anti-vitamin articles ever published: a kind of 'Vita-disaster' article.
The piece is illustrated with a large picture of Barbara Cartland. The caption to the photograph reads 'Novelist Barbara Cartland: renowned for championing "natural health" pills'. As the heading states that 'natural health pills' can be lethal, one wonders why Barbara Cartland did not sue.
A good deal in Dr Shepherd's article reinforces the fact that GP magazine is subsidised by drug company advertising. 'Many of the new-age pills and potions in the alternative pharmacopoeia are drugs in all but name. But they masquerade as "nutritional supplements" in order to evade the strict rules on efficacy, safety and product promotion which the Medicines Act imposes on conventional drugs.' 18
The article proceeds to attack all vitamin and mineral preparations without giving any supporting evidence for statements made about their damaging effects.
Far from being natural and safe, remedies sold in health food shops, can have disturbing toxic effects. Aromatherapy can result in allergic reaction and bums to the skin. Selenium is toxic and excess zinc can depress the immune system. Excessive intake of both fat and water-soluble vitamins can result in severe toxic effects. Vitamin A accumulates to cause encephalopathy (swelling of the brain). Vitamin B3 can produce severe hepatoxicity (poisoning of the liver). Vitamin B6 causes peripheral neuritis (inflammation of the nerve ending) at daily doses above 200mgs: and vitamin C is known to increase the bioavailability of oestrogen, so converting a low-dose contraceptive pill into a high-dose one. 19
On January 7th 1991, Derek Jameson interviewed Professor John Garrow, at that time Chairman of HealthWatch, on Radio 2.20 The interview was mainly about vitamins. Professor Garrow put forward the HealthWatch line, saying firstly that vitamin supplements were of no medicinal use and secondly that some of them were positively damaging.
My view and the view of HealthWatch is that if any material, whether it's vitamins or minerals or Royal Jelly or Ginseng, or whatever is sold to people making them believe that it's going to do something for their health, it should have a product licence, they have to show the Department of Health that they are safe and effective ... Lots of these things which are sold in health food shops - so-called health food shops - as if they were foods, really are being sold as medicines to make people healthier. 21
Professor Garrow, like Professor Bender, has a consuming passion against health food and health food shops. Professor Garrow took advantage of the interview to make an acute point about them:
people go into health food shops thinking that everything there is natural and is bound to do them good, often it won't do them good, usually it's a waste of money, sometimes it'll do them harm. 22
The greatest fallacy promulgated in these bizarre discourses about 'health foods' and 'health food shops' is the idea that the production of processed foods is tightly controlled, and free of any damaging substances. Only recently have manufacturers had to describe contents on packaging. Now that they do, it is with reluctance and often in mystifying terms. None of the substances added to processed foods go through trials, or are tested over time for adverse effects.
'Thames Action', the ITV access programme, reported on vitamin supplements on November 23rd 1990.23 The programme began by explaining how much money the vitamin producers make. Vitamin producers must be the only groups within the capitalist economy, (apart from criminals such as drug dealers) constantly criticised for making profits. When it comes to vitamins and 'health foods', journalists and health fraud campaigners radically change their ideological position, suddenly finding the profit motive morally reprehensible. Drug company profits are never alluded to.
Vitamin supplements are big business - we're all taking them but are they just a waste of money and are they safe ... The vitamin industry is massive. Last year it's estimated that we consumed a record 133 million pounds worth of vitamins - that means we popped an astonishing 2,000 million pills. 24
'Thames Action' used a viewer to comment on the issue during the programme, while experts supplied specialised views. Viewer Shelley Batheram talked about the things which it was claimed vitamins do; holding up a book she said: 'This book lists some of the claims that have been made about vitamins in the past. For example, vitamin D keeps you young and beautiful, vitamin E boosts your sex drive and potency, vitamin A is meant to stop you getting cancer, vitamin B6 retards ageing and prevents tooth decay, and vitamin C, as we all know, stops you catching a cold.' 25
The tone of the item is determined by these sceptically introduced, unreferenced claims. Viv Taylor-Gee moved the item to its logical conclusion, before interviewing the expert, Professor Vincent Marks. 'It's possible to overdose on nearly all vitamins especially if the vitamin supplement comes in megadoses.' 26 It is also possible to overdose on ice cream and even water, not to mention a large array of pharmaceuticals, especially in megadoses! Vincent Marks explains:
We recently had a patient in the hospital where I work ... a woman who had been led to believe that by taking vitamin D and A she would be made to look young and beautiful. She took her vitamins in the form of halibut liver oil capsules and ... believing that if one was good, two must be better, in fact she took so many [she turned into a fish ... No?] that by the end of a relatively short period of time she had produced severe kidney damage and presented in the hospital as a case of kidney failure. 27
Once again we are given a truncated, anecdotal case history which tells us next to nothing about the clinical condition of the woman involved. Could it be for instance that she was mentally ill? After all most people know that while an aspirin can stop a headache, it would not be advisable to take a whole bottle to combat a bad headache.
Vincent Marks' message is simple and asinine: vitamins are basically very dangerous in the hands of ignorant people. If you take large quantities of halibut liver oil capsules to make yourself beautiful you will end up with kidney failure. The programme did not make it clear that Vincent Marks was an active member of Health Watch, or that he has spent most of his professional life persuading people that sugar does you no harm - even in megadoses.
This programme, like many others, failed to interview a doctor who works with vitamins and food supplements. The final word was given to Vincent Marks.
I don't think that people believe that there are any risks associated with taking vitamins. They subscribe to the view that vitamins are good for you and therefore things which are good for you cannot do you any harm. But of course they are completely and utterly wrong. 28
Thompson Prentice of The Times is not a member of HealthWatch, although he reported sympathetically on its propaganda from the organisation's inception. In September 1990 he reported on a BMA conference in Edinburgh. 29 The piece, snappily headlined: 'Cures for chronic fatigue disorders "may be dangerous"', begins 'Many thousands of people suffering from chronic fatigue disorders are being exploited by private practitioners peddling "hocus pocus" remedies that are unproven and may be dangerous, a leading specialist told a medical conference yesterday.'
If the leading expert, Professor Ariel Lant, produced any evidence for his assertions, it was not reported by Thompson Prentice. 'The devastating effects of chronic fatigue syndrome have produced a host of alleged treatments, many from the realms of alternative medicine.' Professor Lant called for scientific trials to evaluate remedies, while Prentice intoned gravely: 'Professor Lant's comments on the treatments amount to some of the strongest criticisms expressed in recent years on the response by doctors to various forms of chronic fatigue.'
Although Professor Lant made it clear that he did not agree with the Caroline Richmond school of thought that ME is a figment of the 'imagination of either the patient or the practitioner', he did agree with HealthWatch that quacks were operating in this area: 'Patients were offered analysis of samples of their hair and skin, others were having tests for non-existent allergies, and some were paying for preparations of primrose oil or pumpkin seeds ... The list is enormous. Some of the hocus pocus treatments are so bizarre as to be unbelievable, and I believe some if them may be harmful.'(italics added). 30
Well, there we have the considered scientific view, people being tested for non-existent allergies, paying for evening primrose oil or pumpkin seeds, where will it all end? Thomson Prentice had got himself another big news story!
Bella is an inexpensive woman's magazine. On April 14th 1990, it carried a classic anti-health food article, 'Food For Thought: Health food is more popular than ever - but "natural" isn't always safe', by Andrew McKenna. 31 The full page article was accompanied by a small picture of a widely grinning Professor Arnold Bender, a large picture of a worried woman scrutinising a 'health food' product in a 'health food shop' and another small picture of a tub of organic germanium, which, says the caption, 'can kill in large doses'. The artwork was as 'pulp' as the message, a kind of True Health Fraud story, to be read in a slow exclamatory American accent, reminiscent of Broderick Crawford in 'Highway Patrol' or the introduction to the 'Streets of San Francisco'.
Nurse Jessie Thompson felt stressed, so she bought some herbal relaxation pills from a health food shop. She took 30 pills - and suffered jaundice, kidney failure and such serious liver damage she spent 10 weeks in hospital. Jessie, 60, who was off work for a year in total, has now recovered. 'I thought herbal pills were safe because they're natural ... 1 was wrong.' 32
This sounds like an interesting case, a little like the fish oil woman reported by Vincent Marks. A classic of its kind, it makes all kinds of unsupported statements, which are backed up by the 'expert', Health Watch member Professor Arnold Bender.
Professor Bender has worked, throughout his life, for the processed food manufacturers. He was head of research at Farley Infant Foods, head of research at Bovril, and has received research funding from Cadbury Schweppes, Heinz and Kelloggs. 33 Off he sounds on the pages of Bella: 'There is no such thing as a health food - there is such a thing as a health food industry. No one food is good or bad for you. What counts is a varied, balanced diet. A lot of people are being misled.'
That is certainly true! Andrew McKenna takes up the story: 'It's recent health scares over the £600 million a year diet supplement and herbal remedy industries that have led to the most scathing criticisms ... In Britain, we spend £137 million a year on mineral and vitamin pills. In 1989 alone, sales of Tandem IQ vitamin packs rocketed from 1,000 a month to half a million, after trials at a Welsh school claimed that extra vitamins boosted pupils' IQ.34
The article makes use of a Consumers' Association report on health foods, which it says concluded: 'If you were to eat only foods from a health food shop, you could be following a very unhealthy diet.' 35
According to McKenna, the Consumers' Association report found that health food shops stocked some nuts prone to cancer-causing substances; kidney beans which if improperly cooked could cause severe gastroenteritis and diarrhoea; a dried fruit preservative which causes asthmatic attacks in a few people and muesli bars with a very high sugar content. 36
What a condemnation of health food shops! The mind boggles, and just think, if they found these things in health food shops, what would they find in any of the major food retailers? Perhaps the most amazing thing about articles of this kind is that it makes one realise that the Medicines Act should cover the licensing of journalists, some of whom can of course seriously damage your health.
CHAPTER TWENTY SIX. The Campaign Against Health Fraud, Part One.
1. Illich, Ivan. Limits to medicine, medical nemesis: the
exploration of health. London: Marion Boyars, 1976.
2. Griffin, Edward G. World without cancer: the story of vitamin B17. Westlake Village, Calif: American Media, 1974.
3. Happo1d, F.H. Medicine at risk: the high price of cheap drugs. London: Queen Anne Press, 1967.
5. Inglis, Brian. Fringe medicine. London: Faber, 1964. Inglis, Brian. Drugs, doctors & disease. London: Andre Deutsch, 1965.
6. Happo1d, op. cit.
10. Fulder, Stephen, Monro, Robin. The status of complementary medicine in the United Kingdom. London: Threshold Foundation, 1981.
12. Smith, Tony. Alternative medicine. Editorial. EMJ 1983; 287: 307.
13. British Medical Association. Alternative therapy. 1986.
CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN. The Campaign Against Health Fraud, Part Two.
lllich, Ivan. Limits to medicine, medical nemesis: the exploration of health.
London: Marion Boyars, 1976.
2. Pearson, David J., Rix, Keith J.B., Bentley, Stephen J. Food allergy: how much in the mind? Lancet 1983; i: 1259 - 61.
3. Hodgkinson, Neville. Doctors against the allergy quacks. Sunday Times, 31 August 1986.
4. Dobbing, J., ed. Food intolerance. London: Bailliere Tindall, London: 1987.
5. David Freed, interview with the author.
6. Letterhead in possession of the author.
7. CAHF Newsletter, Autumn 1989, quoting a letter sent by Campbell to Hospital Doctor. Campaign Against Health Fraud, London.
8. CAHF Newsletter and Minutes of CAHF Annual General Meetings 1989 and 1990.
9. Newsletter of the National Council Against Health Fraud throughout 1990.
10. Four-paragraph article sent to media by Caroline Richmond headed Council Against Health Fraud.
11. Ciba Foundation. Report and Handbook, 1990.
12. Beard, Nick. The Committee Against Health Fraud. U.K Skeptic, 3 (3).
13. UK Skeptic, February 1989.
14. Maddox, John. The case against PSI. E&IS. January/February 1990.
15. Campaign Against Health Fraud. Invitation to Press Conference, May 8 1989, at the Royal Society of Medicine.
16. Prentice, Thomson. AIDS research. The Times, 8 May 1989.
17. Prentice, Thomson. Quacks risk women's lives. The Times, 9 May 1989.
18. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, May 1989. 19. Ciba Foundation. Report and Handbook, 1990.
19 Ciba Foundation. Report and Handbook 1990
CHAPTER THIRTY ONE. The Campaign Against Health Fraud, Part Three.
1. Mintz, Morton. By prescription only. Boston: Beacon
2. Centre aims for breast cancer breakthrough. Wellcome Journal, December 1991. Wellcome Foundation supports "Breakthrough Breast Cancer" Initiative. News release, Wellcome Foundation Ltd, 1991.
3. National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit. Report 1989-90.
4. AMRC. Handbook 1990 - 91.
5. Personal communication with the author.
6. University of Surrey Gazette, 1985 - 90.
7. Cannon, Geoffrey. The politics of food. London: Century Hutchinson, 1987.
8. NCHF Newsletter. National Council Against Health Fraud Inc.
9. CAHF Newsletter, 1, 1989.
11. Baum, Michael. Why I will bust quacks. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, June 1989.
13. CAHF Newsletter, 2, 1989.
14. Wiltsher, Anne. Faith and doubt. New Statesman and Society, 7 July 1989.
17. Shepherd, Charles. Natural health pills can be lethal. GP, 18 January 1991.
20. Derek Jameson. BBC Radio 2, 7 January 1991.
21. Ibid., Professor John Garrow.
23. Vitamin supplements. Thames Action. ITV, 23 November 1990.
29. Prentice, Thomson. Cures for chronic fatigue disorders may be dangerous. The Times, 18 September 1990.
31. McKenna, Andrew. Food for thought: health food is more popular than ever - but 'natural' isn't always safe. Bella, 14 April 1990.