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The inconvenient truth

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Bryan Hubbard is Publisher and co-editor of WDDTY. He is a former Financial Times journalist. He is a Philosophy graduate of London University. Bryan is also the author of several books, including The Untrue Story of You and Secrets of the Drugs Industry.

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The inconvenient truth

November 5th 2013, 15:49 |
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A small group of people tried to prevent you from reading this issue ofWhat Doctors Don't Tell You. They pressurized shops to stop selling our magazine and they were prepared to go to almost any lengths to achieve their aims, including the stage-managing of an 'independent' news article in a major newspaper that contained malicious falsehoods about us and our work.

Why? Perhaps because we'd announced the next issue as a 'cancer special' that would include interesting new research about homeopathy.

Although not given any opportunity for right of reply, we have published the facts about those allegations on our websites and Facebook pages, our supporters have offered overwhelming support, and the story has gone wildly viral across the internet as something of a cause c'el`ebre.

But aside from the issues of censorship and press freedom, this subject has great personal meaning to us. About 20 years ago, we had our own experience of looking for answers to cancer when Edie, Bryan's mother, then 78, was suddenly diagnosed with end-stage breast cancer. She'd privately nursed the cancer for several years without telling anyone, let alone seeing a medical professional.

When we finally learned of it and insisted she see her GP, he was shocked when examining her-her breast looked, as he put it, "like raw meat". So advanced was the cancer that it was too late to try chemotherapy or any other intervention other than powerful painkillers. Edie had three months to live at the very outside, the GP said to us privately. "And if I were you, I'd get her affairs in order."

To be honest, we were frightened and far from certain we had any answers. Fortunately, because of our work, we were able to contactWDDTYcolumnist Dr Patrick Kingsley, a medical pioneer in Leicestershire who has helped people with a variety of conditions, including cancer. We didn't know how successful he'd be with a case of terminal cancer, but we were encouraged to hear that he ran a local cancer group consisting of many other no-hopers who were apparently outliving the odds.

His therapy included high-dose intravenous vitamin C and hydrogen peroxide administered twice a week, and a modified healthy diet free of foods like dairy, wheat and sugar, plus a vitamin supplement programme tailored to the purse and tastes of someone reared on standard British fare.

We took Edie for treatment twice a week and, within a month, her breast started to heal. Several months later, Edie's GP, the one who'd delivered the death sentence on her in the first place, came to examine her and was astonished to see her walking around at all.

He took several tests and was rendered speechless. The cancer which had ravaged her breast, which he'd been so sure was beyond hope or treatment, hadcompletely disappeared. Edie lived on for many more years until her husband died and she, divested of any further purpose, died six months after him.

Worthy alternatives

What's the point of the story? It is emphatically not that we believe that everyone with cancer should take vitamin C. A good number of people have had their cancer successfully treated with one of the three standard treatments on offer: chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery. These do sometimes work, especially if the cancer is caught early enough.

Neither are we suggesting that people follow any particular course, whether conventional, complementary or alternative. Our job in these pages is not prescriptive but investigative-to dig out the best research we can about the 'other side of the story' on both conventional and alternative healthcare to allow our intelligent readers to make their own informed choices and decisions.

The point about Edie's story is that there are non-conventional therapies out there that work. Although the proof of their efficacy may still be 'clinical' or 'anecdotal'-meaning they haven't been thoroughly tested in a rigorous double-blind trial-that doesn't mean they aren't worthy of further investigation. And some alternative therapies are supported by a good deal of published evidence of success.

Many thousands of people have personal experience of such anecdotes of complete recovery by taking a treatment path other than the conventional alone. Journalist and author Laura Bond's mother Gemma-whose story is featured in this issue (page 26 of November issue of WDDTY)-refused to undergo any conventional treatment for her ovarian cancer. Instead, she tried a smorgasbord of alternatives, from vitamin C and enemas to hyperthermia and ozone therapy, and she's alive and well today and completely clear of her cancer. Laura has researched the kind of personality traits that make for a cancer survivor (page 27 of Nov issue) and also the roles of ozone therapy (page 29) and eliminating dairy products (page 34) in successful cancer treatment.

Even homeopathy-that most unlikely alternative therapy which sceptics argue is just so much water and wishful thinking-has shown such considerable promise in its use in India and in US laboratory studies that America's National Cancer Institute wants to carry out further trials of its own (page 68).

Are we saying homeopathy can cure cancer? No. We're saying that it's worthy of further investigation. In fact, investigating alternatives is now an imperative.

For despite all the grandstanding, the pink ribbons and the attempts to cloak cancer treatment in the weighty mantle of science, the fact remains that the vast majority of modern medicine's arsenal against cancer doesn't work. As responsible journalists it's also our duty not to censor, which includes not censoring that the overall success rate of conventional cancer treatments is just 12 per cent. From the orthodox perspective, the War on Cancer is decisively being lost.

Advertising mogul Lord Maurice Saatchi arrived at a similar view to ours after watching his wife die from her chemotherapy as much as from her cancer. He is trying to gain support for a bill that would allow oncologists to try different approaches.

Right now they are struck off for straying from the conventional cutting-irradiating-poisoning treatment.

The Cancer Act has a similar stranglehold over the marketing of cancer therapies. No one can talk about or publish any product or service that features cancer therapy of any description without falling foul of trading standards.

Read all about it

And so we come to the suppression ofWDDTY. Although we have been in print since 1989, we only got everyone's attention last year when we appeared on the newsstands.

As soon as our first issue was published in September 2012, the 'charity' Sense About Science, the self-proclaimed 'guardian' of all things 'scientific'-partly sponsored by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the official trade body for the UK's drug companies, among other Big Pharma organizations-tried to have us removed from the shelves. Their spokesperson Simon Singh contacted our distributors, urging them to stop supplying our magazine.

Singh then contacted all our outlets (like WH Smith and supermarkets) and tried to persuade them to stop carrying us. When they refused, Singh and a small cluster of his Sense About Science associates began a mass email campaign, bombarding every supermarket and retail group with emails and a hate campaign of trolls on our Facebook pages. When we alerted our supporters to this, thousands of them sent emails of their own-one of the largest waves of support the supermarkets said they'd ever seen.Singh's campaign didn't end there. He then relentlessly pestered the Advertising Standards Association with complaints about our advertisers in attempts to scare them away.

This skirmish recently flared up again when we announced that this November issue would be a cancer special.The Timesnewspaper ran an article on 1 October, alleging that a group of "experts", including "scientists, doctors and patients" were "condemning" shops for carrying our magazine and wanted us banned because of a 'health scare'. The only "experts" quoted were Singh, and two other Sense About Science members.

The article also said we'd claimed that vitamin C "cures" HIV, that homeopathy could treat cancer, that we'd wrongly implied the cervical cancer vaccine has killed "hundreds" of girls and that we'd told parents in our latest (October 2013) issue not to immunize their children with the MMR vaccine.

The Timesdidn't bother to get hold of us to see if anything they'd written was in fact fair and accurate.

It's also apparent from the information reported inThe Timesarticle that not one journalist or broadcaster had read much of what we'd written, particularly on the homeopathy story, and for a very good reason: the article and issue containing it has not yet been published. All we'd published were two sentences announcing our intention to publish a story with some promising research in this current issue.

DespiteThe Timesarticle's gross inaccuracies and misrepresentations, it was suddenly open season onWDDTY, with other media simply parroting the story.The Wright Stuffshow on Channel 5 quickly followed suit with a TV debate, flashing up a photo of Lynne, while the BBC'sFive Livehad a radio debate on our magazine. By Thursday, when the Press Gazette got onto it, the headlines had escalated that our health advice "could prove fatal" (a headline now withdrawn).

In all the furore, not one newspaper, radio show or TV station bothered to get hold of us, not even to solicit a comment-which is basic journalism when you intend to run a story on someone, particularly one so negative. (ThePress Gazettehas since changed its story, as has the BBC.)

Scientific fundamentalism

So why have we upset Sense About Science so much? There is, of course, the most obvious reason: our information threatens the revenues of some of its benefactors, most notably the pharmaceutical industry.

But, fundamentally, Singh and his cohorts believe we are 'anti-science' and pedalling unproven alternatives that could harm instead of heal.

It's important here to make a distinction between science-the open-minded pursuit of truth without fear or favour-and scientism, a solidified set of beliefs around which academics, industries and professions are framed.

The resistance we've experienced has more to do with the latter, and it is this that Sense About Science seeks to protect. This seems clear from the way the scientism of medicine greets any discovery, breakthrough or possibility that questions or threatens the current medical paradigm-by dismissing such ideas out of hand as 'quackery', even when they are the work of eminent scientists at prestigious institutions such as Oxford, Harvard and Cambridge. These are the studies we report on, as anyone who reads our magazine well knows.

Medicine and indeed most of science is becoming ever more fundamentalist, with grant money paid only to those who confirm the orthodox point of view. That's why chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery have remained the only treatments of choice for cancer for so many decades.

For years, medical fundamentalism has only embraced the pharmaceutical model. Drug companies sponsor medical schools, pay for what is often manipulated research and reward doctors willing to prescribe their products with gifts and trips abroad to exotic locations. Medicine has largely become a drug-delivery system.

Drugs constitute a one-size-fits-all model, whereas every human being is unique. Drugs that work on me may not work on you and vice versa; drugs can't be made smart enough to, say, slot tab A into slot B because humans are holistic. As new evidence in biology is beginning to show, the systems of the body interact as a complex, dynamic and highly individualistic whole.

Biochemical individuality creates mayhem with drug trials, which are designed to look for common results in everyone-one reason their results are so often manipulated, massaged or even made up. The Scientific-Ethical Committee for Copenhagen and Frederiksberg Municipalities, which carried out a review between 1994 and 1995 (published in PLoS Med 4(1): e19), estimated that as much as 75 per cent of a sampling of industry-sponsored studies-and possibly up to 91 per cent-were ghostwritten manuscripts to achieve the 'right 'result for their corporate sponsors.

Richard Smith, former editor of theBritish Medical Journal, wrote a foreword to a newly published book entitledDeadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma has Corrupted Healthcareby Peter Gotzsche, head of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark (Radcliffe Publishing Ltd).

In the book, Smith says that Gotzsche produces detailed evidence to support his case that Big Pharma is guilty of all the offenses of organized crime, from extortion and fraud, to bribery, embezzlement, and political corruption.

When it isn't possible to put a positive spin on the data, the research is often buried so it never sees the light of day, as happened with the painkiller Vioxx, held responsible for the deaths of 60,000 people before it was taken off the market.

All of this begs the question: Which is the more dangerous modality, the current order of treatment or the alternatives we report on?

Keep asking questions

Many conventional doctors are especially vituperative in their dismissal of important work by innovators, while uncritically embracing many surgical or drug-based solutions that are little more than modern-day snake oil. This has bred a climate in which healers are polarized into 'alternative' or 'orthodox' camps rather than being in one common group in favour of anything with a solid basis in either experimental or clinical practice.

Medicine should be a gift to us all rather than a money-making scheme for the pharmaceutical industry, as it now largely is. With that in mind, we suggest that the following be implemented:

o An independent funding body should be created to finance all medical trials, whether of drugs, other forms of therapy or alternatives

o Doctors should be required to spend one year of their five-year training learning about nutrition, alternative modalities and new

possibilities

o Drug-company influence should be entirely excluded from medicine, from training colleges and from trips abroad

o Doctors should be rewarded for adopting non-drug therapies, thus saving the nation at least one small part of the lb160 billion spent every year on drugs by the NHS.

But most of all, we need to open up the entire field of cancer-our understanding of what it is, what causes it and how it could be treated-while taking on board new understandings of the body and the impact upon it of the environment, stress and emotions. As a researcher once commented when asked whether research into alternative healing should continue, "We can't find the answers if we don't keep asking the questions."

The Timesnever acknowledged our complaints, but took the unprecedented step of writing to our supporters to say our version of events was wrong. The author himself engaged in a long debate with our supporters on our Facebook pages, and eventually made the extraordinary suggestion that we shouldn't have run some of our material, or should have run it with a disclaimer. In other words, the role of a reporter is to support the status quo.

We believe the role of the press is something different-that of watchdog over the status quo, whose role is not to censor bad news. "Those who control or suppress access to such information say they do it to protect an 'ignorant' public. Don't be fooled. People who hide information disrespect the public and act against its interest in taking responsible personal action. Don't trust the censors," says James S. Turner, Board Chair of Citizens for Health, a health advocacy organization.

And that's how we will continue to publish this title-unafraid to ask the unpopular questions and to publish the inconvenient truths.

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