Tuesday, February 20, 2007

When Is A Trial Not A Trial - 2

After writing yesterday's post on the "trial" of a magic machine which had already been "proven" to work, Eor managed to catch the purveyor of this wonder, John Charlick, in conversation on the radio, further spruiking its marvellous and world-changing effects (sadly, this was with the same radio announcer who last week had (over)promoted the quantum woo of The Secret - it looks like he's turning his show into a little weekend wonderland of woo).

While EoR missed the beginning, there was enough information to confirm that this is not a trial (unless it's a trial to see how much money can be made), that it is simply a commercial venture cloaking itself in pseudoscientific babble.

Mr Charlick seemed unclear how much the machine cost. $AU6 to $25 a week, he suggested, or something like that. He justified charging "participants" (they're not - they're customers) by saying that "by the time they come to us we basically know it's going to work". Mr Charlick: either you already have the evidence (which is not published anywhere that EoR can find) or you don't know whether it will work or not (in which case, a proper scientific trial would be appropriate).

Mr Charlick then threw out some "proven" figues of efficacy, such as a 16% improvement in Parkinson's Disease (measured how?), and a 40% improvement in asthma in only four weeks (again, 40% of what? lung capacity? endurance? number of attacks? or the classic, self assessed catchall "improvement"?). We don't know. He also happened to mention that the asthma improvements had been achieved "sometimes" in conjunction with the machine he is selling. How does he know that the machine had an efect then? Any effect? A negative effect? Was it some other therapy?

As with all real scientific studies, there were also calls from mothers who had used the machine. One mother with an ADHD child stated her child "seems more settled", and "seems a lot more happier". She said he is no longer on medication and now wears a "medallion" or "tamagotchi type machine" around his neck. An assessment by a mother who is looking for improvement is not a particularly high standard of evidence. Nor are vague statements about "seeming better" evidence.

When asked how his machine works, Mr Charlick stated that "pulses of electromagnetic energy stimulate the heart to put out more blood"!

In answer to a caller querying her husband's sleep apnoea and diabetes, Mr Charlick advised that both these conditions are linked, and that users of his machine have stopped all medication. The apnoea is caused by the throat muscles getting "insufficient energy" because of the diabetes, he advised.

The last caller was hardly a strong recommendation. She'd spent $AU600 or $AU800 (she couldn't remember), had spent longer than the recommended 12 weeks treating her ADHD child, and had to go back on it after a while since her child's condition reverted. At the moment the child was "doing pretty well".

Mr Charlick concluded by again using scare tactics: ADHD medication was causing heart attacks and strokes. His machine gave much better results, "proven over and above what a drug can achieve". And it wasn't as expensive as all those drugs.

While there is a link between diabetes 2 and sleep apnoea, diabetes itself is linked to cardiovascular problems. It doesn't need drugs to bring those conditions on. Indeed, Mr Charlick is obviously not referring to this drug that also reduces the combined risk of heart attack, stroke, and death by 16%.

And as far as the ADHD drug link with death and serious events? The jury is still out to a large extent, but the effect, if any, is being overhyped and run as a scare program by Mr Charlick (and others, like the Dore program):

The FDA review released Wednesday found fewer than one adverse event - that is, a death or serious injury - per 1 million ADHD drug prescriptions filled, with the sole exception of the 1.79 cases per million of nonfatal cardiovascular or cerebrovascular problems reported in adults treated with amphetamines. Also, in some of the cases, the children who died were later found to have had undiagnosed heart conditions. And in three of the five cases of death in adults receiving amphetamine treatment, the patients had pre-existing hypertension. That suggests hypertension "may be an important risk factor for sudden death in the adult population," the report said.

EoR wonders:
  • Where are the teachers demanding onschool ambulances for all the ADHD medicated children dropping like flies from heart attacks and strokes?

  • Under what protocols does Mr Charlick conduct his "trial"? Which Ethics Committee approved it and is overseeing it?

  • Why do "participants" have to pay to use the machine during the "trial"?

  • Where is the "proof" the machine is more effective than drugs? Which drugs? Where is the "proof" published? Hint: testimonials on a webpage are not the answer.

  • Why does Mr Charlick rely on unscientific concepts such as Yin and Yang to justify how his machine works?

  • When will the "trial" be completed? Or is it without any specific end date?

When Is A Trial Not A Trial - 1

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