My last pop at New Zealand’s regulatory set-up mentioned New Image International, the company that uses multi-level marketing techniques to sell Colostrum as a miracle cure. The New Image product pitch is a generic hoax, as explained last time out:
…major warning signs include:
Claims based on patient testimonials. Patients want to believe so much that a treatment is helping them that they can convince themselves that it has. They may even have experienced some recovery unrelated to the treatment. Unless there has been carefully evaluated clinical research it is very difficult to know what is a true effect of the treatment and what you can expect.
Multiple diseases treated with the same cells. Unless the diseases are related, such as all being diseases of the blood, different diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and heart disease, would be expected to have very different treatments. Also, you want to be treated by a doctor that is a specialist in your disease.
Zooming in on the right hand bottom corner of New Image’s web site, we find both warning signs straight away: multiple diseases treated with colostrum, plus client testimonials. By way of unexpected bonus horror, they are most unfortunately juxtaposed with an endorsement from the New Zealand Science Minister:
And if you click on the image of Dr Wayne Mapp, you land here, and yes, that really is the NZ science minister endorsing New Image. So there he sits, prating away, just under a whole bunch of testimonials unscientifically ascribing all manner of different miracle cure powers to colostrum.
The Multiple Sclerosis ‘cure’ is a particularly nasty pitch. The UK’s Multiple Sclerosis society has this to say about complementary and alternative treatments (CAMs) for MS:
…an area that’s poorly researched, often because these therapies are rarely suited to traditional research techniques. There isn’t much evidence to show how effective or safe medicines are.
Many studies only include a few people, or aren’t conclusive. If a therapy is found definitively to work, it might no longer be known as complementary or alternative, and join mainstream medicine as a proven treatment.
However, many people who use CAMs say that they make them feel better, so it’s often a case of weighing up things like:
- cost – bearing in mind how you’ll feel if the therapy is very expensive and doesn’t make a difference
- how effective the treatment is (efficacy)
- is it likely to make you feel better
- safety – could it make your MS worse or interact with other medications
Watch out for products that make big promises, cost a lot, say they are scientifically proven or can ‘cure MS’. Paying for these treatments or therapies can be a waste of money and leave you disappointed, or perhaps even make things worse.
As mentioned in the last post on this subject, over in Oz, there’s a warning sign of a different kind: the Adult Stem Cell Foundation, which appears to be a scam, dressed up as a charity, that claims some sort of link to New Image. For some reason, it has two very similar web sites, this one, and this one. But goodness knows what true nature of the link is between the Adult Stem Cell Foundation and New Image. Are the Adult Stem Cell Foundation just recruiters for New Image? Do they have any relation at all? The Adult Stem Cell Foundation portrays New Image as one of its benefactors. Certainly, many sites pushing New Image products think the Adult Stem Cell Foundation is a pretty important reference for New Image:
And then, we have this site, http://www.newimageaustralia.co.nz/Links.html, which looks as if it’s a New Image site, except that its livery and logo is all wrong, and anyway the proper New Image Australia has contact details that are actually in Australia.
And then, trim the “links” part off the spurious New Image site and you are redirected to http://www.colostrum-immunity.com/, which is in our list above, and has the same look’n’feel as the Adult Stem Cell Foundation‘s site: same designer (same client?).
Whole lotta spoofing going on!
The relationship between New Image and the Adult Stem Cell Foundation really needs to be clarified. Do New Image realise that the ASCF people are recruiting people to market New Image’s products, or at least, pretending to do so? Do New Image realise that the ASCF is leeching off New Image’s corporate image? Do New Image realise that the ASCF is a fraud? Do New Image care?
And if they do realise it, and care, what are they, and the NZ authorities, going to do about it, exactly? This was how the the NZ Herald’s reported Commerce Minister Simon Power’s response to the outbreak of overseas financial fraud that exploited New Zealand’s lax and outdated company law: “NZ unable to help international agencies combat fraud: Simon Power“. I wonder if NZ will suddenly rediscover that ability, if it turns out that the boot is on the other foot, and they are depending on Oz to combat fraudulent misuse of New Image’s marketing.
And of course if the NZ authorities were to intervene, they would find themselves in the magnificently incoherent position of defending a supposedly legitimate local peddler of hoax health products (New Image) from a fraudulent overseas peddler of hoax health products (the ASCF).
Which explains why you don’t want your Science Minister running around puffing fake cures, and why a spot of international fraud-fighting cooperation is a good idea. You can save all sorts of embarrassment.
Plus an item in the main NZ evening TV news plugged a ‘development’ in stem cell research (“US scientists for the first time have used a cloning technique to get tailor-made embryonic stem cells to grow in unfertilised human egg cells”) without questioning the underlying assumption that treatment for major diseases and conditions by stem cells is effective.
While it is a valid item of news in a very specialist (and still controversial) medical area it had no direct relevance to or connection with New Zealand, yet was one of the very few nods to world news featured in the program.
In fact the only reason for its inclusion has to be to lend authority and credibility to the ‘stem cell treatment’industry, which is still outside New Zealand’s public health system and therefore only available privately.
In short, advertising camouflaged as news.
Claims based on patient testimonials. Patients want to believe so much that a treatment is helping them that they can convince themselves that it has. They may even have experienced some recovery unrelated to the treatment.”
A 15-30% placebo effect is normal.
Placebos are widely used in medical research and medicine, and the placebo effect is a pervasive phenomenon; in fact, it is part of the response to any active medical intervention. (from wikipedia)
Having a lot of personal experience with alternative therapies, I can say that a lot of them are unfairly branded as quackery. And one big positive is that, relative to name-brand Big Pharma products pushed by multi-million dollar ad campaigns and schmoozing physicians, they are relatively less expensive and less likely to have severe side effects.
Multi-level anything is certainly a turn-off, and I have nothing to say positive or negative about colostrum. It may be very beneficial if the product is manufactured carefully. Or not.
Government has done much harm by approving and even promoting toxic and marginally effective Big Pharma products. Given the track record of “banana republic” lies and corruption in our government and many others, I cannot understand those who want more government involvement in these very personal life decisions in the health arena. Of course that includes endorsements.
As to the last comment of the piece; embarrasment is the least of their worries. They probably share that old Hollywood attitude; “There is no such thing as ‘bad’ publicity.” The Governments position? Well, I for one am not holding my breath. If the ‘Authorities’ are clueless about the entanglements now extant, bureaucratic inertia almost guarantees a ‘slow but steady’ policy of ‘constructive disengagement.’ Sir Humphreys, are you there?
yes but in Australia, the draconian anti-defamation laws can trip you up pretty easily. ask Barron’s, and that wonderful, beautiful man named Joseph Gutnick, who i have never, nor never will, say anything even remotely bad about, in any way, shape, or form, because he farts rainbows and helps homeless dolphins fight cancer.
Not wanting to over defend Mapp
but it would appear the video was taken at a conference an used without authorisation. Radio New Zealand report the Minister has requested its removal.