Their recent difficulties arose when someone spotted that the teaser in the current issue (October) was going to be talking about cancer and homeopathy in the following November issue (out in a few weeks). Homeopathy is straight-up nonsense and no responsible health magazine should be talking about it, other than to recommend people avoid spending (wasting) money on it. The other problem is that the magazine is going to be talking about alternative (or complementary, if you prefer) treatments for cancer. Because of the Cancer Act of 1939 you have to be a bit careful what you imply in terms of treatments, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
If I could be convinced that the magazine's intention is to suggest things like homeopathy alongside conventional treatment I'd probably not bleat very much. Still a waste of money but as long as someone's getting real medicine then the extra chat they get with a homeopath or the placebo effect from the pills is OK with me.
Sadly WDDTY have a tendency to frame everything that comes from regular medicine as being a bit suspect, providing information about alternatives to real treatments. The magazine's name implies that doctors keep information from their patients, or don't have the latest information.
Even the Daily Mail, which can occasionally be fairly horrendous in its health information, doesn't treat doctors as self-interested employees of pharmaceutical companies so while I'd not lose sleep if they ran out of ink I can put up with their paper being sold everywhere.
A brief timeline
1. The Times recently ran a story (1 October) suggesting that WDDTY had implied that "homeopathy could treat cancer" and that "the cervical cancer vaccine has killed hundreds of girls". Here is the full quote taken from The Times' site (most of the article is behind a paywall):
"Experts are calling on high street shops to stop selling a magazine that claims that vitamin C cures HIV, suggests homeopathy could treat cancer and implies that the cervical cancer vaccine has killed hundreds of girls."
2. WDDTY was annoyed by this, feeling that The Times had wrongly attributed statements to the magazine which hadn't bee made and that, in addition, the author of the article (Tom Whipple) had failed to get in touch with magazine staff for their comment on the story (Tom Whipple makes it pretty clear that he did and eventually WDDTY conceded that he had tried).
It is now 7 October and I think WDDTY have published at least four separate press releases within three days complaining about The Times and the campaign to have the magazine removed from high street shops and supermarkets.
- Subscribe before we are banned (1 October 2013)
- What the Times didn't tell you (1 October 2013)
- Our Word (1 October 2013)
- The WDDTY wars (3 October 2013)
Thrill as the #WDDTY duo are gently bowled soft, pillowy questions in this hard-hitting interview http://t.co/pjzCpDLHnJ
— Rob (@PencilBloke) October 7, 2013
They also addressed the accusations on Facebook and threw a few insults towards Sense About Science, the Nightingale Collaboration and skeptic bloggers.
They have been at great pains to state on Twitter, Facebook, on YouTube videos and in press releases / emails to their subscribers that they have never said that homeopathy might cure cancer or that the HPV vaccine might kill people who have it.
I disagree!! I think they've said precisely that.
Here they are saying, in the headline, that the HPV vaccine has killed hundreds of girls (to be fair the article is a bit vaguer but why go and say it in the headline?!).
‘Safe’ HPV vaccine kills up to 1,700 young girls
Here's a screenshot...
and here they are saying that homeopathy can be used to 'treat' or 'reverse' cancer - I concede that they have not used the word cure, but nor have they been sufficiently careful to ensure that anyone reading (particularly someone vulnerable) couldn't draw that conclusion. Harrumph!
.@The_Angry_Nurse @COMAGazines @_JosephineJones @_wddty pic.twitter.com/jSZRiEMtjD
— Alan Henness (@zeno001) October 5, 2013
the headline "Much more than placebo: Homeopathy reverses cancer" rather suggests that homeopathy is a solution for cancer and other text within the body of the article (published
"Several homeopathic remedies are as effective as powerful chemotherapy, according to clinical trials, and thousands of cancer cases are being reversed by homeopathy alone." - this specifically implies that homeopathy is equally effective as chemotherapy, and that it might be used as a standalone treatment.
So this discussion on the use of homeopathy is not about its use as a complementary (and therefore harmless when running alongside real medicine) treatment, it is being suggested as an alternative.
I don't think anyone's died or been injured yet from reading or following the advice in this magazine but I hope you'd agree that it's not very good and the way they've framed it is a bit worrying. We know, from an amazing collection at What's the Harm?, that plenty of people do die or are injured from bad advice though - http://whatstheharm.net/