Author Archives: jonhw

Holford, Burne and homeopathy on the NHS

JDC has just put up an excellent post about Holford, Burne and Serotonin pills: noting that, while Jerome Burne is given space on Holford’s blog to argue for the need to “Save NHS money on ineffective drugs, not homeopathy”, Holford’s own recommendations for depression are neither cheap nor based on good evidence. I think that two further things are worth emphasising re this post on Holford’s blog:

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Dore and some interesting wikipedia edits

Looking at the Wikipedia page for Dore, we were interested to note that IP address 82.70.115.233 was associated with a number of edits to this page. Some of these changes – such as a 31/12/09 edit – seem to make the Wikipedia page more positive about the Dore treatment. Whois information links this IP to a Dave Harris. By a pure coincidence, I’m sure, a Dave Harris happens to be Dore’s Senior Systems Engineer.

I do like wikipedia.

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Filed under ADHD, Dore, dyslexia, dyspraxia

Dore: nothing in it?

The ten23 campaign looked at homoeopathic pills: there’s no active ingredient in them, once diluted beyond a certain level.  This post is going to look at the Dore treatment for dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD: and suggest that there’s no good evidence it works and (aside from the placebo effect) there may be nothing in it.

Following an ASA ruling that claims made in Dore’s advertising were misleading, we were involved in putting out a press release: to publicise this ruling.  My mobile number was on there, and I was surprised to get a call about the release from Phil Hall Associates: Dore’s PR agency.  I subsequently spoke with them about Dore on the phone – which they asked me to keep off the record – and, at the agency’s suggestion, e-mailed them some questions about Dore.  These questions and their responses are below; I will then look at what questions they have failed to answer, and why this suggests that there may be nothing in Dore.

I asked Phil Hall Associates the following questions about Dore:

– I’d be interested in details of how Dore might have responded more strongly to the ASA. If there is good evidence that Dore can treat dyslexia, aspergers, ADHD and dyspraxia, I’d be very interested in seeing this.
– I’m pleased to hear that the new management and ownership seek to improve practice. Could you specify which practices are being revised? And can you let me know who the new owners are?
– The Balsall Common study has been removed from the ‘research’ part of the Dore website. Could you summarise why this has been removed – how does Dore currently feel about this research?
– In terms of the new research, can I see what there currently is? And can you let me know who is conducting any ongoing research – are independent researchers involved?
– Does Dore keep records re the completion rate of the programme and on what percentage of those who complete achieve a successful outcome? If so, can I see the figures? Also, how does Dore assess ‘success’ on the programme?
– Do Dore and PHA feel that there is currently enough evidence to justify promoting the programme as a treatment for dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia and Aspergers Syndrome? If so, what evidence do you see as justifying this?
– I gather that Dore may be moving away from ‘miracle cure’ rhetoric. What is Dore’s position on Wynford’s book still selling with that title? And do you feel that current claims (around, for example, addressing the root causes of learning difficulties) are justified?
– Was and is Roy Rutherford’s Autism Treatment and Prevention Centre linked to Dore? And is Dr Rutherford still involved with Dore?
– What evidence would it take to convince Dore and PHA that the Dore programme is not an effective treatment for some of the conditions it is advertised for? And what course of action would be taken in such circumstances?

PHA’s response is below

Firstly, thank you very much for your email in which you raised a number of issues. As you may be aware the Dore Programme has been under new ownership since January 2009 and, as such, has a totally different management team to previous administrations. We are fully committed to communicating with people in an open and honest way as we genuinely believe that the Programme could have a huge impact on the lives of people suffering with learning difficulties.

Over the past ten years (since the Programme was first established) we have consistently received feedback from our clients to indicate that the Programme has helped thousands of children and adults and, for many, this has had a transformational impact on their capacity to learn and function in everyday life.

Although we fully accept ours to be an innovative approach, we continue to be reassured by what our clients tell us and by the ongoing involvement of a number of recognised experts and higher educational establishments. Their academic and clinical input will ensure that the science underlying these observed benefits can be more easily understood and further developed.

However, we also recognise that a start-up organisation can sometimes get absorbed in its passion to bring about change and to survive. As such, there have been lessons learned and the new management team genuinely understands why some people will be wary of the Programme. We want to address these concerns as, ultimately, our goal is to help people (especially children) to overcome the impact of learning difficulties early on in their lives before the more debilitating psychological and social consequences take hold. To achieve this we actively want to promote an environment in which individuals and organisations work together rather than against each other.

The paragraphs below aim to address some of your particular concerns, however, we would be delighted to offer you the opportunity to visit our new centre in Stratford upon Avon and speak with members of the clinical and/or management team.

1. Our method has always been to treat the root cause of learning difficulties with individually designed, physical exercises designed to stimulate the cerebellum. We recognise there are different schools of thought regarding how best to treat people with dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD and we believe that many of these strategies have an important role to play.

2. A fundamental issue to tackle is the ‘miracle cure’ debate. The simple truth is that Dore does not market itself as a single, one size fits all solution to learning difficulties. We consider the Programme to be part of the solution and something that works best when combined with other teaching and supporting strategies. The Programme does not teach people to read or write, but is intended to help make the process of learning easier. There are many other organisations in the field of learning difficulties who continue to deliver incredibly important work and we hope that one day we will work in partnership with them as we believe our different methods can complement each other.

3. We acknowledge that, in the past, certain marketing activities have attempted to position Dore as a ‘miracle cure’. Whilst this positioning was based on the anecdotal evidence of numerous people who genuinely considered the Programme to have worked wonders for them, we fully acknowledge that from a scientific point of view no such thing as a miracle cure exists and, accordingly, no longer brand ourselves as such. We are also extremely clear with everyone we speak to that success on the Programme cannot be guaranteed and that the positive benefits depend on many factors – including significant, long-term personal commitment. We also point out that the Programme won’t necessarily be appropriate for everyone – or work for everyone – which is why the initial assessment is specifically designed for us to identify a person’s suitability (or not) and, just as importantly, to allow the individual to make their own judgement.

4. Another criticism the Dore Programme has faced has been one of commercialism. If we genuinely want to help people suffering from learning difficulties then why do we charge a fee? The simple answer to this question is that without Government funding we have no choice but to charge for the treatment as it’s the only way we can afford to deliver and further develop the Dore Programme. Anyone who has ever been to the Dore Centre in Stratford upon Avon will realise straight away that we passionately care about helping people and in no way could be described as a profiteering organisation. Having said this we are aware that some individuals do find the Dore Programme to be beyond their financial reach and, therefore, we are currently reviewing our corporate constitution to ensure that it is aligned to our primary objective of assisting those with learning difficulties as opposed to profit maximisation.

5. There is also the issue about research. Since 2001 there have been thirteen different studies examining the impact of the Dore Programme with eleven of these conducted on an independent basis and four of which having been peer reviewed. Whilst these studies have provided large amounts of valid evidence pointing to the Dore Programme’s success we do, however, acknowledge that they have also attracted some criticism. This criticism has largely focused on the lack of placebo control groups which, as has been explained in the past, was a decision made partly on ethical grounds as it was considered inappropriate to put young children through a minimum 12-month programme of placebo exercises. It is worth pointing out that we are not aware of any other organisation operating in the field of learning difficulties who has conducted placebo control group studies and we suspect that this is for similar reasons to our own.

6. The research supported by Dore in the past is important and has given us a valuable insight into the effectiveness of the Programme. There is also plenty of research around the world (and not just from Dore) supporting the view that the cerebellum is linked to a wide range of learning, cognitive, attention and communication issues. Of course, all research projects have their critics and ours are no exception. There is still much more work that needs to be done and we are committed to undertaking further research studies and we are also keen to work with other organisations to develop these. One independent research project currently being undertaken by Ohio State University in the USA is a pilot feasibility study exploring various types of treatments for ADHD and reading disorders. This study is blind and includes a placebo control group and we look forward to learning of the outcome in due course and very much hope that this will then attract further federal funding to be able to conduct a full study.

This leaves a number of unanswered questions about Dore. I forwarded some of the most significant to Phil Hall Associates, (but have not had a response). Questions are below:

– Does Dore keep records re the completion rate of the programme and on what percentage of those who complete achieve a successful outcome? If so, can I see the figures? Also, how does Dore assess ‘success’ on the programme?
– Was and is Roy Rutherford’s Autism Treatment and Prevention Centre linked to Dore? And is Dr Rutherford still involved with Dore?
– What is Dore’s position on Wynford’s book still selling with
‘miracle cure’ in the title?
– I’d be interested in details as to how – if there is good evidence that Dore can treat dyslexia, aspergers, ADHD and dyspraxia, I’d be very interested in seeing this.

Of course, both Dore and Phil Hall Associates are quite within their rights not to answer my questions. If they’re going to be phoning me up unexpectedly, it seems a bit of a shame if they’re not wanting to answer questions about the evidence for their treatment – but that’s entirely their call, of course. If Dore or Phil Hall Associates belatedly decide that they would like to answer my questions, I will quite happily link their response or post it on this blog.

Currently, though, there’s not any good evidence that Dore works, though – I mean, a ‘pilot study’ taking place after they’ve been selling a horribly time-consuming and expensive ‘cure’ for years… I therefore can’t help but think that there’s really nothing in Dore.

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BIS and Science: So What’s definition of “rigorous and credible” research

I had high hopes for the government’s Science: So What? So Everything campaign – a good science communication initiative would be very welcome. However, its recent Shape of Jobs to Come PR splash has heavily promoted strikingly poor research – even quoting Gordon Brown and Lord Drayson in support of this research! Most worryingly, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) – who run Science: So What? – continue to insist that this research is ‘rigorous and credible’, even after major flaws in the research have been made clear to them. This raises serious questions about whether BIS understand what constitutes good research and/or whether they care about this. Promoting bad research in the name of science communication is likely to be counterproductive. Continue reading

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Not-so-super Times article on Holford and superfoods

We were disappointed to see Peta Bee in the Times with an article on “Anti-ageing superfoods”: giving an article over to the uncritical discussion of some of Holford’s dietary beliefs. It’s worth quickly going through some of the problems with the article here. Continue reading

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Filed under antioxidants, patrick holford, superfoods, The Times

Thomas Lodi, An Oasis of Healing, cancer and threats of legal action

Apparently the company ‘An Oasis of Healing‘ has written to the excellent My Malignant Melanoma blog – asking that a blog about Thomas Lodi is removed and saying they will be “forced to take legal action” if the post is not removed. It therefore seems like a good time to look at some of the claims made by An Oasis of Healing (founded by Lodi).

The company claims to help “cancer patients and their families learn to re-establish health”. The first of the ‘three pillars’ of this is to “Stop Making Cancer“. On a fairly random basis, I’ll look at the evidence-base for their first five “Treatments that we use to help you Stop Making Cancer” Continue reading

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Paul Flynn MP on Dore and the ASA

It has been nice to see a lot ofgood coverage of the recent Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upholding of my complaint against Dore. One more forum to add to the list is Paul Flynn MP’s excellent blog: Flynn discusses how Dore “has been resurrected” and reminds readers of last year’s Early Day Motion about Dore.

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Holford: “Research has shown that women in particular tend to put on 7 pounds a year”

In the holiday season, people often worry about weight gain. I’m not sure that things quite add up with Holford’s blog’s contribution to the discussion, though. A contributor has blogged that

Research has shown that women in particular tend to put on 7 pounds a year. This steady weight gain is often linked to the excesses of the festive season, which are not discontinued come January, so more weight piles on year after year.

Assuming that a women starts out at 150lb at 18, a steady weight gain of 7lb/year would mean that she reached 500lb by her 68th birthday. This type of sustained weight gain is – clearly – unusual. While I am not sure on what research ‘has shown’ this level of weight gain, I suspect that things may be rather more complicated than the blog post suggests.

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Dore media and blog coverage

After Wednesday’s ASA ruling, it’s great to see Dore starting to get some critical publicity. The Sun’s Jane Symons reports that

Professor Maggie Snowling, a literacy expert based at York University, has analysed the trial most often used by promoters of the programme. She said: “There were no significant improvements on the key tasks of reading and writing. The improvements were in things like threading beads.”

Shirley Cramer of the charity Dyslexia Action welcomed the ruling. “The ASA have looked carefully at the evidence, which is what we have done. Scientists have said you cannot make claims on the basis of this flimsy evidence.”

She said that parents found paid-for internet links particularly confusing as many did not realise they were in effect advertisements.

“A lot of parents use the internet to research these problems, but one of the worrying things with this sort of commercial stuff is that parents often find it difficult to tell what is legitimate and what’s not.”

In the past she says the charity has been “innundated” with calls from people who felt let down after spending thousands on the controversial courses.

She added that personalised exercises can help some people with dyspraxia – but these are available on the NHS.

The Mirror reports that

the Advertising Standards Authority has asked Dynevor to stand up its claims.

The firm sent two studies but the ASA ruled both flawed and said the online plugs were misleading.

Continue reading

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ASA: Dore advert is “misleading” and breaches rules on “truthfullness” and “substantiation”

I was delighted to see that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint of mine about Dore’s advertising. I complained about an advert referring to “help with Dyslexia, ADHD, Dyspraxia or Asperger’s”. The ASA has reviewed the evidence Dore submitted to support their claims, and found that:

the evidence was inadequate to support claims to treat those [Aspergers Syndrome and dyspraxia]. With regards to dyslexia and ADHD, we did not consider that the studies were sufficiently robust to support the treatment claims for those conditions, and we therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.

The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health and beauty products and therapies).

I am delighted that the ASA has made such a firm ruling. Continue reading

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Filed under ADHD, autism, autistic spectrum disorders, Dore, dyslexia, dyspraxia