Finally! A Good Use for CVS Oscillococcinum! (Valentine’s Special)

cvs oscillococcinum flu therapy by boiron

Oscillococcinum literally contains nothing but sugar, and cannot under any circumstances cure the flu, reduce body aches, headaches, fever, or chills.

After a long and grueling search, a use has finally been found for the CVS homeopathic product known as Oscillococcinum.  No, it doesn’t fight flu.  It can’t–there are no active ingredients.

But it can be used as a stand-in for sugar in icing for Valentine’s Day cookies!

You read it here first!

In this Bad Science Debunked Valentine’s Special, I’ll walk you through the steps but, more importantly, we’ll do a little Kitchen Science, using the dye from our cookie icing to illustrate the scientific illiteracy behind homeopathy and why you, if you’re a CVS shopper, should be deeply upset that a modern pharmacy has this product on their shelves.

Nothing but the Facts, Ma’am
As described in my article “If it Quacks Like a Duck: Oscillococcinum“,1 and confirmed by scientists around the world, there is literally–literally–nothing in CVS’ so-called medicine except sugar, rendering it absolutely useless for treating the flu.  This is the case for nearly all homeopathic medicines.

There are a few exceptions. For example some homeopathic concoctions contain enough alcohol for underage drinkers to get three sheets to the wind,2 while others incorporate toxic plants that can poison babies.3  In 2018, the Center for Inquiry sued CVS for fraud over its homeopathic “cures,”4 but a resolution has yet to be found, and CVS continues to mislead consumers, selling them $36.00 sugar pills potent enough to make dessert icing.

However, the potential for a mistake is all too real.  Walk into any CVS store and you’ll find Oscillococcinum displayed in the aisles as if it were a real medicine–as evidenced by the below photos from a shop in Lexington, KY.  Should the parent of a flu-infected child purchase this rubbish, thinking they were getting real medicine, we could have a youngster being treated with sugar–a potential tragedy in the making.  Over 30,000 people were hospitalized due to influenza during last year’s flu season.5  The flu can kill.  It cannot be treated or cured with sugar.

CVS medicine aisle

CVS Cold/Allergy/Children’s Health Aisle (click/enlarge)

Lots of "meds" to choose from in CVS...

Lots of “meds” to choose from in CVS… (click/enlarge)

oscillococcinum sugar pills at cvs

Sadly, oscillococcinum, mere sugar pills, hides among the real meds at CVS. (click/enlarge)

A Baker’s Quarter Dozen
So let’s make some cookies!  Oddly enough, critics of the plain sugar cookies I bought for this project claimed the they were “GMO,” apparently because they didn’t have the silly little non-GMO butterfly.  One of the dangers of GMO labelling is nobody understands what it means.  There isn’t any GMO sugar, there isn’t any GMO flour, but just to poke good-natured fun at those who won’t take the time to learn any better, I’ve dubbed my cookies “GMO sugar cookies for duration of this experiment.

If facts aren’t going to change minds, you might as well have some fun.

Anyway, here’s the video.  For the not-so-video-inclined, printed recipe and instructions appear at the end of this post.  Feel free to print the web page, clip, and save.  Oh, and while you’re at it, you might want to protest to CVS (cough cough).

 

Mixology
Next, let’s look at how we know that CVS Oscillococcinum has no active ingredient. The homeopathic claim is that they begin with a piece of (supposedly diseased) duck, then dilute, dilute, dilute, with water (hold on, this is where it gets strange), where the water “remembers” the disease, and my Aunt Fanny has a bridge in San Francisco to sell you.

Homeopaths actually believe all of that except for the part about my Aunt Fanny.  Why they don’t like her, I’ll never know.  Anyway…

In this Kitchen Chemistry experiment, we’ll do what homeopaths would call a “5C” dilution on the food dye we used on our cookie icing. The principle is simple, but will leave you rolling your eyes in wonder when you see it in action.

1ml of dye is added to 99ml water and “succinated” (shaken). 1ml of the resulting solution is extracted and added to another 99ml water. Each repetition gives us a “C” (centesimal) preparation. Homeopathic preparations such as oscillococcinum start around 200C, at which it’s mathematically impossible for even an atom any original material, which was supposedly a diseased duck, to remain. Some preparations go even higher. For our demo here, I’m preparing just a 5C solution of dye. Pull up a chair, phone the kids and wake the neighbors, and watch what happens. Does the dye get stronger or weaker?

 

Food for thought:  Because homeopaths falsely believe that water has a memory and that repeatedly diluting a substance makes the water memory stronger, consider what happened to the H2O downstream of the cookies and aspartame in this experiment when I went to the bathroom after the second video.  The toilet water went to a water treatment plant where my waste was repeatedly diluted.

Consider further, dear homeopaths, that the water on this planet has been constantly recycled for over 4.5 billion years.  Imagine all the waste it has diluted.  You really gonna drink that stuff?

Cookie Recipe
For those of you rich enough to spend approximately $36.00USD for enough icing to cover three or four sugar cookies, here’s the full recipe. This is just the cost of the oscillococcinum alone!

 

CVS/Boiron Oscillococcinum flu therapy--actually just sugar pills

The Oscillococcinum used in this “experiment.” Click to enlarge.

Warning: Oscillococcinum cannot cure the flu, mitigate its symptoms, or help with any other disease.  Its only use is as described here: as a stand-in for sugar.  If you’re upset about this, please contact CVS to complain: 1-800-SHOP-CVS (1-800-746-7287).

  • 1/4 cup milk 
  • 1.5 tbsp flour
  • 3 tablespoons crushed CVS oscillococcinum pills**
  • 1/4 cup margarine 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 drop food coloring

1. Heat milk and flour over low heat, until very thick. Let cool and set aside.
2. Cream together sugar and butter
3. Add cooled milk and flour mixture, mix thoroughly until whip cream consistency
4. Add vanilla, and mix thoroughly
5. Spread over cookies and enjoy

**Totally safe to use.  There are no medicines in CVS Oscillococcinum. It is pure sugar.

References
(1) If it Quacks Like a Duck: Oscillococcinum
https://badsciencedebunked.com/2014/10/22/if-it-quacks-like-a-duck-oscillococcinum/
Retrieved 19 Feb 2018

(2) Surprise Ingredient in CVS Medicine
https://www.nbclosangeles.com/investigations/I-Team-Store-Alcohol-Purchase-Drug-Regulations-337551261.html
Retrieved 19 Feb 2018

(3) FDA: Toxic Belladonna In Homeopathic Teething Product (via Forbes)
https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2017/01/28/fda-toxic-belladonna-in-homeopathic-teething-products/#54bea4c140dd
Retrieved 21 Feb 2018

(4) Center for Inquiry Sues CVS
https://centerforinquiry.org/press_releases/cfi-sues-cvs/
Retrieved 12 Feb 2019

(5) CDC: The 2017-2018 Flu Season
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2017-2018.htm
Retrieved 12 Feb 2019

Image/Music Credits
CVS Oscillococcinum product image by the author.  Copyright © 2018 Mark Aaron Alsip.  All rights reserved.

Duck image by the author. Copyright © 2014 Mark Aaron Alsip. All rights reserved.

The “Dancing With the Stars/Oscillococcinum” mashup image is a product of the author’s imagination.  The Dancing With the Stars Judges are used used under the parody provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

The excerpts of the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it on” are also used under the parody provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

Amazon’s Alexa appears used under the parody provisions of Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

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Debunking the Synthetic Insulin Myth (Part I)

You would think someone with “MD” after her name would know better than to fall for quack medical articles.  Still, I could forgive Kelly Brogan, “Holistic Psychiatrist”, for her mistake in linking “Insulin Can Kill Diabetics; Natural Substances Heal Them”1 on her Facebook page,2 if only she had apologized for her mistake when it was pointed out to her.

Instead, Brogan plows mindlessly on, erasing critical posts, banning users who debunk her, and going on to spread more misinformation like, for example, the HIV virus not being responsible for AIDS,6 and claiming that we need viruses more than vaccines.2

FB thumbnail

Confirming a lie instead of debunking it–NOT what a doctor should be doing. See footnotes for image credit.

In a future article, I’ll debunk the myth that synthetic insulin is dangerous–and that pig-derived insulin is somehow safer.  In this article, however, I’d like to look at how people like Brogan and her source, “GreenMedInfo”, misrepresent real medical studies to scare the general public.  The study in question is called (hold on to your seats): “Glucose-lowering with exogenous insulin monotherapy in type 2 diabetes: dose association with all-cause mortality, cardiovascular events, and incident cancer.”3

In this study, the researchers didn’t really look at when patients began insulin therapy and how the insulin affected the outcome.  Instead, they used a “proportional hazards model”, a statistical method in which they took a database of Type II diabetes patients from the United Kingdom, assumed synthetic insulin was a hazard, and introduced it mathematically over a designated period of time.

In other words, the researchers had no idea when the patients actually began insulin therapy and whether the insulin was a factor in the hazardous outcomes breathlessly reported by people misquoting and misrepresenting this study.  One thing that’s obviously missing is a control group–in this case, a group that did not receive the synthetic insulin.  The researchers do admit this, but everyone quoting the study ignores the fact.

So, all we really know from this study is that several years after 6,484 people with diabetes received synthetic insulin, some of them got sick, and some of those sick people eventually died.  Well, that’s exactly what you would expect in any population, especially if some of them are seriously ill.  The calculated adjusted hazard ratios in this study (e.g., 1.37 for major adverse/acute cardiovascular events, MACE) could just as easily be explained by pre-existing conditions or other factors.

In fact, a recent presentation at the 50th annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes claimed that “pre-existing cardiovascular disease (CVD) emerged as the greatest risk factor for experiencing a major acute cardiovascular event (MACE) among patients with type 2 diabetes”.4  Wow.  Is it possible that patients with Type II diabetes are predisposed to cardiovascular disease?

Answer: Yes.  According to the American Heart Association, CVD is the cause of death in approximately 65% of all diabetes patients.5  All of a sudden, we’re running in circles: did the diabetes cause the CVD, or did the synthetic insulin?  Remember that missing control group?  What about the age of the patients?  What about when they actually began taking the insulin, as opposed the the arbitrary time selected by the researchers?  What about other health conditions?  What about…?

The researchers themselves were aware of the limitations of their study.  The last line of their abstract, missing from every quack article such as GreenMedInfo’s:

“Limitations of observational studies mean that this should be further investigated using an interventional study design”

An “interventional study” is what I hinted at earlier… it is a carefully controlled experiment involving, among other things, a control group that does not receive the drug (e.g., synthetic insulin) being tested.

There is nothing inherently wrong with an observational study, or statistical analysis.  The authors may very well have a point–maybe more studies are warranted.  I’ll leave that up to doctors.

What I want to point out is that one observational study does not–in any field, in any circumstances–prove a link between one thing and another.  And that is what’s being claimed by Dr. Brogan and everyone else citing this horrific GreenMedInfo article.

 

Image Credits
Dr. Brogan/Facebook screen snapshot used in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.

 

References
Please note: To prevent increasing search engine exposure to quack web sites, I use the “DoNotLink” link obfuscator service to disguise URLs.  I promise that you are not being redirected to porn 🙂

(1)  (Quack Article) Research: Insulin Can Kill Diabetics; Natural Substances Heal Them
http://www.donotlink.com/crxt

(2) Dr. Brogan (Facebook)
http://www.donotlink.com/cryq

(3) Glucose-lowering with exogenous insulin monotherapy in type 2 diabetes (abstract)
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dom.12412/abstract

(4) Pre-Existing Cardiovascular Disease Largest Risk Factor for MACE in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes
http://www.firstwordpharma.com/node/1236429#axzz3KxlconSQ

(5) AHA Scientific Statement: Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease
http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/100/10/1134.full

(6) Kelly Brogan denies germ theory and the value of HIV drugs
http://sciblogs.co.nz/diplomaticimmunity/2014/09/23/kelly-brogan-denies-germ-theory-and-the-value-of-hiv-drugs/