News from Trading Standards on Bleachgate…

11 Oct

Hello all,

At home today, because I’m feeling sick and have a sore throat.

However, I have received a letter from Cardiff Trading Standards today about Miracle Mineral Solution. This, I guess, is the response to my council meeting public question where I asked to know what they were doing about it!

First off, it was due to my initial Trading Standards complaint that the FSA acted. Cardiff Trading Standards referred the matter to the FSA, who as we know, released a warning here.

Now, here’s for the very exciting news…

The FSA have advised me further that they have notified the European Commission so that the product may be withdrawn across the European Authority.

This is excellent! Also, some news that the FSA are advising local authorities

…of any websites in their area selling MMS so that enforcement action can be taken.

For those who wrote to Southwark Trading Standards and heard back from them that they were already dealing with it and already knew about MMS Health, now you know why!

Also, some more information regarding the very first complaint I made to Devon Trading Standards about MMS Europe. Yes, the website run by one Christian Pankhurst. Rather unsurprisingly

…the address on the website does not appear to be accurate…

Devon Trading Standards have since referred it onto East Cheshire Trading Standards, as that’s the area where it is believed Pankhurst ‘resides’.

Also, Cardiffians, good news! It appears that there are no MMS sellers here in Cardiff.  Hurray! Even so…

…we are in the process of checking premises…

They’re really taking it seriously, which is good. The more action taken on the sellers of MMS, the better. Thanks again to everyone who has helped! Now, lets wait for (even more of) the fall out…

P.S. You can listen to my interview on RI Podcast here. They also managed to get the man himself, Jim Humble for an interview here. Well worth a listen. Very enlightening. You can also read Marsh’s thoughts on Jim here.

Bleachgate: More on MMS in the UK

1 Oct

Hello again all!

Well, I’ve been rather busy over the past week. A lot has happened since I last blogged.

Last Thursday, I went and listened to the response to my public question to Cardiff Council about Trading Standards and MMS. Thank you to @JohnLDixon for all the help with doing this. The response was brilliant. Basically, Trading Standards in Cardiff ARE still looking into my complaint. They’re “not avoiding any responsibilities”. I was told the problem needs to be tackled nationally. The deputy leader of Cardiff Council, Ms Judith Woodman, who responded to my question, also promised to write to the chief medical officer in Wales about it. The South Wales Echo came to meet me beforehand, did an interview with me and took a lot of photos. The article can be found here!

Then… On Friday, the 24th September, Bleachgate went official.

The Food Standards Agency released a warning about it, in a similar vein to the FDA’s announcement. This was picked up by the BBC and various other websites.

On Monday, I was sitting in my physics lesson when the Ms. Humphreys from the school office came in and said to me that Radio 4 wanted to do an interview. I agreed and this is the result… http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/txzlq/

The rest of the day went by almost normally, until my chemistry lesson in the afternoon. My school principal, Mr. Dorey, was waiting outside. He pointed towards me and said “Don’t think you’re getting away with it that easily!” I was confused and thought I was in trouble, until he congratulated me on my Radio 4 appearance. He then told me that the day was going to get even more surreal, as BBC Radio Wales had contacted him and wanted to do an interview with me. They wanted to do a live interview at 5:30, but unfortunately, I had other plans for after school – another newspaper article in the Echo, more on that in a minute – so wasn’t able to do a live interview. However, the host of “Good Evening Wales”, Adrian Masters, came to my school and interviewed me. Since the program is quite long (2 hours), you might want to skip to the relevant bits. The first interview with me is at roughly 17 minutes. The next part about Bleachgate is an interview with the FSA which confirms once and for all that Miracle Mineral Solution is illegal. This comes roughly at 1 hour 16 minutes.

All this publicity is excellent. Thanks to all who signed up to the Google spreadsheet to complain about MMS Health and various other MMS peddlers to Trading Standards. As it happens, they are already investigating… er… ALL MMS sellers in the UK due to the FSA complaining to a number of the relevant Trading Standards bodies.

I mentioned earlier about another newspaper article in the South Wales Echo. They were meant to come and do an interview and photos on Monday of this week, but due to a last minute meeting, were unable to come. However, they will be coming and doing the interview on Tuesday, so all is not lost. Follow me on Twitter @rhysmorgan and I’ll let you all know when it’ll be in and if the article is available online or not.

Thanks for the help. Without your retweets about the blog and the video, this could have just been pushed under the carpet.

– Rhys

Not a Doctor

23 Sep

Not a doctor

Do the same and link back if you get what I’m doing Winking smile

More Bleachgate!

19 Sep

Hello everyone!

So, since the last post on Bleachgate, a number of exciting developments have happened…

Firstly, I’ve been invited to speak at a couple of conferences. More on this closer to the time… I’m also going to be on a radio program, Pythagoras’ Trousers, soon. You can get this in podcast format here.

Also, I went back to school. Mum and Dad told my school principle about Bleachgate, who was very impressed! Smile with tongue out I got a mention in school assembly on Friday, which was pretty cool. My school have also contacted a local newspaper and are going to put out a press release sometime this week.

That, however, came after an article on The Guardian website on Wednesday, by Martin Robbins (@mjrobbins)

You can find it here: Miracle Mineral Solution

He’s told me that he’ll be following it up tomorrow, so keep tuned.

Also, something incredible has happened…

Jim Humble claimed he took his product to Africa, which is where he did the majority of his “research”. As a direct result of the story making The Guardian website, an African newspaper, The Daily Nation reported here and here about the danger Miracle Mineral Solution poses to citizens. This is brilliant news and really demonstrates how news can spread to the people who need it the most.

Thank you to everyone who helped spread this story. You are incredible and have been instrumental in getting this story to those who really need it.

– Rhys

Homeopathy in Cardiff

2 Sep

A few weeks ago, I decided to send an email to the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board regarding homeopathy on the NHS.
I asked them if they had any information about spending on it, and if they had it, to send it on to me under the FOIA. First response was “We’re not sure, We’ll get back to you when I have more information.”
So, I waited. And I waited. And waited some more.
Just over two weeks later, I sent another email saying “Do you have the information yet”
I got an automatic out-of-office response saying the person who had emailed me originally had gone on holiday and wasn’t going to be back till January 2011. How annoying. Luckily, she had delegated her job to someone else, so I sent them an email.
The response I got was another out-of-office email, saying they’d be back in the office the following Monday. It was quickly followed by an actual response saying they’d look into it when they got back to the office.
And again, I waited.
Another week passed without any further correspondence. Getting a little annoyed, I sent another email asking if they had the information yet. Once again, out-of-office reply. They’d be back in the office on the 11th September. So, I figured I’d wait and send another email then.
However, today, I was sent a very pleasing email which I will print in full here:

Dear Mr Morgan, I’ve been asked to reply to you on behalf of Estelle Hitchon in connection with your query regarding homeopathic care. Apologies for the delay in getting back to you. However, I am able to let you know that we do not offer any homeopathic treatment here at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. If I can help in any other way please let me know. Many thanks.

Chris Davies

(emphasis mine)

Hooray! This means that Cardiff and the Vale are a homeopathy free zone!
Congratulations to the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. You are awesome.

Ms. Willott responds…

19 Aug

So, Jenny Willott, Lib Dem MP for Cardiff Central has very promptly replied to my email regarding her signing of the two EDM’s. While I commend her quick response, I’m not sure I agree with everything she says in the letter.

Dear Mr Morgan,

Thank you for your email about homeopathy and the EDMs which I have signed on the issue.

Both of the EDMs you mention discuss specific issues surrounding the treatment of homeopathy by bodies charged with assessing and analysing them. For instance, EDM 908 deals specifically with how the Science and Technology Select Committee’s report into homeopathy was conducted. I believe that in this case there were real concerns about the committee’s methodology which undermine the credibility of it’s report, for example, refusing to take evidence from the Society of Homeopaths.

I agree with you that it is very important that ay decision taken on medical treatments is made in a scientific way. However, this often means talking to people you disagree with. By not doing so, I am concerned that the Science and Technology Committee failed to carry out their investigation properly.

The other part of the EDM which I support is the Government maintain the policy of allowing individual NHS trust to determine whether to fund a particular course of treatment, As a Lib Dem I believe that people have a right to choose to be treated in a particular way providing it is safe, and, that if the treatment is cost-effective, they should be available to get treatment on the NHS. However, it must be left up to NICE and individual NHS trusts to determine whether something is cost-effective and shouldn’t be the role of the Government. That is why I was so concerned by some of the Select Committee’s recommendations because they suggested taking away the opportunity of NHS trusts to respond to their patients needs.

On the overall issue of homeopathy I again believe that we need to continue to research this area. Whilst I agree that many of the trials have suggested that this type of treatment has no medical effects, some other studies have suggested a link and therefore this is an area which requires further study before a definitive decision is reached.

I hope that this helps explain why I signed the EDMs you mentioned and reassures you that I understand the importance of scientific evidence, especially in decisions as important as medical treatments.

Thank you again for your email and if you have any more questions about this or any other matter please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Jenny Willott MP

Cardiff Central

I am currently considering a response and will write another blogpost when I have worked out exactly what I want to say. I just wanted to get this out there.

– Rhys

Dear Ms. Willott

16 Aug

As those of you who follow me on Twitter might have seen, I discovered that my local MP, Lib Dem Jenny Willott, had signed disgraced MP David Tredinnick’s Early Day Motion 908. The one where he says he disagrees with the SciTech Committee’s Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy and that instead, we should be listening to countries such as France, Germany and India because they make even more provisions for homeopathy than we, the UK, do. Upon learning of this, I started writing an email to her explaining how homeopathy doesn’t work and how this has already been definitively proven.

“Dear Ms. Willott,

My name is Rhys Morgan. I am 15 years old.

I would like to express my disdain that you signed Early Day Motion 908: Science and Technology Committee Report on Homeopathy. I also would like to express my disdain that you, in March 2007, signed Early Day Motion 1240: NHS Homeopathic Hospitals.

Firstly, most homeopathic remedies contain no active ingredient. They’re literally just sugar pills with water that has had ritual magic performed upon it, sprinkled on top.

This is because they’ve passed a number called Avogadro’s constant. The water has been diluted so many times that there are no more molecules of the original “mother tincture” left in the final result.

This happens twice before reaching the most common homeopathic dilution, 30C. It happens once at 12C, where 1ml of “mother tincture” has been diluted in 100ml of water and this has been repeated 11 more times. It then happens again, where nothing from the 12C dilution is present in a 24C dilution. If homeopathy were to work, we’d have to throw everything we knew about modern physics and chemistry out of the window.

I am not currently aware of any good evidence that homeopathy works. In fact, I am aware of evidence that it does not. When it comes to conventional medicine, new drugs are tested under a method called controlled, double blinded trials. The control bit means that either the new drug is tested against the currently accepted standard treatment, where it has to prove it is more effective or has less side effects; or it’s tested against a placebo. A sugar pill. In well designed trials, homeopathy, seeing as remedies are sugar pills themselves, unsurprisingly fails to show that it works better than even the placebo. What can we make from this? That homeopathy is nothing but placebo, where it appears it might work. Another reason it may appear to work it something called regression to the mean. Basically, illnesses come and go. When you’re at your most ill is when you’re most likely to take a medicine for it. You then start getting better and attribute this getting better to the medicine. However, what actually happened in this situation is that the illness went away naturally.

Another thing that happens occasionally with medical trials, is that they are subject to meta-analyses. This is where data is collaborated from numerous high-quality trials to see if scientists have missed something before. One such example is giving steroids to premature babies. While some trials showed there was a positive benefit, others didn’t. As such for many years, even though doctors had data saying it was worth it, they had other evidence saying it wasn’t worth it and as such did not give steroids to premature babies. However, a not-for-profit organisation called the Cochrane Collaboration produced a meta-analysis of the data available. By discounting the badly designed studies and lining the results up one against the other on a “blobbogram” they discovered that, actually, providing steroids to premature babies was likely to allow them to live longer than premature babies who didn’t receive steroids. Even though the breakthrough thought had come through years previous, it was only now that doctors and other scientists had the definitive proof that giving steroids to premature babies was a good thing. Where does homeopathy come into this, you might ask? Well, a definitive meta-analysis has been performed upon the medical trial data of homeopathy. It has, unsurprisingly, shown that homeopathy is no more effective than placebo. The name of this meta-analysis is Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy.

You can find the Abstract on PubMed and the full article at http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(05)67177-2/abstract

It is with this reasoning that I ask you remove your support for both Early Day Motions. Homeopathy simply does not work and recognising homeopathic hospitals is a waste of already scare NHS resources. If something does not work, it cannot be “cost effective” by any stretch of the imagination. I also direct you to Andy Lewis’ blogpost regarding EDM908 http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2010/03/mp-david-tredinnick-is-wrong-about-the-homeopathy-report.html

Thank you for taking the time to read this email,

Yours sincerely,

Rhys Morgan”

I await a response…

Mini-bonus-HowTo blogpost: NoFollow

15 Aug

For those of you also writing blogs, you might also want to link to dubious websites, but not increase their Google-ability.

Google works by indexing the internet for links. This generates a PageRank for a page. The higher it’s PageRank, the higher it shows in results. OK, it’s more complicated than that, but it’s the basic principle behind it.

So, you can see why some people might not want to increase certain dodgy websites PageRank, including my not wanting to link to those UK Miracle Mineral Solution sellers, lest they get more sales.

However, there is a solution in HTML! It’s called “NoFollow”.

To stop Google’s indexing robots from following links and increasing said dubious websites PageRank, therefore causing them to be higher in Google results and probably get more sales, in the HTML link tag, add rel=“nofollow”.

So, and example tag would be <a rel=”nofollow” href=”whatever you want to link to”>Whatever you want to link to</a>

Hope this helps some people out there!

– Rhys

EDITED WITH CORRECTION!

Bleachgate: The Response

14 Aug

Wow. What just happened? I think Bleachgate went viral.
So far, I have received loads of messages of support from folks including Ben Goldacre (@BenGoldacre), Simon Singh (@SLSingh), Tom Chivers (@TomChivers) and John Dixon (@JohnLDixon). I’ve done
interviews for The Pod Delusion and Skeptics Guide to the Universe,
and a video production company in Yorkshire want to do a documentary
about me and my skeptical outlook.
So, what have I been up to since the video/blogpost? Well, I’ve not exactly been sitting around doing nothing!
Firstly, I have reported a couple of websites selling Miracle Mineral Solution to Consumers Direct who sent them on to Trading Standards. Trading
Standards have forwarded the complaints to the MHRA, who will get back to them with info on whether A) MMS is safe and B) the claims of efficacy are true. Given that we already know what the results should say, Trading Standards should be able to nail these websites. (Links now included here and  here; thanks for the NoFollow info!) I’ve also, as previously mentioned, done interviews for The Pod Delusion and Skeptics Guide to the Universe.
Since the video became popular, I was permanently banned from Crohn’s
Forum. A representative has also posted various comments on the video
claiming that I lied and that I am misleading everyone, that I was
illegally on the forum and that I was rude, aggressive and insulting.
I’d like to address these claims.
1. The claim that I lied in the video.
I did not once lie in the video. You can verify this yourself by
looking at the FreezePages of the threads herehere.
2. That I was illegally on the forum. This claim was made based upon
the fact that to register on the forum, you have to agree agree that
you are over 18 – unless you e-mail the admin asking for permission
beforehand, which I did.
(I will gladly forward these e-mails to anyone who asks for this proof.)
3. The final claim that I was rude, aggressive and insulting; I disagree
with. @medtek, @IrregularShed, @DanMcskelly, @frozenwarning, @KimMKendall, @AriesFyre, @FerFrias and @DT_1975 all followed my posts as Bleachgate unfolded and are willing to put their name to it that I wasn’t rude, aggressive or insulting (although @DanMcskelly says I came across as a bit snooty. Sorry if I did. That was never my intent.) But don’t just take their word for it. Read the FreezePages and decide for yourself.
Now, what’s next?
Well, Councillor John Dixon has asked me if I want to raise a public question in a Cardiff Council meeting and had offered to help me prepare. I have taken him up on this offer and will, this week, be in contact with him about this.
So, once again, thank you all for getting the story out there.
Special thanks to @kashfarooq for sending me @crohnsibd’s comments by email! Also special thanks to everyone who wrote their own blogposts about Bleachgate.
I will, of course, keep you informed of any and all news regarding Bleachgate!
Thanks for reading.
– Rhys

EDIT: I’ve now included those links. Thanks to everyone for the advice regarding NoFollow!

Streisand Effect

11 Aug

Wow. Just wow.

Guys and gals following this whole #Bleachgate story, thank you.

This is incredible. I’ve been asked to take part in an interview with The Pod Delusion podcast, to discuss everything that happened. I’ve also heard from @rebeccawatson that they will be discussing it on Skeptics Guide to the Universe. This is absolutely massive!

Thank you to everyone who has tweeted and blogged about Miracle Mineral Solution, my video and my blogpost. You’ve made a massive difference. Here’s hoping that together, we can get MMS banned here in the UK too!