Medical McCarthyism

Lynne McTaggart

Even journalists go by the old adage, ‘If at first you don’t succeed. . .’ After being fairly universally condemned for the first attack against What Doctors Don’t Tell You on October 1, the Times chose to run essentially the same article again about us last Saturday, November 2 – this time entitled “Magazine attacked by health experts over cancer ‘cure’ claims.” 

Even journalists go by the old adage, ‘If at first you don’t succeed. . .’ After being fairly universally condemned for the first attack against What Doctors Don’t Tell You on October 1, the Times chose to run essentially the same article again about us last Saturday, November 2 – this time entitled “Magazine attacked by health experts over cancer ‘cure’ claims.”

For this latest round the Times did speak to us, and for this alleged ‘attack’ assembled a few members of the cancer establishment, plus thoughtfully gave us some free publicity by publishing a decent sized photo of the cover of the latest issue. 

The experts were three convenient rent-a-quotes (two from cancer charities) whose comments were solicited after the content of our current issue appears to have been misrepresented to them. It’s a cheap and nasty tactic in journalism usually resorted to when you don’t have a story.


From their answers, it seems evident that none of them have actually read the articles in question, or indeed have lodged complaints about WDDTY independently, but were led to believe that 


1) WDDTY thinks there’s a secret cure that cancer researchers have discovered but are concealing from the public 


2) WDDTY has said that homeopathy can cure cancer 


3) WDDTY urges its readers to just get vitamin C or homeopathy instead of drugs

So we thought we’d set the record straight about a few points: 


WDDTY’s editors emphatically do not believe that cancer researchers have a secret cure they are concealing. Quite the opposite. That’s pretty obvious from the statistics.

The World Health Organization says that cancer accounted for 7.6 million deaths (around 13 per cent of all deaths) in 2008 and predicts the deaths will practically double to 13.1 million deaths by 2030.  Some cancers are going up, and some cancers are going down, but anywhere from 160,000 to 220,000 British people die from cancer every year, depending on who you speak to, and about 560,000 people in the US die. One thousand women die from breast cancer in this country alone every month.


It’s cheap to do clinical trials on homeopathy because it’s only water, so if they were worth doing they would already have been carried out. 

This may be true of laboratory cell lines, but not clinical trials. 


Our story in the latest issue concerned the work of an Indian hospital using homeopathy to treat cancer that was deemed scientifically valid by the National Cancer Institute in America – enough to merit further research. 


Large scale clinical trials don’t come cheap. The average cost per-patient for a phase 1 clinical trial is about $22,000 (and the actual active substance, or drug itself isn’t the expensive part of the trial).  So if you want to do a trial of 200 patients, you need at least $440,000. And that’s only phase 1.  You need to do about several phases to get it approved. A decade ago, it was estimated that the average cost of bringing a drug to market in the US was $802 million. The active substance costs pennies compared to the cost of actually testing it on people.


The NCI is strapped for cash.  They received $231 million less from US Congress last year than the year before, and their appropriations from Congress have been flat for more than a decade.  They don’t have money to spend on trials of alternative medicine, even if the evidence is compelling.  


According to Cancer Research UK, just over half of cancer patients survive beyond five years. 

This is the very attractive figure now being bandied about to convince us all t
hat we’re winning the war on cancer. In fact the NHS told Lord Saatchi recently that it’s no longer necessary to have new avenues for cancer treatment because we already have a cure for cancer.


Actually, as WDDTY has reported, after cherrypicking the very best clinical trials showing positive results, Australia’s leading oncologists found that chemotherapy’s contribution to five-year survival was only 2.3 per cent in Australia and 2.1 per cent in the US (Ann Oncol, 2013; doi: 10: 1093/annonc/mds636).  

How can Cancer Research UK present such optimistic figures?  It all has to do with absolute vs relative risk. Let’s say you have osteoporosis, the brittle-bone disease. Your condition may be at a stage where your risk of suffering a fracture is 4 per cent, but the drug can reduce that risk to 2 per cent.  


There are two ways of expressing the same thing: as a relative risk, the drug has a 50 per cent rate of effectiveness – it’s reduced your risk from 4 to 2 – and that sounds attractive, but in absolute terms its effectiveness is just 2 per cent. 


For years researchers have been presenting the effectiveness of chemotherapy in terms of relative risk, and this has influenced the way the media has reported on cancer too. 

Stores are discontinued stocking WDDTY from last month

This is completely untrue. All the stores that stock us two month ago still believe in free speech and are continuing to stock us, including Waitrose, albeit at a lower grade of listing – at the individual discretion of store managers. That decision was made in July and had nothing to do with the Times’ October article, but more to do with the John Lewis Partnership’s aversion to controversy of any sort, particularly to a magazine with so controversial a name. Their communications to us has suggested that they have no quarrel with the content. If you want it locally, ask your manager to stock it.


WDDTY is advocating that people use vitamin C or homeopathy instead of drugs. 

As we explained four times in our interview, we are not telling people to get off chemo and onto vitamin C. This latest issue relayed the story of my mother-in-law, whom the medical profession had given up on. They told her she was going to die. An alternative-cancer regime saved her life and she lived many more years.  It’s a fact.  British Dr. Patrick Kingsley (now retired but available for comment) oversaw her treatment and saved her life. And the life of many hundreds of other cancer patients. Isn’t this worth investigating? 

So we now have the spectacle of a giant news corporation currently on trial for illegal phone hacking self-righteously leading the charge to curtail free speech on cancer and ban a small publication that is simply trying to open the debate on cancer.  


On Friday morning before the story ran, when Hannah Devlin, the co-author (with Tom Whipple) of the Times article interviewed us, I asked her, why are you doing this story again, to which she finally let slip, 'What do you expect? You wrote about us in your magazine.' 


So the true purpose of the story was a bit of face-saving, but largely revenge.


Of course the real issue here isn’t their second inept handling of this story but a creeping medical McCarthyism evident in so much of the general press, which assumes anything other than chemo and radiation and the official line is automatically to be viewed as quackery and not worthy of discussion.  Have you or have you ever been a user of homeopathy? 


Happily, an increasing number of people disagree with this form of medical censorship, as evident from the overwhelming support we have received. 


If you agree that it’s worth having freedom of information about cancer, conventional medicine and alternative treatments, here’s what to do:


1.Buy a copy of What Doctors Don’t Tell You. It’s available in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, WH Smiths, and over 8000 independent retail outlets. You can also subscribe through


2. When you do, thank the stores for carrying us


WH Smith’s







0845 611 6111


3. Write to the Times and tell them what you think of revenge journalism:


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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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