Standing united with Kevin Charleston, who thanks to a piece he wrote at Quackdown! is now being
extorted into silence sued by Solal Technologies for calling them out on their pseudoscientific and misleading claims.
Ah, nuisance lawsuits intended to shut up critics. Don’t ya love them? I think the only proper response is to amplify the voice of the critics, causing this underhanded tactic to backfire. The supercomputer Orac agrees:
Perusing Solal Technologies’ list of products, I was struck at the sheer range of nonsensical claims the company makes for them. For instance, it markets a product called Craving Control that claims to “reduces addictive cravings for cigarettes, alcohol, recreational medicine and food.” It contains mainly tyrosine, 5-HT, and other nutrients, and the rationale Solal uses to argue for its effectiveness is very much like that used for Breast Protection Formula, only even more tenuously related to reality. Then there’s a product called Stress Damage Control, which claims to “prevent excessive cortisol and adrenaline production when exposed to long term stress” and to “protect the brain and heart from the dangerous physical damage and consequences that stress causes, such as raised blood pressure and heart attack.” The product contains a “proprietary formulation of:
Rosavin and salidroside (extracted from Rhodiola rosea), ashwaganda standardised extract, beta-sitosterol, alpha lipoic acid, thiamine pyrophosphate.” Evidence that it works to do what Solal Technologies claims it can do? None is presented. The list goes on and on, including claims that its products can treat HIV. For instance, its Bitter Melon is claimed to “inhibit the progression of some forms of cancer” and to be “beneficial for the treatment of (AIDS).” If you are at all familiar with South Africa, you’ll know that AIDS quackery has been a particularly vexing problem there, particularly with the influence of HIV/AIDS denialist Peter Duesberg and Matthias Rath’s selling of supplements to treat HIV.
Prof Roy Jobson and I, and others, have examined many of Solal’s claims and products and have found that much of the evidence is inappropriate, often distorted, applicable only to animal models, not reproducible, extrapolated from a specific study population to inappropriate populations, conflicts with many other superior studies. Indeed, their evidence often even flies in the face of consensus reports or evidence from internationally recognised credible experts. I can supply an example for each of these. It is no wonder that the ASA have ruled against many of the claims being made for their products.
In other words, Solal often stands alone in the interpretation of the evidence that they apply in support for their claims. Astonishingly Solal’s claims are often even contradicted by NMCD (Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, a highly regarded review system for authoritative assessment of natural/complementary medicines. Solal confuse an association with a cause. They extrapolate from small studies in Japanese children to the population in general. They apply pseudoscientific arguments. They use methods contrary to the principles of evidence based medicine which are utilised throughout the world by all credible scientific universities and research establishments including all reputable South African centres of higher learning.
In other words, Solal Technologies is very much like the most dubious supplement manufacturers we have in the United States.
It’s also very much like them in its propensity for trying to silence its critics through abuse of the legal system rather than through evidence. For example, it is demanding R350,000 from Charleston. Fortunately, Charleston has help. The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) will be supporting him. As Andy Lewis points out, the TAC is a formidable ally that has a history of having helped to ensure that the the people of South Africa continue to have access to proven anti-retroviral treatments “despite appalling opposition from quacks both inside and outside of the government.”
If I’ve pointed it out once, I’ve pointed it out a thousand times. Quacks do not like to be criticized. When they are criticized, particularly on the basis of evidence and science, their first reaction is not to try to refute that criticism with evidence of their own. Rather, it is to attack and smear the person criticizing them. If that fails to silence critics, then the next step on their part is frequently to sue. They are bullies who rely on their superior resources to intimidate and silence. That is why Kevin Charleston is to be commended and supported in his fight against Solal Technologies