Oh Bloody…

“Blood Moon” over Kentucky. Photo by the author.

As an avid astronomer, it would be nice to have just one celestial event that wasn’t hijacked by an astrologer, new age mystic, cult, or end-of-days preacher.10,11,12  This time it’s the latter — old earth creationist John Hagee popping up with his twisted interpretation of last November’s “blood moon”, a beautiful lunar eclipse visible from much of the world.

Hagee believes that lunar eclipses are tied to major events in the history of Israel and the Jewish calendar.  He couldn’t be more wrong.

Following is a debunking in simple quote/response format using Hagee’s statements as they appeared in an online article published by CBN.Since this is a science blog, I’ll concentrate mainly on the astronomy, but weave in enough history and religion to show just how far the preacher goes in violating his religion’s prohibition against lying.

What we’re going to see is that (1) there are no lunar eclipses occurring on most of the dates that Hagee claims, and (2) major events in Israel’s history occurred when there weren’t any eclipses, and (3) events on the Jewish calendar are tied to the lunar cycle because people designed it that way.

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started…

 

John Hagee

John Hagee.

Quote:

“A blood moon is when the Earth comes between the sun and the moon,  […] and the sun is shining through the atmosphere of the Earth and casts up on the moon a red shadow.  And so the moon appears to be red.”

Response:  One point to Hagee.  He got something right.  Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from here…

 

Quote:

“The sun and the moon and the Earth are controlled by God almighty,” Hagee said. “He is the one that is getting them in a direct alignment on a certain day at a certain time — but each time, it’s a Passover or Sukkot.”

Response:  The paths of the sun and moon are controlled by gravity and inertia, just like all the other bodies in the universe.  But even if you grant Hagee the point and say that God created inertia and gravity, there’s still nothing special about a blood moon occurring on a Jewish holiday.

Jewish holidays are based on a lunar calendar, not a solar calendar.  This means that, from year to year, they don’t  begin on the same day of the solar calendar that Hagee uses (running from January through December).  Stay with me…

Lunar eclipses can only occur during a full moon, when the earth is between the sun and the moon.  It’s important to keep this in mind, so I’ll say it again: lunar eclipses (blood moons) can only occur during a certain phase of the moon (full moon).

It’s not a coincidence that the moon is in a certain phase when a given Jewish holiday begins–and it’s not a miracle–it’s the only time it can happen.  Judaism placed its holidays on a lunar calendar, just as Americans placed the 4th of July holiday on a solar calendar.

Compare a list of Jewish holidays to moon phases during 20142,3 and do the same for 20152,3 and 2016,2,3 and you’ll quickly see the connection.  Keep in mind that the cited tables list solar calendar dates, but the Jewish holidays are based on a lunar calendar.  These different calendars add to the woo factor of Hagee’s miracles.  The Jewish holidays keep popping up on different dates on Hagee’s solar calendar and the moon appears to be “chasing” those holiday dates.  It’s magic!

Well, not really…

Jewish Calendar

24-year Jewish calendar showing the month Adar II (the month of Adar bumped from its normal spot on the calendar by the leap-year addition Adar I). Click image for large version.

There’s a fun twist: it takes the moon a little over 29.5 solar days to orbit the earth, so the Jewish month is about an odd half solar day long.  Over time this “error” accumulates and would force holidays to occur out of season as days shift on the calendar.

To compensate, every few years, an extra month is inserted into the calendar.  The regular month of Adar becomes “Adar II”, and the temporary extra month is named “Adar I”.  This concept should be familiar to many — a solar year is really 365.25 days long, not 365.  Over time, this error would accumulate and the seasons/holidays of the solar calendar would become “off”.  (For Northern Hemisphere Christians, Christmas (December 25) would eventually occur in the summer!)

We know the corrective measure as the leap year.

Why am I banging away at the details like this?  To impress upon the reader just how hard people have worked throughout history to make sure that events such as religious holidays here on earth line up with an event going on up in the sky.

There’s an additional twist: in Judaism, days begin at nightfall, not at midnight as they do on the solar calendar.  For those of you keeping score at home, tying a calendar to both the moon and sun in ways like this technically makes the Jewish calendar a “lunisolar” calendar.  (You’re welcome).

But is there an eclipse every full moon? No.  This is because of yet another twist: with respect to the earth’s orbit around the sun (the “ecliptic”), the moon’s orbit forms an angle of approximately 5 degrees.  Put more simply, if you drew a line between the middle of the earth to the middle of the sun, the moon would appear to swing “above” or “below” the line by 5 degrees as it orbits.  Usually, when the moon is full, it is “above” or “below” our planet’s shadow, and no eclipse occurs.

So, given all of this information on Jewish holidays, full moons, and lunar eclipses, we’re finally ready to look at some actual historical events and Hagee’s claims, and see what, if anything, has been happening on certain Jewish holidays.  Can we make any prophecies of future events based on what we find?

 

Quote:

“I believe that in these next two years, we’re going to see something dramatic happen in the Middle East involving Israel that will change the course of history in the Middle East and impact the whole world.”

Response:  When is something not happening involving Israel that impacts the Middle East and the whole world?13  This is, remember, a country straddling the geographic heart and soul of 3 major world religions.  This kind of prophecy is as easy as predicting an earthquake on the San Andreas fault.  Can you be more specific please?

1948 War map

Israel’s 1948 War.  When is something of importance NOT happening here?  Click image to enlarge.

Quote:

In the past, the rare appearance of four blood moons on these feast days has coincided with major events for Israel and the Jewish people.

In 1492, Spain expelled the Jews. Columbus also discovered America, which became a safe haven for the Jewish people.

Response:  Columbus didn’t “discover” America.  There were millions of people living there when he arrived.  But the honor of being the first foreigner to discover the continent is seriously in doubt.5  Historians say that serious claimants include John Chabot and the Vikings.  But it doesn’t matter.  There were a lot of people living in America when Columbus arrived… consensus estimates seem to put the total around ten million, though some go higher.4

Unfortunately for Hagee there were no total eclipses of the moon in 1492.  There’s nothing even close.  Had he bothered to check, he would not have found totality before November 27, 1490 and then not again until April 2, 1493.16

Having already missed the mark with no total lunar eclipses in Columbus’ banner year, Hagee will be saddened to learn that not even his 1490 and 1493 eclipses occurred during Passover or Sukkot.16,17,18

As a side-note… America did indeed become a safe haven for the Jewish people, as Hagee states, but sadly it did not remain so for the millions of people already living there when Columbus arrived.15

 

Quote:

 “In each of these blood moons, you have something that begins in tragedy and ends in triumph”

Response:  On October 6, 1973,  Arab states launched a surprise attack on Israel during Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism.  Israel was sent reeling by the attack but turned tragedy into triumph, reaching the outskirts of Damascus in Syria and completely encircling the Egyptian army in the Sinai Peninsula.6

There was no set of 4 blood moons.  There wasn’t even a lunar eclipse during the holidays.7

Wait a minute.  I thought events beginning with tragedy and ending in triumph were supposed to be signaled by blood moons?

Israeli tank, Yom Kippur War

Destroyed Israeli tank, 1973 Yom Kippur War. The war began in tragedy and ended in triumph.   There was no “blood moon.”

 

In all fairness to Hagee, I picked the 1973 date.  So let’s let John pick the date…

 

Quote:

“In 1967, Israel won the Six-Day War and recaptured Jerusalem.

“For the first time in 2,000 years, Jerusalem and the State of Israel were together again,” Hagee said.

Response:  It kills me when authors don’t take time to do their own research.  Notice that in the previous response, I picked the war, and could be accused of cheating.  This time, Hagee picked the war.  Let’s look at 1967:

In 1967 PLO attacks on Israel, Syrian attacks on Israeli civilian settlements, and massing of Egyptian troops on the Israeli border resulted in Israel launching an attack on Jordan, Egypt, and Syria.  The three main Arab belligerents were supported by 11 additional Arab countries and/or political factions.  In just 6 days, Israel won large swathes of new territory, turning tragedy into what some consider miraculous victory.8

There was no set of 4 blood moons.  There wasn’t even a lunar eclipse during the holidays.9

Israeli soldiers, 6 Day War

Israeli soldiers, 1967 “6 Day War”.  The war began in tragedy and ended in triumph.  There was no “blood moon.”

 

Quote:

“He said it’s still unclear what the coming blood moons will bring, but he is certain of one thing.”

Response:  Given Hagee’s horrendous track record in history and predictions, I don’t even want to know what that one thing is.

 

Eclipse over home

Totality is ending. So is this article.   Image by the author.

Image Credits

All lunar eclipse photography by the author.  Copyright (c) 2014 Mark Aaron Alsip.  All rights reserved.

“John Hagee at Podium” from Wiki Commons, by owner Christians United for Israel.  Released into public domain by owner.    Image owner does not necessarily agree with or endorse the views expressed by the author.

“24 year Jewish Calendar for Adar II” from Wiki Commons.  This work is in the public domain of the United States because copyright has expired due to publication date prior to January 1, 1923.

“Israeli Soldiers in 6 Day War” from Wiki Commons.  Released into public domain for all use by owner “ROSENMAN424“.  Image owner does not necessarily agree with or endorse the views expressed by the author.

“Destroyed Israeli Tank” from Wiki Commons.  Image is in public domain as a work of the Egyptian government.

“Israel 1948 War map” from Wiki Commons.  Image released into public domain by Mr. Edward J. Krasnoborski and Mr. Frank Martini, Department of History, U.S. Military Academy.   Map authors do not necessarily agree with or endorse the views expressed by the author.

 

References

Note: To avoid increasing search engine exposure for quack web sites while still providing a link to all my references (like a good scientist should), I use the DoNotLink URL obfuscator to alter links to those sites.  I promise you I’m not redirecting you to porn 🙂

(1) Divine Sign for Israel? Hagee Explains Blood Moons (CBN article being debunked)
http://www.donotlink.com/gp0

(2) Jewish Holidays and Festivals for 2014, 2015, 2016 (Chabab.org)
http://www.chabad.org/holidays/default_cdo/jewish/holidays.htm

(3) Full Moon Calendar – dates and times for 2014, 2015, 2016
http://moongiant.com/Full_Moon_New_Moon_Calendar.php

(4) Alan Taylor (2002). American colonies; Vol 1, Penguin History of the United States, p. 40. ISBN 9780142002100
http://books.google.com/books?id=NPoAQRgkrOcC&pg=PA40&dq=pre-Columbian+population+million&cd=6#v=onepage&q=pre-Columbian%20population%20million&f=false

(5) So, Who Did Discover America?
http://www.historytoday.com/s-frederick-starr/so-who-did-discover-america

(6) Jewish Virtual Library, Chapter 8: The 1973 Yom Kippur War
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths3/MF1973.html

(7) Lunar Eclipses: 1971 – 1980
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEdecade/LEdecade1971.html

(8) The Six-Day War: Background & Overview
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/67_War.html

(9) Catalog of Lunar Eclipses: 1901 to 2000
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEcat5/LE1901-2000.html

(10) New Age followers still waiting for aliens to beam them up 15 years after Heaven’s Gate cult suicides left 39 people dead
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2120869/Heavens-Gate-cult-committed-mass-suicide-15-years-ago.html

(11) Alignment 2012 by John Major Jenkins
http://www.donotlink.com/bz8t

(12) Major Planetary Configurations (“Astrology- Find Your Fate”)
http://www.donotlink.com/bz8s

(13) Key Dates in Israel’s History
http://archive.adl.org/israel/advocacy/chronology.html#.VDbmyRaV00o

(14)  Jewish Calendar
http://www.jewfaq.org/calendar.htm

(15) Wounded Knee
http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/knee.htm

(16) NASA Five Millennium Catalog of Lunar Eclipses (1401 to 1500)
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEcat5/LE1401-1500.html

(17) Hebrew Calendar 2271 – 2272 (Roman year 1940 B.C.)
http://www.cgsf.org/dbeattie/calendar/?roman=1490b.c.e

(18) Hebrew Calendar 2268 – 2269 (Roman year 1943 B.C.)
http://www.cgsf.org/dbeattie/calendar/?roman=1493b.c.e

Got Milk?

I was recently introduced to the work of Dr. Joseph Mercola through a dangerous article he penned.  In “Fight for Raw Milk Heats Up in Wisconsin and Illinois“,1 Mercola sings the praises of raw, unpasteurized milk.  Before somebody ends up seriously ill, I’d like to draw attention to some facts about consuming unpasteurized dairy products.  I’ll be using selected quotes from Mercola’s article to drive the narrative, but encourage readers to check out his full write-up in case there are any suspicions of quote-mining.

For those who’ve forgotten, pasteurization is simply the rapid heating — then cooling — of milk. This eliminates most of the bacteria that would make you sick, and it allows the milk to stay fresh longer.  Pasteurization isn’t the same as boiling/sterilization: it doesn’t wipe out all the pathogens, but it also doesn’t destroy the flavor or essential nutrients.2, 3, 6, 12

Pinnochio

Pinocchio, patron saint of liars. See footnotes for image credit.

Mercola claims:

“Raw milk dairy products from organically raised pasture-fed cows rank among some of the healthiest foods you can consume. It’s far superior in terms of health benefits compared to pasteurized milk, and if statistics are any indication, it’s safer, too”

This is an outright lie.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, unpasteurized dairy products are 13 times more likely to cause hospitalization and 150 times more likely to result in foodborne illness.2  Unpasteurized milk is a common source for the bacteria that causes diseases such as diphtheria, tuberculosis, and, typhoid fever.3  It’s irresponsible for anyone labeling themselves as “doctor” to spread deceit like this.  Some of the dangers include:

Salmonellosis, usually transmitted to humans by consuming animal products contaminated by animal feces:4  Put bluntly, those organic cows you see standing in the organic fields munching organic grass growing in piles of organic shit… yeah, that’s what “feces” means. Salmonella is at best an uncomfortable disease, featuring diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.  In extreme cases it can lead to hospitalization.  Untreated, in can result in death.

Brucellosis, most commonly acquired by consuming unpasteurized dairy products:5 Common symptoms include fever, anorexia, muscle/joint pain, swelling of the heart/liver/spleen, and swelling of the testicles/scrotum in men.  (If you’re a female reporting swelling in the testicles, you’re most likely an anti-vaccine proponent reporting a fake adverse reaction.)

The cautionary list is a long one.  For more, please see the CDC page “Food Safety and Raw Milk.”6

Caveman

Living in the good ol’ days. See footnotes for image credit.

“it’s worth remembering that raw milk was consumed for eons before the invention of pasteurization.” — Mercola

It’s also worth remembering that in the 1900s the average adult didn’t live beyond age 50,7 and the earliest humans were lucky to make it out of their 20s.8  Scientific advances in fields such as medicine and agriculture have led to significant increases in the average adult life span.  “Eons ago” is a piss-poor argument.  Speaking of piss… eons ago, humans allowed their sewage to mix freely with drinking water.  Then we learned better.

Back to dairy…  by the 1900s, mothers knew the dangers of raw milk, but the pasteurized product wasn’t widely available.  They began boiling it to reduce the risk to their infants.3   Has Mercola learned nothing from history?

It’s sad how champions of alternative living long for the good ol’ days — without remembering how bad those days really were.11  

 

“Organically raised cows that are allowed to roam free on pasture where they can graze for their natural food source produce very different milk.”  — Mercola

Mercola doesn’t tell us what’s in his “different milk”.  Milk is milk.  It’s hard to debunk ghost claims.  And they’re frustratingly, frequently, common in quack articles such as the good doctor’s.  What we do know is the chemical composition of milk.9  Milk, by any other name… is milk. The next time you see a woomeister talking about “different” milk, ask them what’s in their milk, and compare.

The implication here is that “organic is better”, and that’s just not true.  Crude oil is 100% natural and organic.  Is it good for you?  That’s not a joke.  It’s not sarcasm.  Look it up.  (But don’t drink it.)

 855“It’s also important to realize that pasteurization is only really required for certain kinds of milk” — Mercola

And condoms are only necessary for safe sex with certain kinds of strangers.  Sorry, but no.  Look: cows aren’t the most sanitary of creatures.  They don’t exactly wash their hooves (or udders, or any other body part) after going to the bathroom.  They wade through fields full of cow dung all day munching on… well… dung-laden grass.  You don’t know what’s growing there, other than the very real possibility it won’t be good for you.   For example, consider this photo:

Agrocybe pediades spores

Spores from poisonous Agrocybe pediades, a mushroom found growing on a cow patty

Dairy cattle are subject to other disease vectors such as insects and wild animals.  Drinking unpasteurized milk is rather like playing the lottery.  Instead of picking numbers, you’re picking bacteria, spores, and other contaminants, and hoping against hope that you don’t swallow something dangerous.

 

Tinfoil hats“While the US government, public health, and dairy industry officials say they want to restrict the sale and distribution of raw milk because of safety concerns, it’s quite clear that safety isn’t the motivating factor.” — Mercola

Except that:

In industrialized countries, milk-borne and milk product-borne outbreaks represent 2–6% of the bacterial foodborne outbreaks.2

I snuck one in on you.  That’s not a Mercola quote above.  That’s from real scientists, something you won’t find in a Mercola article.  Since being introduced to Dr. Mercola, all I’ve found in his work is pseudoscience and conspiracy theories.  Safety is the motivating factor here, and has been since pasteurization was introduced.

So why is milk pasteurized, according to Mercola?  Hang on to your seats…

“The fact of the matter is that Big Dairy depends on pasteurization”

(Sigh).  And Big Pharma depends on cancer: they’re causing it on purpose to increase drug sales.

And aliens are controlling us via hidden signals in our television sets.  And… and…

 

References

(1)  Fight for Raw Milk Heats Up in Wisconsin and Illinois
http://www.donotlink.com/c81v

(2) Raw or heated cow milk consumption: Review of risks and benefits
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095671351200535X

(3) The Dangers of Raw Milk (USDA)
http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm079516.htm

(4) Salmonellosis
http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/salmonellosis/#catch

(5) Transmission | Brucellosis (CDC)
http://www.cdc.gov/brucellosis/transmission/index.html

(6) Food Safety and Raw Milk
http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-index.html

(7)  National Institute on Aging:  Living Longer
http://www.nia.nih.gov/research/publication/global-health-and-aging/living-longer

(8) Late Pleistocene adult mortality patterns and modern human establishment
http://www.pnas.org/content/108/4/1267.abstract

(9)  Basic Report:  01077, Milk, whole, 3.25% milkfat, with added vitamin D
http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/70?fg=&man=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=&qlookup=milk+whole

(10) Agrocybe pediades
http://www.rogersmushrooms.com/gallery/DisplayBlock~bid~5509.asp

(11) Gastroenteritis Conveyed by Raw Milk
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v142/n3594/abs/142507d0.html

(12)  Raw Milk Questions and Answers (CDC)
http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-questions-and-answers.html

 

Image Credits

Unpasteurized milk (skull and crossbones) photo illustration by the author, using two public domain works from WikiCommons: “P0772931750(37561)(NRCS Photo Gallery).jpg” from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services — milk in a bottle, extensively photoshopped by author for effect.  Image in public domain as a work of the U.S. Government.  Skull and crossbones in image by “ScottForesman”, released into public domain with no restrictions.  Use of these images does not imply that the original owners share the opinions expressed by the author.

Gladys the Swiss Dairy Cow from Wiki Commons, released into the public domain by James Lebinski.  Image owner does not necessarily share the opinions expressed by the author.

“Jager út de Stientiid” (caveman boy) is from Wiki Commons and is in the public domain of the United States, having been published prior to 1923.

Trojan brand condoms from copyrighted image, Church & Dwight Co., inc.  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

Agrocybe pediades spores:  image from Wiki Commons, uploaded by user Ron Pastorino, shared under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.  Image owner does not necessarily share the opinions expressed by the author.

“Jim Dines Pinocchio-skulptur Walking to Borås” by Wiki Commons author “Mrkgrd”, used with permission under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.  Image owner does not necessarily share the opinions expressed by the author.

Tinfoil hats still from the movie “Signs”, copyright 2002 Touchstone Pictures.  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

If it Quacks Like a Duck — Oscillococcinum

It’s perhaps the most amazing drug on CVS’ shelves today:  It features:

  • No side effects
  • No drug interactions
  • No active ingredients

That’s right.  No active ingredients.  Read on to see if Oscillococcinum might be right for you!

Oscillococcinum thumbnail

Oscillococcinum, a drug with no active ingredients. (See footnotes for image credit.)

Oscillococcinum was a drug originally made from the non-existent oscillococcinum bacterium (wink wink nudge nudge) and marketed as a cure for the flu.  This is curious, as the flu is viral, not bacterial, in nature.

Now made from duck parts that don’t exist — perfect for a quack cure — Oscillococcinum is homeopathic.  One of the features of many homeopathic medicines is that they are repeatedly diluted during production.  Oscillococcinum is typical:  the dilution is so extreme that there’s no original product left in the box when it goes out the door.

CVS-branded oscillococcinum

CVS-branded oscillococcinum. Get your sugar cheaper! (click to enlarge image.)

The dilution factor for CVS’ duck-based medicine is “200C”.  In homeopathy, “200C” means that:

  1. The original product is diluted with water to 1/100th the original concentration
  2. A small sample of the dilution is set aside
  3. That 1/100th sample is taken, diluted with water, and the process is repeated for a total of 200 iterations

As is the case with any homeopathic medicine diluted to such extremes, the odds of receiving any end product (in this case, duck) are so astronomical they border on impossible.

But would you actually want the duck?

A quick look at the CVS product info sheet tells us that Oscillococcinum:

“is made from tissue that might be infected with flu—ducks, which are known to carry influenza”

Wait.  What’s happening here?  Is CVS selling me an infected bird?  That’s freaky scary.  When I get the flu shot, at least I know the virus in the shot is dead.

Or, is CVS selling me pure water & sugar… a product from which all the duck has been removed?  Back to the product info sheet:

“Oscillococcinum is of 200c potency, meaning that it is diluted to one part in 10 400 (a dilution so high that even if you started with a chunk of duck the size of the sun, not one molecule would remain).”1

Wow.  Balls the size of… (!)

The imaginary active ingredient has been completely removed from this product, and CVS doesn’t even try to hide it:  they brag about it!

If you’re a CVS customer paying for this stuff, you’re paying for filler product.  Water and sugar.  Actually, it’s questionable whether or not you’re even getting any water.  The ingredients list only shows sugar.  What you’re definitely not getting is duck.  (For that reason, we’ll leave the dangers of ingesting a disease-laden bird for another article.)

Oscillococcinum gets a special mention in Jean-Marie Abgrall’s “Healing or Stealing?: Medical Charlatans in the New Age”.2  The drug was invented in 1919 when a Frenchman noticed an “oscillating” condition in flu patients and a corresponding “oscillating” amount of an imaginary germ he decided to call “oscillococcus”.  The only problem was, he thought he noticed the same microbe in herpes, chicken pox, shingles, and cancer patients — and decided all the diseases were caused by the same thing.  Mon dieu!8

The Frenchman tested a vaccine he developed on his cancer patients who, of course, died.  Afraid of being infected by his patients, the doctor went in search of his oscilloccinum bacterium in the wild.  He claims to have found it in a duck.  I’m not making this [expletive deleted] up.  No one else has ever seen oscilloccinum.  It doesn’t really exist.  But this hasn’t stopped snake… erm…  duck oil salesmen from cashing in.

oscillococcinum contains no active ingredients

Oscillococcinum isn’t all it’s quacked up to be.  It contain no active ingredient(s)! (Photo by the author)

Manufactured by the French company Boiron, Oscillococcinum has been singled out for deceptive marketing in the United States.  In June 2010, Homeopathy for Health, a Washington vendor, was cited by the FDA for a slew of violations, including marketing Oscillococcinum as a treatment for H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) and “relief of flu symptoms”.3 Although the CVS literature lists one late 1980s study with marginal results touting Oscillococcinum efficacy,2 no other studies back the CVS claims.  This is not surprising.  If you only have one study to back you up, take that study, trumpet it loudly, and hope nobody notices.

When sugar pills are shown to stop the flu virus, let’s all meet in the bakery aisle of the supermarket when we get sick, and skip the trip to the doctor.

As I write this, CVS is actively removing protests regarding Oscillococcinum sales from its Facebook page.  These posts, to the best of my knowledge, truthfully inform consumers that the product contains no active ingredients, has never been shown to be of any help in combating the flu, and, in fact, could be dangerous: influenza is a serious disease and can be deadly.5, 6

CVS places homeopathic medicines next to real medicines on their shelves (with similar packaging) with no consumer warnings, making it difficult for a trusting public to know what they’re buying.  When a pharmacy dispenses real medicine and real flu vaccines along with sugar pills without any cautionary text, it’s a problem.  Skipping real treatment in favor of Oscillococcinum could do real harm.

A “drug” made from sugar and non-existent duck parts?  A company that takes pride in its public health outreach programs4 should be ashamed of itself for this quackery — no pun intended.  I hope readers will take a moment to go the CVS Facebook page7 and express their unhappiness.  As consumers, we deserve better.

Postscript (18 December 2014)  Alert readers have pointed out that CVS is not the only vendor selling this fake medicine.  Indeed, since writing this article, I’ve found it online at Amazon and Drugstore.com.  It’s reportedly been seen on the shelves of Walmart, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid–though I haven’t witnessed that myself.  I’ll be writing follow-up articles to cover this.  No matter where you find it–if you find it–please encourage sellers of oscillococcinum to remove this useless product from their shelves.

References

(1)  CVS: Influenza: Studied Homeopathic Remedies
http://health.cvs.com/GetContent.aspx?token=f75979d3-9c7c-4b16-af56-3e122a3f19e3..&chunkiid=38325#scientific

(2) Healing Or Stealing?: Medical Charlatans in the New Age
Healing Or Stealing?: Medical Charlatans in the New Age. pp. 40–41. ISBN 1-892941-51-1

(3) FDA Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations: Warning Letter
http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/ucm215236.htm

(4) CVS stops selling tobacco, offers quit-smoking programs
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/09/03/cvs-steps-selling-tobacco-changes-name/14967821/

(5) CDC Fast Stats: Influenza
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/flu.htm

(6) Key Facts about Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm

(7) CVS (Facebook)
https://www.facebook.com/CVS

(8) Mon Dieu! (My God!)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0oMQu2id6I

 

Legal Stuff

CVS Oscillococcinum product image 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.

Duck image by the author.  Copyright (c) 2014 Mark Aaron Alsip.  All rights reserved.