Friday, April 16, 2010

Dr. Ray Sahelian, M.D. discusses Quackwatch and Dr. Stephen Barrett

The second MD that Doctor Watch introduces you to is Dr. Ray Sahelian.

Here's part of a short bio from the doctors own website located at

"Ray Sahelian, M.D. is the bestselling author of Mind Boosters, The Stevia Cookbook and several other books (more than 1,000,000 copies sold). See Bio. He is also a superb herbal product formulator with such popular products as Mind Power Rx, Passion Rx, Eyesight Rx, Prostate Power Rx, Joint Power Rx, Diet Rx, and others."

Following is communication between Dr. Sahelian and Dr. Stephen Barrett of QuackWatch. Dr. Sahelian published this exchange on his website.

Quackwatch review by Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Is Stephen Barrett of QuackWatch a Quack?

Is he fair, balanced, or biased?

Over the years I have had many people ask my opinion regarding Stephen Barrett and Quackwatch, but I have been reserved in voicing my thoughts. However, in March 2006 we received an email from someone who claimed that Stephen Barrett had told him negative things about a product I had formulated. Then, in June, 2006 my staff received an email from Stephen Barrett (see below). This prompted us to create a page regarding in order to present our point of view. According to the Quackwatch website, this is what Stephen Barrett, M.D. says about himself.

"Stephen Barrett, M.D., a retired psychiatrist who resides in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has achieved national renown as an author, editor, and consumer advocate. In addition to heading Quackwatch, he is vice-president of the National Council Against Health Fraud, a scientific advisor to the American Council on Science and Health, and a Fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)."

Is Dr. Stephen Barrett fair in his analysis of nutrition research and those involved in the nutrition industry?

I have not read every single page on Quackwatch but the ones I read give me the impression that in many cases Stephen Barrett, M.D. has done good research on many of the people involved in the alternative health industry, and has pointed out several instances of inaccuracies and scams (for instance, Hulda Clark and her pitiful book "The Cure for all Cancers").

However, I hardly came across reports on his website regarding some of the scams or inaccurate promotion and marketing practices by the pharmaceutical industry. Why is this? Why has Stephen Barrett, M.D. focused almost all of his attention on the nutritional industry and has hardly spent time pointing out the billions of dollars wasted each year by consumers on certain prescription and non-prescription pharmaceutical drugs? If he truly claims to be a true consumer advocate, isn't it his responsibility to make sure the big scams are addressed first before focusing on the smaller scams? It's like the government putting all of its efforts going after the poor misusing food stamps while certain big companies cheat billions of dollars from consumers with hardly any governmental oversight.

Why is there no review of Vioxx on Quackwatch? Why is there no mention on of the worthless cold and cough medicines sold by pharmaceutical companies and drug stores? Hundreds of millions of dollars are wasted each year by consumers on these worthless and potentially harmful decongestants and cough syrups. Why is there no mention on quackwatch of the dangers of acetaminophen use, including liver damage? There are probably more people who are injured or die from over the counter Tylenol and aspirin use each year than from all the natural supplements people take throughout a year. If Dr. Barrett had focused his career on educating people in reducing the use of useless and dangerous prescription and nonprescription drugs (even just one, acetaminophen) he would have helped many more people than attempting to scare people from the use of supplements.

Another point I would like to make regarding Quackwatch is that Dr. Barrett often, if not the majority of the time, seems to point out the negative outcome of studies with supplements (you can sense his glee and relish when he points out these negative outcomes), and rarely mentions the benefits they provide. A true scientist takes a fair approach, and I don't see this in my review of the Quackwatch website. I subscribe to the Quackwatch newsletter (which often has interesting information) but there is hardly any mention of the benefits of supplements. As an example, see a paragraph from the August, 2006 Quackwatch newsletter mentioned a few paragraphs below.

Bottom line: Overall, Dr. Barrett does some good in pointing out scams in the alternative health field, but, in my opinion, he is not fair and balanced, and he is not a true objective scientist as he claims to be. Someone who has a website specifically tailored for criticism needs to have a higher and more objective scientific standard, and Barrett fails in this regard.

Could Stephen Barrett, M.D. post his thoughts on Quackwatch regarding these two topics:

The first is on the billions of dollars spent on worthless and dangerous Alzheimer's drugs as noted in The New York Times: "Alzheimer’s Drugs Offer No Help, Study Finds" By Benedict Carey, October 12, 2006. The article begins, "The drugs most commonly used to soothe agitation and aggression in people with Alzheimer's disease are no more effective than placebos for most patients, and put them at risk of serious side effects, including confusion, sleepiness and Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms."

The second is on drug company charlatanism by Robert Bazell, a medical correspondent for NBC.

Am I, Ray Sahelian, M.D., perfectly fair in my review of supplement research?
I try to be, but this is a very difficult task. I cannot be fully objective and I don't believe anyone can be. It is well known in psychology that people perceive things according to how they want to see them. We all approach scientific research results with our own bias and interpretation (even actual researchers have their bias or may be influenced by vested interests). But the difference between me and Dr. Barrett is that I don't have a website that primarily focuses on bashing other people or bashing a particular and important aspect of the health industry, such as the nutritional field which holds enormous promise in health and medicine and has long been ignored, and its potential barely tapped.

Apparently Stephen Barrett is a retired psychiatrist. Does he take any supplements himself to learn firsthand how they work? Does he treat patients with nutritional supplements in order to get an insight how these herbs and nutrients influence the body? Anyone who comments about supplements and has not taken them, or has not had feedback for several years from hundreds or thousands of patients, does not have a full understanding of how they work or what benefit or side effects they have. Their opinion cannot be fully relied on, no matter how many articles they have read regarding the effect of these supplements on rodents or in vitro lab studies......snip...

.....Is Stephen Barrett, M.D. a Quack?

According to the Quackwatch website, Stephen Barrett, M.D. says this about quackery: Dictionaries define quack as "a pretender to medical skill; a charlatan" and "one who talks pretentiously without sound knowledge of the subject discussed."

Stephen Barrett, M.D. does not have a degree in nutrition science. He has been trained in psychiatry but has not practiced psychiatry for many, many years and has, to the best of my understanding, never practiced nutritional medicine. In my opinion, Stephen Barrett, M.D., when it comes to the field of medicinal use of nutritional supplements, can be easily defined as a Quack since he pretends to "have skills or knowledge in supplements and talks pretentiously" without actually having clinical expertise or sound knowledge of herbal and nutritional medicine.

A person can't be an expert at a topic if they have not had hands-on experience. Would you feel comfortable having heart surgery by a doctor who has read all the medical books on how to surgically replace a heart valve but has never performed an actual surgical procedure in an operating room? Would you feel comfortable relying on nutritional advice from a retired psychiatrist, Stephen Barrett, M.D. of Quackwatch, even though he has not had hands-on experience using supplements with patients and does not have a degree in nutrition science?

On a positive note, Stephen Barrett, M.D. often does a good job when it comes to researching credentials of individuals in the nutritional industry, or researching the legitimacy or marketing practices of certain supplement companies. He has uncovered or brought to light several cases of companies that have shady or fraudulent practices. I suggest he stay on this course (which is his forte) rather than giving his uneducated opinion on nutritional medicine or supplement research. I also hope he becomes more balanced in his reviews and makes the effort to also mention positive outcomes regarding supplement research, and not just negative outcomes."

Again, the full communication can be found at Dr. Sahelian's website by clicking Please visit the site so you can read the discussion in its entirety, including others who have added their comments about Dr. Stephen Barrett and QuackWatch.

Furthermore, Dr. Sahelian's site is one of the top health and nutrition sites on the internet. Visit now, you'll be glad you did!

Have a Healthy Day!!!!!

Gary Springer,
Author of They're Making You Fat and Sick

Founder of Perfect Health Institute


  1. Thanks for the effort you took to expand upon this topic so thoroughly. I look forward to future post.
    The Natural Health field is growing at a phenomenal rate throughout the world. And millions of Americans -- aware of the detrimental effects of drug-based western medicine -- are joining health oriented people around the globe in embracing an alternative natural approach. Encompassing the core building blocks of all living organisms, an holistic lifestyle promotes the building, repair, and maintenance of health. Careers natural medicine

  2. Great post. It's inevitable that medicine is evolving and hopefully practitioners of both allopathic and "natural" (naturopathic, Traditional Chinese medicine, etc.) will stop being defensive and exclusive about their styles and learn to leverage the best approach FOR THE PATIENT. Hopefully we'll start seeing some integration soon.

  3. Well, I'm going to try Dr. Sahelian's Mind Power Rx, and report back with my own findings. What's the worst that could possibly happen?...wasted money.

  4. False dichotomy: a physician trained and practicing the critique of the medical and scientific literature does not need a specific degree in nutrition to evaluate the available data. Neither does he need to expose every cam in order to legitimately expose others.

    While I, a Family Physician, cannot perform many procedures such as heart surgery, I can use PubMed and do my own analyses about efficacy. One of the first things I look at is who is paying and who is benefitting.

    The person earning money from "supplementals" and claiming (on Facebook and elsewhere) to be "one of the top" is responsible for his actions. We simply do not have the data to make claims about most of the herbs and nutrients and the formulas and mixtures are rarely available in standardized strengths. The problem is knowing the dose and filtering out the placebo effect, which can be high.

    Dr. Sahelian should provide his data.

    1. Well said. Dr. Sahelian's treatise is full of irrational reasoning and numerous fallacious arguments not to mention poor grammar.

  5. The answer to your question about Stephen Barrett, M.D, is really quite obvious. As a member of the psychiatry profession he has spent his life proscribing any number of psychotropic drugs over his career. Now matter how honorable of a guy he may be, he is a human being and Its very unlikely you will find him critical of the industry that has fed his family for decades. Smart, sure, credibility installed on him by any number of media outlets absolutely. Objective? eh.... not so much.

  6. Something to consider:

  7. The credentials of Stephen Barrett have been discredited in court of law. Barrett has never been a certified psychiatrist, and has not been a licensed MD since the early 1990s. He admitted in court that he has no affiliation with the AMA, nor has he been a consultant to federal agencies.

  8. I would not trust a Psychiatrist as far as I could throw them. The entire field is not based on anything scientific. This industry is raking in billions of dollars a year with Psychotropic drugs and diagnosis of bogus and made up diseases. They have somehow conviced people that normal emotions are considered a disease. Their own drugs contain blackbox warnings and their own profession admits they never cure anyone. I am in the health care profession and I see patients who are on these drugs (usually more than one) and they are nothing but a shell of a person. The majority of these patients admit they feel worse when they are on these dangerous medications. There is no scientific data to back up any of these so called diseases. No blood tests, no labs, no scans, nothing. They put my mother in law on an anti-depressant because she lost a friend of 40 years. Since when does being sad over the loss of a loved one become a disease? That is true insanity and criminal really.

    1. I have also had a large amount of doubt regarding the field of study called psychiatry. Any discipline that relies less on the scientific method and that has no rock-solid standard such as psychiatry should be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism. I, a lay-person, find my understanding of human nature and what might ail a person to be more on the mark than a psychiatrist acquaintance of mine. That field of study appears to be mainly a cash cow for prescribing unnecessary, overly expensive, and questionable drugs. Just my thoughts.

  9. Stephen Barrett is a liar and a defamer.He never produced any facts but biased opinions.He lied in court about being a psychiatrist and has no license to practice western medicine.He and others like David Gorski aka Orac and websites like "science based medicine" are rubbish.They use their websites and along with others like homeowatch,marketwatch,chirowatch and even wikipedia to discredit anything alternative.Yet,there are over 65000 lawsuits against drug companies within a 6 year period.Dr.Marcia Angell MD from the New England Journal of Medicine and Dr.Barbara Starfield MD from the American Medical Association wrote that there are over 106000 deaths annually from properly prescribed drugs and side effects which ended up in complications including deaths.Drugs like Avandia,Actos,Accutane,Yaz,Ritalin,Zyprexa,Zoloft,Paxil etc caused bladder cancers,heart failures,diabetes eg.Zyprexa etc.The medical/drug profession are filled with con artists just like Stephen Barrett.Emergency treatments are necessary but most of what they do are causing people to die and suppress symptoms for greed.Those so-called websites like wikipedia are written and edited by people like Barrett and Gorski who were exposed in court for conspiracies and misleading the public.They draw conclusions based on opinions from others who have interest in the drug companies.Recently there were 13 psychiatrists jailed for fraudulent research working with GSK for Paxil.Stephen Barrett and others working with him should be jailed for fraud and sued for defamation of character.Those drug hucksters are pure charlatans and I am happy the lawyers are exposing the drug companies for being fraudulent.

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  11. Stephen Barrett, M.D., a retired psychiatrist....and there's MY first clue as to what point of view Barret has. I've worked with 'shrinks' while they're in the outside world (as a security specialist) and find that every one of them are just a little (to a lot) batty. Painted with his own brush as "one who talks pretentiously without sound knowledge of the subject discussed", a career long dispenser of big pharma products, who has drawers full of handout souvenirs (and maybe some cash) from industry reps. If one correlates the rise in 'meddling' with our food by industry with the rise of so many common diseases and chronic conditions we have today, it's plain that the more we meddle the bigger the mess. Our own grandfathers lived to ripe old ages, full of vigor (compared to ourselves, today) and able to chop firewood at the age of 90. Difference? Grew their own foods, no 'modern conveniences' junk food, out physically working daily.

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