How To Spot Pseudoscience: Cobroxin and Conspiracies

RationalWiki has an excellent summary of the various characteristics of pseudoscience.  I bring this up because a reader alerted me to a series of messages on Yahoo Finance about me and Cobroxin, a product which I've written about in past blog posts (see my past posts here, here, and here).  Combine that with some of the comments recently left on one of my past Cobroxin blog posts, and you have an outstanding example of pseudoscience in the health industry.  This example is too perfect to pass up, so I have decided to use it as an example for my readers on how to spot pseudoscience, and the degree of absurdity that comes along with it.  Cobroxin and the claims made about it fit RationalWiki's description of pseudoscience perfectly.

Exaggerated Claims

One characteristic of pseudoscience is the presence of vague and/or exaggerated claims and ambiguous language.  As pointed out in this blog post, Cobroxin's manufacturer makes a long list of ailments that Cobroxin supposedly treats, from cancer to addiction.  As I stated in that post:

Another reason to be skeptical of Cobroxin is the long list of ailments that cobra venom or its components supposedly treat.  In this document, the manufacturer lists the treatment of everything from pain to diabetes to cancer to addiction.  Any time an ingredient is presented as a near “cure-all”, it should be viewed with skepticism.

Claims of a near "cure-all" definitely fit the pseudoscientific characteristic of exaggerated claims.

Lack of Peer Review

As stated in the Wiki article:

If an idea has not been published in a single peer review journal, it is safe to say it is not science.

One of my primary criticisms of Cobroxin, as stated in this blog post, are no double-blind, placebo-controlled trials on the product published in peer-reviewed journals.

Claims of Vast Conspiracies: Entertainment Galore

As mentioned in the Wiki article, claims of conspiracies against the product or idea in question are common.  The Wiki article states:

In medicine it is common to blame Big Pharma for wanting to hide the fact that some natural product cures all known illnesses because it will hurt their profits - despite the fact that such a thing would generate more profit, and Big Pharma would be dying to get their hands on it!

Some amusing conspiracy theories have been thrown around the Yahoo finance message board regarding me, many of which are quite entertaining.  One individual made the following comment:

You must of been reading the quack Dr. BS blog on the internet that he has to keep changing as he get's proven wrong over and over again.

Already this individual's ability to do research is questionable, given that he calls me a doctor when I've never claimed to be one.  But what is more amusing is the conspiracy theories he espouses.  He claims I "keep changing" my blog because I've been "proven wrong over and over again."  However, my blog posts have remained the same ever since this site was put up, and no one has proven my statements wrong yet.  Perhaps he is referring to my old site, but even then, all I did was move the old blog posts to this site.  I had four blog posts on Cobroxin on that old site, and I condensed them to three.

This individual goes on to say:

That guy is tied to Sykes and has been attacked by the public so bad for his ridiculous attacks that he had to close down his site and start a new one.

This individual apparently thinks my world revolves around Cobroxin.  It only takes a bit of thought to quickly realize the absurdity of this individual's claim.  If I closed down my old site because of attacks by the public, why would I even bother with all of the work of setting up a new site, let alone one that I allow comments on?  Why not just keep the old site and delete all the comments?

The other reason it's absurd is that my old site dealt with many topics, not just Cobroxin.  Why would I take down an entire site just because of some comments on a few of the blog posts?  Why not just delete or hide the Cobroxin posts if they bothered me so much?

Unfortunately for this individual, the reality of why I took down my old site is much less sinister and much more boring.  I had decided that I no longer wanted to market myself under the "BS Detective" name.  On top of that, I wanted a site that was dedicated purely to weight loss, and then one dedicated to examining claims in the health industry, so I started two sites.  In fact, I had bought the domain name many months before I even took down the "BS Detective" site, and thus had already been thinking for a long time about moving in a different direction...long before my old Cobroxin posts were flooded with comments.

This individual's statements get even more ridiculous:

He deletes the post he chooses and only keeps the ones that he wants. He has been challenged on many fronts and when he can't back something up or unable to come up with an answer he removes the post.

As is usual of individuals prone to pseudoscientific thinking, this person has no evidence to back up this statement.  The fact is I have never deleted a single post from this site.  That also includes comments...I have not deleted any person's comments from this site, and people are free to comment as they wish (unless of course it is spam).  There are only two commenters that I have ever banned, and they were both over on Weightology and not here.  One of these individuals was practically spamming one of my blog posts with comments, always trying to get the last word.  The other individual was emailing me personally under different aliases as well as trying to spam my Weightology site.

The comments get more and more absurd:

His agenda is nothing more than a personal attack against the CEO of NPHC

Designing two web sites, and creating many blog posts and articles (most of which have nothing to do with Cobroxin), is certainly a lot of work just to personally attack a CEO of a penny stock company.  Just the website design alone took me countless hours of work.  Why go to all that work just to attack a CEO, especially when others have already thoroughly done the job?

Mr. Cobroxin Conspiracy Theorist goes on:

when asked if he had given the product to anyone he knew to try and get their response, he deletes that message. That is why he has his blog, this is how he can control what is posted.

Having a blog just to "control what is posted" is a pretty stupid reason to have a blog, particularly because people are free to post things anywhere on the internet.  And, contrary to this individual's assertion, I haven't deleted any messages or comments from this site.

The entertainment continues:

Studies were presented as far back as WWII using cobra venom, but refuses to acknowledge any of those

This individual apparently missed these paragraphs from this blog post:

Cobroxin’s manufacturer provides a list of studies that supposedly showed cobra venom or its components to have pain-relieving effects.  However, the majority of the studies they list involved injection of cobra venom or its components.  Only 7 out of the listed studies used oral delivery, and only 1 used topical delivery.  Of the 7 that used oral delivery, 6 of them did not report the dose used.  1 of them was only presented as an abstract at a conference and was never published in full form in a peer-reviewed journal.  There is no reference for another one (Xu et al, 2001).  2 more of them were presented in a Chinese journal (Journal of Snake), and there is no mention of placebo controls or blinding.  3 of these didn’t even look at pain.

The fact is, the research presented that supposedly supports the use of Cobroxin is of extremely low quality (even the injection studies).  Many of the studies listed don’t involve blinding, placebo controls, randomization, or any of the other things that are necessary for an adequate study.  Many of the studies presented are of so low quality, they would never be accepted in today’s peer-reviewed journals (particularly in American or European journals, which are more stringent than Chinese journals).  Also, none of these studies involved Cobroxin itself; they are just studies on cobra venom and its components.

Another Cobroxin Crazy joins in on the conspiracy theories:

He deleted every single response to his old Cobroxin blog post. Look at the dates of the Cobroxin comments on his new site - they all have dates *after* he closed down the old one. If he has nothing to hide, why did he delete the dozens (hundreds?) of posts defending the efficacy of Cobroxin by REAL USERS OF THE PRODUCT?

This individual is referring to comments on my Cobroxin posts on my old site.  I actually didn't delete the comments; I simply hid them (Blogger gives you the option to hide comments).  And the reasoning for hiding them is much less sinister and much more boring.  Since I was starting new sites, I wanted people to come to these sites and focus on them rather than trying to comment on the old one (and I was still getting people trying to comment on the old one).  I decided to close off comments and hide all of them to redirect people to engaging in discussion on the new sites.  That's also why all new comments have dates after I stopped the old site.  This individual also fails to realize that I hid ALL comments on ALL posts, many of which had nothing to do with Cobroxin.  Of course, nothing will stop these people from thinking that my world revolves around Cobroxin.  I guess these people probably think I have "something to hide" by hiding comments on my old "single versus multiple sets" post?

The best part of the conspiracy theories are when these individuals start claiming I'm in cahoots with Timothy Sykes as part of some sort of conspiracy to bring the stock price of NPHC down by criticizing Cobroxin, such as in this post here or this post here:

Sykes uses him and his site to try and discredit NPHC every time it starts moving up

Now ask yourself if this Kreiger was so involved with his Weightology program and protecting consumers against products he feels are unproven, why would he be spending his time promoting Sykes.

To "prove" this conspiracy, this individual links to a blog post on my trading website where I state that I am a Tim Sykes affiliate and how I have used his trading strategies.

Of course, a closer analysis reveals just how ridiculous this conspiracy theory is.  First, I've only made $50 off of my commissions from being a Tim Sykes affiliate since 2008...hardly what I would call a very profitable affiliation.  In fact, I haven't received any commissions since 2009.  Second, anyone familiar with Tim Sykes's trading style will know that Tim doesn't hold anything longer than a day or two.  He is usually all cash.  Third, Tim, whose trades are all verified, hasn't held a position in NPHC since September 2009.  Fourth, I've repeatedly stated in this blog that I've never held a position in NPHC, and you can verify that by going to my trading blog where I openly discussed all of my trades.  I also now use to verify my trades and you won't see NPHC there either.  Fifth, I don't have a lot of trading capital.  I have about $19K spread among 4 trading accounts.  Only one of those accounts (Interactive Brokers or IB), in which I have $5K, allows me to short OTCBB stocks under $3 per share.  IB requires that you have $2.50 in cash for every share that you short.  NPHC is an 18 cent stock.  The most I could short is 2000 shares, which is a $360 position.  Why would I tie up all my trading capital in one account to hold a long-term short that would need to go to $0 just so that I could make $360?

This is not to mention the absurdity of using a health-related blog to try to bring a stock price down.  If I wanted to bring a stock price down, why not criticize Cobroxin in my trading blog, which is read by traders and investors, rather than a health blog which isn't read by traders or investors?

No matter how you look at it, the conspiracy theories are pretty crazy, just as crazy as the fake moon landing conspiracy (which I wouldn't be surprised if these Cobroxin conspiracy theorists believed that too).

The purpose of this blog is to help move the health industry to a more evidence-based industry, very similar to the blogs of Jamie Hale, Lyle McDonald, and Martin Berkhan, who are all colleagues of mine.  Or maybe these guys are all a part of the great Cobroxin Conspiracy too?

Poor Standards of Evidence

RationalWiki notes that pseudoscience is accompanied by poor standards of evidence.  It states:

In science evidence is valued when it is collected in a rigorous manner and is as divorced as possible from personal bias. The classic example is a controlled, double blind study. Though naturalistic observation is sometimes used, it is not proof of a theory. Furthermore, when it is used, a substantial quantity of data is usually involved. The use of statistics and an emphasis on statistical significance is also a strong hallmark of legitimate science.

In pseudoscience the importance placed on the value of evidence is almost reversed. Rigorous and controlled experiments, large data sets, and statistical reasoning are replaced with an emphasis on personal, anecdotal evidence and testimonials.

Cobroxin fits this description perfectly.  Not only are there no double-blind, placebo-controlled trials on Cobroxin, but supporters rely heavily on personal experience, anecdotal evidence, and testimonials.  In fact, here's a comment from one Cobroxin supporter that I mentioned earlier:

If he has nothing to hide, why did he delete the dozens (hundreds?) of posts defending the efficacy of Cobroxin by REAL USERS OF THE PRODUCT?

This person places more weight on personal testimonials than he does on rigorous scientific research...a hallmark of pseudoscientific thinking.

Same Ol' Pseudoscience

The fact is that arguments in favor of Cobroxin show all the characteristics of pseudoscience.  Out of all of them, the conspiracy theories are the most amusing.  I debated whether to bother writing a blog post about the conspiracy theories after seeing them, since they're on a message forum that probably gets very little traffic.  But they were just so ridiculous that I thought it would be entertaining for my readers.  Plus, they give good insight into the pseudoscientific mentality.  Unfortunately this mentality is all too prevalent in the health industry.

If anyone else has any good conspiracy stories from the health industry, or good anecdotes regarding pseudoscience, please post them here in the comments section!

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Bill wilmoth
Bill wilmoth
10 years ago

Ok here’s my take. I have never used cobroxin and not sure how a topical or a oral would work to block pain. What I do no for a fact is that cobra venom does work as a nerve block. I work in the horse industry and it is often used in racehorses that may have a high chip in there knee. Horses will run a race and come back lame, due to excessive swelling in a horses joint, the horse will hobble when he walks, as soon as the venom is injected into the joint the horse immediately perks… Read more »

“How To Spot Pseudoscience: Cobroxin and Conspiracies » The Health Sleuth” in fact
causes myself think a little bit extra. I appreciated every particular element of this post.
Thanks a lot ,Freeman

11 years ago

I am a consumer that has bought, used and subsequently thrown out cobroxin. I did this not because it did not work but rather because of the horrible problems and side effects the product caused me. My side effects have been: deadened nerves throughout my entire body leaving my face swollen and drooping at times like bad botox, weight gain, loss of balance & vertigo at improper times, infections, emotional & cognitive blunting, dysphoria, persisting hemiplegia… All of these side effects continued even after I stopped taking cobroxin 6 months ago. Though to some extent I’m beginning to feel better,… Read more »

Patricia W Williams
Patricia W Williams
12 years ago

I am seventy-four…,almost seventy-five…years old. I have suffered with crippling arthritis since my late forties. By that time my entire spine had the Christmas tree effect. I had three herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, and spinal stenosis. Both of my hips were replaced eighteen months ago. Both knees are badly crippled but I can’t face any more surgery. The arthritis is in virtually every joint in my body…hands , feet, elbows, and shoulders. At one time I was on 80 milligrams of vicodin daily. The pain grew worse. I accidentally discovered Cobroxin at Walgreen’s. My initial reaction was “oh what… Read more »

12 years ago

I tried Cobroxin one day out of the blue when I seen at Walgreens. I had seen a few science specials on the future of this kind of pain relief, so I was curious if it would work. I sit at a desk all day and have chronic neck pain and headaches from it, for about 10 years now. And my hands also hurt from various other office tasks and I since it runs in the family it is probably arthritis. About a week after taking it, my neck pain and chronic headaches were gone, and my hands felt better.… Read more »

12 years ago

I just bought this at Walgreens for a sprained back. I did so with great skepticism and asked about being able to return it if it didn’t do anything. But it seems to really work. I’ve been having REAL problems after getting older with sprained back and it has been horrible lately. This made a BIG difference. Yesterday, when I bought I was in great pain. Today, almost nonexistent. So, I would say give a try. And, I’m just commenting here. I don’t get any kickback for saying this and just got here through google.

12 years ago

Cobroxin worked for me. I suffered a severe sprained ankle about 3pm, by 7am the next morning I had about a number 8 and half pain as I hoped to the bathroom. I found the Cobroxin gel and oral spray in the drawer and used them, By about 10am my pain was down to about a number 1 and never increased again. It was then that I was sold on it. Check out the latest review here Also look at the reviews on Amazon. I also had a couple of friends try it for their bone on bone knee… Read more »

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