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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William Bond
William Bond
10 years ago

Well, I am not here to attach you about cobroxin, I do however wish to give my experience and let that speak for itself. About a year ago I had a nasty gout flareup and it was getting the best of me, the pain in my right hand was so bad that I couldn’t use it, could not put any weight on it, I couldn’t do nothing, and because I am diabetic I did not want to take the usual medro dose pack of steroids because it shoots my glucose way up. I was very sceptical about the product cobroxin… Read more »

Olay Professional Pro X

very informative article and you have provided the information in a very attractive way !!!

thanks for sharing this information here 🙂

Olay Professional Pro X

Frank S. Dattilo
Frank S. Dattilo
10 years ago

Injectable Cobroxin was partially in vogue in the 1960’s as possible use in terminal Cancer patients. The thought was that it would decrease the need for narcotics in these cases. I think this was based on the case of the herpetologist in Florida that had been struck by several Cobras over the years and was losing some of his pain perception. I used Cobroxin on three terminal cancer patients. The first I judged that it decreased the need for narcotics. The second I could see no benefit. The third was equivocal. Based on my small study, I discontinued the use… Read more »

10 years ago

My feet do not hurt .

Vicodin did not help AT ALL.
This stuff WORKS.

10 years ago

No one is more of a skeptic than me when it comes to homeopathic claims but I’ve been using cobroxin since July 2011 to control numbness and pain due ot a herniated disk and find it to be highly effective. Within 2 days of using the spray my numbness was almost completely gone. I’ve recommended the product to my father and brother who both have similar nerve pain related issues and they’ve had great results as well. If I stop taking the spray for a day or so the pain and numbness slowly creep back, I’ve intentionally tested it in… Read more »

Kishan Nandha
Kishan Nandha
10 years ago

Hello ,i am undergoing masters in pharmaology..I have read all discussions about cobroxin in the other blog of Mr. James….I wanted to ask why the manufacturers of it have not gone through the adequate evaluation if this product is so prominent…If it is really of that quality than they should urge to make up all scepticism in people’s minds..I think we will have to wait until they make efforts to compensate all thorough pharmacological evidences that are lacking(as per Mr. James)…Without these there is never ending arguments possible…Meanwhile individuals may use it and decide its truthfulness on their own…

10 years ago
Reply to  Kishan Nandha

I wanted to ask why the manufacturers of it have not gone through the adequate evaluation if this product is so prominent…If it is really of that quality than they should urge to make up all scepticism in people’s minds.. 1a. Expense of trials/studies, etc. 1b. Waste of money — *saying* it’s effective results in profits without the expense of trials/studies. 2. Trials/studies would kill the golden-egg-laying goose. (Can’t prove something that just ain’t so.) 3. Psudoscience has a well-aged patina of credibility among the credulous. Can you say “Creationsim?” “Earth-centric universe?” “Flat earth?” “Laetrile?” ad infinitum. 4. Why go… Read more »

11 years ago

hi, i really enjoy yr sites. i’ve read some of yr “debates” w others like the one w fred hann at jpfitness forum and am impressed at the way u argue-logical, research based and w/o all the name calling. i’ve learnt alot fr u, esp. on how to spot fallacies in arguments. so thks and keep it up!

Jean Paulo
Jean Paulo
11 years ago

Argh, quackery. Great article Mr. Krieger! Again, the calories don’t matter as long as X avoid certain nutrient which you explained very well on GCBC review. Hoping for the next part though… Keep up the good work.

11 years ago

My comments are not spam. I’m just stating that your blog posts focus on how Cobroxin doesn’t work, but there are now countless claims everywhere from people that share their positive experiences with Cobroxin. So who’s right? You or the product users? My money is with the actual product users.

11 years ago

Wow, you’re so focused on Cobroxin. Amazing. Did they push you down the stairs or something? Or are they proving you wrong about your theories? Probably the latter.

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