Tag Archives: scientific

The Goop Lab : a scientific review

The Goop Lab is a Netflix show inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow’s 250 million-dollar “wellness” empire Goop.

I was lucky enough to get early access and watch all 6 episodes of the show, and the press embargo is lifted today so I can provide you with this short review, from a scientific skepticism standpoint.

So, is it as bad as you’d think? Well, for the most part, yes. I mean, what did you expect from a company that sells highly dubious stuff like “psychic vampire repellent“? Also Gwyneth once admitted she “doesn’t know WTF they talk about on Goop.

In short: 2 episodes are complete nonsense (energy healing, psychics), 3 address legitimate topics but manage to vastly exaggerate what the science is about (psychedelics, breathing techniques, anti-aging), and 1 episode really stands out from the rest (women’s sexuality).


Each episode follows a basic formula:

1. Gwyneth and her Chief Content Officer Elise Loehnen chat with one or two “experts” who work on some kind of health-related stuff, which is allegedly backed by science, but somehow “little-known, scary and unregulated”. They decide to test the stuff for themselves.

2. “Testing” begins, which is really Goop employees getting their own anecdotal experiences about the stuff. Interestingly, these employees are all really stressed out, tense, anxious and/or dealing with some kind of trauma from their childhood or recent life. Most of the time there’s a self-proclaimed “skeptic” among them.

3. We hear a testimonial from someone who tried the stuff before and/or does it regularly, and has had tremendous benefits from it. There’s real struggle and suffering here, and these testimonials get pretty emotional and touching.

4. “Testing” continues. Big results are obtained right away. Participants start crying and have epiphanies in a matter of seconds.

5. More heart-wrenching testimonials.

6. Final “testing” round. Several participants say they had a life-changing moment. The “skeptic” is now baffled, even though nothing really impressive happened, so it’s pretty clear he/she never really was a skeptic in the first place.

7. More testimonials. It’s becoming hard to watch at this point.

8. Gwyneth and Elise conclude with the “experts” that they’ve witnessed some pretty amazing stuff, and they can’t believe it’s not mainstream yet. The end.


Alright, now let’s dive into each episode:



We meet Mark Haden, the head of an association involved in the study of psychedelics to treat mental health issues. There’s also Will Siu, a psychiatrist who did psychedelics himself and his now treating people with the stuff. They clearly state that such interventions are currently undergoing clinical trials, and while early findings are promising, more research is needed before they can be used in a clinical setting. Everyone agrees.

So, what do they do next? The exact opposite of what was just said. Elise announces that a she and a bunch of Goop employees are going to Jamaica to test the psychedelics for themselves, because it’s “unregulated” there.

The remainder of the episode is basically the group having a drug trip with magic mushrooms. They laugh, cry, talk gibberish. We’re as far from “research” as possible: there’s a lot of hippie stuff, diviner’s sage being burned, and the leader says they need to “be with the spirit of the mushroom“.

A woman who was dealing with unresolved grief says that the experiment was like “5 years of psychotherapy in 5 hours”. A guy who was dealing with some childhood trauma says he feels somewhat better. However, none of it is convincing that the trip really helped them at all beyond some feel-good vibes for a couple of hours.

Elise concludes by suggesting that experimenting with psychedelics could be a great alternative to team-building activities at work. Wow.




The whole thing is centered around Wim “Ice Man” Hof, a true anomaly of nature who has unusual genetics and abnormally high amounts of brown fat, which allows him to tolerate extreme cold. Good for him. Now, they don’t tell us ANY of this in the show; they tell us it all has to do with Hof’s breathing technique (controlled hyperventilation), which he can teach other people in 10 minutes.

So, he teaches his technique to a group of people who are all dealing with anxiety and/or trauma for some reason, and suddenly it’s about curing them of various ailments. Hof tells the group his technique “makes the body more alkaline” (wrong) and “boosts the immune system” (?). We later learn that by breathing his way, you can cure a whole range of physical and psychiatric health issues. This is no surprise, as Hof has claimed in an interview that his technique can even cure cancer.

The group goes outdoors and has a workout session in the snow. They also jump in cold water. Thanks to the breathing technique, they don’t panic. Nothing really feels surprising or impressive.




We meet Valter Longo, a legitimate scientist doing legitimate research on fasting and prolonging healthy life. But throughout the episode, he proceeds to overhype his research and one is lead to believe it’s ready for mainstream.

We also meet Morgan Levine, who studies the “bioinformatics of aging”. She says that by taking a blood test, she’ll reveal Gwyneth’s, Elise’s and a 3rd lady’s “biological age“, by opposition to their boring chronological age. Why haven’t you heard about “biological age” before? Because it’s a made-up concept. Also, a quick search revealed that Ms Levine works for a company who sells the aforementioned test for 500$, as well as an anti-aging supplement.

The group will also try to reverse their biological clock by undergoing a special diet for a week: one will go vegan, another pescatarian, and the third one will eat a “fasting mimicking diet“, a kit made by Longo which is made of packaged ultra-processed foods that make astronauts’ meals look mouth-watering. At the end of the episode, we learn that they reduced their biological age by about a year after the diet. What does that mean? Nothing, because again, it’s a made-up concept.

There’s a second part in the episode in which the three women get plastic surgery, because… that’s considered anti-aging, I guess? One of them unexpectedly gets a facelift live, where they insert wires in her face and pull it back; my wife was watching with me, and she was traumatized by that. Gwyneth gets a so-called “vampire facelift“, a highly controversial and potentially dangerous technique which consists of injecting platelet-rich plasma (PRP), made from her own blood, in her face. Her face gets red and swollen. The whole thing is pretty disturbing. Gwyneth concludes with: “I’m happy it’s my own blood and not some toxin. People put some weird shit in their skin!“. No shit.




We’re introduced to John Amaral, a guy who offers “energy healing” to his clients who are mainly celebrities. He starts by going all-out quantum mysticism, a type of quackery that uses sciencey-sounding words (like “subatomic”) and misuses concepts related to quantum physics. Also present is Dr Apostolos Lakos, an “integrative physician” who has “studied magnets and vibration”. Whatever.

Amaral starts doing energy stuff on four people, including a “skeptic” dude. Amaral looks like a puppeteer, pulling strings in the air from as far as several feet from the participants’ bodies. It’s quite theatrical and absurd. Now interestingly, he talks a lot and pretty much says what the participants should feel and do. For instance, he might say: “You have an energy blockage in your lower back, right here. So I’m going to pull on it, you’ll feel yourself being pulled upwards slightly, and you’ll feel less tense“. And unsurprisingly, people react in the exact way he just told them! So that’s a great demo of what I would call guided autosuggestion.

Elise says it feels like she “just had an exorcism”, which is something we hear in the show’s trailer, but fortunately there’s no actual exorcism… I can’t believe that’s a positive point for the show 😕




Say hello the Laura Lynne Jackson, a medium/psychic who speaks to the dead. Next to her is Dr Julie Beischel, who says she’s done research which irrefutably shows that psychics aren’t frauds and have real powers (no, it does not).

Jackson then proceeds to showing us a beautiful, perfect example of the classic fraudulent technique called cold reading. The idea is to make many broad claims (guesses) in a short amount of time, so that the people in front of you will invariably make a connection with something personal (watch this video for another great example).

In one instance, she tells a woman: “I hear something like E-L“. The woman starts crying almost instantly; somehow, she connects that with her dead mother. And of course, Jackson goes like “yeah sure, your mother is here right now!“. More broad guesses, more crying. Unfortunately, we’re only shown a few bits of the cold reading, so we can’t calculate how many of her guesses are right. But Dr Jen Gunter (a Canadian OB/GYN) saw her full performance live in 2018 and wasn’t impressed.

Finally, she tells a group she can teach them to be clairvoyant. Woman 1 hands Woman 2 a picture of a dog. W2 focuses and says: “I see an M, and something that has to do with allergies“. Well, turns out the picture showed W1’s former dog, his name was Muffin, but they no longer have him because of her brother’s allergies. The group concludes that W2 is clairvoyant. Sure.




Goop already has a pretty bad rap sheet regarding women’s health, suggesting dubious things like vaginal steaming and saying bras cause breast cancer. I didn’t see any of that stuff in here, however.

This episode is radically different from the others. It explores women’s relationship with their sexuality, as well as acceptance and knowledge of their own bodies. It talks about masturbation, orgasm, and how porn has created unrealistic expectations about sexuality.

This is beyond my field of expertise and I watched the episode with less of a critical eye, so I might have missed some dubious stuff, but overall this episode appears to make some good points. It’s biggest downside, though, is being part of this terrible show.

(Note : If you have some specific criticism regarding this episode, please tell me and I’ll add a note with credit.)




The Goop Lab is the embodiment of pseudoscience, because it’s really good at pretending it’s science-based. There’s sciencey-sounding words. There’s people with PhDs and MDs. There’s talks of clinical trials, studies being referred to, calls for more research. But all of this is ultimately a facade, because most of what is presented is speculation, exaggeration, hype, or utter nonsense.

The most troubling aspect, to me, is that the show relies heavily on anecdotes and testimonials that are legitimately appealing and touching. You can’t help but feel sympathetic to these people who suffer from physical and psychological trauma, and whose needs have been unmet by the medical system. They need help. Unfortunately, The Goop Lab pretends to help by offering them psychic readings, by teaching them overhyped breathing techniques and by increasing their anxiety about overall health and aging, amongst other things. In that sense, the show (and therefore Netflix) comes out as socially and scientifically irresponsible, in my opinion. In fact, the biggest danger here is that it will further impair scientific literacy and people’s overall trust in science.

One might be under the impression, after watching the show, that it’s not so much an infomercial for Goop’s products after all. And sure, they don’t suggest buying any products, or even advertise them… But wait a minute: Goop DOES sell products related to every single one of the topics discussed in the show: immune system boosters, energy crystals, anti-aging supplements and cosmetics, jade eggs (no longer for the vagina)… I don’t think it’s a coincidence. The only exception might be psychedelics, but interestingly in the episode, they say Goop could help do research; I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Should you watch for the sake of entertainment? Well, personally, I did not find it entertaining. Early during our binge-watch, my wife said: “Wow, that show is depressing“. Yeah, I think she’s right. Or there’s something wrong with our subatomic particles.

Vitamin C injections and cancer: perceptions vs reality

vitamin C injections perceptions vs reality

(Note : This is a translation of the original article that was published on my main website in 2018. At the time, it was only available in French; I translated it afterwards so that my anglophone colleagues could read it. Robyn Penney made edits to the translation)


In May 2018, a petition signed by more than 70,000 people was submitted to the National Assembly of Quebec, with the goal of “authorizing” Vitamin C injection therapy for cancer patients. When asked about the petition, the Minister of Health at the time then said that, according to oncologists, this type of intervention “had no added clinical value.

A second petition, started in January 2019, collected more than 120,000 signatures, and went even further to ask that  Vitamin C injections be added to the list of medications covered by the Public Prescription Drug Insurance Plan. It received a lot of positive media coverage and was advocated by many influential public figures.


People living with cancer go through extremely difficult times and need a lot of courage. Some have received Vitamin C injections before, and they believe it helps them better tolerate chemotherapy. I sincerely hope that these people will be able to keep receiving their injections.

However, there’s a much bigger issue at stake here.

The problem isn’t that a few people are receiving injections. The problem is that all the buzz surrounding this petition makes it seem as though Vitamin C injections should become a prevalent, readily accessible treatment for cancer patients. That’s simply not a good idea.

Unfortunately, from the online comments on the petition and the news articles covering it, it is obvious that many people don’t understand the real issues at play. And I can’t blame them; it’s actually quite hard to grasp the facts here, especially if you rely on social networks and the media for information.

This article thus aims to show where popular perceptions of Vitamin C injections diverge from reality.

(Note: The comments presented below are real and quoted verbatim)








Vitamin C injections are not a cure for cancer.

The suggested indication is to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, to improve patients’ quality of life. And unfortunately, to date, the data are not conclusive for this use either.

(In other words, there are some positive trials, and some negative ones… but these trials do not have an adequate placebo group that would tell whether the effect is actually due to Vitamin C; or their design does not allow researchers to draw real conclusions about the effectiveness of the treatment. So overall, the efficacy is not clear and remains hypothetical: see here, here, here and here among others).


The belief that Vitamin C cures all kinds of diseases dates back to the 1970s, but it proved to be wrong when assessed scientifically.

As far as we know, the only thing that is cured with Vitamin C injections is scurvy – a concern in Jacques Cartier’s era, but relatively uncommon nowadays.


vitamin c scurvy







It is not “illegal” to inject Vitamin C in Quebec, even for cancer.

The issue is not legality, but the fact that it is not ethical, rational or justifiable to do so in the absence of solid scientific evidence.

Importantly, it’s no more acceptable in Ontario than in Quebec. The media mentioned an Ontarian clinic offering these injections which wasn’t, in fact, a medical clinic, but a center for “integrative medicine” (i.e., the new name given to complementary and alternative therapies). Its founder and executive director is a naturopath. According to its website, it seems that only one physician practices there, and she is not an oncologist.

In short, the fact that Vitamin C injections are offered by clinics in Ontario, the rest of Canada, and the United States (where there are many), that doesn’t prove their efficacy. 








A lot of comments try to make a link between Vitamin C and the legalization of cannabis. But again, there‘s no question of “legalizing” anything, so this comparison doesn’t hold water.


(note : true story)







Vitamin C injections typically don’t seem to cause many side effects – that much is true.

But here’s the real problem: preliminary data suggest that Vitamin C could interfere with the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

[When chemo is administered for incurable cancers (e.g., palliative care), it’s not to treat the cancer, but to reduce pain and prolong life expectancy. So we should take seriously the possibility that Vitamin C decreases the effectiveness of chemo in these cases.]

Clinics offering such injections even say so in their references:



Trials with oral Vitamin C had to be stopped prematurely because of the toxic effects that appeared to be caused by vitamin itself.

Actually, this isn’t surprising. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, but some have suggested based on in vitro data that it may also have the opposite effect (i.e., pro-oxidant). In the human body, these reactions are subject to a very delicate balance, and the ultimate effects they could have on our health are still not known and therefore largely unpredictable.

In short, it’s a mistake to see these injections as harmless. And at any rate, administering megadoses of vitamins is always dangerous.

Meanwhile, we know that people with cancer who use alternative / complementary / integrative therapies are at higher risk of dying from the illness. We’re talking about a 2- to 6-times higher risk of mortality (see here, here and here).

If we ‘re going to accept preliminary data suggesting efficacy, we should also accept preliminary data suggesting potential hazards.







Chantal Lacroix is a TV host and public figure known for her involvement in social and humanitarian causes. For that, I applaud her.

But her comments regarding the petition – for which she’s been a major advocate – are somewhat… peculiar.

The professional oath taken by doctors requires them to “[practice] medicine according to the rules of science”. And that’s exactly what they’re trying to do.
Prescribing an unproven and potentially risky treatment – wouldn’t that be “flouting the Hippocratic Oath”? Is that somehow ironic too? (At this point I’m a little confused as to what constitutes irony…).

In short, it’s unfortunate that someone as influential as Ms. Lacroix is choosing to promote a cause by discrediting the medical community through unsubstantiated claims.

Others bring this idea even further:






Ok, let’s try to unpack this one using logic.



In fact, one Quebec woman who is currently receiving Vitamin C injections explained on a radio show that these treatments have allowed her to stay longer on chemotherapy.

In other words, if Vitamin C injections work, they should ultimately be profitable for Big Pharma.







Actually, natural health products are a multi-billion dollar industry. There’s a lot of money to be made, despite extremely poor regulation.

According to the information I was able to collect:



That’s pricey, and not accessible for everyone.

OK, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the billions of dollars generated by the industry, but for a therapist or a clinic with many patients, there are tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to be made each year.

(To be clear, I’m not accusing these therapists and clinics of administering Vitamin C to make money, but simply pointing out that yes, it can generate significant profits).







That’s what the United States just decided.

The Right to Try Act, signed by Trump in May 2018, grants terminally ill patients access to any experimental treatment, regardless of its efficacy or safety.




At first glance, it may seem like a good idea …

What it obscures is that terminally ill patients, both in the US and Canada, already have special access to experimental treatments. But only those that seem to work.

When they go through Right to Try, patients essentially become guinea pigs for scientifically unsupported therapies, with no basic rights in case of complications. They can easily become targets for charlatans ready to sell a miracle therapy (it’s already happened elsewhere). And nobody can be held responsible.

For the protection of patients and the public at large, I hope we will not go this route in Canada.







(excuse my cheesy title design… just couldn’t help myself!)


I completely understand those who are committed to this cause. In fact, everything relating to the topic of cancer is enormously important to me.

I realize that in talking about this subject in such a matter-of-fact way – while also making jokes to lighten the tone – I probably sound (to some people) closed-minded or even insensitive.

But one of the essential messages I am trying to convey through The Pharmafist / Le Pharmachien is that applying the scientific approach to our health choices is one of the most helpful things we can do as a society, especially for those in a vulnerable position.

What I find most unfortunate here is that many people will continue to find the situation unfair. I understand why it may seem that way. But when we choose to support a cause, we have a responsibility to fully understand what’s at stake, and to not simply select the facts that do or don’t fit our story.

If Vitamin C injections really had “proven” benefits, they would be prescribed regularly in oncology, because everyone – the patients, doctors, and industry – would be a winner.

Yes, some people may derive benefits from them (whether real or a placebo effect). But to this day, Vitamin C remains a treatment with potential risks and unclear benefits, so it makes sense to use it rarely or not at all.  At the moment, it’s in the best interest of cancer patients.


P.S. I did a mini-investigation and found an oncologist in Montreal who’s prescribing Vitamin C injections for cancer. Despite all my efforts to get his name, he wants to remain anonymous…which is really strange, considering that he is allegedly heading an oncology research center (not locatable on Google) that is about to start a clinical trial (not found on any registry) on Vitamin C injections. I found the phone number of the center and I spoke to his coordinator, a very kind woman who said to me: “I know who you are, and I know you don’t really believe in this kind of thing…” Well, I won’t need to “believe” once the results of the clinical trial are published and available to be analyzed. In the meantime, I think we should remain skeptical and cautious.




*** UPDATE – JANUARY 21, 2019 ***

A new version of the petition is in circulation. Once again, it’s asking to “authorize doctors to prescribe Vitamin C”, but also to include it on the list of covered medications, as well as proposing “to set up a Vitamin C injection registry in Quebec.” The petition was promoted on national TV, on the popular show “Tout le monde en parle“, on January 20, 2019.

Some further thoughts and info on this topic:




*** UPDATE – JANUARY 30, 2019 ***

The Chief Scientist of Quebec also commented with a similar view on the topic.





*** UPDATE – FEBRUARY 5, 2019 ***

Some people are promoting a news item stating that Sherbrooke University has received a $2.8 million grant to study Vitamin C injections.

That’s true … but it’s for a totally different indication, namely, septic shock (a serious complication of certain infections). It involves studying a completely different mechanism of action and cannot lead to any links with cancer at this stage.




*** UPDATE – FEBRUARY 11, 2019 ***

Science journalist Jean-François Cliche inquired with the Ontario Ministry of Health regarding their position on the use of Vitamin C injections for cancer patients. Unsurprisingly, but contrary to what is stated in the petition, this practice is not considered scientifically nor ethically acceptable in Ontario, either.





*** UPDATE – FEBRUARY 15, 2019 ***

Proponents of the petition are now citing a new article to support their claims. However, contrary to what its title suggests, it refers to an in vitro experiment on cells, the results of which are important for encouraging future research, but cannot be extrapolated to humans. The article also alludes to a phase I trial with 11 participants that aimed to assess the safety of Vitamin C injections (also called a “safety trial”). This study is never referenced in the article, which is very bizarre…I presume that it was never published, and therefore it is impossible to analyze or interpret it (I wrote to the editors of the site for more information). But regardless, this type of study cannot assess 1) the effectiveness of treatment, nor 2) the risk of reducing the effects of chemotherapy (because the duration of the study was too short, i.e., 2 months).

When asked about the above, the author of the article in question objected to her text being used in support of the petition, stating:

“I and Cancer Commons have never endorsed [this] position / petition and asked [the organizer] to remove the post from Facebook. While there are some data to support high-dose Vitamin C, they are not conclusive. Cancer Commons’ name has been used without permission.”






*** UPDATE – FEBRUARY 20, 2019 ***

Proponents of the petition have adopted a new (and visibly effective) strategy over the past few days, presumably in the final sprint before filing to the Quebec National Assembly on February 28, 2019. Yesterday, Ms. Chantal Lacroix published a video summarizing the group’s current arguments. It’s worth analyzing to illustrate how useful critical thinking principles can be in this type of debate. The video in question…

  1. Continues to spread the idea that Vitamin C injections are “illegal,” and that the petition is intended to “legalize” them. This fallacious argument is called ambiguity of language; legalizing, or even authorizing anything, in not an issue here, as explained in my article.
  1. Implies that if Vitamin C injections are not “legalized,” people with cancer may need to turn to physician-assisted suicide, which is legal. On the one hand, this comparison is tasteless, inappropriate and indelicate towards the terminally ill. On the other hand, it is a false dilemma, giving the impression that a person may have to choose between these two options, which is not the case. Above all, this is a bad analogy because both interventions are considered in very different contexts.
  1. Adds that dozens of public figures from the artistic world have signed the petition in the last few days, which – according to them – demonstrates the validity of the requests. This is an appeal to popularity; the fact that many people or celebrities sign the petition doesn’t guarantee anything.
  1. States that “leading experts” in the field of cancer have signed the petition. First, no such expert has endorsed the petition publicly, to my knowledge. But above all, it is an appeal to authority; even if some “leading experts” had signed the petition, this would not guarantee its validity.
  1. States that even if scientific data on Vitamin C injections are lacking, “everyone wins” by signing the petition, as it will allow more data to be collected through the creation of a clinical registry. This statement is false because creating a registry is no substitute for clinical research, which is necessary in this case. Clinical registries in Canada are a series of anecdotes collected in uncontrolled environments, from which we cannot draw conclusions about the effectiveness of an intervention. Drug registries identify certain side effects that appear to occur more frequently, which may result in increased government and manufacturer vigilance, and may lead to the development of additional clinical studies. In short, creating a registry for Vitamin C injections would only be relevant if this intervention was already supported by convincing data and therefore was considered scientifically and ethically acceptable by oncologists.

This is not the first time that Ms. Lacroix has ignored criticism coming from scientists or that she is promoting questionable health practices. She is obviously well-intentions, and I do not doubt her sincerity in this process. But again, I would like to invite her to be more cautious and restrained when it comes to health topics, given her vast popularity and influence.




*** UPDATE – FEBRUARY 28, 2019 ***

Youri Chassin, the local deputy supporting the petition, is now calling for a special parliamentary committee on Vitamin C injections. So I contacted him directly on his Facebook page: 

(the following is an image modified in order to include the translation in French)


I did not get an answer, even when following up with his office by email. However, Mr Chassin answered this to another user:


Mr Chassin later deleted his post from Facebook.





*** UPDATE – MARCH 1, 2019 ***

I explained above why, in my opinion, the creation of a clinical registry for Vitamin C injections is not appropriate, but I realize that I did not explain why I think the same about a parliamentary committee.

According to the National Assembly of Quebec, “Parliamentary committees are the perfect forum to examine bills or other current issues in detail. The deputies also play a role in controlling government activity and in public consultation on various current social issues.

I have no doubt that these committees are relevant for issues of public interest that are subject to a debate of opinion. But in this case, there is a lack of evidence to support the use of Vitamin C injections for people with cancer. In other words, the issue is not a matter of opinion, but of science.

A committee will not generate new data on the effectiveness and safety of the treatment. And even if the goal was to discuss funding for a possible clinical study on Vitamin C injections, how could one justify awarding research funds, so hard to obtain, on the basis of the popularity of a petition? It is not up to a parliamentary committee to decide on the funding of clinical research, but rather to organizations specialized in this field, such as the Quebec Health Research Fund (FRSQ), or the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

It should be noted that, to this day, NO experts have publicly endorsed this treatment.

Also note that during a parliamentary committee on Lyme disease in March 2018, the National Assembly of Quebec summoned as key expert a French doctor who attributes the spread of Lyme disease to an exiled Nazi researcher genetically modifying ticks for the US military. This gives you an idea of how this type of committee sets its standards regarding “key experts” …

In summary, creating a parliamentary committee to discuss such a niche medical issue, which above all requires critical analysis of the evidence, is in my opinion a political lobbying strategy that bypasses the scientific process, thereby creating significant risks for the healthcare system and the field of medicine. It is also, in my opinion, a poor investment of public money, considering that very little scientifically and clinically relevant information can be obtained from such a committee.

Note: I’m far from being a political expert, so if I’m wrong regarding the above, I would welcome specific arguments to make me reconsider my position. To date, I haven’t received any.






*** UPDATE – MARCH 4, 2019 ***

So here’s what’s happening right now


And as promised, here is the entirety of my conversation with the creator of the petition in 2018.





*** UPDATE – MARCH 21, 2019 ***

At last! Experts have decided to come forward on the science behind Vitamin C injections, in light of what’s going on right now:


I also want to tell you how touched I’ve been by all the support I have received in recent days. It would be impossible for me to answer everyone, but I want you to know that I have read your messages and that I am deeply grateful.

I also want to say a huge thank you to my broadcaster and to the Quebec Order of Pharmacists, who understand the situation and offered me their support. I consider myself very lucky.

I also thank all the scientists, healthcare professionals and scientific and medical associations who have decided to come forward. Such complex subjects deserve a joint effort of communication.

You will understand that given the gravity of the situation, I cannot / do not want to comment on it.

But putting aside my case, as many have guessed, it’s not so much “me” that needs to be defended: it’s the scientific process. Discussing science publicly is now harder than ever, and we should not let things devolve to the point where it’s no longer possible at all.

On a more cheerful note, this case has inspired serious reflection about the involvement of scientists in public debates and how to support them in the current climate. A few projects are already germinating, and I hope they will come to fruition soon; stay tuned for updates below.

Thank you again, everyone, I appreciate your support so much!





*** UPDATE – APRIL 4, 2019 ***


Click here to read about the decision of the Government of Quebec in detail.

More media coverage can be read here.




*** UPDATE – MAY 1, 2019 ***

I can now confirm that some positive outcomes have emerged from this case:

  • A government task force (which I am fortunate enough to be involved in) was created in order to protect scientists who speak publicly about sensitive topics.

  • Also, an inter-professional advisory committee was created by several professional Orders to support healthcare professionals such as myself when they speak publicly, so they can do so without fear of disciplinary action.


It is comforting to know that despite the negative events in this case, there are some positive repercussions. I hope these initiatives will help others avoid situations like the one I experienced.




*** UPDATE – JUNE 13, 2019 ***

Back in March 2019, in response to the public controversy surrounding Vitamin C injections, several professional associations submitted a joint request to mandate the National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services (INESSS) to write an official report on their clinical relevance. This is now official and will be carried out. An INESSS mandate is precisely what I was hoping for from the start, so I see this as the best possible outcome.




*** UPDATE – NOV. 12, 2019 ***

It is with great surprise, gratitude and emotion that I have received last week, in London, the John Maddox Prize for my work on the topic of Vitamin C injections in Quebec.




*** UPDATE – MAY. 31, 2022 ***

The National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services (INESSS) published their report today on high-dose vitamin C injections for cancer patients in Quebec. It is an extremely thorough evaluation, in the form of a systematic review. The main conclusion is :

“In light of all the information available and in the absence of a demonstration of clinical efficacy, INESSS is of the opinion that high-dose vitamin C should not be offered to people with cancer, regardless of the therapeutic goal sought. This treatment modality should only be offered in the context of a clinical trial.”






Many thanks to all of you for your interest in this topic!


To read about the original version of this story in French (which includes about a hundred comments and my answers), see here.


The endless cycle of bad excuses for selling homeopathic products in pharmacies

An investigation by the McGill Office for Science and Society reveals that 2/3 of pharmacies in Montreal sell oscillococcinum, a homeopathic product more diluted than the equivalent of an atom in an entire Universe filled with water:


Are you surprised?

I’m not.

Back in Sept. 2012, when I started Le Pharmachien (the original French version of The Pharmafist), my first post ever was a sarcastic video about homeopathy, and about how absurd it is that we sell these products.

Since then, not much has changed. We still use the same fake arguments to justify ourselves.


What difference does it make if it’s popular or not? Healthcare and science are not popularity contests.

If people want to buy homeopathy, fine. But our role as pharmacists is to provide advice and care based on scientific evidence. When homeopathic products are sold in pharmacies, it gives the false impression that we endorse them.

Interestingly, most pharmacists don’t trust homeopathic products at all… but are stuck with them on the shelves. It’s a problem.


Not true. If people neglect to seek medical care because they trust homeopathy, it’s extremely hazardous.

There are tons of examples, but here’s one from Canada :



ALL healthcare interventions generate a placebo effect: medications, surgeries, exams, talking to patients… These interventions are supported by scientific evidence, and have a placebo effect as a BONUS.

Meanwhile, homeopathic products are 100% placebo, but pretend otherwise on their labeling and are sold at ridiculously high price tags. How is that acceptable?

Also, by opposition to what most people think, from a pharmacy owner’s perspective, it’s not “money-related”; margins are low and associated profits are negligible (in my experience, 80-90% of profits in a typical pharmacy come from prescription drugs). Who’s making money, then? Manufacturers.

At the end of the day, those who could really make a difference blame each other and make bad excuses in an endless cycle. This graph summarizes the situation:

Will someone ever take responsibility for the problem?

Let’s be clear: Health Canada will not stop approving these products. Some countries have set limits, but none has officially banned them. So we have to stop waiting for them to make a move.

In my opinion, the simplest solution is that a pharmacy chain takes a stand and announces that it will no longer sell homeopathic products. With a bit of luck, others will eventually follow.

So, who will be first?

P.S. Oh by the way, I’d like to salute the Quebec Order of Pharmacists, who stated, in response to the McGill investigation, that a pharmacist who recommends homeopathy by claiming that it is effective would “place oneself in a situation of disciplinary misconduct”. BOOM!

TOP 10 useless remedies for the common cold

The cold season has begun.

But there’s something worse out there: the plethora of esoteric remedies to allegedly prevent and cure the common cold, like…

  • Rubbing Vicks on your feet
  • Sticking your face above a bowl of hot, scented water
  • A swig of gin and/or cayenne and/or oregano oil
  • Sweating out the virus
  • The mustard plaster
  • Flu busters
  • Putting something in your bum (like suppositories)
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Cough syrups
  • Antibiotics

Being a pharmacist, I get asked about those all the time. And really, I don’t care if people wanna use medication, natural health products or home remedies… as long as what they do is safe, effective, evidence-based and science-based.

Would you like to know what works and what doesn’t? Here are the TOP 10 useless remedies for the common cold. Please laugh at each of them. They deserve it.

Translated by Valentin Nguyen; edits and proofreading by Robyn Penney.




Rubbing Vicks on your feet

Rubbing Vicks on your feet continued




Sticking your face above a bowl of hot, scented water

Sticking your face above a bowl of hot, scented water continued




The mouth-burning contest

The mouth-burning contest continued

The mouth-burning contest continued even more




Sweating out the virus




The mustard plaster

The mustard plaster continued




Flu busters

Flu busters 06b




Putting something in your bumPutting something in your bum continued




Chicken noodle soupChicken noodle soup continued



Cough syrups

Cough syrups continued




Antibiotics continued







5 badly informed opinions about vaccines

5 badly informed opinions about vaccines

Initially, I wanted to create a comic about the influenza (flu) vaccine.

My goal was to convince you that this vaccine is effective, safe and essential to modern society. Because that’s what I think.

But by doing this, I would have skipped steps … because before trusting the flu vaccine, you must first trust vaccines.

You’ve probably heard of some public figures’ efforts to limit vaccination in the USA:

jenny mccarthy vaccines

But they’re not the only ones. All over the world, tons of people are opposed to vaccines. Many of them are intelligent, highly educated people who seem to know the topic extremely well. Some of them are even healthcare professionals, including physicians.

So, who should you believe? I can easily understand why you’re confused when you hear stuff like:

  • “Vaccines cause autism!”
  • “Vaccines are released on the market before we know they’re safe!”
  • “The diseases we vaccinate against are long gone!”

There’s much to do to put the record straight.

So the flu vaccine will have to wait for another comic. In the meantime, let’s start from the beginning.

Translation by Olivier Bernard, proofreading by Lauren Knight.

5 badly informed opinions about vaccines

Live attenuated and inactivated vaccine

Subunit and conjugate vaccine

The great paradox of vaccination

Poliomyelitis , measles , meningitis and preventable diseases

Vaccines are not 100% safe , but nothing is

Making vaccines isn't even good business for big pharma

There is no single scientific evidence that vaccines systematically cause autism

The Wakefield study , thimerosal and aluminum adjuvants

Homeopathic vaccines , gluten-free diet ... nothing can replace a vaccine

Open letter to people and parents worried about vaccines

Open letter to the anti-vaccine lobby