Available inEnglish, French, Portuguese
EditorStephen Barrett
URLEnglish: Quackwatch.org
French: www.sceptiques.qc.ca/quackwatch/
Current statusActive
OCLC number855159830

Quackwatch is a United States-based website, self-described as a "network of people"[1] founded by Stephen Barrett, which aims to "combat health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct" and to focus on "quackery-related information that is difficult or impossible to get elsewhere".[2][3] Since 1996 it has operated the alternative medicine watchdog website quackwatch.org, which advises the public on unproven or ineffective alternative medical remedies.[4] The site contains articles and other information criticizing many forms of alternative medicine.[5][6][7]

Quackwatch cites peer-reviewed journal articles and has received several awards.[8] The site has been developed with the assistance of a worldwide network of volunteers and expert advisors. It has received positive recognition and recommendations from mainstream organizations and sources, although at times it has also received criticism for perceived bias in its coverage. It has been recognized in the media, which cite quackwatch.org as a practical source for online consumer information.[9] The success of Quackwatch has generated the creation of additional affiliated websites;[10] as of 2019 there were 21 of them.[11]

Quackwatch files at Center for Inquiry


Formation1969 (as the LVCAHF)
1970 (incorporated)
2008 (network of people)
2020 (made a part of the Center for Inquiry)
FounderStephen Barrett
Dissolved1970 (the original association)
2008 (the corporation)
2020 (the network of people)
TypeUnincorporated association (1969–1970)
Corporation (1970–2008)
Network of people (2008–2020)
Part of the Center for Inquiry (2020–present)
Purpose"Combat health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct" and focus on "quackery-related information that is difficult or impossible to get elsewhere"
  • United States
Official language
English, French, Portuguese
Stephen Barrett
AffiliationsNational Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF)
Formerly called
Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud (LVCAHF; 1969–1997)
Quackwatch, Inc. (1997–2008)

Barrett founded the Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud (LVCAHF) in 1969, and it was incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1970.[1] In 1996, the corporation began the website quackwatch.org, and the organization itself was renamed Quackwatch, Inc. in 1997. The Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation was dissolved after Barrett moved to North Carolina in 2008,[1] but the network's activities continue.[3] Quackwatch co-founded, and was closely affiliated with, the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF).[12][5] The NCAHF was formally dissolved in 2011.

In February 2020, Quackwatch became part of the Center for Inquiry. CFI planned to maintain its various websites and to receive Barrett's library later in the year.[13]

Mission and scope

Quackwatch is overseen by Barrett, its owner, with input from advisors and help from volunteers, including a number of medical professionals.[14] In 2003, 150 scientific and technical advisors: 67 medical advisors, 12 dental advisors, 13 mental health advisors, 16 nutrition and food science advisors, three podiatry advisors, eight veterinary advisors, and 33 other "scientific and technical advisors" were listed by Quackwatch.[15] Many more have since volunteered, but advisor names are no longer listed.[16]

Quackwatch describes its mission as follows:

... investigating questionable claims, answering inquiries about products and services, advising quackery victims, distributing reliable publications, debunking pseudoscientific claims, reporting illegal marketing, improving the quality of health information on the internet, assisting or generating consumer-protection lawsuits, and attacking misleading advertising on the internet.[3]

Quackwatch has no salaried employees, and the total cost of operating all Quackwatch's sites is approximately $7,000 per year. It is funded mainly by small individual donations, commissions from sales on other sites to which they refer, profits from the sale of publications, and self-funding by Barrett. The stated income is also derived from the usage of sponsored links.[3]

Site content

The Quackwatch website contains essays and white papers, written by Barrett and other writers, intended for the non-specialist consumer. The articles discuss health-related products, treatments, enterprises, and providers that Quackwatch deems to be misleading, fraudulent, or ineffective. Also included are links to article sources and both internal and external resources for further study.

The site is developed with the assistance from volunteers and expert advisors.[17] Many of its articles cite peer-reviewed research[10] and are footnoted with several links to references.[18] A review in Running & FitNews stated the site "also provides links to hundreds of trusted health sites."[19]

Related and subsidiary sites

Naturowatch is a subsidiary site of Quackwatch[20] which aims to provide information about naturopathy that is "difficult or impossible to find elsewhere".[21] The site is operated by Barrett and Kimball C. Atwood IV, an anesthesiologist by profession, who has become a vocal critic of alternative medicine.[22]

The site is available in French[23] and formerly in German[24] and Portuguese,[25] as well as via several mirrors.


Sources that mention Stephen Barrett's Quackwatch as a useful source for consumer information include website reviews,[6][10][26][27][28] government agencies, and various journals[29][30][31][32][33] including The Lancet.[34]

Mention in media, books, and journals

Quackwatch has been mentioned in the media, books and various journals, as well as receiving several awards and honors.[8] The Journal of the American Medical Association mentioned Quackwatch as one of nine "select sites that provide reliable health information and resources" in 1998.[33] It was also listed as one of three medical sites in U.S. News & World Report's "Best of the Web" in 1999.[28] Thomas R. Eng, director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Science Panel on Interactive Communication and Health, stated in 1999 that while "the government doesn't endorse Web sites ...[Quackwatch] is the only site I know of right now looking at issues of fraud and health on the Internet."[35]

Sources that mention quackwatch.org as a resource for consumer information include the United States Department of Agriculture, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Skeptic's Dictionary, the Diet Channel, and articles published in The Lancet, the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, the Journal of Marketing Education, the Medical Journal of Australia, and the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.[36] In addition, several nutrition associations link to Quackwatch.[37] An article in PC World listed it as one of three websites for finding the truth about Internet rumors.[38] A Washington Post review of alternative medicine websites noted that "skeptics may find Quackwatch offers better truth-squadding than the Food and Drug Administration or the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine."[39]

The books Low-Carb Dieting for Dummies (2003),[40] The Arthritis Helpbook (2006),[41] The Rough Guide to the Internet (2007),[42] Navigating the Medical Maze: A Practical Guide (2008),[43] Chronic Pain For Dummies (2008),[44] and The 2009 Internet Directory (2008)[45] mention or use content from Quackwatch.

Citations by journalists

Quackwatch and Barrett have also been cited by journalists in reports on therapeutic touch,[citation needed] Vitamin O, Almon Glenn Braswell's baldness treatments, Robert Barefoot's coral calcium claims, William C. Rader's "stem cell" therapy, noni juice, shark cartilage and saturated fat.[46]

Recommendations and endorsements

The American Cancer Society lists Quackwatch as one of ten reputable sources of information about alternative and complementary therapies in their book Cancer Medicine.[47] In a long series of articles on various alternative medicine methods, it uses Quackwatch as a reference and includes criticisms of the methods.[48]

The Health On the Net Foundation, which confers the HONcode "Code of Conduct" certification to reliable sources of health information in cyberspace, recommends Quackwatch.[49] It also advises Internet users to alert Quackwatch when they encounter "possibly or blatantly fraudulent" healthcare websites.[50]

In a 2007 feasibility study on a method for identifying web pages that make unproven claims, the authors wrote:

Our gold standard relied on selected unproven cancer treatments identified by experts at http://www.quackwatch.org ... By using unproven treatments identified by an oversight organization, we capitalized on an existing high quality review.[51]

Site reviews

Writing in the trade-journal The Consultant Pharmacist in 1999, pharmacist Bao-Anh Nguyen-Khoa characterized Quackwatch as "relevant for both consumers and professionals" and containing articles that would be of interest to pharmacists, but that a peer review process would improve the site's legitimacy. Nguyen-Khoa said the presence of so many articles written by Barrett gave an impression of lack of balance but that the site was taking steps to correct this by recruiting expert contributors. He also noted that

Barrett often inserts his strong opinions directly into sections of an article already well supported by the literature. Although entertaining, this direct commentary may be viewed by some as less than professional medical writing and may be better reserved for its own section.[10]

Donna Ladd, a journalist with The Village Voice, in 1999 described Barrett as "a full-time journalist and book author", "never a medical researcher", and one who "depends heavily on negative research ... in which alternative therapies do not work" but "says that most case studies that show positive results of alternative therapies are unreliable". She quoted Barrett as saying that "a lot of things don't need to be tested [because] they simply don't make any sense".[35]

Writing in The Lancet, Mona Okasha wrote that Quackwatch provides an "entertaining read", but described it as only appropriate for limited use as it fails to provide a balanced view of alternative cancer treatments.[52] Jane Cuzzell viewed Quackwatch similarly, arguing that it was entertaining but that the "resource value of this site depends on what the visitor is seeking" and had concerns about the appearance of bias in the selection of the material.[53] However, while Lillian Brazin also found it to be biased, she described Quackwatch as credible, and noted both the credentials of the contributors and the thoroughness of the content.[54]

In a 2002 book, Ned Vankevitch, associate professor of communications at Trinity Western University,[55] places Barrett in a historical tradition of anti-quackery, embracing such figures as Morris Fishbein and Abraham Flexner, which has been part of American medical culture since the early-twentieth century. Although acknowledging that Quackwatch's "exposé of dangerous and fraudulent health products represents an important social and ethical response to deception and exploitation", Vankevitch criticizes Barrett for attempting to limit "medical diversity", employing "denigrating terminology", categorizing all complementary and alternative medicine as a species of medical hucksterism, failing to condemn shortcomings within conventional biomedicine, and for promoting an exclusionary model of medical scientism and health that serves hegemonic interests and does not fully address patient needs.[56]

Waltraud Ernst, professor of the history of medicine at Oxford Brookes University,[57] commenting on Vankevitch's observations in 2002, agrees that attempts to police the "medical cyber-market with a view to preventing fraudulent and potentially harmful practices may well be justified". She commends "Barrett's concern for unsubstantiated promotion and hype," and says that "Barrett's concern for fraudulent and potentially dangerous medical practices is important," but she sees Barrett's use of "an antiquarian term such as 'quack'" as part of a "dichotomising discourse that aims to discredit the "'old-fashioned', 'traditional', 'folksy' and heterodox by contrasting it with the 'modern', 'scientific' and orthodox." Ernst also interprets Barrett's attempt to "reject and label as 'quackery' each and every approach that is not part of science-based medicine" as one which minimizes the patient's role in the healing process and is inimical to medical pluralism.[58]

A 2003 website review by Forbes magazine stated:

Dr. Stephen Barrett, a psychiatrist, seeks to expose unproven medical treatments and possible unsafe practices through his homegrown but well-organized site. Mostly attacking alternative medicines, homeopathy and chiropractors, the tone here can be rather harsh. However, the lists of sources of health advice to avoid, including books, specific doctors and organizations, are great for the uninformed. Barrett received an FDA Commissioner's Special Citation Award for fighting nutrition quackery in 1984. BEST: Frequently updated, but also archives of relevant articles that date back at least four years. WORST: Lists some specific doctors and organizations without explaining the reason for their selection.[26]

A 2004 review paper by Katja Schmidt and Edzard Ernst in the Annals of Oncology identified Quackwatch as an outstanding complementary medicine information source for cancer patients.[59][60]

The Good Web Guide said in 2006 that Quackwatch "is without doubt an important and useful information resource and injects a healthy dose of scepticism into reviewing popular health information", but "tends to define what is possible or true only in terms of what science has managed to 'prove' to date".[61]

The organization has often been challenged by supporters and practitioners of the various forms of alternative medicine that are criticized on the website.[35][62]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Barrett, SJ (April 18, 2016). "Who Funds Quackwatch?". Quackwatch. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  2. ^ Barret, SJ (December 21, 2016). "Stephen Barrett, M.D., Biographical Sketch". Quackwatch. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Barret, SJ (May 2, 2007). "Quackwatch Mission Statement". Quackwatch. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  4. ^ Baldwin, FD (July 19, 2004). "If It Quacks Like a Duck. ..." MedHunters. Archived from the original on February 6, 2008. Retrieved February 1, 2008.
  5. ^ a b Barret, SJ. "Quackwatch.org main page". Quackwatch. Retrieved February 12, 2007.
  6. ^ a b Arabella Dymoke (2004). The Good Web Guide. The Good Web Guide Ltd. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-903282-46-5. Retrieved September 4, 2013. Quackwatch is without doubt an important and useful information resource and injects a healthy dose of scepticism into reviewing popular health information. Its aim is to investigate questionable claims made in some sectors of what is now a multi-million pound healthcare industry.
  7. ^ Politzer, M (September 14, 2007). "Eastern Medicine Goes West". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 14, 2007.
  8. ^ a b "Awards Received by Quackwatch". Quackwatch. November 7, 2005.
  9. ^ Jaroff, L (April 22, 2001). "The Man Who Loves To Bust Quacks". Time. Archived from the original on April 6, 2005. Retrieved August 16, 2007.
  10. ^ a b c d Nguyen-Khoa, Bao-Anh (July 1999). "Selected Web Site Reviews — Quackwatch.com". The Consultant Pharmacist. Archived from the original on March 18, 2009. Retrieved June 24, 2013.
  11. ^ "Recent Additions to Quackwatch". Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  12. ^ "NCAHF's History". Retrieved October 29, 2007.
  13. ^ Fidalgo, Paul (February 26, 2020). "Quackwatch Joins the Center for Inquiry". Center for Inquiry. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  14. ^ Rosen, M. (October 1998). "Biography Magazine Interviews: Stephen Barrett, M.D." Quackwatch. Retrieved January 13, 2017. Original published in Biography Magazine.
  15. ^ Barrett, SJ (January 28, 2003). "Scientific and technical advisors". Quackwatch. Archived from the original on April 16, 2003. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  16. ^ Barrett, SJ (March 20, 2011). "How to Become a Quackwatch Advisor". Quackwatch. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  17. ^ "Let's check in with the skeptics! (They're way more fun than the credulous)". Los Angeles Times. February 5, 2010.
  18. ^ "Quackwatch". FactCheckED.org. Archived from the original on September 21, 2007.
  19. ^ "Cutting through the haze of health marketing claims". Thomson Gale. Running & FitNews. September–October 2007. Archived from the original on April 14, 2019. Retrieved February 1, 2008.
  20. ^ Atwood IV, Kimball C. (2004). "Bacteria, ulcers, and ostracism? H. pylori and the making of a myth". Skeptical Inquirer. 28 (6): 27.
  21. ^ "NaturowatchSM". Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  22. ^ Parascandola, Mark (2008). "Alternative medicine trial suspends recruitment". Research Practitioner. 9 (6): 193.
  23. ^ Quackwatch en Français
  24. ^ Quackwatch auf Deutsch (archived)
  25. ^ Quackwatch em Português
  26. ^ a b "Best of the Web website reviews: Quackwatch". Forbes. Archived from the original on January 14, 2008.
  27. ^ "Diet Channel Award Review Of Quackwatch". Retrieved September 18, 2007. Quackwatch is a very informative site which informs you about health fraud and gives you advice on many decisions.
  28. ^ a b "U.S. News & World Report: The Best of The Web Gets Better". US News. November 7, 1999. Archived from the original on May 24, 2006.
  29. ^ Pray, W. S. (2006). "Ethical, Scientific, and Educational Concerns with Unproven Medications". American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. 70 (6): 141. doi:10.5688/aj7006141. PMC 1803699. PMID 17332867.
  30. ^ Chonko, Lawrence B. (2004). "If it Walks Like a Duck ...: Concerns about Quackery in Marketing Education". Journal of Marketing Education. 26: 4–16. doi:10.1177/0273475303257763. S2CID 167338734. ERIC EJ807197.
  31. ^ Sampson, Wallace; Atwood IV, Kimball (2005). "Propagation of the absurd: Demarcation of the absurd revisited". The Medical Journal of Australia. 183 (11–12): 580–1. doi:10.5694/j.1326-5377.2005.tb00040.x. PMID 16336135. S2CID 43272637.
  32. ^ Cunningham, Eleese; Marcason, Wendy (2001). "Internet hoaxes: How to spot them and how to debunk them". Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 101 (4): 460. doi:10.1016/S0002-8223(01)00117-1.
  33. ^ a b "Click here: How to find reliable online health information and resources". JAMA. 280 (15): 1380. 1998. doi:10.1001/jama.280.15.1380. PMID 9794323.
  34. ^ Larkin, Marilynn (1998). "Medical quackery squashers on the web". The Lancet. 351 (9114): 1520. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)78918-2. S2CID 54300255.
  35. ^ a b c Ladd, Donna (June 22, 1999). "Dr. Who? Diagnosing Medical Fraud May Require a Second Opinion". The Village Voice. Retrieved August 5, 2017.
  36. ^ Sources that mention quackwatch.org as a resource for consumer information:
  37. ^ "Links". Greater New York Dietetic Association. Archived from the original on April 21, 2019. Retrieved April 21, 2019.
     •"Professional Resources — Health Quackery". American Dietetic Association. Diabetes Care and Education. 2007. Retrieved April 21, 2019.
  38. ^ Robert Luhn, "Best Free Stuff on the Web Archived September 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine," PC World June 30, 2003 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 18, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2019.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  39. ^ Leslie Walker. Alternative Medicine Sites. Washington Post, March 26, 1999
  40. ^ Katherine B. Chauncey (2003). Low-Carb Dieting For Dummies. For Dummies. p. 292. ISBN 978-0-7645-2566-7.
  41. ^ Kate Lorig; James Fries (2006). The Arthritis Helpbook. Da Capo Press. pp. 335. ISBN 978-0-7382-1070-4.
  42. ^ Peter Buckley; Duncan Clark (2007). "Thing to do online". The Rough Guide To The Internet (13th ed.). Rough Guides. p. 273. ISBN 978-1-84353-839-4.
  43. ^ Steven L. Brown (2008). "How Can I Tell If The Evidence Is Any Good?". Navigating the Medical Maze: A Practical Guide (2nd ed.). Brazos Press. pp. 191. ISBN 978-1-58743-207-1.
  44. ^ "Ten or So Web Sources for People with Chronic Pain". Chronic Pain For Dummies. For Dummies. 2008. p. 327. ISBN 978-0-471-75140-3.
  45. ^ Vince Averello; Mikal E. Belicove; Nancy Conner; Adrienne Crew; Sherry Kinkoph Gunter; Faithe Wempen (2008). The 2009 Internet Directory: Web 2.0 Edition (1st ed.). Que. pp. 236. ISBN 978-0-7897-3816-5.
  46. ^ Journalist mentions of Quackwatch criticisms of:
  47. ^ Cassileth, Barrie R.; Vickers, Andrew (2003). "Chapter 76. Complementary and Alternative Cancer Therapies". In Kufe, Donald W; Pollock, Raphael E; Weichselbaum, Ralph R; Bast Jr., Robert C; Gansler, Ted S; Holland, James F; Frei III, Emil (eds.). Holland – Frei Cancer Medicine (6 ed.). American Cancer Society. Table 76-4, Reputable Sources of Information about Alternative and Complementary Therapies. ISBN 978-1-55009-213-4.
  48. ^ A list of articles on many forms of alternative medicine on the American Cancer Society website that use Quackwatch as a source. Oxygen Therapy Archived August 25, 2003, at the Wayback Machine, "Metabolic Therapy". Archived from the original on June 28, 2010. Retrieved July 26, 2016. Metabolic Therapy, Kirlian Photography Archived January 22, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Crystals Archived June 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Psychic Surgery Archived January 23, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Folic Acid Archived April 15, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Craniosacral Therapy Archived February 2, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Archived June 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Neuro-Linguistic Programming Archived April 9, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Questionable Practices In Tijuana Archived June 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Breathwork Archived December 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, Moxibustion Archived June 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Faith Healing Archived February 12, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Cancer Salves Archived June 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Qigong Archived June 26, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Osteopathy Archived August 6, 2003, at the Wayback Machine, Imagery Archived April 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Qigong Archived May 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, Magnetic Therapy Archived June 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  49. ^ Can you give some examples of charlatans and fraud on the health Internet? Archived September 10, 2015, at the Wayback Machine Health On the Net Foundation
  50. ^ How to be a vigilant user. Archived May 13, 2014, at the Wayback Machine Health On the Net Foundation
  51. ^ Aphinyanaphongs, Y.; Aliferis, C. (2007). "Text categorization models for identifying unproven cancer treatments on the web" (PDF). Studies in Health Technology and Informatics. 129 (Pt 2): 968–72. PMID 17911859. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 24, 2015. Retrieved March 28, 2009.
  52. ^ Okasha, Mona (2000). "Quackery on the web – questionable cancer therapies". The Lancet Oncology. 1 (4): 251. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(00)00162-5.
  53. ^ Cuzzell, Jane. (2000). "Quackwatch: Your Guide to Health Fraud, Quackery, and Intelligent Decisions", Dermatology Nursing, Apr. 2000, p. 134. Accessed 6 November 2019.
  54. ^ Brazin, Lillian R (2007). "Alternative and Complementary Therapies". Journal of Consumer Health on the Internet. 11 (2): 91–96. doi:10.1300/J381v11n02_08. S2CID 216590316.
  55. ^ "Ned Vankevitch". Trinity Western University. Archived from the original on September 27, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2013.
  56. ^ Vankevitch, Ned (2002). "Limiting Pluralism". In Ernst, Waltraud (ed.). Plural medicine, tradition and modernity, 1800-2000. New York: Routledge. pp. 219–244. ISBN 978-0-415-23122-0.
  57. ^ "Waltraud Ernst". Oxford Brookes University. Archived from the original on May 13, 2014. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
  58. ^ Ernst, Waltraud (2002). "Plural medicine, tradition and modernity". In Ernst, Waltraud (ed.). Plural medicine, tradition and modernity, 1800–2000. New York: Routledge. pp. 1–18. ISBN 978-0-415-23122-0.
  59. ^ Schmidt, Katja; Ernst, Edzard (2004). "Assessing websites on complementary and alternative medicine for cancer". Annals of Oncology. 15 (5): 733–742. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdh174. PMID 15111340.
  60. ^ Helen Pilcher. "Unreliable websites put patients at risk – Expert in complementary medicine criticizes bogus cancer advice". BioEd Online. Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
  61. ^ The Good Web Guide. Archived November 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on September 14, 2007.
  62. ^ Hufford, David J. (2003). "Evaluating Complementary and Alternative Medicine: The Limits of Science and of Scientists". The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. 31 (2): 198–212. doi:10.1111/j.1748-720X.2003.tb00081.x. PMID 12964264. S2CID 29859505.. Hufford's symposium presentation was the counterpoint for another doctor's presentation, which argued that "alternative medicine" is not medicine at all. See Schneiderman, Lawrence J. (2003). "The (Alternative) Medicalization of Life". The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. 31 (2): 191–197. doi:10.1111/j.1748-720X.2003.tb00080.x. PMID 12964263. S2CID 43786245.

Further reading