Vulnerability of Patients With Fibromyalgia to Quackery and Charlatans

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Murray’s 1929 description of quacks and quackery in fibromyalgia[edit]

This problem has been recognized for 90 years. Old names for fibromyalgia included myofibrositis and fibrositis. In 1929, Murray stated: “fibrositis is apt to masquerade as a more serious malady and so give rise to much unnecessary anxiety if its true nature is not promptly recognized. Severe pain cannot be ignored, so medical advice is usually sought at an early stage.” (Myofibrositis as simulator of other maladies. Murray G: Lancet Jan. 1929, 1:113–116, partially visible online at:

“These are the cases in which the quack is apt to find his opportunity, as, trading on the fears of his client, he may employ some drastic form of local counterirritation such as the application of the ‘lifeawakener,’ followed by rubbing in croton oil, which may effectually remove the pain. He then claims to have cured the serious malady which only existed in the imagination of his credulous patient.” (Murray, 1929)


This is a pseudo-scientific pretence to medical ability by a charlatan. It generally involves a measure of self-deception as in cases of delusional belief in the use of curative salves. Quackery usually entails aggressive over-promotion of an unsubstantiated treatment. These treatments lack solid proof of efficacy and many lack a plausible mechanism of action. Quackery falls short of medical fraud. Typically, there is an element of magical thinking whereby stupendous cures are claimed to be possible. Miracle drugs, miracle treatments, miracle elixirs are the stock and trade. Greed may be a motive, but not in all cases. Some want to adopt the role of miracle healer. True discovery of genuine new treatments is hard to come by, but adopting a miracle cure is not. The cure is idealized has having great value to health. Generally, a story is woven together of how the good drug or treatment defeats the evil disease process. Some quack treatments are touted as antidotes to various evil toxins. Some are useful drugs and treatments for one condition, but are then touted has having benefits for other conditions as well without foundation. According to Stephen Barrett, M.D., some overzealous chiropractors read in what are in fact imaginary subluxations, and then proceed to manipulate them for a fee. Dietary supplements are often touted as toxin fighting agents. Since they are not drugs, the rigor demanded to prove efficacy and safety by regulators is reduced, making them prime candidates to be marketed as miracle cures. (For further information see the quackwatch website at: