The downward spiral of Aseem Malhotra
What does a cardiologist have to do to get struck off?
Dr Aseem Malhotra is much more famous (notorious?) today than he was when I first encountered him spouting nonsense about food ten years ago. Back then, he was a not-so-humble cardiologist doing the rounds at Croydon hospital. A couple of years later, he co-founded the silly pressure group Action on Sugar, although he soon parted ways with it when his colleagues concluded that he was ‘completely mad’.
His dislike of sugar soon became a dislike of all carbohydrates and, in 2016, he and his low carb mates formed the Public Health Collaboration and issued a report telling people to eat more fat and ignore calories. Malhotra took to the airwaves saying: ‘Eat fat to get slim, don't fear fat, fat is your friend.’
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The report was issued in partnership with the National Obesity Forum on whose board Malhotra sat as a ‘senior advisor’, but most of the members of the Forum knew nothing about it until it was released. The organisation soon went into meltdown when the trustees realised that it had been infiltrated by the wrong kind of fanatics.
Public Health England called the report ‘irresponsible’. The Royal Society for Public Health said it was a ‘muddled manifesto of sweeping statements, generalisations and speculation’. Various academics lined up to attack it.
In a panicky e-mail, the National Obesity Forum’s clinical director, Dr Matt Capehorn, said he feared the report would make the organisation ‘a professional leper’ and told colleagues that ‘regrettably, the scientific community has slammed NOF for a poor document, badly written (with no named authors), cherry-picking evidence, and saying thing that just are not true’. Capehorn soon resigned, along with three other board members.
At the time, I assumed that it was curtains for Malhotra. I wrote:
‘Within a year or two Malhotra will be earning his living selling diet books and delivering cherry-picked presentations to credulous low carb cultists on cruise ships.’
But I was wrong. Malhotra did what he always does and breezed on. The National Obesity Forum is no longer on the charity register and had a total annual revenue of £10 in its final year as a charity. It now exists as a vehicle for octogenarian diet campaigner Tam Fry who says that the Malhotra report was a ‘dreadful mistake’.
I was right about the diet books, however. In 2018, Malhotra produced a daft diet book (The Pioppi Diet) which implausibly portrayed Italian cuisine as being low carb. When COVID-19 came along, he hastily rewrote The Pioppi Diet and rush released The 21-Day Immunity Plan in August 2020.
He followed this in 2021 with an anti-statins book which he promoted to the media with some typically eye-catching but scientifically dubious claims. He had form for this. In 2013, he wrote an article for the British Medical Journal in which he falsely claimed that 18-20% of people who take statins suffer adverse health consequences as a result. To the media, he claimed that this was probably an underestimate.
Statins expert Professor Rory Collins described Malhotra’s article as ‘a serious disservice to British and international medicine’ and said its claims were probably killing more people than had been harmed as a result of Andrew Wakefield’s paper on the MMR vaccine (‘I would think the papers on statins are far worse in terms of the harm they have done’).
Malhotra was forced to publicly retract that claim, but he carried on as usual and in 2017 wrote an article for the British Journal of Sports Medicine titled ‘Saturated fat does not clog the arteries’ which the British Heart Foundation described as ‘misleading and wrong’. Over 170 academics signed a letter accusing the British Journal of Sports Medicine of bias.
Malhotra is rather fond of this journal. In 2015, he co-authored an article for it in which he suggested, without evidence, that the food industry had been ‘buying the loyalty of bent scientists, at the cost of millions of lives’. This claim was subsequently removed from the article.
Malhotra’s slim contribution to the academic literature is filled with errors and corrections. He has produced almost nothing in the way of original research and his articles in journals are essentially op-eds. His fame does not depend on his contributions to science but on his TV appearances. It cannot be denied that he is telegenic and articulate. If you know nothing of his background, he comes across as trust-worthy.
And yet I have often wondered how he has not been struck off. The GMC tells doctors to ‘recognise and work within the limits of your competence’. It is not just that Malhotra is opposed to statins and actively promotes saturated fat - he is, I repeat, a cardiologist! - but he says things, particularly on Twitter, that bring his profession into disrepute.
To take a typical example, after the British Dietetic Association laughed at his diet book and the British Heart Foundation condemned his article on saturated fat, he accused both organisations, without evidence, of being ‘hired hands of those that put private profit over what’s important to patients’.
This is not good, but we have barely got warmed up. Malhotra’s pattern of poor behaviour in the years before Covid was nothing compared to what he has done since. He has become one of the worst spreaders of Covid misinformation since late 2021 and is now a hero of anti-vaxxers.
In November 2021, he appeared on GB News claiming that for ‘people in middle age, Covid, for people like me is equivalent to having the flu’. This is of course nonsense. He also falsely claimed that ‘the vaccine does not have any significant effect on preventing transmission’. Also untrue.
A few weeks later, he appeared on the same station claiming that he had spoken to an unnamed whistleblower who claimed to have evidence of coronary inflammation among people had received Covid vaccines.
Malhotra uncritically reported the conclusions of an unpublished study by Steven Gundry, available only as a conference poster, which claimed that markers associated with heart attacks increased from 11% to 25% among recipients of a Covid vaccine. The publisher of the abstract issued a statement of concern about it, stating that:
‘.. there are potential errors in the abstract. Specifically, there are several typographical errors, there is no data in the abstract regarding myocardial T-cell infiltration, there are no statistical analyses for significance provided, and the author is not clear that only anecdotal data was used.
We are publishing this Expression of Concern until a suitable correction is published to indicate that the abstract in its current version may not be reliable.’
Malhotra has not mentioned these concerns in any of his media appearances and he has since cited the study as a serious piece of evidence in an article in the Journal of Insulin Resistance, of which more in a moment.
The video of the interview was viewed online more than two million times.
In January 2022, amongst a stream of tweets about the supposed risks of Covid vaccines, Malhotra sent a tweet in which he seemed to call for the execution of certain unnamed people, perhaps from the pharmaceutical industry.
The tweet has since been deleted.
In March 2022, Malhotra appeared on GB News once again, this time claiming, without evidence, that ‘the vaccine may well have a played a role’ in the death of cricketer Shane Warne.
In June, taking a quick break from talking bollocks about Covid, he tricked his Twitter followers into thinking he had received an award from the British Medical Association.
In fact, despite standing in front of banners with ‘BMA’ on them, he was given the award in a curry house in Hove at a medical graduates dinner.
The BMA wasted no time in distancing themselves from him…
In August, he appeared on - you guessed it - GB News, falsely claiming that ‘the Omicron strain that is circulating at the moment is no more lethal than the flu’. He claimed that pharmaceutical companies have ‘captured the regulator’ on the basis that the MHRA gets most of its income from pharmaceutical companies. He failed to explain that these are fees for evaluating drugs.
He also claimed that the Pfizer vaccine doesn’t reduce health risks of Covid and that all Covid vaccines create more health problems than they prevent.
Oh, and he claimed to given a ‘lecture’ at the recent BMA annual conference. He didn’t mention that it was a fringe event and that the BMA wouldn’t touch him with a barge pole.
In September, he published two articles titled ‘Curing the pandemic of misinformation on COVID-19 mRNA vaccines through real evidence-based medicine’ (part 1 and part 2) in the obscure Journal of Insulin Resistance. The articles have nothing to do with insulin but Malhotra is on its editorial board. The journal has only published 16 articles since being founded in 2016.
The articles are terrible. Truly awful. They rely on cherry-picking, misrepresentation and personal anecdote. They contain basic errors that would have been picked up by any half-decent referee. They ignore two years of real world evidence in favour of a cranky interpretation of the early clinical trials. They accuse the entire scientific establishment of doing what Malhotra does all the time - spreading misinformation.
His shtick is that he used to believe in the Covid vaccines but that he’s had a terrible awakening since the death of his father who died of cardiovascular disease six months after taking the vaccine despite leading what Malhotra considers to be a healthy life.
Malhotra put on his sad face in a video to promote the article and said he was making ‘the most important announcement of my life and career thus far’. As David Gorski says:
I suppose that one could make an argument that writing something that completely destroys what’s left of one’s professional reputation could arguably called “the most important announcement of my life and career thus far”, but I’d add that this importance is actually not a change that is good.
There were ‘four cardiac arrests in those who took the vaccine versus only one in the placebo group’ in ‘Pfizer’s pivotal mRNA trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine’. This was not statistically significant and Malhotra ignores there being two myocardial infarctions (heart attacks) in the placebo group but none in the vaccinated group.
The first published trial results did not show ‘any statistically significant reduction in serious illness or COVID-19 mortality from the vaccine’ while ignoring all the subsequent studies showing significant benefits.
A Covid mortality rate among 12-15 year old children of 1 in 76,000 is ‘close to zero’. It is not.
The MHRA is mostly funded by the pharmaceutical industry, as if this income didn’t consist of user fees to test its products.
Only 10% of recorded Covid deaths in the UK in 2020/21 had only Covid on the death certificate, implying that the other 90% of deaths could have been avoided by better lifestyle choices. This claim has been debunked many times, for example by the ONS.
Malhotra concludes that there is a ‘strong scientific, ethical and moral case to be made that the current mRNA vaccine administration must stop until Pfizer release all the raw data for independent scrutiny.’
By whom? Perhaps by someone like Dr Clare Craig, a notorious misinformation merchant who Malhotra thanks in the acknowledgments. Craig is, in my opinion, pure evil. In a private chat group with her collaborators at HART, she said last year that they should ‘seed the thought that the vaccines cause Covid’.
Malhotra has got the attention he craves. His tweet promoting his articles was viewed one million times in less than 24 hours. As usual, his statements to the press and on Twitter were even more outlandish and insupportable than what he managed to get into print.
In an article in the Epoch Times, he said:
‘There is more than enough evidence, I would say the evidence is overwhelming, to pause the rollout of the [Covid] vaccine.’
He also posted a video on social media in which he claims that the Covid vaccines cause “unprecedented harms”.
In an interview with ‘Freeman Reports’ (viewed 176,000 times with 24 hours), Malhotra claimed that Covid vaccines were responsible for a large number of heart attack deaths and stated that pharmaceutical companies ‘act like psychopaths and they are a psychopathic entity. Ultimately, the conclusion is that we have a psychopathic entity influencing health policy.’
Incidentally, since publishing his articles, he has been tweeting e-mails he has supposedly received from supportive doctors. Some of them seem a bit fishy.
Once again, we come back to the question of what this man has to do to get struck off. It is not clear how much cardiology Malhotra actually does these days. On his hilariously self-aggrandising website, he is described as an ‘NHS Consultant Cardiologist’ but he seems to work in private practice, presumably part-time. Either way, he is still on the medical register.
In a week in which a nurse was sacked from a private practice for saying some unprofessional and unkind words on TV, it seems remarkable that neither Malhotra’s employers nor the GMC has taken any interest in a man with a ten year history of bringing medicine into disrepute, spreading false information and conspicuously failing to display the ‘honesty and integrity’ the GMC requires of medics.
Striking Malhotra off the medical register won’t make him change his ways. The cruise ships still await and he’s got a Patreon now. But it might send a message to the public that he should not be taken seriously. It might even save a few lives.
Where’s a bit of cancel culture when you need it?
Fresh information appeared yesterday about Malhotra’s award. It’s a relatively minor affair but it tells you a lot about the man. It’s also quite funny. As John Bye says, Malhotra basically photobombed the Chair of the BMA.
In a ‘lessons learned’ review, the BMA got to the bottom of what happened. While the BMA conference was underway in Brighton on 27 June 2022, Malhotra attended the International Medical Graduates dinner in a curry house down the road in Hove. The speakers were Malhotra and then-Chair of the BMA, Chaand Nagpaul. The BMA was not involved in organising the dinner, the main purpose of which was to pay tribute to Malhotra’s late father, Professor Kailash Chand. In his speech, Malhotra ‘reflected on his father’s impact, their relationship and influence’ and then ‘went on to speak about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry and preventative medicine’.
Although awards had never been given at this event before, the organisers decided to give trophies to the two speakers. Alas, they left them at the hotel and so they headed to the BMA conference centre in Brighton the following day and gave Nagpaul his trophy in front of some BMA banners during a coffee break. Malhotra then asked for a photo with him.
Nagpaul didn’t know what was going on, as the BMA review explains…
He [Nagpaul] was not aware of what Aseem Malhotra’s award was for before being pictured with Aseem, explaining that there was no formal award presentation ceremony by himself to Aseem Malhotra.
It is apparent that a sense of politeness and being ‘put on the spot’ were major
factors in Chaand being pictured with Aseem Malhotra and an award. Chaand has stated as part of this review that the photograph with him and Aseem Malhotra was a posed photograph with Assem’s award and not one of him handing an award over.
Malhotra then tweeted the photo with the following words:
Truly honoured to receive the ‘Champion of Preventative Medicine’ award from the Chair of the BMA @CNagpaul. In my talk I said the science alone isn’t enough; opposition from vested interests needs to be overcome to save the #NHS. It’s time for REAL evidence based medicine.
He deleted the tweet after the BMA effectively said that they wanted nothing to do with him.
He later went on GB News claiming that ‘I actually gave a lecture only a few weeks ago during the annual BMA conference’ which is true insofar as the conference was going on at the same time and if you count an after dinner speech as a lecture.
The review concludes by saying:
Aseem Malhotra departed the venue following the photograph. It is unclear how he
gained entry to the venue and whether he was accompanied by someone else given he was not a delegate to ARM.
.. Recommendation F: For future ARMs security and staff should be briefed on the process for visitors seeking entry to ARM and security staff fully empowered to refuse entry to people without credentials. The mechanism for granting visitor access to BMA events should be explicit and clear and all delegates reminded of the process for bringing guests whether they are members or not into ARM.
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