No, but who do we have there again? Doctor A. Vogel! Just prominently featured in a large, expensive advertisement in a national newspaper. What does he do it all for?
Do you want to “keep your vision sharp?” Then take A. Vogel’s eye tablets. I quote: “As we get older we can sometimes use support for our eyes. New: A. Vogel Eye Tablets help to maintain sharp vision and contribute to the proper functioning of the retina.”
For reassurance, it states that these eye tablets contain zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and black currant. Never knew you could see better from the black currant, but if Doctor Vogel says so, it will be. Even though he himself has been dead for a while, his successors are man enough to discover new, profitable gaps in the medical market.
Suffering from the prostate, menopause, kidneys, bladder, heart, blood vessels, nodule gout, jubilant toes, floppy ears? Doctor Vogel knows what to do. I can’t help calling him doctor or doctor, because he himself did that in his books even though he was not a physician and/or scientist.
Comedian Ivo de Wijs noted in 1981 on the VARA radio and a year later in an article in NRC Handelsblad that Vogel was a quack, a qualification that was later successively also propagated by doctor Cees Renckens of the Association against Quackery, the magazine skeptic, Frits Abrahams (pseudo-doctor of the NRC Achterpagina) and finally Arjan Lubach of the TV program Zondag met Lubach.
Did it help? Not enough to prevent such a recent advertisement for eye tablets, perhaps enough – thanks in part to an amendment to the Medicines Act in 2012 – to somewhat slow down the booming trade in homeopathic medicines.
It was about time because Vogel’s company has made fortunes over the past decades on the homeopathic remedy Echinaforce alone. The effect of the herb echinacea against colds has been repeatedly scientifically researched, but no evidence has ever been found. As an experience expert in the field of colds (in the past an average of four times a year), I can testify that a firm Dutch winter carrot helps just as badly as the much more expensive Echinaforce, which is still widely available.
In his Misguided paths in medicine from 2004, Renckens wrote that Alfred Vogel in his book The Little Doctor in multiple sclerosis recommends the use of crushed bull’s testicles, which rub the spine from neck to tailbone. A little sadly, Renckens added: “The turnover of Vogel’s company Biohorma in the Netherlands increases in 1985 to 50 million guilders and 160 people work there.” The company name was changed to A. Vogel in 2020, which – I’m afraid – does not mean that the products have become more effective, although users of Vogel’s new eye tablets may see that more clearly.
At the time, Renckens also pointed out in his book that NRC Handelsblad in its Plus Productions Birds book The Little Doctor “at a discount to its readers.” As I read that while I was preparing this column, I felt a stabbing pain rising in my chest that no blackcurrant or finely ground bull balls could fight.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of October 11, 2021