All posts by Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly.

Prenatal Multivitamins and Iron: Not Evidence-Based

When I was pregnant, I obediently took the iron pills and prenatal vitamins prescribed by my obstetrician. And I prescribed them for every pregnant patient I took care of as a family physician. I never questioned the practice. It seemed intuitively obvious that it was a good thing; we know pregnancy makes extra nutritional demands and depletes iron stores. It never occurred...

/ February 2, 2016
cure

Cure Is About Caring, Not Curing: Placebos, Alternative Medicine, and Patient Comfort

In a recent post, Dr. Gorski criticized two articles by Jo Marchant on placebos and alternative medicine. He mentioned that she had a book coming out and suggested I might want to review it. The title is Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body. I don’t know of any evidence that the mind has ever cured a disease, so...

/ January 26, 2016
Rituximab

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Rituximab Revisited

Three years ago I wrote about an experimental treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS): rituximab (brand name Rituxan). I was concerned that doctors who offered it, like Andreas Kogelnik, were jumping the gun by offering it before the evidence was in, and that they might be putting patients at risk. A correspondent who has been following the CFS forums asked me to...

/ January 19, 2016

Vaginal Birth After C-Section: How Safe Is It?

Doctors used to insist “once a C-section, always a C-section.” Today it is standard practice to allow vaginal births after C-section (VBAC) for appropriately selected patients. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has issued a Practice Bulletin to guide obstetricians in determining which patients are appropriate candidates for VBAC. We frequently hear criticisms of practice guidelines like these. The doctors...

/ January 12, 2016

Colonoscopy: More Misinformation from Mercola

Joseph Mercola, D.O., runs the website mercola.com which is full of misinformation, advocates all kinds of questionable alternative treatments including homeopathy, and discourages vaccination and other aspects of conventional medicine. Like Dr. Oz and Andrew Weil, he is more dangerous than easily recognizable quacks in that he combines some good medical information with egregious misinformation, and readers who know he is right...

/ January 5, 2016
Atorvastatin40mg

Statins: The Impact of Negative Media Reports and the Risks of Discontinuing Treatment

The evidence is clear: statin drugs are effective in reducing the rate of heart attacks and death in people who have already had a heart attack as well as in people who are at high risk of having one. Some people refuse to believe that evidence; they are statin deniers, similar to the climate change deniers and AIDS deniers (and there are...

/ December 29, 2015

Neurotribes: A Better Understanding of Autism

What is autism? What causes it? Is it genetic? Is it a consequence of something in our environment or lifestyle? What’s an “idiot savant” or an “autistic savant”? What happens when autistic children become adults? Why are so many of their parents scientists, academics, and engineers? If your grandfather’s Uncle Fred was a socially inept inventor with a lot of strange quirks,...

/ December 22, 2015

Intermittent Fasting

Fasting can mean anything from total abstinence from food and beverages to restricting specific foods or the hours of food intake. Many religions have traditions of fasting, with various restrictions. There is a good summary of those traditions on Wikipedia. The reason for religious fasting is not to improve health, but for other reasons like improving discipline and demonstrating devotion. There are...

/ December 15, 2015
chelation

Misinterpreting TACT: No, Chelation Does Not Outperform Statins for Heart Disease

Chelation with intravenous EDTA (disodium ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid) has long been used for heavy metal poisoning. It binds the metal ions and facilitates their excretion from the body. In recent years it has been used for many other indications that are not evidence-based, such as autism and coronary heart disease. The Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT) was done to assess...

/ December 8, 2015

Is Addiction a Disease? Yes and No

Addiction is a puzzling phenomenon. Why do addicts persist in self-destructive behavior even after it has lost them their jobs, their family, their health, and their self-respect? Do they have any control over their behavior? If so, why don’t they control it? If not, why not? Two recent books shed light on these questions: The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not...

/ December 1, 2015