Category: Commentary

About Herbs: an app to avoid

Medicine has an intellectual hierarchy. Supposedly the best and the brightest are in the academic medical centers and are the thought leaders in their field. Those of us lower in the hierarchy are well aware of some of the warts present on our betters, but I would expect those at the top would adhere to the highest intellectual and ethical standards. People...

/ June 24, 2016

The Harm of Integrative Medicine: A Patient’s Perspective

Being an avid reader of SBM and a cancer patient, I have come to deeply appreciate the writing and respect the various contributors for their expertise and attention to detail on a topic as important as cancer treatment. I have unfortunately found SBM lacking when it comes to a patient’ or lay-person’s’ perspective. This is understandable, as the average person is typically...

/ June 12, 2016

A Harris Poll on “Alternative Medicine”

Mark Twain popularized the phrase, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and polls and surveys.” (He may have said “statistics” at the end, but I think this version works as well.) A new Harris Poll on “alternative medicine” nicely demonstrates some of the problems with polls. The biggest problem is how you frame the questions. You can dramatically affect...

/ May 11, 2016

Is the Annual Physical Unnecessary?

I was approached by The Wall Street Journal to write an article for their Big Issues in Health Care debate series. The subject was “Is the annual physical unnecessary?” I was to take the “yes” side and an internist was to take the “no” side. I wrote the following article. The editor wrote me a couple of times with questions. The internist...

/ April 26, 2016

The Brown M&M’s of Science-Based Medicine

Medicine is constantly changing, and like most health professionals, I am required to maintain my competency to practice. I doubt pharmacists are unique in being inundated with offers of continuing medical/pharmacy education. Some courses are free, some cost hundreds of dollars, and it can be difficult to distinguish the high-quality programs from the biased or low-quality education that furthers a agenda, rather...

/ April 21, 2016

The “It Worked for Me” Gambit

It is almost inevitable that whenever we post an article critical of the claims being made for a particular treatment, alternative philosophy, or alternative profession, someone in the comments will counter a careful examination of published scientific evidence with an anecdote. Their arguments boils down to, “It worked for me, so all of your scientific evidence and plausibility is irrelevant.” Both components...

/ April 20, 2016

What Not To Say When Someone Is Sick

I understand the impulse, but you are well-advised to resist it. When someone you know has a serious illness, maybe even dying, you want to say something to them that is helpful, positive, and hopeful. The hopeful tone takes away some of the sting and the awkwardness of not knowing what to say to someone who just told you they are dying....

/ March 30, 2016