Category: History

Salk’s swansong: renaissance of the injected polio vaccine

Picture a lab scientist. White coat, pensive expression, microscope in hand. Glasses, perhaps. The person you have in mind (providing you are willing to humour a stereotype or two) may have a striking resemblance to Jonas Salk, the archetypal laboratory researcher, born in New York City on Wednesday 28th October 1914 — one hundred years ago today. The name will be familiar...

/ October 28, 2014

Medicine past, present, and future: Star Trek versus Dr. Kildare and The Knick

I love the new Cinemax series The Knick, which is set in 1900 and portrays a brilliant maverick surgeon named Dr. John Thackery on the cutting edge of medicine at the time. I also love Star Trek's Dr. "Bones" McCoy and have recently come to like the old radio show featuring Dr. Kildare. Looking at how the three shows portray medicine in...

/ September 15, 2014

The Reality of Ancient Wisdom: Acupuncture and TCM Weren’t So Great

A mythology has grown up around traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The ancient wisdom of the inscrutable Orient supposedly helped patients in ways that modern science-based medicine fails to understand or appreciate. A typical claim found on the Internet: “The ancient beliefs and practice of traditional Chinese medicine have been healing people for thousands of years.” As Steven Novella has said, “TCM is...

/ September 9, 2014

Chiropractic Defense: Tempest in a Teapot

When Forbes.com published Steven Salzberg’s article “New Medicare Data Reveal Startling $496 million wasted on Chiropractors” (April 20, 2014), a flood of mail (more than 300 comments) from chiropractors and their patients provided a wealth of evidence that subluxation-based chiropractic is alive and well despite rejection by the scientific community. Pro-chiropractic comments laced with anti-medical rhetoric and ad hominem attacks, expressed with...

/ June 2, 2014

Ngrams and CAM

Ngram is a Google analytic tool/way to waste lots of time on the internet, a byproduct of Google’s scanning millions of books into its database. In a matter of seconds, Ngram scans words from about 7.5 million books, an estimated 6 percent of all books ever published. Type a word or phrase in the Ngram Viewer search box and in seconds a...

/ January 23, 2014

Chemotherapy doesn’t work? Not so fast… (A lesson from history)

If there’s one medical treatment that proponents of “alternative medicine” love to hate, it’s chemotherapy. Rants against “poisoning” are a regular staple on “alternative health” websites, usually coupled with insinuations or outright accusations that the only reason oncologists administer chemotherapy is because of the “cancer industrial complex” in which big pharma profits massively from selling chemotherapeutic agents and oncologists and hospitals profit...

/ October 28, 2013

Pump it up: osteopathic manipulation and influenza

First, my bias. I work in Portland and we have medical students, residents, and faculty who are DOs (Doctor of Osteopathy). Before he moved on to be a hospitalist my primary physician was a DO. From my experience there is no difference between an MD and a DO. In my world they are interchangeable. There are many more qualified applicants for medical...

/ October 4, 2013

Ask the (Science-Based) Pharmacist: What are the benefits of coffee enemas?

It might not occur to you, sipping your morning coffee, that you could derive tremendous health benefits by simply shooting that coffee directly into your rectum. Yet many people believe this. Suzy Cohen, who calls herself, “America’s Pharmacist™” and also “America’s Most Trusted Pharmacist®” is a proponent. Her syndicated column Ask the Pharmacist recently contained this question and response:

/ July 11, 2013

Visiting a Victorian Duckpond

click to enlarge Ever heard of George Augustus Scott? Probably not. Although he was once touted as “Man of the Century,” he was actually a charlatan who sold electric hairbrushes. (No, an electric hairbrush isn’t a device that will brush your hair for you; it’s a hairbrush that supposedly produces a “permanent electric current” to cure everything from baldness to headaches.) He...

/ July 2, 2013

“Alternative” cancer cures in 1979: How little things have changed

When it comes to quackery, the decades and names change, but the song remains the same, as it has since the era of disco and earlier.

/ April 29, 2013