Category: Science and Medicine

Multiple Sclerosis and Irrational Exuberance

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is fascinating illness that can range from mild annoyance to debilitating nightmare. The frightening nature and unclear cause of the disease makes it a magnet for questionable medical therapies (i.e. quackery). A piece published last week in (surprise!) The Huffington Post helps fuel the fires of suspicion and paranoia while failing to shed any light on the future of...

/ December 21, 2009

Measles

It looks like the H1N1 pandemic is fading fast. I am amazed at how lucky we were, at least in the hospitals where I work. A month ago all the ICU beds were full, most of the ventilators were in use and we were wondering how we were going to triage the next batch of patients who needed advanced life support and...

/ December 18, 2009

The One True Cause of All Disease

Note: This is a slightly modified version of an article that was published in the magazine Skeptical Inquirer, Volume 34, No. 1, January/Februrary 2010. It is reprinted here with the kind permission of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. —————– Chiropractors, homeopaths, naturopaths, acupuncturists, and other alternative medicine practitioners constantly criticize mainstream medicine for “only treating the symptoms,” while alternative medicine allegedly treats “the underlying causes”...

/ December 15, 2009

Acupuncture, the P-Value Fallacy, and Honesty

Credibility alert: the following post contains assertions and speculations by yours truly that are subject to, er, different interpretations by those who actually know what the hell they’re talking about when it comes to statistics. With hat in hand, I thank reader BKsea for calling attention to some of them. I have changed some of the wording—competently, I hope—so as not to...

/ December 15, 2009

An Influenza Recap: The End of the Second Wave

We are nearing the end of the second wave of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and are now a few months out from the release of the vaccine directed against it.  Two topics have dominated the conversation: the safety of the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine, and the actual severity of the 2009 H1N1 infection.  Considering the amount of attention SBM has paid the...

/ December 11, 2009

Evidence in Medicine: Experimental Studies

Several weeks ago I wrote the first in a brief series of posts discussing the different types of evidence used in medicine. In that post I discussed the role of correlation in determining cause and effect. In this post I will discuss the basic features of an experimental study, which can sere as a check-list in evaluating the quality of a clinical...

/ December 9, 2009
endocrine disruptors

Endocrine disruptors—the one true cause?

A common theme in alternative medicine is the “One True Cause of All Disease”. Aside from the pitiable naivete, it’s implausible that “acidic diet”, liver flukes, colonic debris, the Lyme spirochete, or any other problem—real or imagined—can cause “all disease” (in addition to the fact that most of these ideas are intrinsically mutually exclusive). One of the popular new ideas in this...

/ December 7, 2009

Lose those holiday pounds

Lose weight without diet or exercise? I guess that leaves cancer. –David Letterman. It is the day after Thanksgiving, and I have probably eaten enough calories to support the average family for at least three days. I am hesitant to comment on what my actual weight may be, but others have not been so reticent about discussing my appearance over at RDCT....

/ December 4, 2009

A temporary reprieve from legislative madness

While doctor visits for influenza-like illnesses seem to be trending downward again, and “swine flu” is becoming old news, I’d like to draw attention to an H1N1 story that has received very little coverage by the mainstream media. Doctors in several states can now protect their most vulnerable patients from the H1N1 virus without worrying about breaking the law. In order to save lives, several states...

/ December 2, 2009

Ontario naturopathic prescribing proposal is bad medicine

Two weeks ago, Canadian Skeptics United published on their Skeptic North site a piece by an Ontario pharmacist criticizing a proposal by the province to grant limited prescribing rights to naturopaths. The essay, which was reprinted in the National Post on Tuesday, outlines the intellectual and practical conundrum presented by allowing those with education that diverges from science-based practices to prescribe drugs....

/ November 27, 2009