Category: Science and the Media

Information Literacy and the Number Needed to Treat

Increasingly people are accessing healthcare information in order to make decisions for their own health. A 2010 Pew poll found that 80% of internet users will do so for health care information. This presents a huge potential benefit, but also a significant risk. Information literacy Daniel Levitin talks about the need for public information literacy, something we also discuss frequently here on...

/ November 4, 2015

The Time a Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Got Manipulated by a Chiropractor

Katherine Ellison won a Pulitzer Prize in 1985, not for science journalism but for coverage of the monetary mayhem perpetrated by Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos on the people of the Philippines. I was nine at the time and have little recollection of the impact of her work, but I will assume that it was meaningful in light of the award. And she...

/ October 23, 2015

NPR and the False Choice of Alternative Medicine

A recent segment on NPR is an excellent representation of some of the mischief that promotion of unscientific medical treatments can create. The title is a good summary of the problem: “To Curb Pain Without Opioids, Oregon Looks To Alternative Treatments.” The entire segment is premised around a false dichotomy, between excess use of opioids and unproven alternative treatments. It is clear...

/ September 23, 2015
Bullseye_dart

“Precision medicine”: Hope, hype, or both?

I am fortunate to have become a physician in a time of great scientific progress. Back when I was in college and medical school, the thought that we would one day be able to sequence the human genome (and now sequence hundreds of cancer genomes), to measure the expression of every gene in the genome simultaneously on a single “gene chip,” and...

/ August 31, 2015
An example of ductal carcinoma in situ.

How should we treat DCIS?

I’ve written more times than I can remember about the phenomenon of overdiagnosis and the phenomenon that is linked at the hip with it, overtreatment. Overdiagnosis is a problem that arises when large populations of asymptomatic, apparently healthy people are screened for a disease or a condition, the idea being that catching the disease at an earlier stage in its progression will...

/ August 23, 2015
Me, snubbing the neighbors.  GET OFF MY LAWN!

Medical Theater: Vaccines and Ebola

And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing...

/ August 21, 2015
Advil close-up

The evolving story of the harms of anti-inflammatory drugs

Owing to summer vacation, today’s post updates a 2011 post and a 2013 post with some new information. Anti-inflammatory drugs are among the most well-loved products in the modern medicine cabinet. They can provide good pain control, reduce inflammation, and eliminate fever. We give non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in infancy, continuing through childhood and then adulthood for the aches and pains of...

/ July 23, 2015
Integrative medicine

NCCIH and the true evolution of integrative medicine

There can be no doubt that, when it comes to medicine, The Atlantic has an enormous blind spot. Under the guise of being seemingly “skeptical,” the magazine has, over the last few years, published some truly atrocious articles about medicine. I first noticed this during the H1N1 pandemic, when The Atlantic published an article lionizing flu vaccine “skeptic” Tom Jefferson, who, unfortunately,...

/ June 29, 2015
brian-clement

Florida strikes out against Brian Clement

Brian Clement is a charlatan. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be a problem for the State of Florida. I made two (which turned into three) attempts to get the state to take action against Clement or the Hippocrates Health Institute, where he serves with his wife Anna Maria Gahns-Clement as co-director. All of them failed. Brian Clement slithered through the cracks in...

/ May 28, 2015
Bill Maher (right) pays rapt attention to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (left) as he gives pointers about how to be a crankier antivaccine crank.

Bill Maher: Still an antivaccine crank after all these years

Bill Maher likes to represent himself as the epitome of rationality, primarily on the basis of his rejection of religion. However, rejection of religion does not necessarily make one a skeptic. Maher has demonstrated this over the last decade based on his embrace of antivaccine pseudoscience and other unscientific views. This time around, he fawned over antivaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

/ April 27, 2015