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A thousand points of pseudo-medicine.

Selections from Society for Science-Based Medicines Points of Interest a daily compendium of links of interest with comments.

There is not enough time to write a complete blog post on the thousand points of pseudo-medicine that show up in my feeds. But some stars need to be noticed and commented upon. Duty Calls.

NECSS will be June 29-July 2, 2017 in New York City with an entire day, June 30, devoted to science-based medicine. Preliminary schedule (subject to change).

  • Britt Hermes: The naturopaths are coming! The naturopaths are coming!
  • Harriet Hall: Denialism in medicine: Statin denialists and others
  • Clay Jones: Cultural inertia and various commonly promoted medical beliefs that are wrong
  • David Gorski: Whither the antivaccine movement in the age of Trump
  • Steve Novella: Homeopathy regulations, with the FDC and FTC reviews
  • Two Panels: Science-Based Medicine: How are we doing? Q&A

What’s the harm?

Dutch boy can refuse chemotherapy, says Court.” Another sad case. The child had a brain tumor removed and treated with radiation. Chemotherapy was recommended. The father wanted the son to receive chemo, the mother and son wanted to go the alternative route and avoid the toxicities of chemotherapy. Oddly, the court evidently thinks a 12 year old is capable of making such a decision. Hopefully the surgery and radiation will be enough to cure the child although if he has a cure, I bet the alternative therapies will get the credit.

Vaccination

They are now up to 54 cases of measles in Minnesota as the outbreak stutters along since beginning April 11th. No deaths, 14 hospitalizations, and an eventual total cost to the state of millions. Each case of measles costs the state at least $11,000. So at $594,000 so far. Too bad they cannot make the anti-vaxers pay.

Minnesota is setting the example and others want to join in.

Stockholm clinic probed for discouraging vaccination, says measles is good for child’s development” where they:

advised parents to wait before vaccinating their child against measles, mumps and rubella, claiming that having the diseases can help along their child’s development.

And Texas, already primed for a measles outbreak, is putting more kindling on the pyre. “Texas House Passes Bill Banning Mandatory Vaccination Of Children In Foster Care.” This thanks to the Freedom Caucus who considers vaccines as invasive and unnecessary:

‘Immunizations do not qualify as emergency care,’ conservative lawmaker tacking on bill amendment asserted. ‘No vaccine cures a disease.’

Freedom to get measles. Just what every Texan wants. I don’t suppose the Freedom Caucus would be willing to personally pay for each case when the outbreak hits.

Acupuncture

Can a science-based definition of acupuncture improve clinical outcomes?” No. But acupuncturists and their ilk cannot come to terms with the realization that their intervention and life’s work is nothing more than a placebo and they desperately want to tie acupuncture to science-based medicine:

However, the widespread use of traditional terms confounds the ability of acupuncture, or needling therapy, to find a useful place in US medicine. Description and explanation of acupuncture’s therapeutic effects as a neurochemical phenomenon along with otherwise medico-scientific conventions is hardly novel. Despite decades of scientific arguments that support a biomedical model, steadfast insistence on the use of traditional terms remains a standard in the conduct of acupuncture research. The use of prescientific language in place of medical language commonly used in mainstream healthcare is harmful to the profession, practitioners and the public.

And the article suggests comparative outcomes are better measures of acupuncture than effectiveness outcomes. In other words, despite being a placebo, the ends justify the means. Color me skeptical.

Sorry. There is no compelling biomedical model. The problem is there is no science-based framework within which acupuncture can be considered if for no other reason that there is no single entity that can be called acupuncture. I suspect, like most pseudo-medicine, they are doomed to failure on that score. But acupuncture will likely thrive.

And they continue to inflict worthless placebo on helpless animals. In this case, a koala who had some sort of paralysis treated with steroids and acupuncture. Guess which intervention got the nod for success in the headline? That’s right: “Old Koala Tries to Climb Tree After 9 Weeks of Recovery and Acupuncture.” I suspect the poor beast was trying to escape the acupuncture.

Homeopathy

In Canada:

Health Canada is no longer allowing companies (that make homeopathic products) to make specific health claims … for cough, cold, and flu for children 12 and under, unless those claims are supported by scientific evidence.

Is the rule working? Are parents being protected from fraud? Of course not: “Unproven homeopathic remedies for kids still promising relief despite new label rules.” If they are not going to pay attention to the laws of science, why bother with the laws of man?

And another IRB fails to protect animals from unneeded abuse. This time Islamia University allowed “Effects of homoeopathic ultrahigh dilutions of Aconitum napellus on Baker’s yeast-induced fever in rabbits,” where part of the study included:

Rectal temperature was measured with digital thermometer hourly.

Poor bunnies.

Legal and legislative

In the UK they are wondering “Should complementary and alternative medicine charities lose their charitable status?” Part of the requirements for a charitable status includes:

the advancement of health or the saving of lives

Some of these organizations promote interventions like homeopathy or are anti-vaccine. These ideas are not supported by science and therefore, it is argued, do not meet the basic requirements to be a charitable organization. Seems reasonable to me. As is so often the case in the UK, the Good Thinking Society is leading the charge.

In the US, the ongoing problems with chronic pain and opioid abuse are pushing the FDA to opt for flying carpets as the “FDA proposes that doctors learn about acupuncture for pain management” and chiropractic. Carl Sagan noted:

I worry that, especially as the millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.

The pseudo-medical demons are not stirring. They are partying like it’s 1499.

Remember to go to Summary Pending Legislation 2017 to keep abreast of the pseudo-scientific legislative shenanigans in your state.

And that’s it. See you next week.

Posted by Mark Crislip

Mark Crislip, MD has been a practicing Infectious Disease specialist in Portland, Oregon, since 1990. He is a founder and  the President of the Society for Science-Based Medicine where he blogs under the name sbmsdictator. He has been voted a US News and World Report best US doctor, best ID doctor in Portland Magazine multiple times, has multiple teaching awards and, most importantly,  the ‘Attending Most Likely To Tell It Like It Is’ by the medical residents at his hospital. His growing multi-media empire can be found at edgydoc.com.