Like a Car Accident, Slow Down and Stare.

I gave a lecture last fall on The Vaccine Pseudocontrovery for Oregonians for Science and Reason.  There are evidently Oregonians against Science and Reason, hence the title.  My Dad went and said it was a good talk. You going to argue with Dad? I think not. Someone with a handheld camera recorded it, edited it, and put it up on the YouTubes...

/ December 23, 2010
Echinacea purpurea, an ineffective form of treating and preventing colds.

Echinacea for Cold and Flu

Echinacea continues to be a popular herbal product, used primarily for treating and preventing colds and flus. Sales were estimated at $132 million in the US alone in 2009, an increase of 7% over the previous year. Reports of major negative clinical trials have had only a modest and temporary effect on the popularity and sale of this herb, contradicting claims that...

/ December 22, 2010

A New Perspective on the War against Cancer

 Myths and misconceptions about cancer abound. Oncologists are frequently criticized for torturing patients by burning, cutting and poisoning without making any real progress in the war against cancer. Siddhartha Mukherjee, an oncologist and cancer researcher, tries to set the record straight with his new book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.   It is a unique combination of insightful history,...

/ December 21, 2010

Freeways, autism, and correlation versus causation

I have a love-hate relationship with epidemiology. On the one hand, I love how epidemiology can look for correlations in huge sample sizes, sample sizes far larger than any that we could ever have access to in clinical trials, randomized or other. I love the ability of epidemiology to generate hypotheses that can be tested in the laboratory and then later in...

/ December 20, 2010

For Good Reason…

This one crept up on me by surprise. You see, I recorded an interview with D.J. Grothe, President of the James Randi Educational Foundation and host of the podcast For Good Reason back in November. I wasn’t sure when it would appear. Well, it turns out that it popped up on my iTunes podcast feeds sometime over the last few days. (It’s...

/ December 19, 2010

Ososillyococcinum and other Flu bits.

Osillococcinum I keep half an eye on the medicine displays in stores when I shop, and this year is the first time I have seen Oscillococcinum being sold.  Airborne as been a standard for years, but Airborne has been joined by Oscillococcinum on the shelves.  Dumb and dumber.    It may be a bad case of confirmation bias, but it seems I am...

/ December 17, 2010

California Forbids Chinese Bloodletting

In November 2010, the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) finally decided to act responsibly and forbid the prevalent practice of Chinese bloodletting by licensed acupuncturists. The practice became a concern for the DCA when allegations of unsanitary bloodletting at a California (CA) acupuncture school surfaced. The incident allegedly occurred during a “doctoral” course for licensed practitioners. The instructor was reportedly demonstrating...

/ December 16, 2010

CAM and the Law Part 4: Regulation of Supplements and Homeopathic Remedies

Another major set of legal standards that apply to alternative medicine are the laws and regulations that govern the manufacturing and availability of homeopathic and herbal remedies and dietary supplements. Although there is less ambiguity in these standards than in some of the areas I’ve covered previously, there are certainly loopholes aplenty available to avoid the need for any truly scientific standards...

/ December 16, 2010

Acupuncture and the Hazard of Nonsense

A recent study published in the Archives of Opthalmology compare patching of one eye vs acupuncture in the treatment of amblyopia in older children, and finds positive results from acupuncture. The study, and its press, are a good example of the hazards of studying highly implausible modalities. First let’s dissect the study itself – from the abstract: In a single-center randomized controlled...

/ December 15, 2010

Integrative Medicine is the Butt of a Sokal-Type Hoax

In 1996, Alan Sokal got a bogus paper published in the journal Social Text. It was a parody full of meaningless statements in the jargon of postmodern philosophy and cultural studies. The editors couldn’t tell the difference between Sokal’s nonsense and the usual articles they publish. Now a British professor of medical education, Dr. John McLachlan, has perpetrated a similar hoax on...

/ December 14, 2010