Is Kava Safe?

Kava is a plant that grows in the western Pacific. It was traditionally prepared as a drink and used for its psychoactive properties, including sedation, relaxation, and relief of anxiety. It is intoxicating but not addictive. It has become a popular supplement in the US, used to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, and menopausal symptoms. It has also been suspected of killing...

/ September 9, 2008

The worst of times for antivaccine believers: Yet another study fails to show any link between the MMR vaccine and autism

THE BEST OF TIMES It was the best of times (for antivaccinationists). It was the worst of times (for antivaccinationists). It was the age of wisdom (definitely not for antivaccinationists). It was the age of foolishness (definitely for antivaccinationists). It was the epoch of belief (for antivaccinationists). Such is the time we live in, my apologies to Charles Dickens, even though he...

/ September 8, 2008

Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster?

Quacks and their apologists often cite surgery and emergency treatments of traumatic injury and a few other catastrophic or potentially catastrophic events as the only “conventional” or “allopathic” methods that they consistently recommend. Explicitly or implicitly, for most problems they tout “holistic” or “CAM” treatments. In modern medicine, however, there are plenty of non-surgical and non-emergency treatments whose outcomes are so manifest that even the most exuberant advocates of implausible medical claims (IMC) seem careful to steer...

/ September 5, 2008

The Importance and Limitations of Peer-Review

Peer-review is a critical part of the functioning of the scientific community, of quality control, and the self corrective nature of science. But it is no panacea. It is helpful to understand what it is, and what it isn’t, its uses and abuses. Overview When the statement is made that research is “peer-reviewed” this is usually meant to refer to the fact...

/ September 3, 2008

Misleading Ads for Back Pain Treatment

There was a full-page ad in my local paper today for Back in Action Spine and Health Centers, targeted at sufferers from almost any kind of chronic back pain. It started with “Are You Ready to Throw in the Towel and Just Live with Hurting So Bad?” It went on to make a number of claims: Doctors can fix the problem. Breakthrough...

/ September 2, 2008

“Patient-Centered Care” and the Society for Integrative Oncology

Should Medical Journals Inform Readers if a Book Reviewer can’t be Objective? At the end of last week’s post I suggested that book reviewer Donald Abrams and the New England Journal of Medicine had withheld information useful for evaluating Abrams’ review: that he is the Secretary/Treasurer of the Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO), the organization of which Lorenzo Cohen, the first editor of the...

/ August 29, 2008

Attitudes and Public Health

Increasingly there is a cultural trend toward health care freedom and empowerment. This trend is partly a reaction to the paternalism of the past, and reflects an overall change in attitude by the public toward all institutions and authority. Within medicine there has also been a move toward the partnership model of practice – where patients are well-informed full partners in the...

/ August 27, 2008

Trick or Treatment

I’ve just finished reading Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst. I’d been looking forward to the publication of this book, and it exceeded my expectations. Edzard Ernst, based at the University of Exeter in England, is the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, a post he has held for 15 years. An MD...

/ August 26, 2008

Thanks, Jenny McCarthy! Thanks for the measles!

Thanks for bringing back a once-vanquished disease, Jenny!

/ August 24, 2008