May your epididymitis be treated with acupressure!

“May your epididymitis be treated with acupressure by André the Giant!”

The new year is upon us, and with it comes a unique opportunity for the Science-Based Medicine team to look deep into our crystal balls, to channel our Atlantean spirit guides, and to ride the waves of cosmic consciousness in order to bring to you our predictions for 2016. But before you scoff at our collective powers of prognostication, know that we have never made a prediction that has not come to pass. We’ve also never made any official predictions before, but that’s neither here nor there.

In the process of discussing what will become of this new alternative medicine fad (have you heard of it?) in the coming year, I have discovered that the contributors to SBM are all extremely pessimistic. Sadly, the vast majority of the responses to my request for predictions were focused on the future advances of pseudoscience in medicine and the steady decline of our ability to tell the difference between reality and medical fiction. But I agree with each and every one.

It is hard to imagine a rational future full of Bayesian analysis and the marginalization of quackery when even the hallowed halls of academic medicine are increasingly overrun with nonsense. Just this week I learned about Seattle Children’s inpatient acupuncture program and the sobering concept of “paging acupuncture” for the stat treatment of a child in severe pain. Quackery has become fully entrenched at this point and the outlook is bleak for those of us who strive to do something about it.

Dr. Crislip, whose unblocked third eye sees far and wide, is almost certainly correct when he predicted that our few victories will be overshadowed by the “tsunami of BS” that is pseudo-medicine. Shruggies will continue to shrug. Those that profit will continue to do so at the expense of the desperate and/or gullible. Proponents of SBM will whack each mole as it emerges from cover and eventually the Sun will engulf the Earth.

So what is in store for us in 2016? Will the FDA crack down on homeopathic remedies? Will Dr. Oz regain his former glory or be reduced to selling miracle weight loss cures for spare change on the street outside his former production studio? Our vision, though clear for the most part was cloudy at times, thus not all of our predictions are as certain as others. Some are sure bets while others are perhaps more of a long shot. Sometimes the spirits mumble.

Vaccines in 2016 (sure bet)

According to Dr. Harriet Hall, there will be outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in areas where vaccines are widely available. That means the United States. Pertussis and mumps are a near certainty but even measles is poised to spread like wildfire among vulnerable populations with low rates of vaccine adherence despite their proven track record of safety and efficacy.

Dr. Hall further predicts that once again nobody will suffer serious harm or die as a result of receiving the HPV vaccine in 2016. I’ll add that regardless of its exemplary safety record, credulous journalists and fearmongering profiteers like Joseph Mercola will continue to publish anecdotes and misinformation about supposed reactions to this life-saving immunization. Rates of HPV vaccine utilization will inch upwards a bit in both male and female pediatric patients, but they will remain shockingly low considering what is at stake, in part because of the ridiculous claim that the vaccine will lead to promiscuous behavior in teens.

The year of the subluxation (long shot)

Australian chiropractic surgeons will perform the world’s first open fetal spinal adjustment on a baby still inside the mother’s womb. Chiropractors will begin using subluxation-sniffing dogs to help diagnose subtle abnormalities in the spine years before they cause symptoms. The International Chiropractic Veterinary Association will even begin to offer a Diplomate course in Canine Subluxation Detection that will consist of 3 weekend sessions held out back of the airport Howard Johnson in Portland. Chiropractic scientists will also isolate the first adjustment resistant subluxation.

Won’t somebody please think of the children? (sure bet)

Another high profile case of a child suffering from a treatable medical condition because of the fear of conventional medicine, the false promises of a charlatan, or faith in a miracle cure will make the news. This child, like so many before, will be allowed to suffer by those with the authority and moral obligation to intervene. An institute with a misleading name, like 2015’s infamous Hippocrates Health Institute, will be involved in providing court sanctioned but worthless “alternative” treatments.

Alternative janitorial services (long shot)

Academic hospitals will begin offering energy-based alternative janitorial services. Fast and lacking the typical pungent odors of more mainstream cleaning supplies, Quantum Cleaning will take advantage of the electron transitions associated with visible and ultraviolet interactions with trash, body fluids, and dirty linens where the quantum energy of photons precisely match the energy gap between the soiled and clean states. In the interaction of energy with matter, a Quantum Cleaning practitioner can elevate the quantum state from the lower to the upper state, rendering the matter void of any and all unclean quantum entanglements, thus balancing the energy field believed to envelop the room, leaving a fresh lemony scent.

Oh, how the mighty haven’t fallen (sure bet)

One of the most frustrating issues we deal with at Science-Based Medicine is the seemingly preternatural ability to avoid regulation and incarceration displayed by certain long time proponents of cancer quackery. Dr. Gorski predicts that both Stanislaw Burzynski and Robert O. Young will be allowed to return to their old tricks of placing profit above patient safety. Yet again the inability of those tasked with protecting the public’s health and resources to effectively do so will be revealed.

Antibiotic stewardship (Long Shot)

Pfizer will begin selling Zithromax Flavor Blast liquid water enhancer. It will be a first-of-its-kind method of administering an antibiotic and a revolutionary means of enhancing water as a healthy beverage. Pfizer will claim that the product will improve medication compliance, help consumers to maintain hydration, and support a healthy and active lifestyle. It will come in Grape, Tropical Punch, and Human Tear flavors.

More research is needed (sure bet + long shot)

In 2016, much like the end of last year, there will be no shortage of questionable research into implausible, if not already disproved, alternative therapies like reiki and homeopathy. These studies will be increasingly poorly designed, with weak to nonexistent blinding and no placebo control group. So-called pragmatic trials, seemingly designed to yield positive results, will continue to impress and to be wielded by proponents while skeptics scratch their heads in disbelief and scientists are thoroughly baffled. Many will be funded with taxpayer money through government institutes that provide more propaganda than insight.

Despite currently being on the defensive in the United States, homeopaths will continue to produce research that relies on the ability of water to remember where it’s been. Chiropractors will publish enough case reports to fill in the research sections of thousands of practice-building websites. And acupuncture enthusiasts will discover an entirely new set of acupuncture/acupressure points located on specific organs. The specialty of surgical acupuncture will be developed and quickly included on the lists of integrative medical services offered at academic medical centers across the country.

Positive studies will be discussed without a hint of skepticism by major news outlets while negative studies will be largely ignored by everyone except the people who already know the remedy is baloney. Patients will become even more confused by the avalanche of “evidence” produced by believers. “More Research is Needed!” will become the official motto of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

The Quackery Awakens (long shot)

Grant Ritchey DDS has seen a vision of a future where <href=””>oil pulling evolves into a new form of alternative medicine that will be championed by high profile personalities like Dr. Oz and Gwenyth Paltrow: Oil pushing. Like oil pulling, where an oil (usually sesame or coconut) is swished in the mouth for 20 minutes ostensibly to “draw out the toxins,” oil pushing addresses the situation from the opposite end of the alimentary canal. Since one can’t swish one’s colon, the experts recommend doing the Time Warp dance for twenty minutes for an equivalent effect. While oil pushing may not reduce cavities, it also “draws out the toxins” and has the added benefit in helping to rapidly eliminate food from the digestive system, often before the meal is even over.

More legislative alchemy (sure bet)

Jann Bellamy, our resident expert in courtroom clairvoyance, has predicted that state legislatures across the land will continue to enact legislative alchemy by considering the expansion of the scope of practice of chiropractors (DC as PCP!), naturopaths, and acupuncturists/TCM practitioners. CAM believers will push for more of a presence in the VA healthcare system and Medicare programs. Sadly, she also predicts that some of these attempts will be successful.

DSHEA will continue to limit the FDAs ability to regulate over-the-counter supplements, which means that consumers will go through 2016 misled by vague “structure and function” claims and have absolutely no idea what they are actually ingesting. A few companies will be slapped with fines or even shut down, but it will remain the Wild West in stores and medicine cabinets across the country.

Robots (long shot)

The da Vinci Surgical System involves state of the art robotic technology and features a 3D high-definition magnification system and instruments able to maneuver with greater precision than the human wrist and fingers. Its use will allow acupuncturists to both locate and successfully target hard-to-reach acupoints. This will expand the number of conditions amenable to acupuncture significantly.

Dr. Oz has learned nothing (sure bet)

Dr. Oz will continue to demonstrate that he has learned nothing from his trouncing in 2014.

Welcome to 2016!

Prepare to be amazed! Behold the future!! Meh.

(I look forward to seeing some SBM predictions for 2016 from our brilliant readers in the comment section.)




Posted by Clay Jones

Clay Jones, M.D. is a pediatrician and a regular contributor to the Science-Based Medicine blog. He primarily cares for healthy newborns and hospitalized children, and devotes his full time to educating pediatric residents and medical students. Dr. Jones first became aware of and interested in the incursion of pseudoscience into his chosen profession while completing his pediatric residency at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital a decade ago. He has since focused his efforts on teaching the application of critical thinking and scientific skepticism to the practice of pediatric medicine. Dr. Jones has no conflicts of interest to disclose and no ties to the pharmaceutical industry. He can be found on Twitter as @SBMPediatrics and is the co-host of The Prism Podcast with fellow SBM contributor Grant Ritchey. The comments expressed by Dr. Jones are his own and do not represent the views or opinions of Newton-Wellesley Hospital or its administration.