Thursday, January 1, 2009

"Alternative" Medicine and Bullshit

...either way, the stink still comes through

"The Touch That Doesn't Heal" is a very insightful article regarding the rather sad tale of the insiduous and undeserved penetration of unproven...and disproven (within the realm of reason) "alternative' or "integrative" therapies into more mainstream medicine.

Steve Salerno nicely articulates the problem of incorporating therapuetic modalities built on smoke and mirror "logic" into the real world of disease, limited funds and the false assumptions of efficacy proffered by CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) to a credulous population (many doctors included).

"...A survey of 32,000 Americans by the National Center for Health Statistics, released earlier this month, suggests that 38% of adults use some form of "complementary and alternative medicine," or CAM -- now aggressively promoted for everything from Attention Deficit Disorder to the Zoster virus. The survey polled consumers on 10 provider-based therapies -- for example, acupuncture -- and 26 home remedies, such as herbal supplements.

On the other hand, it should be noted that all is not lost. The reality of CAMs inroads may not be as entrenched as appears as suggested by Mark Crislips excellent post at the Science Based Medicine Blog . Still, there is a critical disconnect -a collective cognitve dissonence- opening a "back door" and for non-science based practices to garner a legitamacy that doesn't exist. You can use all the perfume you'd like...but bullshit is bullshit and that ol' smell eventually comes through!

Salerno continues "...This should be a laughing matter, but it isn't -- not with the Obama administration about to confront the snarling colossus of healtallowing h-care reform. Today's ubiquitous celebration of "empowerment," combined with disenchantment over the cost, bureaucracy and possible side effects of conventional care, has spurred an exodus from medical orthodoxy. As a result, what was once a ragtag assortment of New Age nostrums has metastasized into a multibillion-dollar industry championed by dozens of lobbyists and their congressional sympathizers..."

"Indeed, one of the great ironies of modern health care is that many of the august medical centers that once went to great lengths to vilify nontraditional methods as quackery now have brought those regimens in-house. "We're all channeling East Indian healers along with doing gall-bladder removal," says Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics. Mr. Caplan harbors no illusions about what's behind the trend: "It's not as noble as, 'I want to be respectful to Chinese healing arts.' It's more, 'People are spending a fortune on this stuff! We could do this plus our regular stuff and bill 'em for all of it!'..."

"...Meanwhile, CAM has secured its own beachhead within the National Institutes of Health in the form of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). "Special commercial interests and irrational, wishful thinking created NCCAM," writes Wallace Sampson, a medical doctor and director of the National Council Against Health Fraud, on the Web site And Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), who credited bee pollen with quelling his allergies, was single-handedly responsible for the $2 million earmark that provided seed money for NCCAM, chartered in 1992 as the Office of Alternative Medicine. Despite the $1 billion spent in the interim, the center has failed to affirm a single therapy that can withstand the rigors of science..."

This article is well worth reading. One take away is that the battle for reason goes on...and on. Here's to a great year of critical thinking!

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