Thursday, January 22, 2009

Medicines that contain no medicine and other follies

David Colquhoun wrote a very nice article regarding the blurring between "alternative medicine" and outright quackery and self delusion. This is an important statement in the struggle to redirect all too limited funds towards more appropriate areas of medical research.

It also brings to the fore a telling problem for Complementary and Alternative supporters. They just don't know when to call off or discontinue a modality when there is little or no supporting evidence of efficacy.

Some of the commentators I read on this humble blog seem to exude a mix of active denialism, ignorance or mistrust of scientific methodology and a curious rigid undergirding of belief based opinions not very amenable to objectivity.

Indeed, many in the CAM field defend their particular fixations (be it acupuncture, homeopathy, nutritional supplement...etc.) claiming "more studies are needed"ad infinitum, that you just can't properly test it -when you can if it's real, that it's "complicated" (appeal to complexity) or "you do it too" accusations (Tu Quoque).

They very commonly support demands and claims with an astounding quagmire of classical fallacious reasoning (dare I say mental masturbation) and resist reality and science based information - especially if it is unsupportive of their cause.

Dr Colquhoun nicely sums up some CAM modalities as follows (I'm sure to the shagrin of beleivers) thusly:

"Homeopathy: giving patients medicines that contain no medicine whatsoever.

Herbal medicine: giving patients an unknown dose of a medicine, of unknown effectiveness and unknown safety.

Acupuncture: a rather theatrical placebo, with no real therapeutic benefit in most if not all cases.

Chiropractic: an invention of a 19 th century salesmen, based on nonsensical principles, and shown to be no more effective than other manipulative therapies, but less safe.

Reflexology: plain old foot massage, overlaid with utter nonsense about non-existent connections between your feet and your thyroid gland.

Nutritional therapy: self-styled ‘nutritionists’ making unjustified claims about diet to sell unnecessary supplements."

At any rate, read the article when you can.

3 comments:

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Dr G said...

Hilarious...er wait a minute, you're serious aren't you?

Listen, reading "the latest" after perusing your blogs implies wearing skewed rosy colored "nutritional" lenses -kinda cool at first- until the heavy fadism, bias, appeals to authority to mention but a few lapses in critical thinking gave me mental indigestion.

My suggetsion is read the real science -the whole thing- look at the good, the bad and the ugly so to speak.

There are many mirages in the desert amongst some real gems regarding nutrition.

Caveat emptor...Buyer beware. OK then....

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