Complementary and alternative medicine

Category archives for Complementary and alternative medicine

Over the last couple of days I noted a disturbance in the antivaccine force, another study claimed to be slam dunk evidence that aluminum adjuvants in vaccines cause autism. It’s not. Also, a word to antivaxers challenging Orac to look at this study: Be very careful what you wish for…

Yesterday, the University of California, Irvine announced that Susan and Henry Samueli had donated $200 million to establish integrative medicine quackery there. Is this the shape of medicine to come?

An antivaccine blogger is amazed that big pharma has allowed its lackeys in the press to publish negative stories about the flu vaccine. Naturally, she thinks she knows why and sees a conspiracy. Not surprisingly, her conspiracy theory doesn’t make much sense.

Does the flu vaccine cause miscarriages?

A recent study claims to have found a link between influenza vaccination and miscarriage, and antivaxers are rejoicing. The study itself suffers mightily from post hoc subgroup analyses and small numbers in the subgroup, so much so that even its authors don’t really believe its results.

The antivaccine group SaneVax, which specializes in spreading misinformation about the HPV vaccine, has released part one of a three-part series of short films. Unfortunately, these are propaganda films disguised as an issue documentary.

Last week, I wrote about a naturopath imitating the worst of real doctors by running his very own dubious stem cell clinic. He even cosplays an interventional radiologist doing it. Unfortunately, he’s far from alone. There are many more naturopaths going down this road. Even more unfortunately, it is MDs who are showing the way. Basically, naturopaths don’t just cosplay doctors. They cosplay the worst of doctors as well.

Britt Hermes is an ex-naturopath who realized that she had become a quack and had the bravery to quit and study to become a real scientist. Because she is an apostate, the church of naturopathy has a special antipathy reserved for her, which is why a “naturopathic oncologist” named Colleen Huber has engaged in legal thuggery to silence her. Not-a-Dr. Huber has apparently never heard of the Streisand Effect, because a look at her website and her incredibly badly done and incompetent clinical study claiming that her treatments plus eliminating processed sugar results in much better cancer survival would be very embarrassing…to her.

Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas two weeks ago, and the recovery effort will take years. As hundreds of thousands start to try to rebuild their shattered lives and homes, antivaxers have some helpful advice on how to avoid vaccines. That’s because to antivaxers, it’s always about vaccines. Always.

Recently, I came across a news story describing two cancer patients treated by naturopaths in New Zealand. Both died, one almost certainly unnecessarily, the other after enduring more suffering than she likely had to. These tragic cases and others reminded me of why it is so appalling that so many physicians are “integrating” naturopathy into “integrative medicine.” In reality, they are integrating quackery into medicine.

Trolling the antivaccine trolls

Craig Egan is a man with a mission. He’s trolling the antivaccine trolls to promote science, and he’s been very successful at it.

There was a rumbling in the antivaccine underground a week ago about a recent ruling by the Vaccine Court compensating parents of a child who died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In a confused and scientifically highly flawed decision, the Special Master Thomas Gowen didn’t rule that vaccines cause SIDS, but did rule that they contributed to SIDS in this one case. Soon, the message will be that vaccines cause SIDS. They don’t. The Vaccine Court screwed up.

Tooth Fairy science is the study of a phenomenon before having actually demonstrated that the phenomenon actually exists. I can’t think of a better example than trying to construct an elaborate mapping system of body parts and organs to the surface of the external ear for purposes of sticking needles in them to heal and relieve pain (auricular acupuncture). Yet that’s what’s just been published.

American antivaccine activists have contributed to a massive measles outbreak among the Minnesota Somali immigrant community by spreading Andrew Wakefield’s misinformation. In the wake of the harm they’ve caused, they’re not apologetic. They’re doubling down.

In January, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. bragged about having met with President-Elect Donald Trump about chairing a presidential commission on vaccine safety. In the intervening eight months, no commission has materialized, but, if you can believe his account, Kennedy has been meeting with government officials to promote his antivaccine views at the behest of the Trump administration. As long as that continues, pro-science advocates can’t afford to rest easy.

By definition, alternative medicine has not been shown to be effective or has been shown to be ineffective. Thus, alternative medicine is ineffective against cancer and can best be represented as either no treatment at all or potentially harmful treatment. It is thus not surprising that cancer patients who choose alternative medicine have a higher risk of dying from their cancer. A new study confirms this conclusion yet again.

California’s new law that eliminates personal belief exemptions has been a success, increasing vaccine uptake after just one year. That isn’t to say that there aren’t problems. One potential problem is the increasing number of medical exemptions, likely fueled by doctors willing to write letters of support for them based on reasons that are not science-based.

Antivaxers fear and detest vaccines, but one of the types of vaccines they fear and detest the most is the HPV vaccine, such as Gardasil and Cervarix, which have been blamed for everything from sudden death to premature ovarian failure to autoimmune diseases. A couple of Mexican “researchers” from a cardiology institute try again with a “critical review” of HPV vaccine safety that lacks anything resembling critical thinking.

Naturopaths are fake doctors who fancy themselves to be real doctors, so much so that they call themselves “physicians” even when explicitly barred from doing so by law.

In March, it was widely reported that a young woman named Jade Erick had died suddenly of a hypersensitivity reaction while undergoing an infusion of intravenous curcumin ordered by a naturopath named Kim Kelly to treat her eczema. The FDA investigated and found egregious problems with the injectable curcumin used. This tragic incident serves to demonstrate how dangerous a combination naturopaths and dubious compounding pharmacies can be.

Much of the belief system that undergirds antivaccine views is rooted in superstition. That’s why it’s not a coincidence that antivaxers frequently speak in terms of contamination due to vaccines as a cause of autism and all the other conditions for which antivaxers blame vaccines and ritual purification in the form of “detoxification” as the treatment. These beliefs very much resemble religious beliefs, and antivaxers project them onto pro-science advocates.

Correcting antivaccine misinformation is hard. Real hard. Another study shows us just how hard.

On July 3, an antivaxer named Kent Heckenlively posted a WhiteHouse.gov petition demanding a five year moratorium on childhood vaccines. It failed. Did that stop Mr. Heckenlively? Of course not, and this time he has help from über-crank Mike Adams, who is whining about being “censored” by Facebook over it. The hilarity continues to ensue

Eleven years ago, Abraham Cherrix and his parents chose quackery over science-based medicine to treat his cancer, and Cherrix was one of the earliest cases of teens who chose quackery to treat a life-threatening disease that I discussed in depth. Recently, I learned that Cherrix is still alive. The reason? He finally realized the error of his original decision and underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

Many are the stories of those who have embraced quackery to treat their cancer. Few are followup stories when such a person realizes she’s made a mistake and returns to conventional therapy. This is one such story, but you’re unlikely ever to see the media outlets that touted Carissa Gleeson’s choice of quackery to treat her cancer run the story of her having changed her mind and saved her life with real medicine.

I recently took a review course in general surgery to prepare for my board recertification examination in December and realized just how much the standard of care had changed in the decade since I last recertified. Then I learned that laetrile is still a thing. If there’s one thing that demonstrates the difference between alternative medicine and real medicine, it’s how no alternative medicine treatment ever goes away, no matter how often it’s shown not to work. Ever.