Medicine

Category archives for Medicine

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.

There’s one phenomenon I’ve never been able to figure out, namely antivaccine pediatricians. For a pediatrician, to be antivaccine is a profound betrayal of everything learned in medicine and a betrayal of patients. Here’s another antivaccine pediatrician, one I have never encountered before. Special bonus quack points: She’s a homeopath, too.

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.

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.

So-called “right-to-try” is a cruel sham that holds out the mostly false hope of survival to terminally ill patients and their families. In return, all they have to give up is patient protections and agree to pay to be guinea pigs to test a drug company’s product. The product of an ideology that uses the terminally ill as shields to hide the ideological motives behind the law, which are to hobble the FDA, right-to-try is a terrible idea. It’s bad for patients, but it just passed the Senate and could well become the law of the land when the House reconvenes in September if it isn’t stopped.

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.

Dr. Aviva Romm, one of Goop’s doctors, tried to distance herself from Goop’s pseudoscience. It didn’t go well.

Whenever vaccine uptake falls to a level below that needed to maintain herd immunity, the risk of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases climbs. It doesn’t take that dramatic of a decline. Here’s a study that shows how a small decrease in vaccine uptake can lead to a large increase in disease.

Although it’s not uncommon for there to be conspiracy theories about police shootings, it is unusual for such a conspiracy theory to touch upon topics covered right here on this blog. Sadly, it’s happened in the wake of the police shooting of Justine Damond in Minneapolis.

Earlier this month, cancer quacks everywhere were touting a study that suggests that chemotherapy administered before breast cancer treatment can stimulate the spread of cancer, pointing to it as evidence that chemotherapy doesn’t work and even makes cancer worse. In reality, the study was far more nuanced. It didn’t show that chemotherapy doesn’t work (quite the contrary) but does point to ways we can make chemotherapy more effective.

The ubiquity of quackery and pseudoscience of the sort epitomized by Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop empire can be depressing if you’re a skeptic. Sometimes it feels as though it’s not worth refuting the nonsense she peddles. But it is. Just maybe not in the way you think.

A new study by Leigh Turner has found that dubious stem cell clinics are registering even more dubious “clinical trials” under ClinicalTrials.gov in which they charge patients to enroll. In this unethical practice, they are merely following the trail blazed by cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski.

A little fan feedback

Sometimes, Orac’s fans call him. When he doesn’t have anything to post, sometimes he posts the audio of fools who leave him messages.

Paul Davies is a physicist turned Brave Maverick Cancer Researcher who thinks that, as an outsider, he’s had an insight to the origin of cancer. The problem is that his “insight” is 100 years old. Scientists rejected it long ago because it doesn’t fit with the evidence and produces no promising strategies to improve cancer care. Naturally, Davies cries “Big pharma!”

“Right-to-try” laws claim to help terminally patients by allowing them access to experimental drugs before they are approved, when, in fact, their purpose is to undermine and weaken the FDA and such laws strip legal and regulatory protections from patients using such drugs. Now advocates are making a new push to pass right-to-try by embedding it in the very law that funds the FDA. They might succeed if they encounter no opposition from constituents.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop website is a wretched hive of scum and quackery peddling dubious “wellness” products like vaginal “Jade Eggs” to affluent women. Yesterday, she corralled a couple of her “medical experts” to strike back at a persistent critic of goop’s pseudoscience and mystical woo. It did not go well—for goop or its enabling “integrative” physicians.

I’ve been warning about how school vaccine mandates have become increasingly politicized. HBO’s. VICE agrees.

Right now, Europe is in the middle of a massive measles outbreak that has resulted in 35 deaths. Is Europe a harbinger of things to come in the US?

An old “friend” of the blog, Kent Heckenlively, has started a WhiteHouse.gov petition for a five year moratorium on childhood vaccines, until the government answers his questions about vaccines that can never be answered and shows evidence of their safety that he’ll never believe. Yes, the delusion is strong in this one, but, sadly, he’s not alone.

When HHS Secretary Dr. Tom Price announced that Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald would be the new CDC Director, he breathed a sigh of relief because in her previous job as Georgia Commissioner of Public Health she was suitably pro-vaccine and pro-science. He should have looked a bit closer and gone a few years further back.