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The Central Dogma of Alternative Medicine

[Note: My flight home from London was delayed until quite late; so unfortunately another “rerun” is in order. This one’s from three years ago, and I actually consider it one of my “classics.” It was also originally published at my not-so-super-secret other blog and represents the first time I tried to put together my concept…

NOTE: Orac is on vacation recharging his Tarial cells and interacting with ion channel scientists, as a good computer should. In the meantime, he is rerunning oldies but goodies, classics, even. (OK, let’s not get carried away.) Here’s one from all the way back in 2007. Notice how, the more things change, the more they…

In which the NCCIH is questioned…

Orac’s vacation continues apace. Well, not quite. The main reason I’m in London right now is because I was invited to give an actual scientific (as opposed to skeptical) talk at a conference about—of all things—ion channels in cancer. That’s where I am right now, at the Sir Alexander Fleming Building at Imperial College London,…

Precision medicine: Hype over hope?

I am fortunate to have become a physician in a time of great scientific progress. Back when I was in college and medical school, the thought that we would one day be able to sequence the human genome (and now sequence hundreds of cancer genomes), to measure the expression of every gene in the genome…

Orac is recharging

This is a public service announcement—with skepticism. Orac needs a recharge: Some of you might have seen it alluded to in the comments that I am on vacation this week. It is true, although it’s not entirely a vacation. Basically, I was invited by a collaborator to give a talk at a two-day conference at…

Cancer quackery going the distance

You’d think that after all these years combatting quackery and blogging about science in medicine (and, unfortunately, pseudoscience in medicine) it would take a lot to shock me. You’d be right. On the other hand, Even now, 15 years after I discovered quackery in a big way on Usenet and ten years after the inception…

As hard as it is to believe after over ten years of existence and over 5,000 posts on SBM, every so often, something reminds me that I’ve missed paper that cries out for some not-so-Respectful Insolence. So it was a couple of weeks ago, when I saw a familiar name in a news story that…

How should we treat stage 0 breast cancer?

I’ve written more times than I can remember about the phenomenon of overdiagnosis and the phenomenon that is linked at the hip with it, overtreatment. Overdiagnosis is a problem that arises when large populations of asymptomatic, apparently healthy people are screened for a disease or a condition, the idea being that catching the disease at…

Acupuncture is a theatrical placebo, but it’s hard not to grudgingly admire just how—shall we say?—malleable or adaptable a placebo it is. What I mean by this is that, if you believe its practitioners and adherents, acupuncture can treat almost literally any disease or health problem. Any! Pain? Acupuncture. Allergies? Acupuncture. Biliary colic? Acupuncture. Infertility?…

Readers of this blog of a certain age and above are likely to remember a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin named William Proxmire. Sen. Proxmire made a name for himself in the late 1970s and throughout much of the 1980s by issuing what he dubbed “The Golden Fleece Award,” which was meant to “honor” public officials…

A recurring topic on this blog involves my discussion of stories about children with cancer whose parents refuse chemotherapy, thus endangering the children’s lives. These stories usually take this general form: The child is diagnosed with a deadly, but treatable cancer that has a high probability of cure with proper chemotherapy. The child receives the…

The Woo Boat

File this one under the category: You can’t make stuff like this up. (At least, I can’t.) Let’s say you’re a die hard all-conspiracy conspiracy theorist and alternative medicine believer (a not uncommon combination). You love Alex Jones and Mike Adams and agree with their rants that there is a New World Order trying to…

Alright, alright already! I get the message. Over the course of the day yesterday I was bombarded by e-mails with a link to a New York Times article that shows a rather shocking lack of understanding of the science—more specifically, the lack of science—behind alternative medicine. Whenever something like this happens and I get so…

I learned over the weekend that a historic figure in science-based medicine has died. If you know anything about the history of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you will know this woman’s name, Frances O. Kelsey, MD, PhD. It turns out that Dr. Kelsey died on Friday at the age of 101. Somehow I…

I frequently discuss a disturbing phenomenon known as “quackademic medicine.” Basically, quackademic medicine is a phenomenon that has taken hold over the last two decades in medical academia in which once ostensibly science-based medical schools and academic medical centers embrace quackery. This embrace was once called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) but among quackademics the…

Many are the lies and epic is the misinformation spread by the antivaccine movement. For instance, they claim that vaccines cause autism, autoimmune diseases, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), cancer, and a wide variety of other conditions and diseases when there is no credible evidence that they do and lots of evidence that they don’t.…

Back when I started this blog, I hadn’t yet become aware of the phenomenon known as quackademic medicine. This phenomenon, as you recall, is the infiltration of academic medical institutions that should be bastions of science- and evidence-based medicine by outright quackery. In quackademic medicine, we see Very Respectable Academic Physicians and Scientists wasting their…

Mammography is a topic that, as a breast surgeon, I can’t get away from. It’s a useful tool that those of us who treat breast cancer patients have used for over 30 years to detect breast cancer in asymptomatic women and thus (or so we hope) decrease their risk of dying of breast cancer through…

I frequently call homeopathy The One Quackery to Rule Them All, but there are times when I am not so sure that that’s the case. You see, there is…another. I’m referring, of course, to what is referred to as “energy medicine.” What energy medicine modalities have in common is that they postulate that there is…

As much as I write about the foibles, pseudoscience, and misadventures of cranks and quacks that endanger patients. However, never let it be said that I don’t also pay attention to the foibles and misadventures of real doctors that endanger patients. Sometimes that occurs due to incompetence. Sometimes it’s due to the persistent use of…

One of my favorite quotes from classic literature comes from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, when Alice encounters a rather strange character named Humpty Dumpty. Humpty Dumpty, as you will likely recall, was a giant egg with whom Alice got into an argument about the meaning of words: And only ONE for birthday presents,…

Aside from deconstructing the misinformation and pseudoscience of the antivaccine movement, another of the top three or so topics I routinely discuss here is the infiltration of pseudoscience into medicine. In particular, I’ve found and discussed more examples than I can possibly remember of what I like to call quackademic medicine, defined as the infiltration…

There can be no doubt that, when it comes to medicine, The Atlantic has an enormous blind spot. Under the guise of being seemingly “skeptical,” the magazine has, over the last few years, published some truly atrocious articles about medicine. I first noticed this during the H1N1 pandemic, when The Atlantic published an article lionizing…

The overarching goal that proponents of so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or, as is becoming the preferred term, “integrative” medicine is the mainstreaming of the “unconventional” treatments that fall under the rubric of these two terms. Indeed, that’s the very reason why they so insisted on the shift from calling it CAM to calling…

Orac note: Congratulations on California and everyone who reads this blog who helped pass SB 277 to protect California’s children. Here’s hoping Governor Jerry Brown signs the bill! I had a big talk to give this morning that required a massive rewrite of my slide set last night; so there wasn’t time for the usual…