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Note added 9/17/2015: I knew it. The vaccine issue came up during the second debate and Donald Trump repeated basically the same nonsensical antivaccine tropes that he’s been repeating for at least eight years. It rather puts the lie to his claim that he listens to experts and changes his opinion based on what they…

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…

Framing vaccines

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 2008 in response to Dr. Offit’s excellent book Autism’s False…

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…

Dr. Bob lets his antivaccine freak flag fly

It’s not a secret to anyone who reads this blog that I have an incredibly low opinion of celebrity pediatricians who are, if not outright antivaccine, antivaccine-sympathetic or leaning antivaccine and use their authority as physicians to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about vaccines. Without a doubt, chief among these pediatricians in this country…

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…

I didn’t think I’d be writing about acupuncture again so soon after deconstructing another “bait and switch” acupuncture study less than a week ago. True, the quackery that is acupuncture and the seemingly unending varieties of low quality studies published to make it seem as though there is anything more than nonspecific placebo effects invoked…

If there’s one thing that is true of the antivaccine movement, it’s that its members are rarely willing to admit that they are, in fact, antivaccine. Sure, there are uncommon exceptions who say it loud that they are antivaccine and proud and through their refreshing honesty and lack of self-delusion cause no end of problems…

I must admit that I’m surprised. Pleasantly surprised, but quite surprised. The reason is that yesterday the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Mike Zimmer rejected the recommendation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Review Panel to add autism to the list of qualifying conditions for which cannabis can be prescribed in the state of…

File under “only in America”

After a busy day yesterday and falling asleep early on the couch, I only have time for a quick take today. So file this under “only in America”: A 23-year-old Metro Detroit man robbed a South Lyon credit union earlier this month for his daughter, he told investigators according to South Lyon Police Lt. Chris…

It’s always disappointing to see a good journal fall for bad medicine, particularly when it’s in your field. For example, the Journal of Clinical Oncology (affectionately referred to by its abbreviation JCO) is the official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and probably the most read clinical journal by those involved in…

I don’t review books that often. The reason is simple. My posts for this blog sometimes take as much as a several hours to write (particularly my more “epic” ones that surpass 5,000 words), and I usually don’t have the time to add several more hours to the task by reading an entire book. Also,…

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 approval of new drugs and medical devices is a process fraught with scientific, political, and ethical landmines. Inherent in any such process is an unavoidable conflict between rigorous science and safety on the one side, which tend to slow the process down by requiring large randomized clinical trials that can take years, versus forces…

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…

If there’s one thing about how cancer is discussed in the media that drives me absolutely bonkers, it’s how seemingly whenever a public figure announces that he has cancer information is rationed to the point where the announcement is basically meaningless. I can understand why someone might not want to disclose more about his disease…

There’s a delightful meme going around Facebook right now, featured above, that portrays five African women, fists raised, all wearing aprons proclaiming “Kick out polio!” Accompanying the meme is a message from the American Academy of Pediatrics celebrating that yesterday marked one full year since the last case of polio was recorded on the continent…

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…