Medicine

One of the most important responsibilities pediatricians have to assure the health of the children they take care of is to make sure they are vaccinated. Over the last 100 years, childhood mortality has plummeted such that it is no longer common to lose a child (or children) to infectious disease. Indeed, it is now very uncommon, if not rare, to lose a child to the diseases that were the scourges of prior generations of children, largely thanks to vaccination. Diseases like polio, whooping cough, smallpox, diptheria, the measles, and several more, that once were the scourges of children…
One of the gratifying things about having been blogging so long—nearly 13 years now!—is that you start to see stories that you wrote about a long time ago resurface, allowing you to see the resolution. For instance, I've not infrequently written about people who, mistakenly believing the blandishments of alternative medicine practitioners that they could forego all that nasty chemotherapy and radiation and survive their cancer to live a happy, normal life, made the disastrous decision to eschew conventional medical therapy and pursue alternative medicine. My interest in this topic comes from…
I wasn't sure if I should do this post, mainly because I could find so little information to elaborate on a bit of information that I discovered. Then I thought about it a bit more. Perhaps my not being able to find out will illustrate my point better than a detailed progress report on a woman whom I blogged about once nearly 16 months ago. Also, it's a hopeful story. At least I think it is, because it looks as though the young woman at the center of it has abandoned quackery. Basically, this was the story of a young woman with a bad cancer who had eschewed conventional therapy, particularly…
It's been over a month now since I started paying real attention to that wretched celebrity hive of scum and quackery founded by Gwyneth Paltrow known as Goop. It was a long time coming, and I feel a bit guilty for not really paying much attention to the "wellness," "lifestyle," and, of course, expensive quackery being sold by Paltrow and her minions through Goop. It began when Goop caught flack for selling pricey magic energy healing stickers. Well, it wasn't so much for that as much as for the amusing intervention of NASA, which slapped down Goop's claims that these stickers were made with…
As a skeptic, I can't help but taking an interest in conspiracy theories. The reason, of course, is because behind virtually every commonly accepted pseudoscientific and antiscience ideas there is conspiracy theory. For instance, in the case of the antivaccine movement, the conspiracy theory is that some combination of the CDC, big pharma, and the FDA is conspiring to hide the truth—excuse me, The Truth—that vaccines cause autism, brain damage, autimmune disease, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, shaken baby syndrome, and whatever other disease, injury, or condition that antivaxers like…
Over the last two or three weeks, you might have noticed a disturbance in the alternative medicine force. Unlike disturbances in the Force in Star Wars movies (which usually result from horrors like the obliteration of millions of lives on Alderaan), this was a joyous, celebratory disturbance in the mystical nonexistent energy fields in which promoters of alternative medicine cancer cures and haters of chemotherapy and "conventional" cancer treatment (the two almost always go together) thought that a major study in a reputable journal had put yet another "final nail in the coffin of…
With the future of the Affordable Care Act still up in the air, most of the news coverage has gone to insurance coverage, premiums and Medicaid. And rightly so. But also included in the massive health reform law were a number of innovative measures to improve the quality and value of the medical care we actually get in the doctor’s office. With repeal still on the table, those measures are at risk too. One of those ACA efforts is the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, which reduces Medicare payments to hospitals with relatively high rates of often-preventable hospital readmissions. The…
I've written quite a few times about stem cell quackery. Although I had taken an interest in dubious stem cell treatments before, because I live in the Detroit area, the stories from a couple of years ago about hockey great Gordie Howe's stem cell treatment for his stroke, how it was credulously reported in the media, and how expressing the slightest degree of skepticism about "miracle cure" testimonials like Howe's is not appreciated by the media or patient families because it's interpreted incorrectly as attacking the patient or the family. Basically, people want to believe and don't like…
Here we go again. It's been a while since I've written about the cruel sham that is known as "right to try." Anyone who's been reading this blog a while (or even read the first sentence of this paragraph) knows that I'm not a fan of right-to-try laws. Basically such laws, which have sprung up like kudzu since the movement to pass them gained momentum three years ago, claim to allow terminally ill patients the “right to try” experimental therapeutics. Thus far, they have been sold to the public as giving terminally ill patients “one last shot” and touting how such laws could save some of their…
I have to start this post with a mea culpa, perhaps even a mea maxima culpa. I've been going on and on, in essence gloating about how the antivaccine movement was once again betrayed by Donald Trump. After the betrayal that was the appointment of the ultimate pro-vaccine pharma shill as FDA Commissioner, the second betrayal was the appointment of Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald as the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And, yes, on the surface, Dr. Fitzgerald doesn't appear to be that bad a pick for CDC director. She has a history of being very pro-vaccine during her…
In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, nearly 200 people have died from opioid-related overdoses in the first five months of this year. That means that this one U.S. county is on pace to lose more than 700 people to fatal overdoses by the end of 2017. Terry Allan, health commissioner at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, and colleagues across the county have spent years building and scaling up a multifaceted response to the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic that includes getting people into treatment, changing clinical prescribing habits, preventing deadly overdoses, and dealing with the often-…
Orac gets fan mail. Yes, as hard as it is to believe, my blog sometimes ticks certain people off, and sometimes I even hear from them. For instance, last week a reader wrote me. The subject header read, "Why do you hate naturopathic physicians so much?" and the letter went something like this (OK, exactly like this other than the name of the reader, which I've withheld, and to whom I will refer as "T"): Having stumbled across one of your diatribes against licensed naturopathic doctors, I can't help but wonder what that profession has done to hurt you? If you have examined the evidence,…
In pseudomedicine, fake diseases predominate. Basically, fake diseases are diseases that do not exist in conventional medicine as diagnostic entities because there does not exist sufficient sufficient evidence to support them as one or there exists compelling evidence that they are not. Naturopaths, for instance, like to diagnose people with "adrenal fatigue," which is one of the prototypical "fake diseases." Basically, it involves a constellation of vague symptoms that may include a combination of several of the following: fatigue, inability to handle stress, cravings for salty foods,…
If there's one form of quackery that is among the most "respected," it has to be acupuncture. I've often speculated about why this might be, and the best that I can come up with is that doctors are a bit more open to acupuncture because it involves sticking actual needles into the body. It's very easy to ignore the mystical, vitalistic BS about "redirecting the flow of qi" because doctors can easily handwave and postulate other, more scientific-sounding explanations, such as that it releases endorphins or adenosine. If that doesn't work, then acupuncturists add electricity and thereby rebrand…
Well, I'm back. Hard as it is to believe, during my vacation I went a whole two weeks without writing a truly new post. That's something that hasn't happened in probably 12 years. Yes, as a result of the lack of original material for two weeks, my traffic appears to have taken a noticeable hit and is now lower than it's been in several years, but you know what? For the first time I actually don't really care that much. It was good to unplug. It's also good to be back, though. Although we arrived home Saturday afternoon, I remain jet lagged, and it's also Father's Day, which means I need to…
Orac note: While Orac is on vacation (fear not, he'll be returning on Monday!), he's rerunning some of the "best of" the blog (if you can call it that). Actually, he's rerunning whatever strikes his fancy. This one struck my fancy because I used to use the term "altie" all the time, but haven't used it in years. It was a good shorthand for someone like Gwyneth Paltrow. This post originally appeared on April 11, 2008; so some of the references are a bit dated, and some of the links no longer work. But the sentiment is true. Feel free to add your updates to the list until I return on Monday. It…
Last year’s emergency Zika funding is about to run out and there’s no new money in the pipeline. It’s emblematic of the kind of short-term, reactive policymaking that public health officials have been warning us about for years. Now, as we head into summer, public health again faces a dangerous, highly complex threat along with an enormous funding gap. “The Zika threat will get worse,” said Claude Jacob, chief public health officer at the Cambridge Public Health Department in Massachusetts and president of the National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO). “And the…
This is the sort of story that I really hate but feel obligated to discuss. I hate these stories because they usually portend the unnecessary death of a cancer patient, often a child with cancer whose parents refuse chemotherapy or who refuses chemotherapy and is unfortunate enough to have a parent who either has alternative medicine proclivities herself, lacks the guts to tell the child that he's getting treated for his own good and he doesn't have a choice in the matter, or, in a couple of cases that I've discussed, conflates using indigenous people's medicine instead of chemotherapy as a…
As hard as it is to believe, it was over seven years ago that I started my Annals of "I'm not antivaccine" series. The idea was (and continues to be) to point out how the claim that many antivaccine activists proclaiming themselves to be "not antivaccine" but rather "vaccine safety advocates" is, depending on the specific antivaxer making it, a lie, a delusion, or perhaps both. I do that by simply highlighting bits of over-the-top rhetoric I see on antivaccine websites likening vaccines to all sorts of evil things, particularly the Holocaust. In the case of the very first entry in this series…
“Oh Beautiful for smoggy skies, insecticided grain, For strip-mined mountain's majesty above the asphalt plain. America, America, man sheds his waste on thee, And hides the pines with billboard signs, from sea to oily sea.” -George Carlin When you think of helium, you very likely think of balloons, birthday parties, and blimps. But this inert, lighter-than-air gas has a number of unique properties among all the elements, including that it’s liquid at very low temperatures and it enters a superfluid state. It’s scientific applications include particle accelerators, MRI machines, and anything…