Medicine

Massive is the misinformation promulgated by the antivaccine movement, and many are its lies. For example, antivaxers claim that, in some way or other, 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. One of the favorite tropes used by antivaxers to frighten parents out of vaccinating their children is known as the "toxins" gambit, in which antivaxers cite lists of scary-sounding ingredients in vaccines like…
I've been blogging fairly regularly about Houston cancer quack Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski since 2011, and now the story is over...sort of. Unfortunately, as you will see, the ending is far from ideal. It is, however, somewhat better than I had feared it might be. What I'm referring to, of course, is the final ruling of the Texas Medical Board regarding Dr. Burzynski, the Houston cancer doctor who has been a frequent topic of this blog because of his practices of charging desperate cancer patient tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars for his "antineoplastons" (ANPs) and, later, what he…
That the Cleveland Clinic has become one of the leading institutions, if not the leading institution, in embracing quackademic medicine is now indisputable. Indeed, 2017 greeted me with a reminder of just how low the Clinic has gone when the director of its Wellness Institute published a blatantly antivaccine article for a local publication, which led to a firestorm of publicity in the medical blogosphere, social media, and conventional media to the point where the Cleveland Clinic's CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove had to respond. Dr. Cosgrove was—shall we say?—not particularly convincing. Indeed, even…
There are a thousand crappy studies out there carried out with the explicit (although often unspoken) goal of demonizing vaccines by "proving" that they cause autism. Indeed, over the last 12+ years that I've been blogging here, I've deconstructed more such studies than I can remember—or would care to remember if I could. Unfortunately, if there's one thing I've learned about some of these studies, it's that they're like the killers in 1980s slasher flicks. You remember them? Killing machines like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, who mowed through teens misbehaving (often by having sex) for…
One of the most frequent talking points used by the antivaccine movement is that its members are "not anti-vaccine," but rather "pro-safe vaccine" or "vaccine safety activists." I first encountered that talking point over ten years ago, when I first heard Jenny McCarthy say it. Since then, I've heard any number of antivaccine activists use variations on the talking point over many years and in many circumstances. It's understandable in a way. Antivaxers know that society frowns on antivaccine views—and quite rightly so, given the danger such views pose to public health; so they have to…
I must admit, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., environmentalist and, unfortunately, antivaccine crank of the thimerosal fear mongering variety, has been rather busy lately. After having gone mostly silent on vaccine issues compared to his original flurry of misinformation and conspiracy mongering back that began back in 2005, several years past with almost nary a word from the lesser scion of a great American family on vaccines. This was a very good thing. Then, in 2014, he decided to reappear, co-authoring an antivaccine book with functional medicine quack Mark Hyman, a book with mouthful of a title…
One of the overarching themes of this blog, if not the overarching theme, is to expose and combat the infiltration of quackery into medicine. What I'm referring to, of course, is the phenomenon that's risen over the last 25 years or so in which various pseudoscientific alternative medicine therapies (but I repeat myself) have found increasing acceptance, thanks largely to a major lack of critical thinking skills among both patients and, worse, the physicians who have embraced modalities such as acupuncture, naturopathy, chiropractic, and the like. In fairness, it's not just a lack of critical…
I wasn't planning on revisiting this topic, but sometimes a blogger's gotta do what a blogger's gotta do. You'll see what I mean in a minute. But before you do, I'll just provide a bit of background. Last week, I came across one of those truly awful antivaccine studies that gets the old Insolence flowing, this time a mix of the Respectful and not-so-Respectful. I'm referring, of course, to a paper that I came across as I was spending some time delving into the deeper darker parts of antivaccine social media. It was a study by Antonietta Gatti and Stefano Montanari in the International Journal…
"You need to detox." How many times have you heard or read this? Maybe a friend of yours suggested it for the New Year. Maybe you saw it on a website, in a magazine, or as part of an ad. I like to say sometimes, "Toujours les toxines," because in many branches of alternative medicine the overarching idea behind the interventions used is that vague, unnamed "toxins" are somehow poisoning you and that the only way to fix what's wrong with you is to "detoxify." These "detox" interventions can take many forms, ranging from the relatively (but not completely) benign, such as "juice cleanses," to…
I've frequently written about what I like to refer to as the "toxins gambit" with respect to vaccines. Basically, in the hard core (and even soft core) antivaccine crowd, vaccines are feared as being loaded with all sorts of "toxins," such as aluminum, formaldehyde, mercury, and various chemicals that are dangerous enough separately, but, when combined, "poison" young babies, resulting in their becoming autistic, acquiring asthma and autoimmune diseases, or even dying of sudden infant death syndrome. Of course, many of the scary-sounding chemicals to which antivaccinationists point actually…
About a week ago, I happened upon a number of stories about a study and project that demonstrates a key difference between science and pseudoscience. They had titles like, "Rigorous replication effort succeeds for just two of five cancer papers" (Science), "Cancer reproducibility project releases first results: An open-science effort to replicate dozens of cancer-biology studies is off to a confusing start" (Nature), and "What Does It Mean When Cancer Findings Can't Be Reproduced?" (NPR). Basically, these stories all reference a review of the initial results of the Reproducibility Project in…
I get e-mail. Often, the e-mail I get consists largely of rants from various cranks about how I am a "pharma shill" and whether I feel any regret over the babies I'm supposedly turning autistic by my advocacy for vaccines. Much less often, I get e-mails praising me for my work. Sometimes, I even get e-mails that tell me that my blogging was the reason someone turned away from the dark side of antivaccine quackery or other pseudoscience. Those e-mails make my day. I also sometimes get e-mails like this: I'm in the VA healthcare system in Los Angeles. I had previously read your article about…
Longtime readers of this blog are familiar with one major kind of blog post that I've done periodically ever since the very beginning of this blog, and that's the alternative medicine cancer cure testimonial, particularly breast cancer cure testimonials, but also testimonials for a wide variety of cancers allegedly "cured" by a wide variety of quacks. It started with Suzanne Somers and Lorraine Day, whose stories I deconstructed and showed not to be indicative of a cancer cure due to the quackery they were pursuing and continues to this day. Another, related category of post are early…
I can thank the Trump Administration for one thing. I now have a new phrase to describe how the poultry industry distorts information about working conditions for its employees: alternative facts. Last fall, the National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association made a wild pronouncement about their industry’s work-related injury rate. They asserted their injury rates are at an all-time low and have declined by 81% since 1994. The trade associations' news release said: “Perhaps more than any other industry, the poultry industry has focused its energies…
One of the core beliefs of the antivaccine movement is that there is an "autism epidemic." The observation that autism prevalence has been climbing for the last two to three decades led some parents with autistic children to look for a cause, specifically an environmental cause, for autism. Because several vaccines are given in the age range when children are typically diagnosed with autism, they fell victim to the all-too-human tendency to confuse correlation with causation and latch on to vaccines as the main cause of their child's autism. Then, when these parents banded together, they…
So I was distracted yesterday from what I had intended to write about by an irresistible target provided me courtesy of Toby Cosgrove, MD, CEO of The Cleveland Clinic, who bemoaned all those nasty pro-science advocates who had had the temerity to link the antivaccine rant by the director of the Clinic's Wellness Institute to the quackery practiced there of whose affinity for antivaccine quackery Cosgrove appears to be oblivious. So I took care of that target, and now I'm back to the topic I had wanted to apply some Insolence to. Yes, there was no way I was going to allow this pseudoscientific…
I've been pretty hard on The Cleveland Clinic over the years, but justifiably so. After all, The Cleveland Clinic is one of the leading centers of quackademic medicine in the US; i.e., an academic medical center that studies and uses quackery as though it were legitimate medicine. Of course, this is a problem that is not in any way limited to The Cleveland Clinic. A decade ago, I tried to keep track of which academic medical centers had "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM) or "integrative medicine" programs that integrated quackery like acupuncture, chiropractic, naturopathy, reiki…
I was busy last night doing something other than actually blogging. Perhaps I was recovering from the one-two punch of the antivaccine rant penned by the director of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute followed by Donald Trump's meeting with antivaccine crank Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Whatever the case I crashed early. However, I can't help but note still more bad news. I woke up this morning to this headline Naturopaths get their own licensing board in Mass.: Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday signed into law a bill that creates a licensing board to regulate naturopaths, alternative…
The fallout from the social media firestorm from the antivaccine rant written by the Medical Director of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute and published by Cleveland.com last Friday has abated but far from faded away. The offending physician, Dr. Daniel Neides, was forced to issue an apology, which was one of the least convincing apologies I've ever seen, and The Cleveland Clinic issued a statement announcing its commitment to vaccines and that Dr. Niedes would suffer some as yet undetermined "disciplinary action." Reactions outside of The Cleveland Clinic ranged from the suitably…
Over the weekend, a most unusual social media firestorm erupted in response to a blog post by Daniel Neides, MD, MBA, Acting Medical Director of the Tanya I. Edwards Center for Integrative Medicine, Vice Chair and Chief Operating Officer of Cleveland Clinic Wellness, as well as the Associate Director of Clinical Education for The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (CCLCM), where he oversees all clinical activities during years three through five of the medical school. The reason for the social media uproar was that Dr Neides' post, entitled Make 2017 the year to avoid toxins (good…