Medicine

It's been a while since I've written about the burgeoning business of selling marijuana as a cure for whatever ails you. As I've written before, there exists a mystical faith that is very much like herbalism that marijuana is a magical plant that can cure, well, almost anything, including cancer, glaucoma, autism, ADHD, and many other conditions, when in fact the evidence is rather shaky for most, if not all, of these claims. Regarding cancer, the usual claim is not that smoking marijuana cures the disease, but rather that cannabis oil isolated from marijuana cures cancer, a claim that Rick…
After yesterday's post on a local news station's credulous promotion of quack acupuncture (but I repeat myself) for pets, I thought I'd stay on the topic of acupuncture for one more day. The reason is that a reader sent me a link to an article in Stars and Stripes that really irritated me, Acupuncture becomes popular as battlefield pain treatment. Longtime readers might remember that I've been writing about the utter ridiculousness and lack of science behind "battlefield acupuncture" and how it makes no sense to be sticking recently wounded soldiers with needles under battlefield conditions.…
Acupuncture is a theatrical placebo, nothing more. It has no "curative powers," and, when studied objectively in good double-blind, randomized controlled clinical trials with proper sham acupuncture controls, there is consistently found to be no difference between sham and "true" (or, as they like to call it, "verum") acupuncture. (Indeed, I have written about this many times.) The only exceptions to this rule tend to be studies that come out of China. Basically pretty much all acupuncture studies that come out of China are positive because they appear to be conducted with the intent to…
It was only just yesterday that I recounted the story of a naturopathic quack in Bowling Green, KY who told a cancer patient that "chemo is for losers," promising her that he eliminate her tumor within three months. She listened to him, and as a result she died, as she and her husband were suing the quack. Not long after, her distraught widower walked into the quack's office on a Friday evening earlier this month and, if the police charges are accurate, shot him dead. Basically, because this quack convinced the woman to forego chemotherapy, whatever chance of survival she had was eliminated.…
Naturopathy is a frequent topic on this blog because it is a veritable cornucopia of quackery, in which not pseudoscience is too out there. Homeopathy, functional medicine, bogus diagnostic tests, traditional Chinese medicine, reflexology, naturopaths embrace it all, and more. More importantly, thanks to "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM), known more recently as "integrative medicine," naturopathy is becoming more and more "respectable." Indeed, there are naturopaths at far too many academic medical centers. One even participated in the writing of the Society for Integrative…
[NOTE: Due to the windstorm last week, I was knocked out of the blogging game for a while and even had to stay in a hotel for one night. We did get our power back late Friday night, but we also didn't get Internet back until much later in the weekend, because our cable went out too. So, I thought I'd have a new post for today, but, alas, I did not. So, continuing on the them of Friday, I thought I'd repost an article of a sort that I almost never do any more. This one was posted over 11 years ago and was last reposted over 5 years ago. Tomorrow, I'll definitely be back.] The patient list for…
[NOTE: As I mentioned yesterday, our power outage continues, and, thanks to having to decamp to a hotel last night, I didn't have time to produce new Insolence. So I thought I'd repost a "classic" from 11 years ago that I don't believe I've ever reposted before during vacation or otherwise. It represents a sort of blogging that I haven't done for years, just a personal story with nothing to do with my usual topics, such as pseudoscience, quackery, clinical trials, and basic science. This story is based on a real patient encounter from around 25 years ago, but details have been changed.] I don…
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…