Medicine

What is it about Florida and quacks? It’s as though it’s the Wild West there when it comes to regulating the practice of medicine. There, quacks can get away with almost anything, or so it would seem. After all, Brian Clement, who isn’t even a doctor and isn’t even really a naturopath either, has been practicing his quackery for decades, even going so far as to travel to Ontario to look for new marks among the indigenous peoples and to Europe and the UK, leading to at least one preventable death and to a young mother with incurable breast cancer to waste her precious remaining time and effort…
There's a misconception that I frequently hear about evidence-based medicine (EBM), which can equally apply to science-based medicine (SBM). Actually, there are several, but they are related. These misconceptions include the idea that EBM/SBM guidelines are a straightjacket, that they are "cookbook medicine," and that EBM/SBM should be the be-all and end-all of how to practice clinical medicine. New readers might not be familiar with the difference between EBM and SBM, and here is not the place to explain the difference in detail because this post isn't primarily about that difference. The…
Whenever we discuss vaccines and vaccine hesitancy, thanks to Andrew Wakefield the one vaccine that almost always comes up is the MMR, which is the combined measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. In 1998, Wakefield published a case series of cherry-picked patients in which he strongly inferred that the MMR vaccine was associated with autism and “autistic enterocolitis.” Of course, even the way Wakefield spun it, this wasn’t enough evidence to link the MMR vaccine to autism, which is no doubt why Wakefield never explicitly said that it did in the paper describing his case series. My guess has always…
Whenever I refer to quackademic medicine and how the infiltration of quackery into medical academia has led to unethical clinical that are not only pseudoscientific wastes of money but potentially downright harmful to patients, two always come to mind. The first is the trial that tested the late Nicholas Gonzalez’s protocol for advanced pancreatic cancer, comparing it to standard-of-care chemotherapy. His protocol basically involves a combination of supplements (up to 150 a day), various vegetable juices, and, yes, the infamous coffee enema—several a day, actually. It’s basically a mystical,…
I’ve referred to so-called “right to try” laws as a cruel sham.on more than one occasion. Since 2014, these laws, all based on a template provided by the libertarian Goldwater Institute, have been proliferating at the state level with the help of lobbying by the aforementioned Goldwater Institute and a concept that makes it pitifully easy to caricature opposition to these laws as wanting to heartlessly snatch away from terminally ill patients the last chance at life while laughing and twirling one’s mustache like Snidely Whiplash. Not surprisingly, state legislatures all over the country have…
One of the things that first led me to understand the dangers of quackademic medicine was a trial known as the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy, or TACT. Chelation therapy, as you might recall, is the infusion of a chelating agent, or a chemical that binds heavy metals and makes it easier for the kidney to secrete them, in order to treat acute heavy metal poisoning. Unfortunately, quacks of all stripes have latched on to chelation therapy to treat a number of diseases and conditions. For instance, antivaccine quacks like to use chelation therapies to treat autistic children using the…
I never in a million years thought I’d be writing a blog post involving Selena Gomez. Gomez, as many, if not most, of you are probably aware is currently a young pop star and actress who got her start as a child actress. Oddly enough, she was on Barney & Friends with Demi Lovato. These days, Gomez specializes in the variety of overproduced, lightweight pop that I don’t really listen to, although, ever since I subscribed to Apple Music, I’ve been known to listen to songs by performers like Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato just to see if I could figure out why they’re so popular. So far, I…
As regular readers know, last Friday I was quite happy to relay the news that the Medical Board of California had finally acted against a rock star among the antivaccine movement, namely pediatrician “Dr. Bob” Sears. Dr. Sears (or Dr. Bob, as he likes to be called) rocketed to prominence among the vaccine-averse and downright antivaccine by writing a book called The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child. It’s a book that Dr. Bob and his sycophants, toadies, and lackeys portray as being a “middle ground,” complete with an “alternative” vaccine schedule to the one recommended…
I’ve been critical of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), which was until relatively recently known as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) ever since I first discovered that it existed, lo, these many years ago. When I first discovered NCCIH, what struck me is how much pseudoscience it funded, including fellowships and educational programs in “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), which has rapidly morphed into “integrative medicine” (i.e., “integrating” quackery into real medicine). There were many NCCAM-funded…
I’ve frequently called “right to try” laws that are popping up in various states like so much kudzu, to the point where 31 states have passed them in a little over two years, an amazing pace, a cruel sham, given how incredibly unlikely they are to help a single patient. Basically, state-level right-to-try laws are the brainchild of the libertarian Goldwater Institute and all based on a template that it produced. Their purpose is not, as the Goldwater Institute claims, to help patients, but rather to weaken and ultimately neuter the FDA’s power to regulate drug approval and thereby help to…
Last night was one of those nights where I was working late because I was asked to do a panel discussion on breast cancer last night. Such are the perils of being a breast cancer expert, I guess. That doesn’t mean I don’t have time for an uncharacteristically brief notice of some particularly dumb bit of antivaccine nonsense. Just as I said in yesterday’s post, such things are like waving a cape in front of the proverbial bull. Even worse, it’s a lawyer. Let me just put it this way. When I discuss the law, I’m very circumspect. I’m not a lawyer, which means that I am acutely aware of my…
About three months ago, I was displeased to see in a normally reliable source of medical news (STAT News) a story about a patient of cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski, Neil Fachon, that fell victim to every trope that Burzynski’s used for 40 years to present himself to the press as a “brave maverick” doctor and researcher rather than the unethical quack that he is. Basically, as was the case of so many similar stories in the 1990s and more recently, the story was framed as one of a desperate patient battling the FDA to save his life, instead of what the story really represented was a desperate…
Stem cells are magic. Stem cells cure everything. They are the next big thing in medicine. That's the narrative one frequently hears about stem cells in the press and courtesy of offshore stem cell clinics in places such as Italy and direct-to-consumer marketing of stem cells in the US. Of course, stem cells aren't mystical and magical, although they are very promising as a treatment for some degenerative conditions. As promising as they are, though, they don't cure everything. In fact, we don't even know for sure that they cure anything because for the vast majority of conditions for which…
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought a lawsuit last week in U.S. district court against a Georgia-based poultry company for discriminating against an employee with a work-related injury. The firm, Wayne Farms, is one I’ve written about previously (e.g., here, here, here.)  They’re a company identified by OSHA for not only serious safety problems, but for injury care that was seriously “out-of-date and contrary to good medical practice.”  In one example, a worker with a repetitive motion injury had been seen at least 94 times at a plant's nurses station before being…
I’ve mentioned on quite a few occasions that there’s a quote attributed to philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer that is much beloved of cranks: All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. I also like to point out that Schopenhauer probably never said this and just how silly the thought behind this quote is when you think about it. Unfortunately, as I was perusing Twitter yesterday, I couldn’t help but think of this quote, but not in the way quacks and cranks usually intend. Rather, I was thinking of…
Here we go again. Remember how I frequently say that naturopaths are relentless, how, whenever they attempt to get a naturopathic licensing bill passed in a state and fail, they’re soon back to try again. Basically, they keep trying until they succeed, and once they succeed, it’s game over for keeping their quackery from having the imprimatur of the state. Perhaps my favorite metaphor for this is that of the killer in a 1980s slasher flick, like Jason or Michael Myers, who frequently "dies" ta the end of one movie, only to come back the next movie to mow down another bunch of hapless teens.…
I've frequently written about various dubious and outright quack clinics in different parts of the word with—shall we say?—somewhat less rigorous laws and regulations than the US. Most commonly, given the proximity to the US, the clinics that have drawn my attention are located in Mexico, most commonly right across the border from San Diego in Tijuana for easy access by American patients. Sometimes, in the case of dubious stem cell clinics, they are located in countries like China, Argentina, or Kazakhstan. That's not to say that there aren't a lot of quack clinics right here in the US (…
I’ve been debating whether to write about this for a while now, given that the first article that I noticed about it was first published a week and a half ago. Part of the reason for my reluctance is that it would be too easy for politics to be dragged into this more than I generally like. Of course, I don’t make a secret of my political leanings, but I usually don’t go out of my way to be an explicitly political blogger. I do, however, frequently write about areas where science and medicine intersect, and when I do I always come down on the side of science and rationality. This brings us to…
I frequently point out how antivaccine activists really, really don’t want to admit that they are, in fact, antivaccine, so frequently, in fact, that I have a series that I call The annals of “I’m not antivaccine.” It’s already up to part 21. It could easily be up to part 51, or 101, or even 1,001. The only reason it isn’t is because I don’t want to devote this blog to nothing other than how antivaccine activists who deny they’re antivaccine routinely inadvertently reveal the truth. If there’s one area in which antivaccinationists reveal themselves to be antivaccine, it’s in their reaction to…
As I mentioned yesterday, there are news events involving medicine (more specifically pseudoscience in medicine) that are so ubiquitous and irritating that they’re enough to bring me briefly out of my vacation to bang out a quick post. So it was when I wrote my post yesterday about Michael Phelps’ enthusiasm for cupping, a practice attributed to traditional Chinese medicine that is actually an ancient practice that seems to have been independently thought up in multiple cultures, such as the ancient Egyptians. Basically, cupping therapy is a near-universal practice dating back at least 3,500…