Medicine

As hard as it is to believe, it’s been nearly two years since the infamous Disneyland measles outbreak, which occurred after the holidays in 2014. It was an outbreak whose spread was facilitated by unvaccinated children and that had far-reaching implications. For one thing, in its wake, California passed SB 277, a law eliminating nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates. Opposition to the bill was fierce, and opposition to the law remains fierce, among motley coalition of antivaccine nuts, the vaccine averse, and conservative-leaning anti-government types, with rhetoric routinely…
It’s time to get this video clip out again: Yes, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. But who are “they”? I’m referring to the cult that thinks that bleach enemas (and also ingested bleach) will cure children of autism. I was reminded of that cult when ABC News 20/20 aired a special on Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), the aforementioned bleach miracle cure. It’s the sort of story that we need to see more of, the result of what was reported to be a year-long investigation of Rev. Jim Humble and his church, the inventor and primary promoter of MMS as a cure for autism and just…
Although I did not coin it, I frequently use the term “quackademic medicine” because, unfortunately, there’s a lot of quackademic medicine around. Although regular readers know what the term means, i always feel obligated to briefly explain what quackademic medicine is, for the benefit of any newbie who might happen upon this blog. Basically, it is a term used to describe an increasingly common and alarming phenomenon, the infiltration of rank quackery and pseudoscience into medical academia. You might think it impossible or unbelievable, but it’s anything but. Beginning around a quarter of a…
In troubling public health news, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported just yesterday that combined cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia in the U.S. have climbed to the highest number on record. With the release of its “Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2015” report, the agency documented more than 1.5 million cases of chlamydia, nearly 400,000 cases of gonorrhea and about 24,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis. Syphilis clocked the largest increase from 2014 to 2015 at 19 percent, gonorrhea increased by nearly 13 percent and chlamydia rose by nearly 6…
It’s been a while since I wrote about Stanislaw Burzynski, the Polish ex-pat physician who is not an oncologist but treats cancer patients in his Houston clinic with a mixture of a compound he calls “antineoplastons” (ANPs) and “gene-targeted” therapy. The former are really a mixture of various chemicals he isolated from the blood and urine back in the 1970s, including chemicals like phenylacetic acid (PA) and phenylacetyl glutamine (PAG), that he thought to be endogenous cancer suppressors but has never been able to demonstrate that they are, despite having had four decades to do so.…
Back when advocates of “alternative” medicine were busily trying to legitimize their quackery by first renaming it “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), long before CAM “evolved” into “integrative medicine,” they really believed that if their favorite woo were to be studied scientifically it would be shown to be efficacious. Thus was born the Office of Alternative Medicine in the NIH, which later became the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which more recently became the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), thus utterly…
It’s no secret that I’m not exactly a fan of Dr. Mark Hyman he of the “Ultrawellness” medical empire and arguably the foremost promoter of the “subspecialty” (if you will) of “integrative medicine” known as functional medicine. Integrative medicine, as I’ve told you time and time again, is a specialty dedicated to “integrating” alternative medicine into conventional science-based medicine; i.e., integrating quackery into medicine. One very prominent, very common strain of integrative medicine is known as functional medicine, and Mark Hyman is, although not its originator, its current main…
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…