Here is a recap of the stories that appeared recently at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo in medicine. 

Seven Deadly Medical Hypotheses revisited (David Gorski) Follow-up on an article in Skeptical Inquirer by Reynold Spector. Several skeptics criticized his article, and he responded. His response misses the point and is arguably more objectionable than his original article.

Are Prenatal Ultrasounds Dangerous? (Harriet Hall) An article by a pediatric chiropractor amounts to irrational fearmongering about ultrasounds. Prenatal ultrasounds are a vital adjunct to obstetrical care. There is no evidence that they are harmful, but experts recommend not doing them for frivolous reasons.

Acupuncture and Acoustic Waves (Steven Novella) A new study claims to show how acupuncture works (even though there is no good evidence that it does work). Supposedly, acoustic shear waves result from vibration, causing release of calcium from cells, thereby raising endorphin levels. The study is badly flawed and if anything it demonstrates that acupuncture couldn’t possibly work through the proposed mechanism.


Who’s to Blame for Drug Shortages? (Scott Gavura) Drug shortages seem to be occurring more frequently. They are usually due to supply problems which in turn depend on several factors. Those factors, and possible regulatory solutions, are discussed.

Economically-Motivated Herb Adulteration (David Kroll) The adulteration of herbal products with prescription drugs has subsided due to industry and FDA efforts, but dangers remain. Products are still being found to have less active ingredient than claimed on the label or to be contaminated with lead. More alarmingly, some products are being adulterated with less expensive plant ingredients that can cause liver damage and other problems.

Menstrual Synchrony: Do Girls Who Go Together Flow Together? (Harriet Hall) It is widely believed that when women live together, their menstrual cycles tend to synchronize. A perusal of the published evidence suggests that this is probably a myth, and that the purported human pheromones that were thought to explain the phenomenon are probably a myth too.

Comparative Drug Research (Steven Novella) Approval of new drugs is usually based on comparison to placebo. Comparing them to other drugs (head-to-head comparative efficacy research) has many advantages and regulation has been proposed to require such testing. Possible downsides to such requirements are explained.

Quoth the anti-vaccine group SANE Vax: Beware HPV DNA in Gardasil! (David Gorski) Despite its claims to the contrary, SANE Vax is clearly an anti-vaccine website. They warn that recombinant viral DNA has been found as a contaminant in HPV vaccines. Based on questionable research, this fearmongering claim does not stand up to scrutiny; and even if it were true, it would not be expected to have any clinical significance.

Gullible George (Mark Crislip) On a PBS children’s program, the monkey Curious George tries to help the Man with the Yellow Hat when he has a cold. Myths like feeding a cold and starving a fever and “drinking lots of fluids” are perpetuated. Then an accompanying live segment shows children visiting a naturopath and being told that energy lines are real, that acupressure and magnets are effective treatments, and that oregano cures infections. PBS should educate kids, not indoctrinate them into false CAM beliefs.