Recent Doings at Science-Based Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Written by Harriet Hall, MD (The SkepDoc)   

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.

Homeopathy in the ICU? (David Gorski) A study showing that a homeopathic remedy (highly diluted potassium dichromate) reduced tracheal secretions in ICU patients is cited by homeopathy advocates like Dana Ullman as "proof" that homeopathy works. In reality, this study was unethical, illogical, poorly designed, and utterly unconvincing.

Doctor's Data Sues Quackwatch (Kimball Atwood) On Quackwatch, Dr. Stephen Barrett cited Doctor's Data, Inc. (DDI) as a company offering dubious lab tests like provoked urine testing for heavy metals. They are suing him for "false, fraudulent, defamatory" statements but refused to even answer his question as to which statements they considered false. This is legal intimidation and an attempt to suppress free speech, reminiscent of Simon Singh's recent battle in the UK; donations are welcome.

Shingles Vaccine (Zostavax) Confirmed Safe (Harriet Hall) The shingles vaccine isn't perfect, but it has been demonstrated to prevent 51% of shingles and 67% of postherpetic neuralgia, and it does not cause any serious reactions. A large new study has further demonstrated its safety.

Acupuncture and Modern Bloodletting (Steven Novella) An investigation into Chinese history reveals that acupuncture was originally a form of bloodletting. Bloodletting was common in both Eastern and Western cultures and was a variation on the common themes of restoring balance and flow to blood and life energy according to astrological principles.

Sunscreen in a Pill? (Scott Gavura) Oral Polypodium supplements allegedly act as a sunscreen but are usually recommended for use in combination with a topical sunscreen. The evidence is insufficient to determine either their effectiveness or their safety.

Natural is not innocuous: the case of Angel's Trumpet and tropane alkaloid intoxication (David Kroll) Recreational use of a tea made from Angel's Trumpet (a hallucinogen) has resulted in a dozen hospitalizations recently in California. It contains potentially deadly alkaloid compounds.

Dr. Donald Berwick and "patient-centered" medicine: Letting the woo into the new health care law? (David Gorski) Dr. Berwick has been appointed to head Medicare. He advocates "patient-centered care" in a way that seems to value patient desires over science and that tends to enable woo.

Life Extension: Science or Pipe Dream? (Harriet Hall) A new book by David Stipp, The Youth Pill, is a lucid description of the current state of longevity research. Resveratrol is promising, but the author is not ready to start taking it because the human data are not yet sufficient to make an informed decision.

Reliability of Health Information on the Web (Steven Novella) As a follow-up to the workshop presented at TAM8, Dr. Novella discusses a recent study showing that even the best health websites achieved mediocre scores on quality of information. He warns that no single site or article should ever be relied upon for information.

HuffPo blogger claims skin cancer is conspiracy (Peter Lipson) There are still people who refuse to believe that sun exposure is a significant risk factor for skin cancer. An article in the Huffington Post shows a misunderstanding of journalistic ethics, medical ethics, and medical science.

New CMS Chief Donald Berwick: a Trojan Horse for Quackery? (Kimball Atwood) Another critique of Dr. Berwick, quoting him as saying science-based medicine must take a back seat and choices should be left up to the patient's wishes. He has endorsed pseudoscientific practices, and Dr. Atwood is concerned that he will "integrate" them into Medicare and Medicaid.

Bought and Sold: Who Should Pay for CME? (Mark Crislip) Dr. Crislip responds to a Slate article that advocates drug company support of continuing education for doctors. He explains why that is a bad idea and why he has not talked to a drug rep in 20 years.

Terrible Anti-Vaccine Study, Terrible Reporting (Steven Novella) Anti-vaxxers are still trying to prove that mercury causes autism; now they are hyping a worthless pilot study on macaque monkeys that should never have been published. There were only 2 subjects in the control group, the results were inconsistent, and the authors' analysis is far-fetched.