Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo in medicine.
Death by “alternative” medicine: Who’s to blame? (Revisited) (David Gorski) Breast cancer patient Kim Tinkham was featured on Oprah because she rejected surgery and chemotherapy. She followed the pseudoscientific advice of Robert O. Young (alkalinization, diet, and supplements), and she has now died of her cancer. With conventional treatment, she would have had a 50% chance of surviving and she might have lived another 30-40 years. The responsibility for her premature demise is shared by the patient, Oprah, Young, and the doctors who couldn’t persuade her to accept lifesaving treatment.
New Recommendations for Calcium and Vitamin D Intake (Harriet Hall) Based on a thorough study of the evidence, the IOM has issued new recommendations for intake of calcium and vitamin D. The evidence supports their role in bone health but not for other conditions. Most Americans get enough of these nutrients, and some may be getting too much.
Cell Phones and Behavior (Steve Novella) A study showing a correlation between cell phone use in pregnant women and behavior problems in their children is not convincing and doesn’t warrant precautionary measures. Dr. Novella explains why.
Good Idea, Bad Execution: Dosing Errors, A Preventable Harm (Scott Gavura) Dosing errors, especially in liquid medicines given to children, are common and can contribute to toxicity. Significant problems have been identified with measuring devices, and labels can be challenging to those with limited health literacy. We can do better.
Of SBM and EBM Redux. Part II: Is It a Good Idea to Test Highly Implausible Health Claims? (Kimball Atwood) When there is no scientifically valid reason to believe that a therapy works (such as homeopathy and therapeutic touch), what is the societal value of testing them? Studies testing basic concepts may be reasonable, but efficacy trials are not: they are often unethical, and negative results do nothing to convince true believers. The popularity of an improbable treatment doesn’t justify devoting research funds to it.