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.
J.B. Handley brags that the U.S. vaccine program is being brought to its knees by the efforts of anti-vaccine activists to spread fear and doubt. He’s wrong: despite the misinformation, ignorance, outright pseudoscience, and paranoid conspiracy theories about vaccines, most parents are still vaccinating their children, and the anti-vaccine movement is starting to get bad press.
A Sleep Remedy with Proprietary Secrets (Harriet Hall) Dream Water is a “natural” sleep remedy containing melatonin, GABA and tryptophan, but the dosage of each is not on the label: it’s a “proprietary secret.” There is little evidence that the individual components are safe and effective, and the mixture has not been tested. Caveat emptor.
Placebo Effects Revisited (Steven Novella) When implausible treatments like acupuncture are shown to work no better than placebo, we often hear special pleading that placebos work too. Actually, they don’t: there is no measurable objective benefit, only bias in reporting and observation and non-specific, subjective effects. Any potential placebo benefit worth having can be fully realized with science-based interventions.
Vaccines and autism: are we number 1? (Peter Lipson) Jenny McCarthy says other countries give their kids one-third as many shots as we do, implying that their recommendations are safer and result in less autism. A look at the actual numbers shows that she is wrong.
H Pylori, Plausibility, and Greek Tragedy: the Quirky Case of Dr. John Lykoudis (Kimball Atwood) A discussion of plausibility and how it affects the reception of new ideas in medicine, illustrated by the case of a Greek doctor who discovered in 1958 that peptic ulcers were caused by bacteria and treatable with antibiotics. He was ignored not because the idea seemed implausible but because he was unable to identify the bacteria and the context was not prepared.
Brief Note: Followup on Spinal Decompression Machines (Harriet Hall) An investigative consumer TV show in Canada did a scathing exposé of the DRX 9000 spinal decompression machines, with hidden cameras and a revealing interview of a chiropractor using weasel words. The video can be viewed here.