Last Week In Science-Based Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Harriet Hall   

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-woo in medicine.

A Trilogy of (Acupuncture) Terror (David Gorski) (1) A news report showed that acupuncture is not harmless: athlete Kim Ribble-Orr got a collapsed lung and was left with 55% function in one lung, ending her dreams of competing in the Olympics. (2) Acupuncture doesn’t work for in vitro fertilization: a “positive” study showed the opposite of what the authors claim it showed. (3) A study claiming that acupuncture works for lymphedema was uncontrolled; there’s no good evidence that it works, and it’s dangerous.

The Bendectin Controversy Redux? (Harriet Hall) Bendectin was a safe, effective treatment for nausea in pregnancy that was removed from the market because of litigation, despite the scientific consensus that it was safe. The Daubert case led to revised rules for admitting expert testimony and scientific evidence in the courtroom. A Bendectin equivalent (Diclegis) is now back on the market, but a recent flawed study raised fears that antihistamines cause adverse fetal outcomes. A careful reading of the evidence shows there is no reason to avoid Diclegis.

Brain Stimulation for the Masses (Steven Novella) Techniques that stimulate the brain with electricity, magnets, and noise are promising, with potential benefits for depression, pain, and other conditions; but their application is complex, and researchers are still working out the effects of numerous parameters. The technology is not yet ready for prime time. Consumers should protect themselves from companies selling brain stimulation devices with unsubstantiated claims.

Ask the (Science-Based) Pharmacist: What are the benefits of coffee enemas? (Scott Gavura) Naturopaths and other health professionals recommend coffee enemas for detoxification, fatigue, constipation, and many other conditions including cancer (as part of the Gerson protocol). They are based on the pre-scientific idea of “autointoxication.” There is no evidence that they offer any health benefits, and they carry a real risk of harm.

Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes? (Mark Crislip) People who believe in nonsense are not stupid: they have succumbed to cognitive biases, memory biases, and logical fallacies such as the focusing effect, confirmation bias, illusory correlation, and the clustering illusion. Memory fades, misattributes, is suggestible, and is biased. People do not appreciate having their intellectual flaws identified, and they are often unable to recognize that they are not excellent thinkers (see the Dunning-Kruger effect). For some, the facts don’t matter; they hold on to their beliefs no matter what the evidence. A new word describes this: derp.