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.
The difference between science-based medicine and CAM (David Gorski) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-difference-between-science-based-medicine-and-cam/ Complementary/alternative medicine is akin to religion, based on belief; but it craves the imprimatur of science. Science-based medicine has a long history of identifying treatments that are ineffective and abandoning them. A recent review found that 27% of medical journal articles addressed an established practice and of those, 40% were reversals, while only 38% upheld standard practices (The rest were inconclusive). No CAM practice has ever been abandoned as a result of research and randomized clinical trials showing that it doesn’t work.
What Doctors Feel (Harriet Hall) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/what-doctors-feel/ Doctors are often accused of being unfeeling automatons who treat the disease and not the patient. In a new book, Danielle Ofri demonstrates that doctors have feelings too, and she explores the impact of emotions on medical practice. Among other issues, she discusses problems with the medical education system and the effect of malpractice suits.
Yoga Woo (Steven Novella) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/yoga-woo/ Yoga is an effective form of stretching and exercise, but it is also a spiritual practice and it often makes pseudoscientific health claims like “this pose stretches the optic nerve.” There is some evidence that yoga helps with back pain, but no evidence that it is superior to other forms of exercise. And there are safety concerns, especially for people with physical limitations or medical conditions.
Integrative Medicine Invades the U.S. Military: Part Two (Jann Bellamy) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/integrative-medicine-invades-the-u-s-military-part-two/ Since states have licensed CAM practitioners, they have been able to insinuate themselves into publicly funded areas of health care and into mandated private insurance. Proposed legislation would expand the role of chiropractors in the VA and mandate diversion of research funds from legitimate research to ill-advised studies of CAM.
The Overuse of Antibiotics for Viral Infections in Children (Clay Jones) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-overuse-of-antibiotics-for-viral-infections-in-children/ Doctors know very well that antibiotics are not effective for viral infections, but sometimes they prescribe them anyway. They may do this for various reasons, including laziness, lack of time, and giving in to parents’ demands; but the most common reason is that they think they are treating a bacterial infection. Pediatricians should be more comfortable following evidence-based practice guidelines, and the public should be educated to question the need for antibiotics.
“Postnatal depression blood test breakthrough” or Churnalism? (James Coyne) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/postnatal-depression-blood-test-breakthrough-or-churnalism/ A study supposedly found two molecular “signatures” in the genes that increased the risk of postpartum depression by up to 5 times. Journalists relied only on the press release; they misreported the study and hyped it into nonsense about a practical test to predict depression; and the study itself was unpersuasive due to several serious flaws. Journalists should maintain skepticism and check out press releases with someone knowledgeable in the field.