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A selection of skeptical articles and reports examining CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine).
A close look at 'alternative' medicine
Part 2: 'How to Exploit Your Niche'. Article by Prometheus, A Photon In The Darkness blogspot.com (October 2005)
“From crop circles and alien abductions to faith healers, many secretly believe in strange phenomena - and it has more to do with human psychology than with reality.” Article by Lauren Monaghan Cosmos (August 2009)
“What statutory regulation of yet more quackery will do is enhance its perceived standing in the eyes of the public: “if it’s regulated by the Government, it must be OK”. What we don’t need are more quacks calling themselves “a primary health-care profession“. That does not protect the public. AltMeds — including the FIH — talk incessantly about increasing consumer ‘choice’; but the public’s choices are reduced when quackery is covered in a veneer of statutory respectability.” Zeno's Blog (5th August 2009)
“From special diets and miracle cures to chemicals, vaccines and evolution — there seems to be no limit to the subjects on which some celebrities will speak. But while some may be talented actors, athletes, TV presenters and pop stars, science is not their forte. A compendium of cod science and misconceptions espoused by celebrities is published today…” Times Online (4th January 2010)
“Advocates of homeopathy, nutritional therapy and similar treatments often promote their remedies with the promise that, unlike conventional medicine, they are natural, kind and can do no harm. If only it were true.” Article by Jeremy Laurance, The Independent (12th January 2010)
“From Jenny McCarthy to Tom Cruise, some Hollywood hot shots are leading a war against modern science… The proliferation of modern cable television and radio talk shows--not to mention things like Twitter and YouTube--provide forums for stars with wacky notions, says Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist who runs Quackwatch.org. The shows go for entertainment value over scientific credibility, he says. "Talk shows don't pay any attention to whether the advice on their program will kill people. ... Producers consider it entertainment," he says, adding: "Never take health advice from a talk show."” Forbes.com (14th January 2010)
“We have all heard of the ‘hierarchy of evidence’. It describes a hierarchy of study designs for testing the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions and enables us to contemplate the relative merits of different types of investigations. In my field, complementary medicine, the logic behind this hierarchy has remained a hotly disputed topic. Many believers in complementary medicine seem to reject it and some even seem to have started promoting something I call the ‘anarchy of evidence’. Enthusiasts of this or that complementary therapy invariably seem to be in favour of evidence-based medicine — but only as long as its application to their subject generates the results they had hoped for! Whenever the evidence fails to show that their therapy is effective, they call for a different standard. The reason is simple: enthusiasts are led by belief rather than evidence: if a rigorous randomised clinical trial does not demonstrate that their therapy is effective, it usually is not the treatment but the test that is deemed to be at fault. The thought that their belief was wrong is unthinkable to believers.” Edzard Ernst, British Journal of General Practice (February 2010)
“Advocates of alternative health have a romanticized and completely unrealistic notion of purported benefits of a “natural” lifestyle...they long for an imagined past that literally never existed...That both cancer and heart disease are among the primary causes of death today represents a victory, not a defeat. Diseases of old age can become primary causes of death only when diseases of infancy and childhood are vanquished, and that is precisely what has happened. Alternative health as a form of fundamentalism also makes sense in that it has an almost religious fervor. It is not about scientific evidence. Indeed, it usually ignores scientific evidence entirely. All the existing scientific evidence shows that all of the myriad claims of alternative health are flat out false. None of it works, absolutely none of it.” Amy Tuteur, MD, Science Based Medicine (18th February 2010)
Compiled from a survey of 200 GPs, the results were: 1 cupping; 2 colonic irrigation; 3 food intolerance testing; 4 detoxing; 5 macrobiotic diets; 6 aromatherapy; 7 reflexology; 8 vitamin B12 injections; 9 extreme yoga; 10 overnight health farm stays. Daily Mail (11th November 2009)
Free online video (47mins 48 secs) of Part 2 of the 2-part Channel 4 series "The Enemies of Reason" by Professor Richard Dawkins in which he looks at how health has become a battleground between reason and superstition. Although a total of over £1.6 billion a year is spent on superstitious alternative remedies in the UK, 80% of them have never been subjected to properly conducted trials.
By Theodore Dalrymple (Article originally published in the New Statesman, 18th October 2004)
Just how safe is alternative medicine? Here, in the second part of their series, Professor Edzard Ernst and scientist Simon Singh explain how "natural" doesn't necessarily mean "safer".
"It is my contention that terms such as 'complementary and alternative medicine' and 'integrative medicine' exist for two primary purposes. The first is marketing — they are an attempt at rebranding methods that do not meet the usual standards of unqualified 'medicine'. The second is a very deliberate and often calculating attempt at creating a double standard." Article by Steven Novella, Science Based Medicine (12th August 2009)
"It sounds sensible but it's actually a charter for licensed quackery." Article by Jane Symons, The Sun (6th August 2009)
"Today the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has issued a report that shows that Americans spend $33.9 billion out-of-pocket on complementary and alternative medicine per year. This is the figure that people spend on such things as homeopathy ($3B), yoga and qi gong ($4B) and non vitamin supplements ($15B). The report does not include purchases of vitamin and mineral supplements and estimates suggest this could triple this spend. The NCCAM has spent nearly a billion pounds on researching CAM and has failed to demonstrate the efficacy of any complementary medicine. Yes, its all quackery and these Americans are wasting their money." The Quackometer (31st July 2009)
Top-notch satire of pseudoscience: 'Homeopathic A&E' and 'Lifestyle Nutritionists'. Each video segment lasts approx. 2mins. The Times Online (15th July 2009)
"Vitalism, an ancient and discredited philosophy, has become irrelevant in modern thinking with two important exceptions: alternative medicine, and religion. That, right there, should tell you something important." Article by Peter Lipson, MD, Science Based Medicine (24th June 2009)