Scientific studies…
Posted: 19 June 2007 03:45 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Look for the German Commission E Monograph on herbs”, A knowledgeable healthfood store will have a copy of this 25lb tome on hundreds of scientific double blind studies done by the German government, finding scores of herbs with proven therapeutic value, while lacking the side effects of pharmaceuticals. The Chinese government has tested something like 1000 herbs in their market, but I’ve not seen the results compiled yet in any given source, only reports that many herbs are indeed valueable. In the name of public health, the US government has estensively funded the testing of one herb: cannabis. With dubious results. I hardly think it is an unbiased source.

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Posted: 19 June 2007 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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One has to be very careful with this sort of stuff when it comes to alternative medicines. A study doesn’t just have to be double blinded, it has to be well designed, properly executed, and published in a well regarded peer-reviewed journal of some sort. The latter is of particular importance, because it establishes that non-affiliated scientists have vetted the design and execution of the study.

Put another way, anyone can publish something somewhere and claim that the right procedures were followed. It is another thing entirely to have those procedures effectively investigated and certified by outsiders. This is particularly crucial with alternative medicines, which have historically been rife with shoddy research and outright quackery.

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Posted: 23 June 2007 04:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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We are talking here about the *GERMAN* medical community, whose reputation globally is somewhat better than that of the USA.
you say they are not competent to design the studies? Just who do you think would be?

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Posted: 23 June 2007 05:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’like to see a preprint of this study to know more. I’like to know what herbs? what diseases?

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Posted: 24 June 2007 01:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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daybrown - 23 June 2007 04:29 PM

We are talking here about the *GERMAN* medical community, whose reputation globally is somewhat better than that of the USA.
you say they are not competent to design the studies? Just who do you think would be?

Argument by authority is a critical thinking fallacy.  I don’t give a damn about anyone’s “reputation”.  Data based on well designed studies run by at least three widely separated (both geographically and philosophically) research groups is worth considering, but I’ve seen too many “studies” done by people with a point to prove that aren’t worth the time to read them.

I’m certainly competent to review the experimental design, but even good design doesn’t mean that the data was collected objectively and within the parameters of that design.

Occam

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Posted: 24 June 2007 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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First of all, the reputation of the german medical community, as regards scientific research, is not “globally somewhat better than the USA”. But even if it were, that would be irrelevant, as Occam says. Secondly, the claim I was making is not that these studies were flawed because they were German. My point is that simply claiming that some study or other exists showing X is of no value in knowing whether or not X is true.

What you need to know is the details of the study, its experimental design, and particularly its details against a background of other similar studies done by other competent groups. You want to know that the study was published in a peer-reviewed journal. You want to know that that journal had the capability of finding competent peer reviewers—so that it was one with a certain amount of prestige within the scientific community, etc., etc.

These things have simply not been done successfully with herbal “therapies”, the vast majority of which are simply quackery.

And another thing about medicine in Europe: you will find homeopathic remedies in virtually every pharmacy, being marketed as effective medication. This should give us all some pause about the level of skepticism among the general public in Europe. (Not that the US public is any better, of course).

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Posted: 24 June 2007 05:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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>First of all, the reputation of the german medical community, as regards scientific research, is not “globally somewhat better than the USA”.>
Said by an American. I think the demographics challenge that assumption. The Untied States of Denial is perfectly free to fund studies to challenge the German results rather than attempt mass ad hominum on a health care system that costs vastly less money but produced longer more vigorous life with lower rates of neonatal mortality.

As you say, lets have the studies. I dont have a problem with that. but the political reality is that the studies wont be done, and so you rag on people for surfing for anecdotal reports. It is all they have to go on. Sure, there are stupid Europeans as well. And yes, they need better case management, but that’s another thread. Until we have the better studies, people will make do with accumulating reports off the net.

Not without some advantage. Is there a cancer cure claimed? Well go back into the archives, and see if it was in use 5-10 years ago, read the reports by people, then… google to see if they are still alive. If you find some alternative therapy that has a significant higher survival rate over the past several years, and its possible to do that with data mining, you turn ‘anecdotal reports’ into something a lot more useful than studies which are never actually performed because they dont meet your standard for professionalism.

The data mining would also be useful to determine which studies need to be made first. But its all blowing smoke cause the pharma lobby is not going to let congress fund the studies, so your response actually boils down to doing nothing other than receiving the authority of a medical community that is unwilling to clammor for the data it says is missing.

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Posted: 24 June 2007 05:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Daybrown,

Sorry, but data mining the internet is not going to turn anecdotal reports into useful information about alternative therapies. THIS is a link to the FDA site on Good Clinical Practices. These guidlines are present, as as complex and extensive as they are, because it is very difficult to overcome people’s natural thought errors (see below). You are obviously convinced that listening to people’s stories about there experiences is better than nothing (unfortunately, not true), that medicine and science isn’t interested in helping people (also untrue), and that big pharma is the major obstacle to finding new therapies (also untrue; they certainly are an obstacle, and I have a lot of problems with the for-profit pharma industry myself, but the reason research isn’t done into every alternative medicine claim made is mostly becuase the claims contain reasoning that is contrary to established science or at least lacks a plausibile reason to suspect real benefits, and with a limit on resources for research the research needs to be focused on things most likley, based on what we know now, to actually turn out to be helpful).

Believe me, I despartately want new and better tools to help my patients, but I’m not willing to clutch at straws and give their owners false hope, or even do actual harm, just because I’m frustrated witrh the pace of progress.


Most Common Mistakes in Thinking (i.e. Why We Believe Stuff that Isn’t True)

Mistake #1: We prefer stories to statistics. Even a bad story is preferred over great statistics, and this shouldn’t be surprising. We’re social animals, so whatever seems to connect us to others will have a bigger impact than cold, impersonal numbers. This leads us to making decisions based upon a single story which may not be representative of larger trends while ignoring the statistics that tell us about those trends.

Mistake #2: We seek to confirm, not to question, our ideas. Everyone wants to be right and no one wants to be wrong. This may be the primary driving force behind the fact that when people look at neutral evidence before them, they almost invariably focus on what seems to confirm what they already believe while ignoring what might count against their beliefs.

Mistake #3: We rarely appreciate the role of chance and coincidence in shaping events. Odds are that any randomly chosen person has no idea how odds, chance, and randomness affect their lives. People think that unlikely events are very likely while likely events are very unlikely. For example, people forget how large the numbers around them are — an event with a million to one odds against it will happen given a million tries. In New York City alone, this means that several such events could happen every day.

Mistake #4: We sometimes misperceive the world around us. We simply don’t perceive things happening in our vicinity as accurately as we think or might like. We see things that aren’t really there and we fail to see things that are. Even worse, our level of confidence in what we have perceived is no indication of just how likely we are to be right.

Mistake #5: We tend to oversimplify our thinking. Reality is a whole lot more complicated than we realize. Indeed, it’s more complicated than we can deal with — every analysis we make of what goes on must eliminate lots of factors. If we don’t simplify, we’d never get anywhere in our thinking; unfortunately, we often simplify too much and thus miss things we need to take into account.

Mistake #6: Our memories are often inaccurate. To be fair, this isn’t a mistake because we can’t help the fact that our memories are unreliable. The real mistake is in not realizing this, not understanding the ways in which our memories can go wrong, and then failing to do what we can to make up for this fact.

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Posted: 24 June 2007 08:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I was searching for studies to support herbal medicament in pubmed (the best source, imho) and I didnt find any supporting evidence for that. There are a couple of herbal medicine that seems to work, like the isoflavonas (a estrogen like compound produced by certains plants like soya. Anyway, the placebo is very usefull to treat the same symthoms treated by isoflavonas, mainly postmenopausical symthoms like heat an similars), but mostly unespecific diseases (sure not cancer, alzheimer, osteophorosis, diabetes or hiv).

I think we should know the diseases trated, the statistics and the result to talk about this findings.

I have sporadic contact with the pharma industry (I do certain statistics analysis and data mining software for a research center here in my city) and I’d say that if this things were useful, they would incorporate them into their product line (as they did with the isoflavonas… )

On the other hands, I know about a lot of herbs used as medicaments which are not only useless to cure diseases, but are also a threat to health. A couple of samples


Aristolochic acid (formerly Chinese herbs) nephropathy

Arsenic and mercury intoxication due to Indian ethnic remedies


The list of ‘medicinal herbs’ dangerous to the health is long. So I insist in knowing which plants were used to what diseases and what was the procedure to collect the evidence.

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Posted: 25 June 2007 12:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Like I keep saying, Caveat Lector. I’m perfectly willing to let people seek their own solutions since I cant stop them.
The very same dissmissiveness I see in this thread was expressed about acupuncture. But now that we know more about the kind of cross talk that affects the central nervous system just like it does computer networks, the dismisive attitude I see in this thread evaporated.

Just cause you dont understand it, dont mean it aint happening or useful. And yes, there are lotsa quacks… in both sides of this issue.

Dont try to convince me, convince those you think are duped by quacks. Your credibility would be dramatically enhanced if the profession could divest itself from transnational pharma. But since you lack that power, you havta put up with the damage. Dont try to tell me what people who suffer from a condition cant find on the net. You do not have the same motivation, nor the time to search that they do. Again, argue with them. I am not telling you what I think should be done, I am saying what they are already doing, and I dont see any way to stop that. I expect data mining will become even more common and better at finding sources that seem more credible.

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Posted: 25 June 2007 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Daybrown, I’d like to say a couple of things.

. I don’t think we were arguing about our power to alter the behaviour of the people who are looking for a heterodox solution to their health trouble, as I understood, we were talking about if there are enough evidence to accept that the herbal medicine could outperform or at least be as succesfull as the traditional pharmaceutics products are.

. In this points, a couple of us expressed our doubts. There is no formal evidence until we know (for formal evidence I understand a set of well designed, double blind, placebo controlled, randomized, statistically significative studies published in medical journals) to support the claim that the herbal medicine could go beyond the tratment of a little set of mostly unespecific diseases.

. I don’t think that my lack of understanding means that this is not happening. What leads me to think that is not happening is not the lack of explanaiton for the phenomena but is the lack of evidence of the phenomena itself.

. About acupuncture, I’d say that there is a emerging set of result that seems to show a trends in favour for the acupuncture in treatment of some unespecific pain syndrome. Taken from a studie done in Germany (Acupuncture for recurrent headaches: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.) Overall, the existing evidence suggests that acupuncture has a role in the treatment of recurrent headaches. However, the quality and amount of evidence is not fully convincing. There is urgent need for well-planned, large-scale studies to assess effectiveness and efficiency of acupuncture under real life conditions.. So, I think the acupuncture is worth to spend a couple of research hours on it, but it’s still too early to conclude that it’s usefull. I we finally find something interesting, we could start to wonder about the mechanism which make it works.

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Posted: 05 October 2007 10:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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and for $10 I’ll sell you a chicken bone necklace that cures all.

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Posted: 13 October 2007 05:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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daybrown - 19 June 2007 03:45 AM

Look for the German Commission E Monograph on herbs”, A knowledgeable healthfood store will have a copy of this 25lb tome on hundreds of scientific double blind studies done by the German government, finding scores of herbs with proven therapeutic value, while lacking the side effects of pharmaceuticals.

You can search this monograph online:

http://content.herbalgram.org/iherb/commissione/

Click on “browse monographs”, and then on “approved herbs”. Even on the approved ones, you can read the contraindications and side effects, that are significant.

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Posted: 13 October 2007 05:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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daybrown - 23 June 2007 04:29 PM

We are talking here about the *GERMAN* medical community, whose reputation globally is somewhat better than that of the USA.
you say they are not competent to design the studies? Just who do you think would be?

Where did homeopathy come from again ?

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