AP Impact article on alternative medicine
Posted: 07 June 2009 11:04 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Read it HERE:

AP IMPACT: Alternative medicine goes mainstream

By MARILYNN MARCHIONE, AP Medical Writer – 1 hr 22 mins ago

BALTIMORE – At one of the nation’s top trauma hospitals, a nurse circles a patient’s bed, humming and waving her arms as if shooing evil spirits. Another woman rubs a quartz bowl with a wand, making tunes that mix with the beeping monitors and hissing respirator keeping the man alive.

They are doing Reiki therapy, which claims to heal through invisible energy fields. The anesthesia chief, Dr. Richard Dutton, calls it “mystical mumbo jumbo.” Still, he’s a fan.

<snip>

How did things get this way?

Fifteen years ago, Congress decided to allow dietary and herbal supplements to be sold without federal Food and Drug Administration approval. The number of products soared, from about 4,000 then to well over 40,000 now.

Ten years ago, Congress created a new federal agency to study supplements and unconventional therapies. But more than $2.5 billion of tax-financed research has not found any cures or major treatment advances, aside from certain uses for acupuncture and ginger for chemotherapy-related nausea. If anything, evidence has mounted that many of these pills and therapies lack value. ...

Pretty good article. We live in one of the true golden ages of modern quackery.

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Posted: 16 June 2009 07:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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My wife encounters a fair amount of this as a nephrologist and her general attitude is most of it is harmless and if the patient feels good about it, then there’s no problem.  I think I understand this phenomenon.  No one has found the secret to eternal life, we are all going to die.  And that is precisely the reason this stuff gets traction, people are afraid of dying and when they perceive the inevitable, it causes them to try things they would not otherwise try and believe things they would not otherwise believe. 

It’s interesting to me that the best one can probably hope for is for one’s alternative therapy/treatment/etc to be a placebo.  If the alternative medicine is doing no harm and the patient believes it is helping, then I guess they are efficacious, at least in part.  If effective as a morale booster, then the cover story about far infrared radiation, negative ions, etc is necessary.  So maybe these modern day snake oil salesmen are actually enlightened and are lying to us for our own good.  Ha ha.

What is disturbing is that some of this alternate therapy is being taught in medical schools.  I guess that could be good since doctors are more likely to suggest a non-harmful treatment.

[ Edited: 16 June 2009 07:50 AM by JRM5001 ]
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Posted: 16 June 2009 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The “well at least they get some placebo benefit” is a common justification for not making a fuss about CAM. There are, IMHO, a few problems with it. For one, a placebo only works if the doctor allows the patient to believe something that is not true, and more often actively promotes the belief. So it does necessarily involve dishonesty on the part of the provider, which I think raises some ethical concerns. Secondly, believing that the unproven, or even the dispoven, has helped you leads you to be suspicious of medical orthodoxy and even more receptive to nonsense approaches, and my experience has been that people don’t just do the right thing medically and then add on a bit of CAM. Often they reject the whole mainstream scientific paradigm, and the diagnostics and therapies that it provides, and go whole-heartedly into CAM land. These patients do suffer from delayed diagnosis and often experience unecessary suffeirng or even irreversible outcomes, like death, from not accepting appropriate care in a timely way. So “non-harmful” is a bit of a misnomer eve for those therapies that do no direct harm.

[ Edited: 16 June 2009 10:41 AM by mckenzievmd ]
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Posted: 16 June 2009 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Many of the patients my wife sees are pretty ill, if they reject dialysis for meditation and mint tea, they aren’t around long.  From what I gather of what she sees, many of those who have early kidney disease use alternative medicine b/c they don’t want to change their diet/lifestyle.  Those people probably wouldn’t change their diets anyway whether they had alternative medicine or not. 

I was mostly kidding about the placebo stuff otherwise.  I agree with you that using deception to treat a patient is totally inappropriate.  To the extent alternative med producers are aware their product does not work as advertised, they are perpetrating a fraud on the consumer.

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Posted: 04 November 2009 04:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I see that most of you are skeptical about this form of treatment because we cannot (yet) scientifically explain it.  But you have to concede to the fact that it is and has been used in many cultures for centuries. 
I think that our way of thinking in the US (only scientifically based) is not the only option.  Science has been wrong, especially when paradigm shifts. 
So keep and open mind about this stuff.

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Posted: 04 November 2009 04:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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gking - 04 November 2009 04:21 PM

I see that most of you are skeptical about this form of treatment because we cannot (yet) scientifically explain it.  But you have to concede to the fact that it is and has been used in many cultures for centuries. 
I think that our way of thinking in the US (only scientifically based) is not the only option.  Science has been wrong, especially when paradigm shifts. 
So keep and open mind about this stuff.

I wouldn’t bother answering to this person. He is here to sell stuff.

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Posted: 04 November 2009 05:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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A placebo is fine if the patient doesn’t forsake traditional medicine.  However, it’s a personal choice, regardless.  What angers me about this isn’t that it’s an accepted treatment for medical problems.  What bothers me is that there are plenty of people plunking down hundreds and thousands of dollars to learn how to practice Reiki and then passing along the costs to the people willing to pay for the “treatment.”

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Posted: 04 November 2009 06:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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One of the problems with evaluating so many things is the pre- or post selected sample.  If we take a sample of 100 people with an illness that is, say, 50% fatal but for which no medical remedy has yet been found, and we give half of them some random herbal remedy (say, ground up crab grass), and nothing to the other half.  At the end of the illness, we have 25 people who are delighted that they recovered, and we have 25 people who are delighted that they were cured and saved by that wonderful herbal remedy and quite willing to give testimonials.  Unfortunately, the 25 people who took the crab grass and died can’t file counter-testimonials.

People often say, “I was sick; I took a pill; I got better.”  On the other side, no one says, “I was sick; I took a pill; I died.”

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