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Natural remedies might not be better – so why do we still prefer them?

Posted 28 Nov 2023

People are more likely to reach for what’s ‘natural’ when treating a psychological condition, a study found – because they don’t want to affect their ‘true self’

The Guardian

Shayla Love Mon 13 Nov 2023 17.00 GMT

Let’s say that one day, you wake up incredibly itchy. A doctor recommends two drugs – one natural and one synthetic – to help with the scratching. Or, you start having intense mood swings, and you go to your doctor, who presents you with the option of taking a natural or a synthetic drug.

Which do you pick in each situation, and does the answer change if you’re treating your body as opposed to your mind?

We are bombarded with the word “natural” anytime we buy groceries, supplements, beauty products, household items, wine or cigarettes. People believe that “natural” products, foods and medicines are safer, healthier – and just … Read the rest

Author revises summary of scientific evidence about complementary and alternative medicine

Posted 08 November 2023

Thomas J. Wheeler, PhD, a retired associate professor from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, has published a 60-page revision of his Overview of Complementary and Alternative Medicine on the website of the Kentucky Council Against Health Fraud. The material was originally developed as the first in a series of handouts for an elective course that offered medical students a scientific look at alternative medicine. The topics addressed include:

  • general aspects
  • the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and its predecessors
  • common themes in alternative medicine
  • adverse effects
  • integrative medicine
  • functional medicine
  • regulatory agencies involved in health claims
  • organizations and websites promoting critical examination of alternative claims
  • legal and ethical issues
  • fraud and quackery
  • antivaccination efforts
  • antifluoridation efforts
  • critical thinking in evaluation of medical claims: philosophical issues
  • nature of science
  • scientific activities and methods
  • skepticism and
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Anti-quackery book reviewed: Quack Quack: The Threat of Pseudoscience

Posted 25 May 2023

Harriet Hall, M.D., highly recommends Quack Quack: The Threat of Pseudoscience (ECW Press, 2023), “even for those of you who think you already know a lot about science, pseudoscience, quackery, and human error.” The book is the latest by Dr. Joe Schwarcz, the director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society. Hall describes it as “an informative and entertaining look at quackery and pseudoscience past and present. A delightful read.”

Reference: Hall H. Quack quack. Science-Based Medicine, Jan 3, 2023

Read the rest

“Complementary and alternative” medicine research criticized

Posted 25 May 2023

Dr. Edzard Ernst has written a commentary about research into so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) conducted since he became the world’s first professor of complementary medicine nearly 30 years ago.

Reference: Ernst E. Applying science to SCAM: A brief summary of the past thirty years. Skeptical Inquirer, 47(1):11-12, 2023

He concludes:

So, in the past thirty years of SCAM research, we have gone from the rejection of science to accepting that it would be good for promotion, to insisting on an “alternative” version of science, to misleading the public with false-positive findings. It has been a long and tedious journey without actually advancing all that far.

Source: Consumer Health Digest #23-02, January 8, 2023

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There’s a sucker born every minute – particularly in the realm of so-called alternative medicine

Posted 23 March 2022

An post from the blog of Prof Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd, and a previous Professor of Complementary Medicine.

“There’s a sucker born every minute”. This phrase was allegedly coined by P. T. Barnum, an American showman of the mid-19th century pictured below. It describes the tendency of the gullible of us to believe all too readily and therefore to be easily deceived.

Gullibility can be described as a failure of social intelligence in which a person is easily tricked or manipulated into a course of action for which there is no plausible evidence. To express it positively, gullible people are naively trusting and thus fall for nonsensical propositions. This renders them easy prey for exploiters.

On this blog, we see our fair share of this phenomenon, e.g.:

  • people who are easily persuaded by anecdotes,
Read the rest

Comprehensive resource on dietary supplements updated

Posted 23 February 2022

Thomas J. Wheeler, PhD, a retired associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, has updated the Dietary Supplements section of “A Scientific Look at Alternative Medicine.” Part 1 addresses general aspects including an overview, regulation and labeling, adverse effects, scientific critique, conventional nutrition, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and reviews and major trials of multiple supplements. Part 2 discusses 175 individual products, arranged in alphabetical order, that are marketed as supplements. The original compendium was part of a handout for an elective course that taught medical students to carefully consider the evidence regarding claims for “alternative” products and services.

Source: Consumer Health Digest #22-08, February 20, 2022

Read the rest

Health supplements, complementary medicines will soon no longer be regulated

Posted 29 October 2020

The headline of this IOL piece is somewhat misleading.

By Zelda Venter

IOL

Pretoria – Health supplements and complementary medicines – which are not scheduled medicines as defined by the Medicine’s Act – will soon no longer be regulated by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, which regulates all medicines, including scheduled medicines.

But, while the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, did strike down the current regulations over these substances, it made it clear that alternative medicines still had to be regulated.

Judge Elizabeth Kubushi gave the minister of health and the regulatory authority 12 months to determine how best to regulate these alternative medicines.

“I am loath to leave the regulation of complementary medicines without a time frame.”

She said 12 months should give the health authorities ample time to decide how best to regulate this popular industry.

The order was sparked by the Alliance Read the rest

“Brain boosting” supplements found to be adulterated

Posted 30 September 2020

Researchers who tested ten products marketed online for cognitive enhancement found that all contained significant doses of unapproved drugs, some of which were listed on their label and others were not. Eight were claimed to enhance mental function, one product was marketed to “outlast, endure, overcome,” and one was described as “workout explosives.”
Reference: Cohen P. and others. Five unapproved drugs found in cognitive enhancement supplements. Neurology Clinical Practice, Sept 23, 2020

The researchers concluded:

Use of these cognitive enhancement supplements poses potentially serious health risks given the unpredictable dosing and lack of clinician supervision. The risks of using specific products is not known, although these drugs have been associated with adverse effects including increased and decreased blood pressure, insomnia, agitation, dependence, sedation, hospitalization and intubation.

Source: Consumer Health Digest #20-38, September 27, 2020

Read the rest

Why do some registered medical practitioners promote CAM interventions?

Posted 27 June 2020

An opinion, published in the Friends of Science in Medicine newsletter.

Why do some doctors, equipped with a science-based degree offering so many opportunities for a satisfying  professional  career,  join  the  ranks  of  raggle-taggle  quacks and  self-proclaimed experts?  These  range  from  outright  shonks  (eg  Gwyneth  Paltrow)  to  the  sincere,  but  befuddled, followers of rigid, ancient, pre-scientific belief systems.

I offer some thoughts on what might or might not answer this question.

  1. Science is hard work
    Learning can be described as ‘shallow’, ‘deep’ or ‘strategic’. Some students manage to scrape through  their  medical  degree  without  a  genuine  understanding  of  biomedical  science.  How  else could one explain their willingness to embrace pseudo-science?
  1. ‘Transactional’ medicine is unsatisfying
    Rather  than  simply  expanding  their  concept  of  good  medical  care,  some  make  a  ‘mind-body’  connection  through pseudo-science. They don’t realise that psychological medicine is as heavily reliant on science as is
Read the rest

Why SECTION27 and TAC are involved in a court case about complementary medicines

Posted 01 June 2020

28th May 2020 Tendai Mafuma and Julia Chaskalson

Those who manufacture or sell complementary medicines often make claims about what these medicines contain and all the diseases they prevent or cure. As the public, we might assume that the claims must be true since some authority would stop the sale of these products if the claims were untrue. Unfortunately that is not something we can take for granted.

A set of regulations published in 2017 tasked the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) with regulating complementary medicines – essentially so that the public can have confidence that these products contain what they are claimed to contain and that they do what they are claimed to do. This was an important step forward for the public’s right to know and right not to be misled by quacks.

But yesterday (27 May 2020) the Pretoria High Court Read the rest