Things that make me smile even in my disease-ridden state (hopefully the last): Panda Bear MD on “alternative” medicine

Today is the first day where I’m starting to think that the worst is past, as far as the death crud that’s had me in its grip since last weekend goes. It’s possible, of course, that the virus could just be toying with me, giving me a false sense of hope, but I’ll remain optimistic. In the meantime, since I still don’t have the energy right now to do what I do best (at least not in the lengthy doses of not-so-Respectful Insolence that you’ve come to know and either love or hate), I give you the next best thing: Panda Bear, MD’s take on “alternative medicine” promotion by the American Medical Student Association. An excerpt:

Even those who are inclined to believe in this kind of nonsense, when pressed, will admit that for any given Complementary and Alternative Medicine therapy the research is generally incredibly shoddy and, even allowing for a generous confidence interval, a blind eye turned towards the biases of the researchers, charitable peer review, publication in journals that are only one step above the supermarket checkout line variety, a favorable wind, planetary alignment, and an early showing by the groundhog, the positive results are slim, barely detectable, and easily ascribed to a placebo effect; something that is controlled for in real medical research and, if detected taints the entire study. In the world of real medical research, you understand, discovering that your prized medication is no better than a placebo is not greeted with war whoops and fists clenched in triumph.

No high fives, in other words. Back to the old drawing board. Things work the other way in the mystical world of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The discovery of some insignificant statistical anomaly in a poorly designed and non-reproducible study is greeted with the same enthusiasm by the true believers as the discovery of the structure of DNA and we must now run, not walk, to legitimize their particular brand of fairy dust and use it on everybody… You could, for example probably get the same results watching old Kung Fu reruns as you could with acupuncture. Or, to put it another way, acupuncture won’t work if it’s some bored acupuncture tech named Frank doing it, even if he puts the needles in the right spots. Unless he dazzles you with his mystical dog-and-pony show it’s just some paunchy guy smelling of cheap cologne sticking needles in you.

Damn. I have to get well soon. Panda’s muscling in on my territory and doing a frighteningly good job of it, too. I may not always agree with his politics (in fact, I frequently don’t), but he definitely knows how to deal with woo.