The Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan has embraced integrating quackery with medicine in its "integrative medicine" program. But what is it teaching its trainees? Unfortunately, I've started to find out.
Helene Langevin has been named the new director of the National Center for Complemenary and Integrative Health. Given her history of dodgy acupuncture research, my prediction is that the quackery will flow again at NCCIH, the way it did in the 1990s when Tom Harkin zealously protected it from any attempt to impose scientific rigor on it.
We know that alternative medicine use is associated with poorer survival in cancer, but what about the use of so-called "complementary medicine," "complementary and alternative medicine," or "integrative medicine"? Bad news. There's still a negative correlation between the use of pseudoscientific and unproven medicine and cancer survival, even when used with conventional cancer therapy rather than instead of it.
Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a fascinating feature about Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop. In it, we learn—surprise! surprise!—that Gwyneth Paltrow does not like fact-checking. We also learn that the criticism of Goop's selling of pseudoscience and quackery has reached the point where Paltrow has given in and plans to hire a fact checker. Unfortunately, I strongly suspect that it will do no good and that skeptics will have as much work to do refuting Goop's quackery after the fact-checker is hired as we do now.
In 2014, the Society for Integrative Oncology first published clinical guidelines for the care of breast cancer patients. Not surprisingly, SIO advocated “integrating” dubious therapies with oncology. Last week, the most influential oncology society, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), endorsed a 2017 update to the SIO guidelines, thus endorsing the “integration” of quackery with oncology and paving the way for insurance coverage. The advance of quackademic medicine in oncology continues apace.
Science is the most effective means of determining medical treatments that work and whose benefits outweigh their risks. Those who promote pseudoscientific or prescientific medicine, however, frequently appeal to other ways of knowing, often ancient ways of knowing from other cultures, and pointing out deficiencies in SBM to justify promoting their treatments. Do their justifications hold water?
Australian researchers have carried out another randomized clinical trial on acupuncture for in vitro fertilization. Unsurprisingly, it's completely negative. Also unsurprisingly, acupuncturists are not happy and are furiously making excuses.
David and Collet Stephan were convicted in 2016 for failure to provide the necessities of life for their son Ezekiel Stephan, who died of bacterial meningitis after his parents treated him with natural remedies, supplements, and naturopathy. Unfortunately, as a result of their appeal, the Canadian Supreme Court has granted them a new trial. Predictably, they are claiming vindication. The verdict is nothing of the sort. The Stephans got off on a technicality, but this ruling will serve as propaganda for quacks for years to come.
With the rise of quack stem cell clinics, there has been a rise of crowdfunding campaigns to assist patients in paying for expensive stem cell treatments of unproven efficacy. Unfortunately, as a recent study shows, these crowdfunding campaigns nearly always oversell efficacy and ignore potential risks of the treatments, while making powerful emotional appeals.
Proponents of integrating quackery like most traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) into real medicine portray themselves as underdogs being persecuted by big pharma and the FDA. In China, however, the case of Tan Qindong shows that in China TCM is big pharma.